| 8 March 1998|
5.303 km (3.295 mi)
| Albert Park Circuit|
| LXIII Qantas Australian Grand Prix|
Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit
Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia
58 laps, 307.574 km (191.118 mi)
The 1998 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at the Albert Park street circuit in inner Melbourne on 8 March. It was the 63rd race in the combined history of the Australian Grand Prix that dates back to the 100 Miles Road Race of 1928. It was the first of the sixteen races of the 1998 Formula One season and held over 58 laps of the 5.3 kilometre street circuit and the sixth to be held on the Albert Park venue first used in 1953, or the third since the new circuit first hosted the race in 1996.
The race was dominated by the McLaren-Mercedes team and won by Mika Häkkinen over his team mate David Coulthard in controversial circumstances. WilliamsF1 driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen finished third. The race also represented the first win for Japanese tyre manufacturer Bridgestone in Formula One and the first race since the 1991 Canadian Grand Prix not won by Goodyear.
1998 Australian Grand Prix Wikipedia
The McLarens of Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard made good starts from the front row of the grid, but Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, starting third, also had a good start and tried to overtake second place Coulthard. The Ferrari driver stayed with the McLarens, but retired on lap 6 when his engine failed. This handed third place to the Williams of Jacques Villeneuve, who was being chased by Benetton's Giancarlo Fisichella.
After the first round of pitstops, Villeneuve found himself behind team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Ferrari's Eddie Irvine and Fisichella. Fisichella was able to pass Frentzen for third but then retired with mechanical failure, leaving Frentzen to finish just ahead of Eddie Irvine's Ferrari which had gambled on a one-stop strategy. Villeneuve was lapped soon after this by the McLarens, but he still managed to finish in fifth place.
On lap 36 Häkkinen came into the pits unexpectedly, apparently having misheard a call over the radio. He drove straight through the pitlane and rejoined the race without stopping, but lost first place to team-mate Coulthard. In 2007, McLaren boss Ron Dennis claimed that someone had tapped into the team's radio system.:
"We do not and have not manipulated grands prix, unless there were some exceptional circumstances, which occurred in Australia , when someone had tapped into our radio and instructed Mika Häkkinen to enter the pits."
A few laps before the end of the race, Coulthard let Häkkinen past on the front straight. The two had made a pre-race agreement that between the two of them, the driver who led at the first corner would go on to win the race, should he be in the position to do so. David Coulthard and the McLaren team were criticized heavily. The situation surrounding Coulthard allowing Häkkinen through would eventually go to the World Motorsport Council. The verdict was that "any future act prejudicial to the interests of competition should be severely punished in accordance with article 151c of International Sporting Code." "Team orders" continued to be controversial in Formula One and were banned following the events of the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix. Frentzen took third place for Williams. The race was the first win for the tyre manufacturer Bridgestone after they entered Formula One a year earlier.
After the race concluded, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation chairman, Ron Walker, lodged an official complaint to the FIA into how the actions of the McLaren team decided the race for Häkkinen.Lap 1–23 Mika Häkkinen
Lap 24 David Coulthard
Lap 25–35 Mika Häkkinen
Lap 36–55 David Coulthard
Lap 56–58 Mika Häkkinen
Pedro Diniz's car caught fire on the way to the grid.
Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.