Belgian Grand Prix: Fireworks from Schumacher & Coulthard
Belgium's glorious Spa-Francorchamps has seen some truly dramatic races in the 56 grands prix it has held since the first in 1925 but few have been as amazing as the one in 1998.
In torrential rain, the action began right after the start. David Coulthard spun his McLaren on the hill down from the first corner, La Source, towards Eau Rouge and in the gloaming 13 drivers were involved. The track was blocked and the race stopped.
It was the start of an inglorious day for Coulthard. At the re-start, he was involved in a collision with Alex Wurz's Benetton and suddenly the Scot was last. His McLaren team-mate Mika Hakkinen, who was on pole, spun and was hit by Johnny Herbert's Sauber.
Damon Hill, who had qualified his Jordan an excellent third behind the two McLarens, initially took the lead but by lap eight he had been passed by Ferrari's Michael Schumacher, as impressive as ever in wet conditions.
Schumacher built a lead of 30 seconds and appeared to be heading for a comfortable win, which would have put him into the championship lead ahead of Hakkinen.
But then came the biggest controversy of the race. On lap 26 of 44, Schumacher was coming up to lap Coulthard. With the best intentions, the Scot slowed down on the line to make it easier for the Ferrari to pass. But, unsighted in the spray, Schumacher simply rammed into the back of him.
Belgium Grand Prix 1998
- Race 13 of the 1998 season
- 44 laps
- Pole: Mika Hakkinen (McLaren-Mercedes)
- Winner: Damon Hill (Jordan)
As he toured back to the pits on three wheels, conspiracy theories were wheeling around Schumacher's head.
He'd just run into Coulthard, who drove for McLaren, and was team-mate to Hakkinen, the man standing in the way of Schumacher's attempt to be the first man to win a drivers' title for Ferrari since 1979. It was obvious, Schumacher reasoned. Coulthard must have done it deliberately.
Obvious but wrong. It had been a simple misunderstanding. But there was no telling Schumacher. On his return to the pits, the German tore off his seat belts and marched off to the McLaren pit to physically confront Coulthard, and had to be restrained by then team manager Stefano Domenicali - now Ferrari's team principal.
Out on the track, there was yet more drama. The grand prix was now being led by Hill, who had team-mate Ralf Schumacher closing on him.
On the pit wall, Eddie Jordan had visions of his team's first win - and a one-two at that - ending in a pile of twisted metal and broken carbon-fibre as Schumacher tried to wrest the lead from Hill.
Schumacher was told to hold station and Hill led him over the line. Ralf didn't like it - and nor did big brother Michael, who took Jordan to task over his team orders. The irony of his own situation at Ferrari clearly escaping him.
The Schumachers might not have liked it, but elsewhere there was celebration. Victory at last for Jordan, a true underdog, and a glorious one-two at that. Rarely was a result more popular.