Where are they now? The class of the 1998 F1 season, 25 years on

Editor
F1 British Grand Prix 1998.

Mika Hakkinen leads a train of cars in the wet at Silverstone in 1998.

The first year of ‘Hakkinen versus Schumacher’ will forever stay in the memory for millions of F1 fans. But where are the 23 drivers that contested the 1998 season now?

Whether you remember Michael Schumacher’s controversial British GP pit lane victory, Damon Hill’s dramatic final Formula 1 victory, or the suspense of the Suzuka showdown, the 1998 season had everything.

Little did we know then, but 1998 started Williams’ unexpected run without a title, the Jordan team were on the eve of a championship challenge, and Schumacher would go on to create one of the most dominant eras in the sport’s history.

With a mix of esteemed motorsport stars, emerging talents and outspoken characters, here’s what we know of all 23 drivers who took part in a classic F1 year.

Mika Hakkinen

The ‘Flying Finn’ had secured his first of two World Championships, and the first for McLaren since 1991. After losing out on three titles in a row in 2000, Hakkinen’s performances began to dip, and he left F1 at the end of the 2001 season.

After competing in the German DTM Series from 2005 – 2007, he announced his retirement from motorsport altogether, although he has sporadically competed in one-off events since, such as GT Racing and the Race of Champions.

Along with driver management and dabbling with an IT startup, Hakkinen has had several ambassador roles since F1 retirement, and he has been semi-active in the media world. He has been an analyst with broadcaster Viaplay since 2022 and has become a popular provider of opinions for many of the hot topics in the sport.

Michael Schumacher

After losing out on the 1998 title in a dramatic finale at Suzuka, Schumacher would soon make history with Ferrari by breaking numerous records en route to five consecutive World Championships from 2000-2004.

The seven-time champion became one of the most decorated sports personalities in the world and, after both retirements, enjoyed all the perks associated with such status, including sponsorship deals, ambassador roles, TV appearances and business ventures.

However, following his skiing accident in 2013, Schumacher and his family have remained quiet about his condition, with only family and close friends able to visit, and he has not been seen in public since.

David Coulthard

With just a single race victory, Coulthard failed to reach anywhere near the same heights that his McLaren teammate managed in 1998. The Scotsman made better championship attempts in the following seasons, but could only achieve a distant runner-up spot to Schumacher in 2001.

Following four years with Red Bull Racing (2005 – 2008), Coulthard spent three years in the German DTM Series before putting greater focus on TV and pundit work, which he still does today.

He often takes Red Bull cars out for demo runs and has competed in the Race of Champions (winning twice), but that’s the current extent of his motorsport activities.

Eddie Irvine

Deployed as very much the second driver to Michael Schumacher, Irvine’s season resulted in several podium finishes, albeit with Ferrari needing him to get closer to his teammate’s pace. A surprising championship challenge would emerge for 1999, but the Ulsterman missed out on championship glory by two points.

A switch to Jaguar – where he achieved a further two podium finishes – kept him in F1 for three more years before he left the sport altogether. Aside from occasional links to buying teams in the mid-noughties, Irvine’s involvement with F1 was mostly limited to occasional opinion articles.

A rare driver who was happy to give up competitive motorsport immediately after Formula 1, Irvine has developed a successful property portfolio in Northern Ireland and the US. Among other business ventures, he created Eddie Irvine Sports, a multisport facility in Bangor, close to where he grew up.

Jacques Villeneuve

The reigning F1 Champion could only provide a muted defence of his crown in 1998, and had to watch on as Ferrari and McLaren battled for top honours instead of Williams. Switching to the BAR project for 1999, Villeneuve would never race in front-running equipment again.

After leaving F1 in 2006, the outspoken Canadian has raced in a variety of motorsports, including sportscars, NASCAR, Formula E, Truck Racing and RallyCross cars. The closest he came to a major success was a runner-up spot at the 2008 24 Hours of Le Mans (a win would have resulted in Villeneuve securing the ‘triple crown of motorsport’). His most recent venture with the Vanwall racing team ended after just three rounds.

He attempted to launch a music career, but his post-F1 racing career has mostly resulted in punditry work.

Damon Hill

The 1996 World Champion notched up his final F1 victory in 1998 and embarked on one final season in the sport, albeit a fairly disastrous one, before completely retiring from all competitive racing at the end of 1999.

Hill mostly kept Formula 1 at arm’s length for several seasons, and took on projects and business ventures around motoring and motorsport. He became the President of the British Racing Drivers’ Club and oversaw the motorsport career of his son Josh, and he made several TV appearances as a pundit before taking on a punditry role full-time with Sky F1 in 2012, where he has remained central to their broadcasting team.

Heinz-Harald Frentzen

By the end of 1998, Frentzen was already in need of some kind of career reset. Having been beaten by Jacques Villeneuve at Williams for the second season in a row, Frentzen left for the Jordan team, where he built an unexpected title challenge in 1999.

