Eddie Jordan holds trophy on podium after Damon Hill won the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix

1998 Belgian Grand Prix

The high melodrama of Spa tended to overshadow the Hungarian GP two weeks earlier. This was a modern motor race by which I mean it took place on an artificial little circuit where overtaking is for today’s F1 cars almost impossible. Nowadays Grands Prix are all about strategy, with key overtaking moves happening during pitstops. Hungary was one of the best of these, an enthralling contest of wits and opportunism a sort of billion-pound computer game, brought to life on the track by the best racing driver in the current world.

After the woes of Hockenheim, Ferrari were going to have to dream up something special to do battle with the McLarens. They did it by opting for a third pitstop, in a race where two stops seemed to be the logical choice for everyone. What takes the time during a stop is not changing the wheels, which can be done in little more than five seconds: it’s pumping in the fuel, at a regulated 12 litres a second. The more often you stop, the shorter those stops can be – and the lighter, and thus faster, the car will be for most of its time on the track, and the fresher its tyres. But in Hungary a perfect stop, including time driving down the speed-limited pitlane, will still add 25 seconds to a driver’s race time. For the plan to work, Ferrari needed all Schumacher’s relentless speed – and the element of surprise.

They achieved that by bringing Schumacher in for his first and second stops only just before one-third and two-thirds distance, so it looked as if he was on a two-stop like everyone else. But the second stop was so quick – 6.8 seconds stationary – that the sharpest eyes in the pitlane guessed he’d taken on little fuel, and would need to come in again.

Race Results

Qualifying

Circuit - Spa-Francorchamps

Country

Belgium

Location

Francorchamps, Wallonia

Type

Permanent road course

Length

4.329 (Miles)

Record

Michael Schumacher (Ferrari F2001), 1m49.758, 141.989 mph, F1, 2001

3,404

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