San Marino Grand Prix 1998 – Race
Yet another McLaren win but not this time the one-two as expected the first sign of real weakness was exposed as the Hakkinen McLaren suffered mechanical failure. Williams, unfortunately, were still not in a position to be able to capitalise on this but there was a ray of hope with both drivers finishing in the points for the first time. But it was all a struggle….
Qualifying was another show of McLaren dominance but this time the Ferraris of Schumacher and Irvine were not that far behind. The Williams pairing of Villeneuve and Frentzen were sixth and eighth respectively – the first time this season that Villeneuve has out qualified his team-mate.
For once both Villeneuve and Frentzen got fantastic starts, both making up a couple of places before the first corner and at the end of the first lap the order was Coulthard, Hakkinen, Schumacher, Villeneuve, Irvine and Frentzen. However it quickly became obvious that the FW20 was a struggle to drive and while the drivers were fighting the car they weren’t going to make up any ground. Over the next few laps the Williams pair lost about a second a lap to the leader so that by lap eight Villeneuve was 15 seconds adrift with Frentzen a further 7 seconds.
The first pit stops came around lap 25 and it was here that Williams let their drivers down. A poor first stop for Villeneuve due to problems getting the fuel hose connected would eventually cost him a place on the podium.
Frentzen meanwhile was all over the back of Jean Alesi who had found himself in 5th during the pit stops. Lap 40 and the Sauber pitted followed a lap later by Frentzen who was quick away and came out ahead of the Frenchman.
A slow second stop for Villeneuve say Irvine edge ahead of the Williams and try as he might Villeneuve was never able to get close enough to the Ferrari to challenge for the last spot on the podium.
The final positions of Coulthard, Schumacher, Irvine, Villeneuve, Frentzen and Alesi neatly show the order of the teams at this point in the season. Williams are still trailing but are much improved since their South American outings. However a lot more work is required before the team can be a threat.