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Rien ne va plus: The 1998 Monaco Grand Prix

Monte Carlo, May 24, 1998

Very posh: The Monaco Grand Prix
The race
I'm glad it's you

The Grand Prix of Monaco is very probably one of the most traditional, most spectacular and most hip events of the Formula 1 season. Being one of the social events for the high society at the Côte d'Azur, it certainly is the poshest one. Although racing in the narrow streets of the small, but very rich principality at the French riviera might well look like a total madness to anyone not familiar with the Formula 1 circus, this Grand Prix's virtually unique atmosphere does attract many thousand spectators every year.


Since the tax-free principality is a well-known haven for many rich and very rich persons, Ferrari is quite popular there and the Ferrari-flag is the most common one to be seen mounted outside many buildings (and yachts) along the track.

980524.MonteCarlo.003 980524.MonteCarlo.001980524.MonteCarlo.004

However, the result for the Italian team might somehow have been better. Schumacher did start from 4th position and Irvine was 7th on the grid. Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard were - of course - dominant again in their McLaren-Mercedes and started from position one and two. Somewhat surprising was Giancarlo Fisichella's result in qualifying: He drove his Benetton-Playlife on 3rd position.


Right after the start, not too many positions changed. Frentzen in the Williams lost his 5th position to Alex Wurz in the Benetton. In lap 9, Eddie Irvine on 7th tried to overtake Frentzen in the narrow corner in front of the Loews Hotel; the cars collided. While Eddie could continue the race, Frentzen was out.


At this time, it was obvious that Schumacher could have been much faster than Fisichella who was lying in front of him, but there was no chance to overtake - this situation is pretty typical for the Monaco Grand Prix. While Schumacher was waiting for a mistake of Fisichella, the two McLarens in front pulled easily away from the pack - until lap 17: Right after the Loews tunnel, Coulthard dropped out with a blown engine.


Shortly after, the pit stops began. While Schumacher - who had been on third - was in the pits, Wurz passed him and took Michael's 3rd position. When his teammate Fisichella, then being 2nd, came in for fuel and fresh tires, Schumacher managed to pass him and was closing on Wurz.


Wurz was on 2nd, but had to come into the pits very soon since he had not yet absolved his first stop. Despite of this fact, Schumacher did attack Wurz in the Loews corner and tried hard to overtake him. Wurz could counter Schumacher's first attempt, but when the Ferrari-pilot tried to pass him for the second time in the turn in front of the Loews tunnel, he finally succeeded. But the cars did touch in both attempts, resulting in a damaged left rear suspension on Schumacher's Ferrari F300. The German came into the pits, and apparently had decided to give up. But the mechanics fixed the problem, and Schumacher was back on the track on 16th position. The gap between him and the still leading Häkkinen had grown to more than three laps! This situation was for sure frustrating for Schumacher, especially since his action against Wurz had been completely unnecessary: The Austrian still had to absolve his pit stop anyway. By the way, in his first lap after the stop, Wurz lost control right after the tunnel, crashed into the barrier and was out of the race.

After these various mishaps, Eddie Irvine had ended up on the 3rd position behind Häkkinen and Fisichella. In lap 74 of 78, Alesi dropped out with gaerbox problems; he had been on 5th up to that time. In the end, Michael Schumacher had made his way to 10th position and kept it until the race was over, although he had a collision with Diniz in the final lap, ripping the front-spoiler off the car. But Schumacher safely reached the finishing line after this incident in the harbor chicane.


So, Mika Häkkinen took the win one more time this year and he was the lucky one to hear Prince Rainier's famous flourish "I'm glad it's you!" during the prize-giving. The monarch does use the same phrase every year, and who effectively is the winner does actually not make any difference... However, Mika Häkkinen now leads the championship with 46 points, followed by his teammate David Coulthard (29), Michael Schumacher (24) and Eddie Irvine (15).


Final results
1. Mika Häkkinen, McLaren-Mercedes
2. Giancarlo Fisichella, Benetton-Playlife
3. Eddie Irvine, Ferrari
4. Mika Salo, Arrows
5. Jacques Villeneuve, Williams-Mecachrome
6. Pedro Diniz, Arrows
10. Michael Schumacher, Ferrari
Schumacher 184, Irvine 185,
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187 used after the accident
air 20 C, track 30 C
Schumacher 184, Irvine 185
air 20->18 C, track 30->20 C
Text Andreas Birner
Photo Rainer W. Schlegelmilch
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