The 1998 British GP at the Silverstone circuit, involved a very weird turn of events. They ultimately led to Michael Schumacher winning the race while sitting in the pitlane. Three stewards even lost their licence due to their poor decision making.
Background of the 1998 British GP
Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren was on pole position for the 1998 British GP. Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher lined up alongside him. Race day involved heavy rain prior to the race. Fortunately, it stopped before the lights went out, resulting in wet and dry patches.
The front runners made a clean start and on lap 16, it started to rain again. Hakkinen was in complete control of the race. He developed a massive 49s lead over second place Schumacher. Starting lap 42, things went haywire for Hakkinen. His car spun 360 degrees but he managed to remain in the race lead. He continued with a damaged front wing and his lead cut by 10s. Seeing worsened conditions, the stewards decided to bring out the safety car and cut down Hakkinen’s lead altogether. Race restarted on lap 50 and it took a mere two laps for Hakkinen to make another mistake and put Schumi in the lead.
While it all seemed a straightforward victory for Michael Schumacher and his Ferrari, the stewards had other plans for him. The stewards felt that he overtook Alexander Wurz under the safety car on lap 43 and handled him a stop and go penalty. Now this is where Ferrari’s smartness came in. According to the rules, he had to enter the pit lane within three laps. He did come into the pit lane to serve his penalty but came in the last lap and while doing so, crossed the finish line! The finish line actually extended over the pit lane. Schumi inadvertently crossed the finish line while entering the pits. He was declared the 1998 British GP race winner, much to Hakkinen’s chagrin!
Michael Schumacher not Out of the Woods Just Yet
But, clearly he didn’t serve his penalty within the race distance, which meant he should have been disqualified. He held the top spot on the podium during the post race celebrations but was summoned to the FIA later. Ferrari defended their decision stating that the stewards failed to notify the Ferrari pit wall within the time limit for doing so. Ferrari was pretty quick in finding the loophole and in return got the penalty cancelled. It was a very smart move by Ferrari, a very smart victory indeed. Ferrari got the call right, the stewards got it wrong, and in return had their license revoked.
Schumacher fan or not, you’ve got to agree the victory didn’t belong to him. Although Hakkinen made a lot many mistakes to deserve the victory himself, Ferrari very cleverly used the loophole in the handbook to steer clear over the penalty and ultimately show their upper hand over FIA.