The 1998 Japanese Grand Prix was the seventeenth and last round of the 1998 FF1M Season and it was held at the Suzuka circuit. It was won by FJR's Heinz Harald Frentzen who dominated the race from start to finish.
Race Starting Grid Japan - Suzuka 1998 (53 Laps) Pole 1 Michael Schumacher 1m 31.657s 2 Heinz-Harald Frentzen Row 2 3 1m 31.731s Mika Hakkinen 1m 31.796s 4 Eddie Irvine Row 3 5 1m 32.076s Alexander Wurz 1m 32.245s 6 Ralf Schumacher Row 4 7 1m 32.280s Jos Verstappen 1m 32.356s 8 Juan-Pablo Montoya Row 5 9 1m 32.370s Damon Hill 1m 32.576s 10 Jacques Villeneuve Row 6 11 1m 32.677s David Coulthard 1m 32.691s 12 Johnny Herbert Row 7 13 1m 32.894s Jean Alesi 1m 33.256s 14 Rubens Barrichello Row 8 15 1m 33.287s Olivier Panis 1m 33.408s 16 Mika Salo Row 9 17 1m 33.544s Marc Gene 1m 33.896s 18 Kenny Brack Row 10 19 1m 33.937s Jan Magnussen 1m 33.943s 20 Giancarlo Fisichella Row 11 21 1m 34.071s Mark Blundell 1m 34.246s 22 Bruno Junqueira 1m 34.435s
thumb|300px|rightNewly crowned champion Michael Schumacher didn’t get a good getaway and lost the lead immediately to FJR’s Heinz Harald Frentzen and 2nd place to Eddie Irvine. He slotted in 3rd ahead of his brother.
Ralf Schumacher’s teammate Jean Alesi was making up ground after a lowly grid position was challenging Damon Hill for 12th. He overtook him into the Spoon curve but the Willow Images driver got back past at the chicane. But it went wrong for the former world champion as he made contact with the Pedersen of Rubens Barrichello. Both drivers spun but continued creating a traffic jam. Once the traffic cleared, Marc Gene overtook Olivier Panis for 15th place.
Further ahead Jos Verstappen had overtaken Alex Wurz for 6th place at the chicane, but on the next lap, his engine was already smoking which spelt the end of his last race for FJR. It also put a concern on leader Frentzen, who was building a comfortable lead from Irvine.
Lap 5 also saw an engine failure for 3rd placed Michael Schumacher, effectively ending the chance to wrap up his championship year with a win. He held Ralf and Hakkinen up behind the smoke losing them lots of time.
Jacques Villeneuve came under pressure from Johnny Herbert for 6th place on lap 9. Going into the chicane, the VTR driver succeeded. But Villeneuve was in trouble, he went so wide at the chicane, Montoya had a chance to take the Canadian for 7th, but this turned into a collision. They both lost time and handed 7th to Alesi.
Giancarlo Fisichella provided some action on lap 24 as he got in a battle with Kenny Brack. Fisichella got alongside going into the final chicane, Brack foolishly tried to save his position by cutting the chicane but Fisichella already had the position from the Swede. Meanwhile, Brack’s teammate retired with suspension issues, possibly as a result of his earlier collision with Barrichello.
Juan Pablo Montoya had a difficult race running outside the top 8 but his engine also blew up, a sad end to a generally good season for Mason Motorsports.
On lap 40, Eddie Irvine charged past Jacques Villeneuve, but in fact Eddie was three stopping and to make another pitstop whilst Villeneuve was only stopping once and was pacing himself to the finish.
Another driver on a three-stop strategy was Mika Hakkinen and he was pressuring Wurz for the final podium place. A podium would be important for both drivers as Hakkinen needed to secure 4th in the championship whilst Wurz needed to end JRacing’s career on a high. Hakkinen tried on lap 44 but the door got shut. 4 laps later and Hakkinen made a lunge going into the spoon curve. Wurz gave him space but he didn’t make it easy. The Finn eventually got past.
