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Three points for the Scuderia in the season's first race

Melbourne, March 8, 1998

DNF and 4th position
Faster than Williams?

Michael Schumacher DNFed and Eddie Irvine gained the 4th position - that's the result for Ferrari in the 1998 season's first race at Melbourne in Australia. Well, it could have been better, but this year's first Grand Prix clearly proved that Ferrari's F300 does match the technical level of the world-champion Williams, maybe the Ferrari is even the better car.

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But it also became even more clear that another team will join the battle of the others for the motorsport's crown: McLaren-Mercedes. Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard lapped all the other drivers in the Australian Grand Prix.


For Michael Schumacher, the race was already over after six laps: Engine trouble forced him and his F300 (s/n 184) to resign. Prior to that, Schumacher had been able to defend his 3rd starting position and obviously was the only driver who managed to keep up with the leading McLaren. Why the engine did eventually fail is unknown at this point. Schumacher noticed that the temperature was rising critically - it is possibe that leafage which had been blown onto the track tamped the Ferrari's air-inlets during the first lap and so caused the engine's collapse.

Eddie Irvine is very pleased by his 4th position; he stated that he probably could have performed even better lap times than the Williams if their topspeed had not been slightly higher than the Ferrari's. The fact that Irvine did not get any chance to overtake, but instead was stuck behind Frentzen for many laps indicates that the changes in the FIA's F1-reglement which should actually make overtaking easier for the drivers will probably not show the effect the FIA expected them to have.


Irvine drove the race in the T-car, s/n 181 after he had driven s/n 183 in qualifying (reaching the 8th starting position in the end, time elapsed 1:31,767, exactly slower by one second than his teammate). On Sunday, one had decided to change the car for the T-car, a decision that eventually proved to be correct while the decision to exchange the engine of Schumacher's car quickly before the start in a hurry obviously was not a good one.

Ferrari's team boss Jean Todt, however, feels comfortable with Irvine's result and pointed out that it might even have been better if the pit-stop had been performed faster.

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