Motor racing: Goodyear make epic exit

In the shadows of the Hakkinen-Schumacher showdown, one of the drama's leading players heads for the wings

NO SOONER will the issue of the 1998 World Championship be settled here in Suzuka today, than the focus will shift forwards to 1999. In the case of Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Ralf Schumacher, they will scarcely have time to take off their damp overalls before each dons fresh virgin- white sets as they prepare to begin their programmes for next year.

The two German drivers will be swapping teams next year, Schumacher to join Williams, Frentzen to take Schumacher's seat at Jordan. On Tuesday and Wednesday each will drive the other's car in the first steps of their acclimatisation to new teams, and to Bridgestone tyres.

The Japanese Grand Prix marked the end of an era, as the Goodyear tyre company prepared to withdraw from Formula One after an almost unbroken spell since their debut in 1965. Back then the Akron company provided the rubber for Honda, who were, like Ferrari, at that time a manufacturer of their own chassis and engine. At the end of a promising year came the first victory for both parties, in Mexico City, courtesy of the American Richie Ginther. The first World Championship followed in 1966, as Jack Brabham took his eponymous car to his own third title. Since then Goodyear's successes have far outstripped those of even their closest rivals, but more than that the company have been a true friend to Formula One, supporting it in the darkest hours.

But in 1999 Formula One will revert to a monopoly situation regarding tyre supply, which is a possible cause for concern after the way Goodyear have fought back this season against the initially dominant Bridgestone to enliven what at one stage seemed likely to be a very dull championship.

"I have great experiences with Goodyear," Michael Schumacher said. "Personally, I didn't expect the improvement they achieved for us, and I'm very sad that they are leaving. With a single-tyre competition next year we will find out just how good our car is compared to McLaren."

Yesterday Goodyear helped the Ferrari driver to his 20th pole position and set up the perfect battle for the World Championship, as Mika Hakkinen comfortably outpaced Eddie Irvine to take the other front-row starting position.

For this all-important contest Ferrari had prepared special qualifying engines, said to give close to 800bhp, and while they would not be raced, the plan was that they would help in the quest for the fastest qualifying time.

In the event, there were mixed feelings over their effectiveness, but there was no doubting Schumacher's determination and commitment. He was the last driver to venture out in qualifying, calmly leaving his first run until 20 minutes of the allotted hour had gone by. At that stage Hakkinen was quickest, but with the minimum of fuss the Ferrari pilot asserted his authority, and defended it as Hakkinen counter-attacked with gusto. The contest for fastest time remained their exclusive preserve, on a track where fortune favours the brave. More than once, Hakkinen bettered Schumacher's section times, but when his last effort saw him come perilously close to disaster after momentarily leaving the road in the corner named after the motorcycle ace Ernst Degner, Schumacher could finally relax.

"Of course it's nice to be on pole position," he said. But with Hakkinen so close he was not about to go overboard. "This is only qualifying," he added cautiously, "so we mustn't get too excited." Irvine's failure to join him at the front left him in a vulnerable position, for Hakkinen needed only second place to clinch the title. The Ulsterman's afternoon was a blend of reasonable, if not outstanding, laps, and the frustration of yellow flags as other drivers went off.

But Schumacher's speed enabled the Ferrari president, Luca di Montezemolo, who made a rare public appearance at a race in support of the team he has brought back from the brink of ridicule in the early Nineties, to relax momentarily. At one stage the Italian aristocrat was seen seizing the arm of his phlegmatic sporting director Jean Todt as FIA officials insisted on a routine check of the eligibility of Schumacher's car.

By his own admission, di Montezemolo is too nervous to watch a race in company - "I get too emotional, and I don't want anybody to see that" - and he planned to seal himself in a private trackside office by the time the showdown started.

Further down the pit lane, the McLaren chief Ron Dennis had watched Hakkinen's every move with his customary poker player's stare.

Dennis once famously admitted that the first feeling he experiences on the day after a race his cars have failed to win is pain. As the climax to an extraordinary season drew closer he and di Montezemolo had reached the same moment of truth facing Schumacher and Hakkinen: the last round of the epic mano a mano contest. The apogee of success for one, the despair of failure for the other.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
The cartoon produced by Bruce MacKinnon for the Halifax Chronicle-Herald on Thursday, showing the bronze soldiers of the war memorial in Ottawa welcoming Corporal Cirillo into their midst
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into disastrous conflicts
News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Voices
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
voicesNigel Farage: Where is the Left’s outrage over the sexual abuse of girls in the North of England?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift performs at the 2014 iHeart Radio Music Festival
musicReview: 1989's songs attempt to encapsulate dramatic emotional change in a few striking lines
News
Mario Balotelli has been accused of 'threateningly' telling a woman to stop photographing his Ferrari
peoplePolice investigate claim Balotelli acted 'threateningly' towards a woman photographing his Ferrari
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Anderson plays Arthur Shelby in Peaky Blinders series two
tvReview: Arthur Shelby Jr seems to be losing his mind as his younger brother lets him run riot in London
Voices
Don’t try this at home: DIY has now fallen out of favour
voicesNick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of it
Arts and Entertainment
Miranda Hart has called time on her award-winning BBC sitcom, Miranda
tv
Sport
Phil Jones (left) attempts to stop the progress of West Bromwich Albion’s James Morrison on Monday
Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo, writes Paul Scholes
Arts and Entertainment
Saw point: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in ‘Serena’
filmReview: Serena is a strangely dour and downbeat affair
Life and Style
The Zinger Double Down King, which is a bun-less burger released in Korea
food + drinkKFC unveils breadless meat beast
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£4848 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Outstanding...

Cover Supervisors/Teaching Assistants Secondary Schools in York

Negotiable: Randstad Education Leeds: Cover Supervisors/Long Term Teaching Ass...

Science Teacher

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher...

Cover Supervisor

£55 - £70 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Cover Supervisors needed for seco...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker