In his long career as a Formula 1 driver, Michael Schumacher has clinched one or two sensational victories. However, his success on July 12, 1998 at the British Grand Prix was probably the most curious. Finally, the later record world champion won the race in the pit lane.
That July day was perfect for Michael Schumacher, who was dueling for points in the World Championship standings with McLaren driver Mika Häkkinen: on the morning of the Sunday race, it had poured with rain.
At the start of the Grand Prix, the track surface was still wet. Perfect conditions for “rain god” Schumacher to push himself to the front from second on the grid.
But an offensive by the Ferrari driver was still a long time coming. On the 16th lap, another downpour caused a number of drivers to spin in the gravel bed. Among them was Häkkinen, who slightly damaged his front wing on an excursion, lost time but was able to maintain his lead.
Due to the conditions, the organizer decided on a safety car phase and thus gave Schumacher the opportunity to get very close to the Finn. When the track was reopened on the 50th lap, it only took two laps for the German to concede to the championship leader.
Formula 1: Michael Schumacher receives a stop-and-go penalty
As a result, Schumacher built up an ever-growing lead on the wet asphalt. He was well over 20 seconds ahead shortly before the end of the race, and the British Grand Prix seemed decided.
But the pilots reckoned without the race control. Two laps before the end, she imposed a stop-and-go penalty of ten seconds on Schumacher. He illegally overtook Alexander Wurz during the safety car phase.
According to the rules, Schumacher has to serve his penalty within the next three laps.
Formula 1: Ferrari makes Michael Schumacher the winner with a trick
But instead of ordering the German into the pits immediately, Ferrari decided on a trick: the team from Maranello only got their superstar in on the very last lap to get the penalty.
Since Schumacher had already crossed the finish line in the pit lane on his way to the Scuderia crew, the then 29-year-old was declared the winner.
McLaren protested against the classification of the race, Ferrari also complained because the team believed that the news of the punishment was communicated too late and only handwritten. The end of the story: The protests of the Häkkinnen team were crushed by the FIA, and the penalty for Schumacher was finally declared invalid due to mistakes by those responsible for the race.
The commissioners concerned resigned as a result of all the commotion and Formula 1 reformulated its rules. From then on, it was stipulated that an incorrectly served stop-and-go penalty would always be converted to a 25-second time penalty. Schumi’s curious victory in Silverstone will probably always remain an isolated case.