Coulthard wins San Marino Grand Prix

Sunday April 26, 1998

David Coulthard clinched his first victory for 1998 and is now only 3 points behind his McLaren teammate Mika Hakkinen, who retired from the race on lap 16 with gearbox problems. Coulthard, who started the San Marino Grand Prix from pole, led throughout the 62 laps, with Michael Schumacher second after Hakkinen's retirement. However, towards the latter part of the race, it seemed that Coulthard's car might be overheating, giving way for Schumacher to cut down the gap from 25 seconds to 4.5 at the end.

Schumacher's teammate, Eddie Irvine, finished a distant third to the pleasure of the Ferrari tifosi. Both Williams cars finished in the points too, with Jacques Villeneuve making a brilliant start to fourth position, then losing a place in the pits to Irvine and finishing 4th ahead of Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Last in the points was Jean Alesi in the Sauber.

Only 9 cars finished the San Marino Grand Prix, which saw little action but retirements. Immediately on race start, Damon Hill in the Jordan tried to overtake Alex Wurz and hit his front wing in the back of the Benetton Playlife car. Both cars had to pit for quite a while, and rejoined in the last positions, a lap down on Giancarlo Fisichella who was then 6th and pushing hard on Frentzen in the front. Lap 16 saw both Benetton drivers retire, with Fisichella losing control and crashing the back suspension quite hard onto the safety barrier, and Wurz blowing up his engine. Then, with some overtaking and a row of retirements - including Johnny Herbert in the Sauber (broken front suspension) and Olivier Panis in the Prost (engine failure) - Hill found himself in a promising 7th position, only to retire with 4 laps to go, apparently because of brake problem. Nevertheless, Hill's teammate, Ralf Schumacher, managed to finally finish a full race distance without any significant spins or shunts. He finished 7th, with Esteban Tuero and Mika Salo in 8th and 9th respectively.

David Coulthard
"...I had 20 odd seconds (over Schumacher) after my last pit-stop and basically I was just trying to run a race that wasn't too hard on the brakes or the engine, and just trying (to) maintain that gap to Michael. So I was definitely comfortable when that gap reduced because I knew that I could go a little bit quicker... I knew Mika (Hakkinen) had stopped but I didn't ask why, because I didn't want (to think) about it for the rest of the race. That's obviously not so good for the team, but nonetheless I'm very happy to have given a win (to the team), especially if Mika didn't finish as well... I think today our car was running quicker and it (was) shown by fact that we were able to open such a big gap before the pit stops, and you know I was never going to be as quick on the last set of tyres because it was a used set rather than a new set. But I think we had enough in hand that it would be very hard for Michael to get close to us."

Michael Schumacher
"...It was very obvious that he was just cruising and driving it home. I was pushing, you never know. I mean, I don't want to give anything away until the checkered flag falls down, and that's what I did, but there wasn't anything to do... There should be no reason why we shouldn't be consistently up on the podium - I'd rather be in the middle than on the outside - and we are going to be able to do that fairly soon. Otherwise, obviously, we did something good for the expectations of the tifosi, which I'm quite glad but I wished it to be done better, but maybe, as I said, we will do that soon."

Eddie Irvine
"...After the first stop I was able to pull away from (Jacques Villeneuve) quite quickly and built up a large gap and then I made a mistake in the first chicane, and Jacques was right with me again. We just decided to come in a bit early because I was coming up on Hill and thought it's better to pull in the pits and refuel and we got a great stop and got out ahead of (Villeneuve) and I was able to maintain the gap... I knew he may be catching but there was very little chance of him coming past...."

Below are the unofficial results for the San Marino Grand Prix.

Pos Driver Team Time Lap
1 Coulthard McLaren Mercedes 1h34:24.593 62
2 M.Schumacher Ferrari + 0:04.554 62
3 Irvine Ferrari + 0:51.776 62
4 Villeneuve Williams Mecachrome + 0:54.590 62
5 Frentzen Williams Mecachrome + 1:17.477 62
6 Alesi Sauber Petronas + 1 lap 61
7 R. Schumacher Jordan Mugen-Honda + 1 lap 61
8 Tuero Minardi Ford + 2 laps 60
9 Salo Arrows TWR + 2 laps 60
10 Hill Jordan Mugen-Honda Mechanical 57
  Panis Prost Peugeot Engine 56
  Rosset Tyrrell Ford Mechanical 48
  Takagi Tyrrell Ford Unknown 42
  Trulli Prost Peugeot Spin 34
  Nakano Minardi Ford Engine/Fire 27
  Diniz Arrows TWR Gearbox 18
  Fisichella Benetton Playlife Spin 17
  Hakkinen McLaren Mercedes Gearbox 17
  Wurz Benetton Playlife Oil/Engine 17
  Herbert Sauber Petronas Suspension 12
  Magnussen Stewart Ford Transmisson 8
  Barrichello Stewart Ford Rear Wing/Spin 1

(credit: Biranit Goren)

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