The Ferrari F300 is the forty-fourth single-seater with which Scuderia Ferrari participates in the Formula 1 World Championship in 1998. The drivers are Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine. This is the first Ferrari designed by Rory Byrne, following the departure of John Barnard after several years.
The idea on which the project is based is to optimize aerodynamic performance, offsetting the loss given by the regulations. An important point is the maintenance of the low center of gravity, while with the carriageways now narrower, a fundamental role must be played in improving the distribution of the masses of the car.
The new car returns to the longitudinal transmission, which despite protruding more than the transverse architecture one, weighs ten kilos less.
The powerful V10 now unleashes a power equal to 746 horses, against only 710 of the evolution used in the course of the previous season, and the rotation speed is increased by about a thousand rpm. In addition, according to the technicians of Maranello, the latest evolution of the ten-cylinder V also significantly reduces consumption.
In addition, the car was born with the clutch on the steering wheel, while in previous cars there was a manual clutch solution, which can be operated via the pedal. The front suspension is completely revised, while remaining of the torsion bar type, with the introduction of a third element that acts as a third shock absorber.
From an aerodynamic point of view, the nose is raised, which is now higher near both the suspension and the windscreen, while the passenger compartment is moved back due to the regulatory change. The reduction of the carriageways and the increase in the cross section of the bodies in the front area actually obliges the entire front part of the car to be raised. In addition, the airbox is also moved back, thus generating less turbulence and the flow on the rear wing is now cleaner.
Another feature of the Ferrari F300 is the flaring of the side air intakes, while the wheelbase is lengthened to 2.953 millimetres. The car is treated in every detail, and the exhausts are housed in the keel shape of the rear, using the hot air to accelerate the flow above the central slide and under the lower wing, for the benefit of a net increase in aerodynamic charge in that area.
Already in the first tests conducted on the Fiorano track the first small evolutions of the car appear. In fact, bulkheads are introduced that contain a fin, connected in turn to another higher bulkhead, in order to better convey the air flows.
One step away from glory
The F300 made its debut in Australia on 8 March 1998: in the first part of the season the car was forced to suffer the clear superiority of the McLaren MP4/13s of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard, also favoured by Bridgestone tires which proved to be clearly superior in the first races to coverage provided by Goodyear.
After Eddie Irvine's fourth place in Melbourne and Michael Schumacher's third in Sao Paulo, the German driver's first win in Argentina arrives, while his teammate completes the podium by finishing third at the finish.
Two weeks later, in the San Marino Grand Prix, raced in Imola, the Ferraris replicate the second and third place of the previous year and, thanks to Häkkinen's retirement, Schumacher reopens the world game, reaching six points behind the Finn, leader of the standings.
In the race at Imola, the F300 adopts the so-called X-Wing for the first time, that is appendages recalling the shape of the candelabra, and arranged above the sides to improve the aerodynamic balance.
Subsequently these solutions will be prohibited by the FIA, so that the Ferrari decides to compensate for this loss by introducing, for the next stop in Spain, new high exhausts, that is, placed in the upper part of the body: a novelty that constitutes a real revolution in Formula 1.
However, in the following two races Schumacher returns to suffer the superiority of the McLarens, finishing only third in Montmeló and closing off the points in Monte Carlo, after having damaged the car in a duel with Wurz's Benetton, while on the occasion Irvine again takes the third place.
After just six races, therefore, the German is now twenty-two points behind his Finnish rival, while the Prancing Horse is thirty-six behind the manufacturer in Woking.
During the summer season, however, several improvements arrive from Maranello, also made by Goodyear, so in the subsequent events of Canada, France and England, Schumacher collects three consecutive victories, also propitiated by failures and errors at McLaren, while Irvine gets two third places in Montréal and Silverstone, interspersed with the second place obtained at Magny-Cours, thanks to which Ferrari obtained its first double since the 1990 Spanish Grand Prix.
After a third and a fifth place respectively in Austria and Germany, Schumacher captures two more victories in Hungary and Italy, in which Ferrari takes a second double, allowing the German driver to join Mika Häkkinen at the top of the standings.
Subsequently, on the occasion of the Belgian Grand Prix, Schumacher was forced to retire while he was in the lead after hitting Coulthard's McLaren while dubbing. The growth of the F300 is confirmed by the three pole positions obtained, all by Schumacher, first in Monza and then in the last two rounds of the year.
At the Nürburgring, for the Grand Prix of Luxembourg, the Ferraris both start from the front row, but Häkkinen manages to take the lead thanks to the game of pit stops, going to win ahead of the German and presenting himself at the last race of the season, in Japan, with four lengths of advantage over the German driver.
At Suzuka Schumacher sees his start in pole position nullified by the engine shutdown, which forces him to restart at the back of the grid: his comeback and the accompanying world championship hopes end in the thirty-first lap, following a tire burst, forcing him to retire; on the occasion, Irvine still managed to finish second, but that was not enough for the team from Maranello to take away the two titles from Häkkinen and McLaren.
In total, the F300 obtained six victories including two doubles, thirteen podiums, three pole positions and six fastest laps, totalling 133 points in the constructors championship, 86 won by Schumacher and 47 by Irvine, and finishing in second place both in the drivers' and builders.