Monaco Grand Prix 1998 – Race
Monaco hasn’t been kind to Williams. It has been 15 years since the last time the team won here and this year wasn’t ever going to be the year that the fortunes were reversed.
Jacques Villeneuve may be World Champion but he has never taken to the Monaco circuit and that much became obvious during qualifying when he could only manage to get his car round to 13th spot, some 2.67 seconds off the pole time of Mika Hakkinen.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen meanwhile made a much better effort of it dragging the car round to a very respectable 5th position, but still some 0.931 seconds off the pace.
The difference in the speed of the front running McLarens and the Williams became ever more apparent during the race when Frentzen, who had lost a place at the start fell further and further behind the leaders. By lap 9 the gap from Hakkinen to Frentzen in 6th was over 25 seconds. That was to become immaterial a lap later when round Lowes corner Eddie Irvine went to dive up the inside of Frentzen and promptly punted him off the circuit.
That left Villeneuve as the sole Williams representative. By this point Villeneuve has made his way up to 12th position, mainly due to retirements but he was some 1 minute 16 seconds behind the leader. On lap 24 Villeneuve was lapped by Hakkinen, not for the first time this year, but will it be the last?
In one of the strangest race strategies seen so far Villeneuve stayed out until way, way past half distance for his first and only pit stop on lap 55. By this point Villeneuve had made his way up to 6th position, which he retained despite having to stop.
Villeneuve made up one more place when Alesi’s engine expired, but that was it.
Points but not a great result. One can only hope that the changes due for Canada make a huge difference.