Brought to you TheJudge13 contributor: Jeff Trocchio
The year was 1998 and the battle was coming to an end at Suzuka. After a long, hard fought season, where Mika Hakkinen started by winning 4 of the first 6 races, it would all come to a head here. After the Italian Grand Prix Hakkinen and his title challenger Michael Schumacher were tied at 80 points.
The penultimate race at the Nurburgring would see Ferrari lock out the front row, yet Hakkinen was still able to capitalize with the superior Adrian Newey designed McLaren chassis. After winning the European Grand Prix, he had now regained the lead for the final race.
Mika Hakkinen was a mere 4 points north of his title challenger, Michael Schumacher; 90-86 respectively. According to the numbers, Schumacher could still win the championship, but November 1st, 1998, was not that day.
Once lined up on the grid after the reconnaissance lap, the formation lap began, which is where the issues for Schumacher started. His car stalled when attempting to leave the grid from pole position, and this meant he would have to start from the dark side of the grid; the back. Of course this made the race a little less stressful for Hakkinen, but Schumacher would put on a show.
After a launch of a start from Hakkinen, he maintained the lead, all while Schumacher had to pick his way through the field. After piloting his Ferrari all the way to 3rd, behind his teammate Eddie Irvine, the race took a sour turn.
Toranosuke Takagi (Tyrell-Ford) and Esteban Tuero (Minardi-Ford) tangled up at the Casino Triangle chicane, before the finish straight. Both front and rear wing parts were strewn about like tiny glass shards, and the tyres on the Ferrari of Schumacher took the brunt of the attack, as his machine was the only one to suffer a retirement because of a blown tyre.
So, on Michael Schumacher’s retirement, Mika Hakkinen had but to finish the race, and he would be crowned Driver’s Champion, with McLaren taking the Constructors Championship as well. And so it was, this November 1st, 1998 at the Suzuka Grand Prix.