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#617 1998 Argentine Grand Prix

2021-04-24 01:00

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#1998,

#617 1998 Argentine Grand Prix

After Schumacher's third place in Sao Paulo, Ferrari is preparing to take further steps to get closer to the hitherto unbeatable McLaren. Mika Hakkine

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After Schumacher's third place in Sao Paulo, Ferrari is preparing to take further steps to get closer to the hitherto unbeatable McLaren. Mika Hakkinen said after the Brazilian Grand Prix:

 

"It's true, I could have pushed harder, the MP4/13 has huge potential. The only real problem was holding up the effort of driving for over three hundred kilometres at those hellish speeds".

 

For this reason, starting on 1 April 1998, the German driver tested a new set of front tyres on the F300 at the Barcelona circuit. These were about two centimetres wider and were expected to gain up to half a second a lap. The tyre, developed by Goodyear, will also be different in terms of internal construction and the type of compound adopted, ensuring better grip on corner entry and greater speed on exit, as well as less wear. Schumacher, who rehearsed in place of Eddie Irvine, out with the flu, also took advantage of the opportunity to try out the 047/D engine and some small aerodynamic modifications, completing a good 86 laps. At the same time, there was an air of crisis at Williams.

 

"The rear suspension doesn't work".

 

Jacques Villeneuve attacked, who then went on to talk about the race tactics imposed by Frank Williams, defining them as a confused strategy. Even the reigning champion team, therefore, has technical and human problems, and like Ferrari, has no other way to go but to look for new solutions and improvements, so as not to be crushed by the overwhelming power of Ron Dennis' team.

 

"I remain confident. In the last few weeks we have made up some ground on McLaren and I hope we will continue on this path. I will start to worry if in a few races, for example at Monte Carlo, we are still behind Hakkinen and Coulthard. The results of today's practice cannot be indicative. The track was still very dirty when it dried. And then we weren't looking for sensation times".

 

Says Michael Schumacher at the end of the first tests in Barcelona. On April 2nd, on a day characterised by a strong wind, the only one to use the new Goodyear tyres was Heinz Harald Frentzen, who, despite having engine problems on his Williams, seemed optimistic at the end:

 

"I think these tyres are a good step forward, I think we are on the right track to start catching up with McLaren".

 

For its part, Ferrari is focused on finding the right set-up for the F300, as Schumacher explains:

 

"I preferred to continue looking for the best set-up for the car, also since we are refining the aerodynamics and have a new wing to take to Argentina. It would be pointless to do random laps without knowing what the final version of the car will be like for the third race of the season. Using the new tyres, among other things, requires some special suspension adjustments".

 

At the same time, we start noticing the first movements at the Oscar Galvez circuit in Buenos Aires, where some mechanics of Minardi, Prost, Sauber, Benetton, McLaren, Williams, Jordan and Tyrrell are already at work in the pits. The track at the Argentinean circuit has completely resurfaced, and the work has been approved by the International Federation's general director for safety, Charlie Whiting. The resurfacing of the track was necessary because, in several parts of the circuit, the asphalt had been washed away during a national event race held a dozen days earlier. Circuit officials attributed this to an error in the compound used. On April 3rd, 1998, again in Barcelona, Ferrari continued with its policy of small steps, running sixty-six laps without reporting any problems. Schumacher still works on the set-up of the car, on which the new bodywork with the high exhausts coming out from the upper part of the bonnet is mounted, but he renounces to carry out tests with the wider front tyres because the strong wind would not have allowed obtaining valid comparative results. At the end of the test, Schumacher says he is satisfied but warns that miracles should not be expected for the next race in Argentina:

 

"Not all the things we are testing are aimed at the race in Buenos Aires, but they will also be useful in subsequent races. The important thing is to make progress, to find the right way. We can't define yet if we have gained half a second per lap or three-tenths, also because we don't know the situation that will be at the South American track".

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On April 4th, the Maranello team concludes testing at the Catalunya circuit, and five days later, on a British flight from London, Schumacher lands in Buenos Aires on the morning of April 9th. The native of Kerpen, as soon as he stepped off the plane, scanned the sky in the hope of seeing rain coming:

 

"In the wet, I normally do quite well. Since I don't think the gap to the McLarens has been closed with the results obtained in the Barcelona tests, we would need an extra boost from luck. In the first two races, we've taken them hard. And, honestly, I expected Brazil to have reduced the gap to the McLarens more markedly. In all likelihood, the MP4/13s of Hakkinen and Coulthard still have room to grow and are hiding their full potential. We should have no illusions. But there are many races, the championship is very long. Two McLaren one-twos are very heavy in both the drivers' and constructors' championships. But if we threw in the towel now we would be fools. There's no point in getting discouraged or losing our motivation. I could only give up if we were at the same point in the middle of the season, but I think we will make progress, and the situation can change. With some speed, too. In Formula One you can never be sure of anything".

