The 1998 Italian Grand Prix came alive on Saturday, 12 September. Not even the weather could discourage the fans at Monza, and despite heavy rain in the morning, the grandstands were packed for the start of qualifying.
A pale sun peaking through the clouds at the start of the afternoon was enough to dry the track just before the start of the qualifying session and even though conditions were not ideal, the drivers were able to improve their times lap after lap. Michael Schumacher had pole within his grasp and together with the Scuderia Ferrari strategists on the pit wall, managed to find the perfect moment to go out on track and make the most of the final minutes of the session, when the track was at its best.
For the Prancing Horse fans, it was a promising sign and on Sunday, Monza was packed from dawn. Everything was set, but when the lights went out, both Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve alongside him in the Williams got too much wheelspin, losing time and allowing the two McLarens of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard to get into the lead. Behind them was Eddie Irvine in the Ferrari, with Villeneuve and Schumacher following.
After a few laps, the German driver started to push, overtaking Villeneuve and Irvine. Coulthard, after overtaking his teammate, led the race and was showing signs that he would hold on to it. It seemed to be the Scotsman’s day, but on lap 16, the man from Twynholm’s Mercedes engine gave up. The McLaren suddenly slowed before the Roggia corner, and Hakkinen and Schumacher immediately caught up to him. The Finn hesitated and the Ferrari was through into the lead.
After the pit stops, Schumacher was still in the lead ahead of Hakkinen and Irvine, but the Finn was gaining ground as he upped the pace. Ten laps from the end, he put in the fastest lap and was only two seconds behind Schumacher. However just when it seemed inevitable that the McLaren would get ahead, Hakkinen suddenly suffered a brake problem coming out of Roggia, ending up spinning. Irvine was then in second place while Schumacher comfortably controlled the remaining laps, taking the chequered flag to the delight of the Monza spectators.
The crowd went wild as Ferrari had just secured a great one-two finish in their home race. For the Scuderia, it was the second one-two finish of the season after that of Magny-Cours, which was the 43rd in their history, but nothing could compare to the elation and satisfaction of getting the best possible result in their home race.