Brazil 98

Brazilian Grand Prix, 1998: The Doorman

We begin this week's look back at the Brazilian GP with a strikingly accurate computer simulation of Interlagos prepared by Ubi Soft. Our presenters, Darryl Eastlake and former F1 Drivers' Champion Alan Jones assure us that it's so accurate that the drivers can not only learn the track, but the team can send data back to their home base for analysis between sessions.

"Marvelous what we can do nowadays! Ahhh, I see that you have the machine that goes *PING*, that's my favourite."

Mika and David were quick off the line, as expected. Schumacher had a terrible getaway, dropping a handful of places and leaving himself plenty of work to do. Speaking of, I'm not sure what the cleaners were doing that day but the main straight was littered with paper and various junk. Come on, Brazil! Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. I know sometimes we have to get Warnie down to Bay 13 to ask the punters not to throw rubbish on the field, but I assure you that's an isolated incident.

Ralph Schumacher lost control on T4, making things a little less confusing for the audience and especially Murray Walker and Martin Brundle in the com-box. Again, as they did in Melbourne, the two Mclaren's scampered off into the distance, Hakkinen a full second ahead of DC after the first lap. All this without their special braking system, which it turned out Williams and Jordan were also using during the previous race. 

Apparently Ron Denis was fuming (big surprise) that the FIA had approved the braking system, yet the stewards for the weekend had sided with Ferrari's protest and banned it. As this weekend showed, however, it didn't make a lick of difference and with or without it those Mclarens were greased lightning.

With Formula 1's "spare" Schumacher out of the race, it was up to Michael to make a fist of it, leaping over "Beans means Heinz"-Harald Frentzen during the pitstops then cruising up behind his teammate Irvine. Given the furor over the race outcome in Melbourne, surely Ferrari weren't about to show favour to their prodigal son?

Eddie "The Doorman" Irvine found something very interesting on the outside of Turn 1 and decided to slow down and move out of Michael's way to take a closer look. It mustn't have been too important, because once Michael had gone past his pace returned.

Schumacher's job wasn't finished yet though, and his good fortune in the first round of pitstops was undone at the second, losing valuable track time with the engineers struggling to get his rear right tyre on and the engine stalling while still on the jacks. With absolutely no hope of victory, he rejoined the grid and did an admirable job to avoid being lapped by the leaders. 

Rubens Barrichello retired from his home race, which always disappoints me. Nothing promotes Formula 1 better than a decent result for a hometown hero. A few other cars were lost to attrition, some smaller battles fizzled out and from then on the race settled in to a holding pattern.

A young and distressed looking Adrian Newey, who was sporting a particularly fashionable mullet, haunted the pitlane. He was either very concerned about something on the cars or he'd been listening to the new Smashing Pumpkins album. Pit boards (remember those?) were displayed for DC and Mika telling them to "Cool" their tyres. Either that or it was shorthand for, "How bloody cool is winning by this much!" I'm sure Brazil is a hell of a place to win a Grand Prix, let alone your third in a row.

Post race the Australian coverage ran an interview conducted in Melbourne with Mclaren boss Ron Denis where he discussed a particular photo of their multiple brake pedals. He alleged that a photographer was paid by one of the teams to snatch a pelfie (a pedal selfie... trademark! Trademark!) that had done the rounds and had been shown to the stewards as evidence of their "illegal" system.

Not content with taking Ron's word for it, the broadcaster also interviewed the actual photographer, Darren Heath from "F1 Racing" magazine, who assured them the photo was not taken at the request of any team - in fact they were trying to keep it a secret until they ran their next issue! 

Next up we're off the Argentina. Murray Walker tells us that Schumacher is confident he'll be competitive against the Mclarens a fortnight later. I couldn't help but think to myself, "he might stand a fighting chance if he starts right now!"

^ Rod