The former rival to Michael Schumacher had fallen out of favour by the summer of 2001, and had a midseason switch to the failing Prost team, which soon went bust. He moved to Arrows in 2002, which also soon went bust. But a season at Sauber provided him with one final F1 podium before exiting the sport at the end of 2003.

The DTM, SpeedCar Series and GT racing were all trialled, but Frentzen couldn’t add any more victories to his list. Outside of F1, Frentzen helps with the family funeral services business and has been involved with several sustainable and new energy projects. Whilst mostly staying away from the F1 paddock, Frentzen recently attended a race and joined Twitter (or X) to share stories from his career.

Alex Wurz

The Austrian followed up competitive substitute driver duties in 1997 with some strong performances for Benetton in 1998, but the 1998 season is roughly when Wurz’s stock was the highest. A drop-off in performances across 1999 and 2000 meant he was left with only test driver seats for 2001.

A prolonged test driver stint from 2001-2006 was eventually rewarded with a Williams seat in 2007 but, aside from a podium finish, he was mostly outclassed by teammate Nico Rosberg. After that, he took various test and development roles in F1 before a switch to sportscars. Several seasons with the likes of Peugeot and Toyota brought another Le Mans victory in 2009 (to add to his first one in 1996).

After racing in F1, Wurz has also headed up the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association, become involved in the world of race track design, and taken on various roles regarding road safety and driver training.

Giancarlo Fisichella

Italy’s next hope continued his promising start to F1 with Benetton in 1998, and scored two podiums. Unfortunately, Fisichella would struggle to break away from midfield machinery for most of his career, but still impressed with Benetton, Jordan (including the calamitous win in Brazil 2003) and Sauber.

A switch to the championship-challenging Renault team brought only two F1 wins, as the ‘future World Champion’ tag gradually faded. Heroics with the Force India team in 2008 and 2009 brought a dream switch to Ferrari for the final five races of 2009, before he left F1 altogether.

Nowadays, Fisichella combines Ferrari works driver duties, which has resulted in class victories at Le Mans, with his career as a professional DJ. He recently took an ambassadorial role for Hungary’s newest race circuit, Balaton Park.

Ralf Schumacher

Still in the early years of his career, the younger Schumacher brother understandably had an up-and-down 1998 season. He would have felt like he deserved a first F1 after begrudgingly following team orders at the Belgian GP to not attack teammate Damon Hill.

Nevertheless, his stock continued to rise with a switch to Williams for 1999, where he took six wins in six seasons. However, a championship challenge failed to properly materialise for Schumacher or the Williams team. A switch to Toyota for 2005 yielded fewer successes, and Schumacher took just three podiums before leaving after 2007.

A five-year stint in German DTM didn’t bring much success, and he gave up racing in 2012 for a motorsport mentoring role. These days, he mixes outspoken punditry with overseeing the motorsport career of his son, David Schumacher.

Jean Alesi

The passionate Frenchman claimed his final F1 podium in the manic Belgian GP in 1998, but that was one of few highlights in the tail end of his F1 career. A lowkey second season with Sauber in 1999 was followed by a troubled season-and-a-half with the Prost team. He saw out the 2001 season with the Jordan team before retiring from F1 altogether.

A competitive five seasons in the German DTM series followed, followed by two years in the Speedcar Series, but Alesi’s racing was limited after that. Sometimes racing classic cars, one of Alesi’s most recent racing events was the 2021 Historic Monaco Grand Prix, in which he was involved in a crash which damaged a priceless Ferrari 312B!

Rubens Barrichello

The talented ‘Rubinho’ put in some fine performances for the Stewart team from 1997-1999, and it earned him a place at Ferrari for the 2000 season. Despite never building up to any kind of championship challenge, the Brazilian racked up 11 Grand Prix wins over the rest of his career, also racing Honda, Williams, and Brawn GP, where he perhaps had his best shot of the F1 Drivers’ title.

Previously holding the record for most F1 race appearances, Barrichello never seemed ready to give up F1 or motorsport when he had his final race in 2011. A brief IndyCar stint was followed by a switch to Brazil’s Stock Car series. He tasted championship success in 2014 and still competes today. He took a second title in 2022.

His son Eduardo now competes, and started racing alongside Rubens in the Stock Car Series in 2023.

Mika Salo

The ‘other Finn’ on the grid was battling with the lower-midfield Arrows car in 1998, but had his first opportunity in a frontrunning F1 car in 1999, when he substituted for Schumacher at Ferrari. He was cruelly denied his first F1 win due to team orders at the German GP, and took a further podium on Ferrari’s home turf at Monza.