 

Ron Dennis and McLaren are enjoying the leadership in both the drivers' and constructors' standings, but the British team manager is urging us not to let our guard down, because as Schumacher said, the championship is still long, and the values on the field could change all of a sudden:

 

"We have to take advantage of the favourable moment because our opponents are doing everything to catch up, we feel strong, but we must not let our guard down and gain as many points as possible".

 

In the meantime, Hakkinen and Coulthard are taking a few days off before leaving for Argentina: the World Championship leader is relaxing on the beaches of Miami, while Coulthard is going to Uruguay. Then it's straight on to Argentina to keep Mp4/13's unbeaten run intact. To do this, no detail must be overlooked, so, having arrived in South America, while the pits of all the other teams are open to the public, those of the Woking team are closed, thus avoiding any attempt by rival teams to cast prying eyes. An incautious journalist asks Jo Ramirez what would happen if he dared to enter, but the McLaren sports director replies threateningly:

 

"You'd never write anything again".

 

If Hakkinen and Coulthard had allowed themselves to have a bit of fun before going to Argentina, Michael Schumacher decided to do so when he was already in Buenos Aires, trying his hand at another sport, tennis. But a curious misadventure befell the German champion when, on Wednesday, April 8th, he made a telephone reservation at a tennis court. Schumacher, bag over his shoulder, arrives at the club accompanied by a taxi, but at the entrance, when he says his name, he is told that there is no record of his reservation. Michael insists that he had phoned the same morning, after which the security men invite him in a very unfriendly tone to leave. The misunderstanding was resolved when it was discovered that the taxi had taken him to the wrong club, which competed with the neighbouring club where Schumacher was supposed to go. Before going on track, on Thursday, April 9th Jacques Villeneuve celebrates his 27th birthday, entertaining the guests with a few slices of cake in his face. But the small celebration and the laughter of the occasion are immediately put aside to leave space for anger and frustration that take the upper hand during a difficult Friday of free practice for the Canadian champion. Villeneuve was one of the many drivers who made mistakes in trying to bring the car to the limit: the Canadian lost his way in a spin, which culminated with a bump against the barriers, forcing Williams to ask urgently for new spare parts that had to arrive directly from the factory in England. Then, in the afternoon, a gearbox problem prevented him from running even a single lap. The fourth fastest time in overall timekeeping is only a meagre consolation:

 

"Something in the new car isn't working properly, perhaps the rear suspension. Maybe it's just a question of settings, but we haven't found the right ones yet. In any case, the McLarens are too far away for us".

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Villeneuve declares himself not very confident. It doesn't go better for Frentzen, who climbs on Tuero's Minardi with his Williams, heavily damaging both cars. Instead, the Sauber is the cause of his ills, with Alesi and Herbert colliding with each other. The surprise of the day, however, is Michael Schumacher's second place, squeezing in between the two McLarens and stopping just a few thousandths from Coulthard's fastest car.

 

"I can't say how much the new wide front tyres have brought us forward, because we tried those straight away and there are no parameters with the old, narrower ones. Also, we still have some tuning problems".

 

Michael Schumacher explains, but Eddie Irvine also displays optimism, stating:

 

"It seems to me that my car is more stable and behaves better in the slow corners".

 

