History Of The British Grand Prix - Episode III 1998

By Carlo Carluccio

Written in association with Missed Apex Podcast. Listen in the player below the article and please don't forget to comment.

I recently spent a wonderful afternoon with my friend ‘Fat Hippo’ as we put the world to rights; following this up with a twin rant over everything F1. It proved to be eye opening in regards the fundamental differences between the press coverage of our beloved sport in the various countries in Europe.

Different countries obviously support their own national heroes – this helps sell copies – with the possible exception being Italy where the ‘national heroes’ are the red cars.

I personally have historical issues with most of the British F1 media. I feel they have had too much power within the incestuous world of F1 for far too long. It’s a fact that the British teams constantly trumpet about - and yes, F1 is predominantly based in Britain. Therefore it goes without saying that if the teams don’t appreciate what certain journalists write – then that journalist suddenly discovers their accreditation revoked.

So much for free speech… of course sir, you can say anything you like, as long as you copy and paste it from our Press Briefing.

Lewis Hamilton is huge business in the UK – and obviously this is reflected by the various media outlets. Jenson Button and Damon Hill are both held in affection by the public yet maybe it is only Nigel Mansell that received the adulation of the British public in a similar manner. To the British journalistic elite it would appear unnerving that two working class drivers have been idolised by the great unwashed.

‘But, but.. F1 was always a wealthy man’s sport Cornelius!’ exclaimed Rupert.

In Germany, Michael Schumacher received practically the same level of adulation - throughout his pre-Mercedes career. A huge amount of his public appeal was his working class background. The fact that to his home nation, an individual could rise to top of his profession by nurturing his natural talent with hard work and dedication, gave encouragement to millions. Sport at its inspirational best.

RTL began broadcasting F1 in 1991 – at a time when Schumacher first entered the sport, and Sunday afternoons proved hugely successful to the network in a manner that has never been replicated by four time champion, Sebastien Vettel, and certainly not Nico Rosberg.

I was motivated to write today’s entry by an almost throwaway remark made by Hippo which put the British press’ predilection for Hamilton into a different perspective.

At his peak of popularity, the German media was so biased in their reporting of Schumacher's races that excuses would be found if any questionable behaviour reared its head. Not once was Schumacher to blame for collisions with other drivers – they were obviously ganging up on him.

I was curious about the infamous 2006 Monaco qualifying faux pas. I couldn’t help roar out in astonishment when I discovered that the German media’s reaction was to suggest how intelligent Schumacher had been, that no-one had ever thought of stopping a qualifying session in the same manner!

I forgot to ask Hippo at the time but I wondered how Germany reacted when Michael completed the 1998 British Grand Prix in the pits. Because, back then, I was whooping with delirious laughter that my team had got one over the Mclaren mob.

In saturated conditions, on lap 43, Schumi had passed Wurz under the safety car. 15 laps later – or 31 minutes after the original transgression – the stewards handed out a penalty to Ferrari. Crucially this was 6 minutes beyond the time limit to serve penalties and only two laps till the chequered flag.

No doubt arguments flew back between the Ferrari pit-wall, featuring Ross Brawn, and the FIA; to make certain that no post-race decisions would impact the result, Schumacher came into the pits at the end of the last lap. The brilliance of this was that to get to the Ferrari pit box, he had to cross the timing beam for the finish line… 

PS Hippo: To answer Carlo's forgotten question. The RTL commentators first didn't even know what happened. Once the realised what had gone on, they had a little fan-w*nk about how brilliantly Schumi had come up with that. 

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