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Ferrari takes a 2nd and a 3rd at Imola

Imola, April 26, 1998

Ferrari on 2nd and 3rd in "Bella Italia"
Tower Wings: A matter of taste
Still much work to do: Testing for Barcelona

Well, well, a win in Ferrari's home country Italy would have been great, but a 2nd and a 3rd position for the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro in the Grand Prix of San Marino are quite remarkable as well.


The performance of the Scuderia and its pilots was simply excellent. The gap between Michael Schumacher and the eventual winner, David Coulthard in his McLaren-Mercedes, was only about 4.554 seconds! Eddie Irvine became 3rd, reaching the finishing line nearly 50 seconds after his teammate had crossed it.


During the training and qualifying it had already been obvious who would play the key roles in the first European Grand Prix in 1998: Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard were dominant in their McLarens, but the Ferrari-pilots snatched the second row on the grid. Schumacher set a time of 1:26.437, and Irvine qualified for the 4th position on the grid with 1:27.169. Coulthard had been the overall fastest, setting a lap of 1:25.973.


On Friday, one could easily notice a novelty on Eddie Irvine's F300 (s/n 185): The Scuderia used the so-called "tower wings" on one of their cars, which had been seen for the first time last year on a Tyrrell and which were meanwhile adopted by several other teams. Their looks are a matter of taste, but at least it's a fact that the important ground-effect is improved by some 80 kg through the use of these additional wings. Michael Schumacher pointed out: "If they help us to become faster, I do not care about how they look." On Saturday, Schumacher's F300 (s/n 186) was equipped with tower wings, too.


In the race on Sunday, Coulthard, Häkkinen and Schumacher did not change positions after the start. Unfortunately, Eddie Irvine lost his fourth position to Jacques Villeneuve, who obviously did an excellent job starting from 6th! But Irvine eventually regained his position after the first pitstop in lap 27, because Ferrari's mechanics did work faster than the Williams crew.


At this time, Schumacher was in 2nd, Irvine in 3rd and Villeneuve in 4th position. What had happened? Mika Häkkinen's gearbox had failed in lap 17 and forced him to resign. Coulthard suffered the same problem, but although his gearbox was overheating, too, he was able to finish the race without losing his lead. Late in the race, Coulthard did lead the race by some 20 seconds to Schumacher; this comfortable advantage allowed him to slow down a bit in the remaining time to cool his gearbox. The 200.000 tifosi virtually became wild when Schumacher closed the gap between him and Coulthard to some five seconds, but he did not manage to get in a striking position to attack Coulthard.



Both McLaren and Ferrari were running on a two-stop strategy. Although the two Ferrari-pilots ended up on the podium for the second time in a row, Schumacher is not too optimistic for the future races. He is well aware that his 2nd position was just caused by Häkkinen's drop-out, and his dramatic chase for Coulthard in the final part of the race had only been made possible by the overheating problems of the McLaren as well.

Schumacher's verdict: "We did achieve more than we had expected and we are satisfied. But we did take the car to the limit. There is still much left to be improved, especially in regard to the aerodynamics and some mechanical components."

And Schumacher continues: "The tires have to become better."

There was no time for the Scuderia to celebrate the success. This week will see intensive testing to be well prepared for the forthcoming race at Barcelona.

Ferrari's consultant Niki Lauda is not very optimistic: "The Ferrari was definitely not made for this circuit [at Barcelona]." Hopefully, the former world-champion is just trying to keep the expectations as low as possible.

Final results
1. David Coulthard, McLaren-Mercedes
2. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
3. Eddie Irvine, Ferrari
4. Jacques Villeneuve, Williams-Mecachrome
5. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Williams-Mecachrome
6. Jean Alesi, Sauber-Petronas

retired ......, Alexander Wurz, ......, .......

Text Gregor Schulz
Translation Andreas Birner
Photo Rainer W. Schlegelmilch

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