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JAPANESE GRAND PRIX 1998 - REVIEW2
The  expected West McLaren Mercedes team celebrated a double victory at Japan's Suzuka circuit as it won the coveted Constructors' Championship and driver Mika Hakkinen became the 1998 Formula One World Champion. While both titles were secured in style as Mika won this final Grand Prix of the season and team-mate David Coulthard finished on the podium for the ninth time this year, the 'double' had been completed before either Mika or David had reached the chequered flag when title rival Michael Schumacher retired from the race on the 32nd lap of the 51 total.
The tension of this season finale had been evident at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, with the first two attempts to get the grid underway aborted because of a stalled car. Jarno Trulli was the guilty driver on the first occasion, but it was the perpetrator of the second offence which stunned everybody. Polesitter Michael Schumacher - who needed to finish ahead of Mika by five points or more to win the Drivers' title - had stalled his engine, forcing the Ferrari driver to the back of the grid. Mika remained focused on the third start despite the distractions and made his customary lightning start to lead the field away, though David was passed by Eddie Irvine and Heinz-Harald Frentzen after getting bogged down with wheelspin. As Mika began to control the race at the front, edging away >from Irvine, Schumacher was making his way through a field which was wary of tripping up the world title challenger. He only encountered stubborn resistance once he reached sixth-placed Damon Hill, who was also fighting for an important points finish for his Jordan team.
After the first pit-stops, Schumacher managed to get ahead of David who had been held up behind Frentzen. While his car was clearly faster than the Williams, Suzuka confirmed its reputation as a difficult track to overtake on. With the Ferraris running second and third, David was also keen to keep his car in one piece for the purpose of the Constructors' Championship in case Mika fell out of the race. Even if the Ferraris finished one-two, the team only required one point for the team title.
On lap 32, however, the destinies of the two World Championships were decided. As Michael Schumacher raced down the pit straight, his right-rear wheel exploded and as he steered his stricken Ferrari on to the grass at Turn Two, Mika was World Champion and the team had won its eighth Constructors' title. Debris from a collision between two backmarkers was believed to be the likely cause for Schumacher's demise and the team immediately brought Mika in to the pits for a precautionary change of tyres. A jubilant Mika did well to restrain his emotions in the cockpit as he and David brought their cars home first and third respectively.
Pictures

MIKA HAKKINEN
'This is a very special day for me. It has taken a while for me to win the Formula One World Championship, but now it has happened and I am very happy. The team as a whole achieved a lot this season and this is the perfect result for all of us.The two false starts meant that I had to keep focused despite the disruptions and I have to say that the team did a fantastic job to keep the car at its optimum. Of course the fact that Michael started from the back relieved the pressure a little bit, but I knew he would be quick and that he would carve his way through the field. The team kept me informed all the time of what was going on, which was good and meant that I could concentrate on the car, keep my head and stay cool. A great day for the whole team - thank you!'

DAVID COULTHARD
'I spun the wheels at the start which allowed Frentzen to get ahead of me. I needed to finish the race in order to gain points for the Constructors Championship and make sure that I was available to support Mika so I didn't attack Frentzen as much as I would have normally. However, the team kept me aware of where Michael was and I could measure my pace. I am pleased that Mika is World Champion and I believe that I have contributed to that result. I would just like to thank and congratulate everyone at McLaren and Mercedes both those at the track and those back at the factory.'

RON DENNIS
'A great day which has provided everyone both at the track and back at the factory the satisfaction that comes from success. The end of an arduous year which has seen the team maintain a calm approach. My sincere thanks to our engine Partner Mercedes, our Principal Partner West and Technology Partner Mobil. There are too many other contributors to mention but I hope they will accept my sincere thanks and appreciation.'

NORBERT HAUG
'Everybody did a great job and many thanks to the whole team. When we had a few technical problems in the middle of the season nobody gave up or became disheartened, everyone pushed even harder and I am particularly pleased for Mika, he could have won the title much earlier. David did a great job finishing third in the championship having lost lots of points due to three engine failures during the season. We try to make sure that this will not happen again next year. Today we achieved a memorable result in Mercedes-Benz Motorsport history.'
 


JAPANESE GRAND PRIX 1998 - QUALIFYING
CHASSIS NUMBERS:
Mika Hakkinen: MP4 - 13 / 04
MH - Spare: MP4 - 13 / 07
David Coulthard: MP4 - 13 / 03
DC - Spare: MP4 - 13 / 05

The West McLaren Mercedes team completed a highly competitive qualifying session for the final race of the Formula One season. Mika Hakkinen will make his twelfth front row start of the year in second place, having posted a fastest lap of 1:36.47. Whilst David Coulthard put in a quickest lap of 1:37.496 and will start from third.

MIKA HAKKINEN
'Naturally I am a little disappointed but being second is not such a big problem. Of course I would prefer to be on pole but it doesn't give me any more pressure not to be. My last lap was pretty quick until I went wide and I am annoyed with myself, especially as the conditions were ideal for the tyres and the car was handling really well.

DAVID COULTHARD
'I am happy to be third on the grid because I have continued to improve throughout the weekend and I am now significantly quicker than Irvine. I am loosing some time through the first sector but as I only managed one proper run in qualifying there is plenty of scope for improvement.'

RON DENNIS
'It is always nice to be on pole but we are very comfortable with our grid position, particularly as our lap times show we are well ahead of the opposition. This is probably the only race I have ever come to where coming second is as important as coming first.'

NORBERT HAUG
'A strong performance by Michael Schumacher but we are on target, with our cars on row one and two of the grid, ahead of Eddie Irvine. With this we have a better basis for the race than we had at the Nurburgring last month.'