The Northern Irishman likes this track, it is not by chance that in 1997 he was the protagonist of one of his best performances, finishing in the second position at the end of a hard fight in the final laps with the winner Villeneuve. Hakkinen, on the other hand, showed that he didn't like the short and narrow Argentinean circuit much, go-kart style and with a bumpy surface, as he was a few tenths behind and had difficulty in finding the right set-up. Also, during the previous season, Tyrrell introduced on its car what was then called X-Wings, that is the supplementary fins placed on the cockpit sides. It was a solution that wasn't very successful, but the minor teams brought it back in vogue this year too, so much that, in Argentina, besides Tyrrell, also Prost, Jordan and Sauber equipped their respective cars with these fins on which there was something to criticize above all from the aesthetic point of view. On Saturday, in the qualifying session, the values seen on Friday were confirmed: David Coulthard gained the pole position, while Hakkinen was third, clearly beaten by his teammate and by Schumacher, who was again in the middle of the two Silver Arrows, at three tenths from the pole man. In the fourth position, there is an excellent Irvine, who, without an inaccuracy in his best lap and the slowing down of Diniz during another attempt, could have done even better. Thanks to Ferrari, what was predicted to be another weekend monopolised by the McLarens suddenly changed the scenario. The two Reds are close together, ready to do battle. Nevertheless, the Argentinians do not feel sufficiently stimulated by the event, and not even the presence of a compatriot driver like Tuero serves to attract a large audience, so much so that the organisers fear that they will not be able to fill the grandstands of the autodrome. None of those in charge wanted to give precise figures on ticket sales, but the Argentine daily Clarin suggests that the event's deficit could be around two million dollars. This is a shame since at the press conference Schumacher began by recalling the assumptions with which the weekend was approached:

 

"It was said that it would take a miracle to beat the McLarens: well, half we've done it now, the other I hope to do in the race. We have made considerable progress, I can't say if it was just the tyres or also the suspension work done in Barcelona, but the car is running better, I think it won't be impossible for us to fit in there where we wanted to be. I have a lot of confidence, we are closer to the McLaren in race trim than in qualifying. It will be decisive to get a good start, but I'm not worried about that: in Australia, I had a good sprint, in Brazil, there were some mechanical problems, but we have understood the cause and I think they won't be repeated".

 

David Coulthard, celebrating his first pole of the season, is bubbling with joy:

 

"I had to work hard to get in front of everyone. And if I hadn't gone too wide out of the last corner I could have done better. It was a tough battle between me, Michael and Mika, so it's great that we managed to get this pole position".

 

The Finnish McLaren driver, on the other hand, had to give way for the first time to his team-mate and, as if that wasn't enough, to Schumacher as well:

 

"The oversteer betrayed me, I couldn't drive as I wanted to. But I will make up for it in the race".

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Behind the Ferraris and the McLarens, there was a discreet qualification for Jordan, that placed Ralf Schumacher fifth and Damon Hill ninth, while Williams limited the damages with Frentzen and Villeneuve respectively sixth and seventh. The Japanese Toranosuke Takagi was noticed positively, he was able to qualify thirteenth at the wheel of a modest Tyrrell; his teammate Riccardo Rosset was penultimate, one second and a half slower. Goodyear seems to have made remarkable progress, at least as far as the dry lap is concerned, but it is still necessary to evaluate how the newly introduced front tyres will behave in the race in comparison with Bridgestone. The drivers using the Japanese tyres have opted, as in Brazil, for the harder compound, so it is easy to predict that they will only stop once. This a different matter for the teams using Goodyear tyres, whose strategies could vary from one to two stops. On Sunday, April 12th, 1998, however, there was one unknown factor that could throw all plans off the rain. When the race is about to start, the track was completely dry, but black clouds threatened the track. Fearful that a storm might suddenly break out, the race begins and is immediately full of twists and turns. When the lights went out, David Coulthard immediately took the lead, while once again indecision slowed down Michael Schumacher, who is overtaken by Hakkinen, and the same happened to Eddie Irvine, surprised by Frentzen and relegated to the fifth position, before the other Williams driven by Villeneuve. From the very first laps, it was clear that the two F300s started with less weight than their rivals, and this was evident from the way Schumacher immediately started chasing Hakkinen. On the second lap, the German overtook on the exit of turn 8, regained his starting position and launched himself in pursuit of Coulthard, who had an advantage of just two seconds. Irvine didn't stand by and immediately returned the favour to Frentzen, who, as if stunned by the overtaking, was also overtaken by Villeneuve at turn 1, and later by Jean Alesi. In the following laps, Schumacher obtained record lap times and in just one passage reduced the gap to Coulthard by six-tenths. In the fifth lap the Scottish driver goes wide almost risking ending up on the grass; Schumacher takes advantage of the opportunity and goes inside, but the McLaren driver closes the trajectory abruptly ending up on the Ferrari. Contact is unavoidable. Coulthard's car was lost in a spin, while Schumacher's car managed to continue without any important damage being revealed as a result of the contact. The Ferrari driver thus managed to take the lead, while Coulthard paid for an avoidable manoeuvre, dropping back to the sixth position and joining the fight between Villeneuve and Alesi for fourth place.

