Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine celebrated 1-2 victory for Ferrari in Monza 1998. and the German driver was tied with Hakkinen in championship race, two races before the end of the season.
Italian GP came two weeks after a controversial Belgian Grand Prix in which Schumacher retired from the lead because a collision with Coulthard who slowed on the racing line while German tried to lap him. Schumacher was furious and wanted to physically deal with Coulthard and many were convinced that Scot made that intentionally to help team mate Hakkinen who retired earlier in the race. Schumacher trailed Hakkinen by seven points after Belgian GP.
German won the pole position in partially rainy qualifying ahead of 1997. world champion Jacques Villeneuve and the two McLarens Hakkinen and Coulthard. It was only the second time in 14 races that neither McLaren wasn’t on the front row.
McLaren were quickest in the warm-up and Schumacher made a bad start. Hakkinen took the lead ahead of Coulthard, Irvine, Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher.
Both McLaren and Ferrari were on the one stop strategy and Coulthard led by 9.3 seconds ahead of Hakkinen in the lap 16. Schumacher was only half a second behind Hakkinen, but he could not overtake the Finn.
But the real disaster for McLaren happened in just one lap – Coulthard retired with an engine failure and left a cloud of white smoke behind him and Hakkinen had to avoid the oil from the racing line
Schumacher took advantage and had a better entry into the second chicane and outaccelerated Hakkinen before the first Lesmo.
Interesting fact: Front tires in 1998. had three grooves, and from 1999. to 2008. they had four. Rear from the beginning had four grooves
“We were both very slow and Mika went onto the grass. Then Mika lost the car in the chicane, went wide and I managed to accelerate better before the first Lesmo,” said Michael.
Schumacher made his only pitstop in lap 31, Hakkinen three laps later and then returned with less than six seconds behind the German.
Eight laps before the end (lap 45) Hakkinen clocked the fastest lap and was just 2.6 seconds behind Schumacher, but the Finn lost control of the braking after the brakes failure.
Hakkinen managed to finish fourth and Ferrari could start celebrating – Schumacher and Irvine gave them 1-2 victory, but Michael was tied on points with Hakkinen. Ferrari has closed the gap on McLaren to 10 points.