It was a very difficult race for Dark Wolf as Mark Blundell’s engine exploded on lap 21, whilst Jan Magnussen had a frightening collision with Villeneuve late in the race, which nearly resulted in both drivers retiring from the race, but both continued.
In only his third race for FJR, Frentzen dominated the race and took a superb maiden win, maintaining his podium run. The result moved him well ahead of McNish in the championship. Ralf Schumacher finished 2nd ahead of Hakkinen. Wurz ended JRacing’s interesting FF1M career with 4th. Alesi had a good race to 5th ahead of Irvine, Villeneuve and Coulthard.
Race Results Japan - Suzuka 1998 (53 Laps) Pos Driver Time/Speed 1st Heinz-Harald Frentzen 1h 23m 52.638s FJR-Mecachrome 2nd Ralf Schumacher +18.228s Gui Racing-Ford 3rd Mika Hakkinen +49.345s Dodgem-Ferrari 4th Alexander Wurz +56.965s J Racing-Ford 5th Jean Alesi +1m 23.043s Gui Racing-Ford 6th Eddie Irvine +1m 24.856s VTR-Mecachrome 7th Jacques Villeneuve +1m 27.578s Pedersen-Mercedes 8th David Coulthard +1m 30.989s Mason Mspt-Mercedes 9th Johnny Herbert -1 Lap VTR-Mecachrome 10th Mika Salo -1 Lap AquinoPlus-Peugeot 11th Olivier Panis -1 Lap J Racing-Ford 12th Giancarlo Fisichella -1 Lap AquinoPlus-Peugeot 13th Bruno Junqueira -1 Lap Maestro Mspt-Peugeot 14th Rubens Barrichello -1 Lap Pedersen-Mercedes 15th Marc Gene -1 Lap Maestro Mspt-Peugeot 16th Jan Magnussen -1 Lap Dark Wolf-Mugen 17th Kenny Brack Oil Leak Willow Image-Ferrari 18th Juan-Pablo Montoya Engine Mason Mspt-Mercedes 19th Damon Hill Suspension Willow Image-Ferrari 20th Mark Blundell Engine Dark Wolf-Mugen 21st Michael Schumacher Engine Dodgem-Ferrari 22nd Jos Verstappen Water Leak FJR-Mecachrome
Driver Best Laps Japan - Suzuka 1998 (53 Laps) Pos Driver Best Lap 1st Heinz-Harald Frentzen 1m 32.674s FJR-Mecachrome 2nd Ralf Schumacher +0.195s Gui Racing-Ford 3rd Mika Hakkinen +0.293s Dodgem-Ferrari 4th Eddie Irvine +0.927s VTR-Mecachrome 5th Alexander Wurz +1.131s J Racing-Ford 6th Jacques Villeneuve +1.332s Pedersen-Mercedes 7th Johnny Herbert +1.433s VTR-Mecachrome 8th Jean Alesi +1.557s Gui Racing-Ford 9th David Coulthard +1.653s Mason Mspt-Mercedes 10th Juan-Pablo Montoya +1.690s Mason Mspt-Mercedes 11th Giancarlo Fisichella +1.907s AquinoPlus-Peugeot 12th Mika Salo +1.921s AquinoPlus-Peugeot 13th Michael Schumacher +1.960s Dodgem-Ferrari 14th Olivier Panis +1.971s J Racing-Ford 15th Rubens Barrichello +2.167s Pedersen-Mercedes 16th Damon Hill +2.492s Willow Image-Ferrari 17th Marc Gene +2.579s Maestro Mspt-Peugeot 18th Kenny Brack +2.787s Willow Image-Ferrari 19th Jan Magnussen +2.870s Dark Wolf-Mugen 20th Mark Blundell +2.885s Dark Wolf-Mugen 21st Bruno Junqueira +2.941s Maestro Mspt-Peugeot 22nd Jos Verstappen +7.226s FJR-Mecachrome
- First win for Heinz Harald Frentzen
- Final win for Goodyear
- Final races for Goodyear, AquinoPlus, Mecachrome, Damon Hill, Mark Blundell and Kenny Brack