 

Schumacher immediately started his attempt to escape, as Hakkinen, five seconds behind, was unable to keep up his pace in this first phase of the race, and indeed had to watch out for a daring Irvine. With the car getting lighter, however, Finn gradually managed to distance himself from the second Ferrari driver. In the meantime, Coulthard was on fire: being the only one on the trackable to keep pace with Schumacher, the Scottish driver tried several times to get rid of Alesi, risking on one occasion the contact with the Sauber, avoiding it for a matter of centimetres. An undoubtedly frustrating situation for the poleman, who lost the great work done in the previous days because of an excessive eagerness in the attempt to keep the position on Schumacher. Now, from a potential chance to gain points on Hakkinen, he finds himself once again having to chase. On the contrary, Ralf Schumacher's season doesn't want to take off: the young Jordan's driver, retired at the first lap in the two previous races, starts very badly and from fifth, he ends thirteenth. Then, on the nineteenth lap, he was the author of a track exit caused by the loss of the rear wheel. Returning to the pits because of flattened tyres and at his request because he wanted to check the car to note any faults, the mechanics see nothing unusual and let him restart, but shortly after Schumacher goes off the track again. After getting out of the car, Ralf has to note the failure of the left rear suspension. This makes three retirements in three races for him. Before returning to the pits, the young German driver unloads his nervousness on the marshals, with whom he argues because they do not let him cross the track to shorten the way back. Things were certainly better for his brother, who managed to keep his advantage over Hakkinen stable at twelve seconds, even though Finn's times had dropped. After more than twenty laps, the time for Schumacher's pit stop is approaching; a necessity born above all following the numerous blockages of the front wheels, which occurred during the heaviest braking. The tyres were at their limit, but despite this, Schumacher's times did not dare to rise, so much so that on lap 23 he even set the fastest lap time of 1'28"448. The first to return to the pits, among the leading drivers, is the French driver of Sauber, Jean Alesi, who leaves Villeneuve and Coulthard alone to do battle. While restarting from the pit stop, one of the x-wings on his car, the right one to be precise, came off; the dynamics remained ambiguous, nevertheless, the damage did not represent a handicap for the continuation of Alesi's race. The next lap, the twenty-eighth, is Michael Schumacher's turn to pit.

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The stop lasts 9.5 seconds, and on his return to the track, the German driver is in the second position, ten seconds behind Hakkinen, now leader of the race. After that Irvine also pits, so it is even clearer that the two Maranello cars are both running with a two-stop strategy. Unable to get rid of Villeneuve, who was good at defending himself from his attacks with his teeth, Coulthard pitted early, unlike the Williams who lengthened the first stint of the race, which meant they were aiming to finish the race with just one stop. Coulthard's undercut does not bring the hoped-for results, like Villeneuve, after his stop on the 32nd lap, forces him to queue again. It was a troubled pit stop, to say the least, the one involving Frentzen on the next lap: at the moment of restarting the German driver made the engine stop, and to restart it several seconds were lost, too many. When finally the German driver of the Williams goes towards the exit of the pit lane, he does it with excessive enthusiasm and exceeds the speed limit imposed in the pits; a mistake that costs him a Stop&Go, and that excludes him definitely from the fight for points. In the central phase of a very heated race, Alex Wurz, already a driver of the day two weeks before at Interlagos, suddenly burst into flames: the Austrian, at his sixth race in Formula One, together with the leader Hakkinen is the only one who has not yet stopped. Wurz was in the fourth position behind Irvine and, as the crucial moment of the pit stops approached, he began to push on the accelerator, setting very fast times, the best being 1'28"179, which was also the fastest lap of the race. The Austrian, and above all Hakkinen, stops around lap 40. The Finn had built up an advantage of thirteen seconds over Schumacher, obviously not enough to allow him to stay in the lead. The McLaren driver returned to the track second, behind the lapped Frentzen, but the question of victory was still open, as Schumacher had to stop again. When everyone has made at least one pit stop, the situation is as follows: Schumacher is in the lead and now he has to make the decisive move on Hakkinen to build up a sufficient gap to keep the first position after the second pit stop; Irvine is third and Alesi is fourth, but they too will have to stop again, then Villeneuve and Coulthard follow, always in a tussle among themselves but quite far from those who precede them. On lap 26 Johnny Herbert's race ends, forced to stop along the track after Damon Hill causes a tyre puncture in an attempt to overtake him. Reached by journalists in the pit lane, the Englishman is rather frustrated with how this South American trip has gone, which between Brazil and Argentina has given him only bitterness:

 

"It's been two disastrous weekends, only with a plane crash on the way home could it get any worse than this".

