French Grand Prix 1998 – Race
Since the changes made for the Canadian Grand Prix the FW20 is undoubtedly a much better car than the one that started the season but it is still not close enough. The McLarens seem to have stopped making progress and Ferrari are reeling them in but Williams are now the best of the rest – maybe by the end of the season a win will be on the cars – but just maybe…
Heinz-Harald Frentzen was cleared for the race at the last minute after having been knocked out during testing earlier in the week. Despite still feeling sore the German was 4th quickest on Friday with Villeneuve back in 17th.
Fortunately Villeneuve managed better on the Saturday finishing up an excellent 5th. Frentzen, unfortunately, couldn’t sustain the challenge and with eight after the two Jordans.
Race day. A great start for Villeneuve as he passes Coulthard for 4th only to be retaken before the first lap is completed. No such luck for Frentzen, in a more which will not have done his chances of being retained any good at all, he managed to slip back to 11th.
By lap eight the order was Schumacher (senior), Irvine, Hakkinen Coulthard, Villeneuve and Schumacher (junior). Villeneuve was 16 seconds behind the leader and Frentzen, still back in 11th was some 27 seconds adrift.
Both drivers, in keeping with those in front, made two stops which made precious little difference to the position of Villeneuve. Frentzen gained more from retirements and by lap 35 was back to the position he started, 8th.
In an otherwise uninteresting race for Williams fans further drama came on lap 69 with just two more to go as Frentzen made his way into the pits from where he wouldn’t return.
Slow and steady improvements have been made by the team rather than any big bang and while the top teams aren’t making any progress Williams could catch them, whether they will is another matter.