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The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps circuit is remembered as one of the most dramatic and controversial races in Formula One history. Torrential rain, multiple crashes, championship implications, unsportsmanlike conduct and an underdog victory – this Grand Prix had it all.

Championship Battle Adds Pressure

Entering Belgium, McLaren’s Mika Häkkinen led the drivers’ championship by 7 points over Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher. With only a handful of races left, the stakes were high for both title contenders.

In qualifying, Häkkinen took pole position ahead of teammate David Coulthard, while Schumacher had to settle for 4th after having his fastest lap deleted. The cards seemed stacked in McLaren’s favor for race day.

First Lap Chaos

As the race started in a downpour, Häkkinen led into the first corner. But Coulthard lost control and crashed into the barriers, ricocheting back onto the track. With zero visibility, over half the field collided into the stationary McLaren.

In total, 13 cars were involved in the massive pile-up. Miraculously there were no serious injuries, but the race was red flagged. Using spare cars, only 18 drivers took the restart out of the original 22.

More Drama on Lap 1 Restart

The restart brought even more drama. Häkkinen spun on the opening lap and was then hit by Johnny Herbert’s Sauber – eliminating both cars. Coulthard also got tangled up with Alexander Wurz’s Benetton, dropping the Scot to last place.

Schumacher, who avoided the restart chaos, now seemed on course for an easy win. The German mastered the wet conditions and built over a 15 second gap to lead comfortably from the Jordan of Damon Hill.

Coulthard and Schumacher Collision Causes Outrage

On Lap 25, race leader Schumacher approached Coulthard to lap the McLaren. With almost no visibility, Schumacher plowed at full speed into the back of Coulthard’s car, who had backed off for the pass.

The crash took Schumacher out on the spot with severe damage. It also ended Coulthard’s race. A furious Schumacher leapt from his battered Ferrari and charged down to the McLaren garage, attempting to confront Coulthard and accusing him of trying to kill him.

Schumacher-Coulthard History Fuels Suspicions

Schumacher and Coulthard had previous on-track collisions that fueled suspicions of foul play. Schumacher seemed convinced his title rival Häkkinen would benefit from Coulthard deliberately taking him out.

But ultimately most observers considered it a honest mistake between two drivers with zero visibility. The stewards took no action, although years later Coulthard admitted partial blame.

SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, BELGIUM: German Michael Schumacher drives his Ferrari on three wheels after he touched Scot David Coulthard on McLaren-Mercedes, 30 August on the Spa-Francorchamps racetrack, during the Belgian formula one Grand Prix. Schumacher abandoned as many others. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read PIERRE VERDY/AFP via Getty Images)

Jordan Scores Fairytale 1-2 Victory

In the chaos and carnage, Jordan found themselves running 1-2 with only a handful of cars still running. Team boss Eddie Jordan made the call – with massive championship implications, he told Ralf Schumacher not to race teammate Hill for the victory.

Hill held on take an emotional first win for Jordan in their 125th Grand Prix. Ralf followed him home to complete a shock 1-2 finish on an unforgettable day for the Irish team.

Michael Schumacher Fumes at Team Orders

In the aftermath, Michael Schumacher accosted Eddie Jordan in the pitlane, fuming about the team orders that cost his brother Ralf a chance to win. It capped off a miserable day for the German, whose own title hopes took a major hit.

Legacy of a Historic Grand Prix

The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix had lasting implications for that season’s championship battle. But more than that, it produced some of Formula One’s most iconic images and notorious moments that are still discussed to this day.

Crashes, controversy, surprise winners, allegations, rage – Spa 1998 embodied everything that makes F1 so dramatic and compelling. For sheer entertainment value, few Grands Prix in history can match this classic race.

The events of that wet August afternoon have become etched in F1 folklore forever. Whenever there’s chaos and unpredictability, fans and pundits will hark back to the madness that transpired at the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix.

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