 

The Sauber driver exclaims in frustration. His teammate Alesi's two-stop strategy proves to be profitable after the Frenchman makes his second pit stop, as Villeneuve and Coulthard remain behind him at the exit of the pitlane. This a good sign for Schumacher, who hopes to do the same with Hakkinen, since the margin to stay ahead is about twenty seconds, as many as the Ferrari driver has accumulated. On the fifty-second lap, to avoid being slowed down by the small group of lapped drivers formed by Alesi, Villeneuve, Coulthard and Fisichella, Schumacher is called back to the pits. This is the crucial moment of the race. The stop lasts 8.1 seconds, a more than acceptable time, also because in the meantime Hakkinen is stuck behind a Tyrrell, further favouring Schumacher, who manages to stay well ahead of the race sending the many Ferrari fans in the stands into raptures. To worsen the mood at the McLaren pit wall there was David Coulthard, who had another day to forget. At the entrance of the S de Senna Coulthard tries a risky manoeuvre on the outside of Villeneuve that ends with both drivers stopped beyond the limits of the track after the inevitable contact. The Scottish driver can consider himself lucky as he manages to restart, Villeneuve instead has to retire after a strenuous defence that lasted for almost the whole race. Second zero in a row for the reigning champion, more and more in the abyss together with a mediocre Williams. Hakkinen makes it clear right from the start that he has no intention of taking any risks by attempting a complicated comeback over Schumacher, preferring to remain in the second position and gain further precious points over Coulthard. However, it was the rain that provided the spectators with a thrilling end to the race. With twelve laps to go, Wurz caught up with Eddie Irvine to challenge for third place. At S de Senna the Benetton driver delayed braking, risked an improbable overtaking and touched Irvine's left rear wheel, fortunately without damaging either his car or the rival's. Then it started drizzling, Irvine was among the first ones to be deceived by the insidious asphalt and he finished long in bend 1; Wurz thanked him for taking the third place. It was only the beginning of a series of laps characterised by chaos.

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The second driver to be surprised by the wet asphalt is clamorously Michael Schumacher: the German goes on a wet patch at the first bend and finds himself in no time at all driving on the gravel. Schumacher keeps his cool and goes straight on until he reaches a strip of asphalt that allows him to return to the track, always as leader of the race, with still four seconds of advantage on Hakkinen. Then it was the turn of Wurz, who spun and gave Irvine back the third place, of Fisichella, who went on the grass, or again of Coulthard, who lost less time in his excursion and re-entered the points zone to the disadvantage of the Roman. Hakkinen doesn't make any mistakes but he runs very slow: in only one passage he is twelve seconds slower than Schumacher. To pay the price more than all is the home driver Esteban Tuero, who crashes and disintegrates the rear of his Minardi. In the last two laps, the rain stopped and Schumacher could easily manage the first position until the chequered flag. Twenty-eighth victory in his career for him, who enters the fight for the Title: now no longer a private matter between the McLarens. The other drivers who completed the points zone had something to smile about, given that Hakkinen consolidated the lead of the championship thanks to the second place, while Irvine gave an excellent contribution in the constructors' championship, besides being able to celebrate the podium, and finally Wurz and Alesi, finished fourth and fifth, at the end of two excellent recoveries, after starting respectively from the eighth and eleventh position. David Coulthard was sixth and the author of a race that was, to say the least, very bad. He would probably have even managed to win if he had let Schumacher pass without trying to resist his attack during the early stages of the race since he had a race pace that was superior to the others. On the podium, the champagne bath is not for Michael Schumacher, but for Jean Todt, who is drenched from head to toe by both his two drivers and Hakkinen, and in vain are the clumsy attempts to block Schumacher's arm, too high for him. Afterwards, Schumacher can express his satisfaction in the press conference. The first questions he is asked are about the first part of the race and the incident with Coulthard:

 

"I made a bad start again, making the tyres skid. But I had less fuel onboard and I was going faster. I passed Mika straight away and then David. Coulthard had already made a mistake a little further down the track, going long. When I saw him go wide, I took advantage of it and managed to get on the inside. He closed the door and we bumped into each other. I didn't lift my foot off the accelerator because I was faster and I had no other option. My car was slightly damaged, a bit out of set-up and more difficult to drive, but fortunately good enough to win. The crucial moment was the four to five laps before the second refuelling. I had to pull like crazy to gain the few seconds that would allow me to get back on track ahead of Hakkinen's McLaren. The mechanics, as usual, were fantastic, despite the pressure they are always under in these cases".

