35 – 1998 Hungarian GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

The wins are so numerous they tend to blur into each other. Even Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn themselves might struggle to recall them all. But we bet they both remember this one. 

Hungary ’98 was special, perhaps the best example of their partnership working at its most devastating best.

McLaren’s MP4/18 held the upper hand in Hungary, as it did on most occasions in 1998, but tactical instinct and relentless pace won Ferrari the day. As Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard circulated out front, Brawn rolled the dice. He switched Schumacher away from the standard two stops to three, bringing Michael in early for his second. McLaren’s pitwall knew straight away what was happening and reacted by bringing in its pair, but it was already too late. Schumacher’s pace was enough for a classic undercut and now he led.

View this race on the Database

But the real work was still to come. The task Brawn set Schumacher was to build a 27-second lead over the McLarens to allow him to pit for a third time and still retain his lead. Ross radioed Michael the good news. The response? “Thanks very much.” Then Schumacher got his head down.

It helped that by this time Häkkinen was struggling with a broken shock absorber – and that McLaren delayed its decision to order Coulthard by to give him a chance of beating Schumacher. Frustrating for the Scot – although if truth be told, he probably would still have struggled to beat Michael on this day.

That third stint was like a string of qualifying laps, Schumacher’s own version of Monaco 1961. As was typical of the time, there were no heroic passing moves, no banging of wheels. But it was still captivating, a classic of its era – and of all time. DS

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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