1998 Australian
Grand Prix
Albert Park
3.27 miles

March 8th 1998

Qualifying - Race - Analysis

Qualifying : Sunny and warm

1997 Pole: Jacques Villeneuve (Williams) 1m 29.369s

The Starting Grid

Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes BS 1m 30.010s
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes BS 1m 30.053s
Michael Schumacher Ferrari GY 1m 30.767s
Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Mecachrome GY 1m 30.919s
Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas GY 1m 31.384s
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Mecachrome GY 1m 31.397s
Giancarlo Fisichella Benetton-Playlife BS 1m 31.733s
Eddie Irvine Ferrari GY 1m 31.767s
Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Mugen Honda GY 1m 32.392s
Damon Hill Jordan-Mugen Honda GY 1m 32.399s
Alexander Wurz Benetton-Playlife BS 1m 32.726s
Jean Alesi Sauber-Petronas BS 1m 33.240s
Tora Takagi Tyrrell-Ford GY 1m 33.291s
Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford BS 1m 33.383s
Jarno Trulli Prost-Peugeot BS 1m 33.739s
Olivier Panis Prost-Peugeot BS 1m 33.851s
Mika Salo TWR Arrows BS 1m 33.927s
Esteban Tuero Minardi-Ford BS 1m 34.646s
Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford BS 1m 34.906s
Ricardo Rosset Tyrrell-Ford GY 1m 35.119s
Pedro Diniz TWR Arrows BS 1m 35.140s
Shinji Nakano Minardi-Ford BS 1m 35.301s

107 % rule time: 1m 36.310s

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Race : 58 laps, sunny & warm

1997 Winner: David Coulthard (McLaren) 1h 30m 28.718s

The Result

Mika Hakkinen McLaren-Mercedes BS 1h 31m 45.996s
David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes BS 1h 31m 46.696s
Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Mecachrome GY 1 lap down
Eddie Irvine Ferrari GY 1 lap down
Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Mecachrome GY 1 lap down
Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas GY 1 lap down
Alexander Wurz Benetton-Playlife BS 1 lap down
Damon Hill Jordan-Mugen Honda GY 1 lap down
Olivier Panis Prost-Peugeot BS 1 lap down
Giancarlo Fisichella Benetton-Playlife BS 43 laps - broken rear wing
Jean Alesi Sauber-Petronas GY 41 laps - engine failure
Jarno Trulli Prost-Peugeot BS 26 laps - gearbox
Ricardo Rosset Tyrrell-Ford GY 25 laps - gearbox
Mika Salo TWR Arrows BS 23 laps - gearbox
Esteban Tuero Minardi-Ford BS 22 laps - engine failure
Shinji Nakano Minardi-Ford BS 8 laps - broken drive shaft
Michael Schumacher Ferrari GY 5 laps - engine failure
Pedro Diniz TWR Arrows BS 2 laps - hydraulics
Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford BS 1 lap - gearbox
Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford BS 1 lap - collision
Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Mugen Honda GY 1 lap - collision
Tora Takagi Tyrrell-Ford GY 1 lap - spun off

Fastest Lap :
Mika Hakkinen (McLaren) 1m 31.649s
1997: Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Williams) 1m 30.585s

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Analysis :
If there were any doubts about the preseason form of McLaren-Merecedes, they were quickly put to rest in Melbourne. The cars were totally dominant in qualifying and when the lights went out, they left the rest of the field in the dust.
Two-thirds into the race and Mika Hakinnen and David Coulthard had lapped the entire field. After an aborted pitstop dropped the Finn to second, Coulthard kept to a prerace agreement and let Hakkinen past with two laps remaining. Running strongly behind was Giancarlo Fisichella in the Benetton, though his day was to end sadly when the heat of the exhaust melted the support for the rear wing. Teammate Alexander Wurz was never in contention, while Johnny Herbert in the lead Sauber followed a great qualifying effort with a solid race performance.
The Williams' held on grimly but were never a threat to the McLarens, with Heinz-Harald Frentzen only making the podium because of Fisichella's retirement. Jacques Villeneuve had an exceedingly quiet race and will need muchmore from his car if he is to challenge for the championship.
As for Michael Schumacher, the laps he ran were fast - there just wasn't many of them. On the plus side for the Scuderia, Eddie Irvine showed that the car was at least equal to the Williams and Benetton.

In the end, the margin of victory was stunning and left the rest of the field with three weeks to regroup before Brazil. The bar has been raised.

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Photo credits : AP/McLaren Intl