 

He is then asked about the final excursion into the grass:

 

"I found the track suddenly wet. It started to drizzle towards the end, and as we have seen all weekend, as soon as this asphalt starts to get wet it becomes very treacherous, and in fact, we saw a lot of off-track. I lost the rear on a wet patch and ended up going straight on; I had seen that in general, it was impossible to control the car in that situation on the gravel, so I chose to go straight on and get back on track using the strip of asphalt. It will be a very different situation at Imola. A lot depends on what we can do with our car in the meantime. One thing is certain: the success in Argentina was very important for us. Now our morale is sky-high. Seeing those flags in the stands, the crowd cheering for you, for your team, it makes us feel good. Argentina is a Ferrari country, the fans are all on our side. Now I can say I'm confident".

 

Then, talking about Ferrari's competitiveness and that of its rivals, Schumacher admits:

 

"Unfortunately, we are on the whole still behind the McLarens. If things hadn't gone a certain way, if we hadn't got all the strategies right, perhaps I could have aimed for second place. On the other hand, I saw Villeneuve very badly: at the moment, the way things are going, I see him out of the fight for the world title, his car has several problems to solve".

 

To win World Titles it is crucial to gain points even in prohibitive situations, especially at those difficult race weekends when nothing seems to work. Exactly what Mika Hakkinen did, who with the 6 points gained brings himself up to 26 points, plus 12 on Schumacher and 13 on Coulthard.

 

"I can only be satisfied with this result, it is the best placement I could aspire to this weekend, as I have never found an excellent feeling with the car on this track".

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Admits the Finnish driver, who then goes on to say:

 

"I was hoping to pass Michael during his second pit stop but I was aware that it would be almost impossible. Also, I had some lapped cars that slowed me down a lot. I think I would have had to take big risks to get a position on him and I didn't want to do that. It's much better to finish second than to go looking for trouble and risk getting nothing".

 

The smiles are not spared at Ferrari, after having achieved unexpected success. Among the men at the Prancing Horse, President Montezemolo is the emblem of happiness after his protégé's victory:

 

"Schumacher did a great race. Having both drivers on the podium is exactly what I dreamed of. It was a very hard race, full of emotions and very beautiful, not only in the end. I was moved and touched to see so many Ferrari flags in Argentina, it was like being at Monza. We said we would recover and I thank Goodyear because they put us in a position to be so competitive".

 

On the other hand, as pragmatic as ever, Jean Todt is already thinking about innovations to introduce on the F300:

 

"We have to try many things: a slight power increase for the engine, aerodynamic modifications, a redesigned rear suspension, high exhausts to be perfected and probably also small wings placed on the towers next to the car like Tyrrell, Sauber, Jordan, Stewart and Prost. I experienced moments of terror with the accident with Coulthard and Michael's final exit from the track. But it was worth it. We knew from the start that we had a good car, but you didn't believe it".

 

And on Irvine, on his seventh podium with Ferrari, the French manager says:

 

"He was very good, he drove with some problems in the cockpit because of a protective pad that danced between his legs with the risk of falling into the pedals".

 

Not only Schumacher then: Ferrari can finally count on Eddie Irvine, who has already brought 7 points to the cause since the beginning of the year, finishing in the top six in two of the three races run:

 

"The news is that I'm finally sitting in a car that suits me".

 

Says the Northern Irish driver, who has been penalised in the past by work schedules that included developments and innovations only for Schumacher.

 

"I thought the race was more difficult for us than qualifying. We were on softer tyres than McLaren, which could have been a risky choice in the long run. But the guys in the pit worked well, and the two-stop strategy was the right one. The hardest moment in the race was when Wurz overtook me: he came like a train, huge in the rear-view mirrors, and immediately passed. I thought I had lost the podium and I was disappointed. But he also made a mistake later in the race: he ended up off the road, I passed him and here I am, on the podium, third".

 

Another unforeseen problem arose in the cockpit of the F300:

 

"But only for 25 laps, and only because the tool I use to keep my knee locked moved. It was bothering my legs, and on the straights, I was trying to put it back in place, but I couldn't. It was a constant thought, and I kept thinking about it. It was a constant thought, I had to fight hard, but in the end, I was right".

 

At the exit of the circuit, Mika Hakkinen seems to have lost his smile, while the Ferrari men can celebrate a renewed competitiveness. McLaren is on notice, the challenge has been launched.

 

Davide Scotto di Vetta


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