Stints with Sauber (2000) and Toyota (2002) followed without reaching any similar heights, predominantly dabbling in sportscars after F1. He took class victories with Ferrari at the 2008 and 2009 24 Hours of Le Mans, and took class honours in the 2007 American Le Mans Series.

Appearances in the Australian V8 Supercar championship have followed, including a win in the Gold Coast 500, along with attempts at the Bathurst 12 Hour event, which he won in 2014.

He is often seen in the F1 paddock as an FIA driver steward, and is there as part of the stewarding team on Grand Prix weekends.

Pedro Diniz

Despite very much being an F1 ‘pay driver’ and mostly outpaced by teammate Salo in 1998, some surprising performances kept him on the F1 radar, and he raced for a further two seasons at the Sauber team.

Unable to find a seat for 2001, Diniz’s family bought into the struggling Prost team, which folded later on in the year. Diniz never raced competitively after that, and he turned his attentions to the family businesses.

He set up Formula Renault 2.0 in Brazil, but this had folded by 2006. Since leaving F1, he has turned his attention to sustainable farming in Brazil, which even caught the attention of Sebastian Vettel, who visited Diniz’s farm in 2021.

Johnny Herbert

In the later stages of his F1 career, Herbert’s difficult season alongside Jean Alesi at Sauber resulted in a switch to the Stewart team for 1999. This resulted in one last career highlight with a victory at the bizarre European GP. The Stewart team became Jaguar for the 2000 season and Herbert stayed on for one final season, but he has frequently admitted that he perhaps stayed in F1 competitively for too long. He had one final year as a development driver for Arrows in 2001.

He switched to endurance racing, but was agonisingly unable to follow-up his 24 Hours of Le Mans victory in 1991 with any further wins. He finished runner-up in the iconic race three times in a row from 2002-2004, but claimed numerous victories in the American Le Mans Series.

Herbert won the inaugural Speedcar Series (stock car racing) in 2008, had a brief spell in the British Touring Car Championship, and competed in something called the Superstar Series, after which his racing efforts lessened.

A career in TV began to occupy Herbert, who joined Sky F1’s lineup in 2012, and was controversially dropped ahead of the 2023 season. He also mentored drivers in a British reality TV series, which aimed to turn GT Academy video game drivers into real racing drivers.

Jarno Trulli

A driver who would become famed for remarkable one-lap qualifying pace, Trulli was in his second full F1 season in 1998, but raced in the underdeveloped Prost car, scoring the team’s only point at the chaotic Belgian GP. Another season at Prost yielded a freak podium finish, but he soon left for the Jordan team further up the grid.

Realising the Jordan team were a dwindling force, Trulli switched to Renault to be with his manager Flavio Briatore, which resulted in his only F1 race victory, a famous win at the 2004 Monaco GP. He made the switch to the improving Toyota team for 2005 and established himself as the lead driver, but several seasons of failed potential resulted in Toyota pulling out of F1 by 2009.

He switched to Lotus Racing for 2010 but, after two seasons of driving towards the back and being outperformed by Heikki Kovalainen, he left F1. By now, Trulli had set up his own vineyard and winery, but was tempted back into motorsport by Formula E, and set up his own team. He rolled back the years by taking Pole Position at the Berlin race, but this was a rare highlight in an otherwise disappointing year, which resulted in the team folding after one season.

Nowadays, Jarno supports the racing efforts of his son, Enzo, who is predominantly competing towards the front of the Super Formula Lights championship in Japan.

PlanetF1.com recommends

Where are they now? The F1 2008 grid for Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic first title

Revealed: The shortest F1 careers this century in the brutal world of Formula 1

Jan Magnussen

Once tipped by Sir Jackie Stewart as ‘the next Ayrton Senna’, Magnussen’s F1 career was over midway through the 1998 season after underwhelming performances against teammate Barrichello.

He had a few single-seater races in the US, but found his home in sportscars, in which he has competed ever since. In that time he has had numerous class wins for Corvette Racing at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, a class victory at the 24 Hours of Daytona, two IMSA Sportscar Championship titles, and numerous victories in the Denmark’s TCR Touring Car Series.

In recent years, Jan has raced alongside his son, current F1 driver Kevin Magnussen, but their most recent attempt earlier this year was thwarted by a hand injury for Kevin.

Shinji Nakano

One of many Japanese drivers to grace Formula 1 in the nineties, the 1998 season turned out to be the final one for Nakano. He had been outperformed by Olivier Panis at Prost in 1997 and switched to Minardi for 1998. He came close to scoring a point at the attritional Canadian GP, but was not convincing enough to be retained by Minardi, or indeed Formula 1, for 1999.

He raced in American single-seaters from 2000-2003, but struggled to make an impact and turned his attention to GT racing in Japan and endurance racing. The last full championship he contested was the 2006 Le Mans Series (prior to the World Endurance Championship taking off).

Nakano entered the 24 Hours of Le Mans nine times, but without taking any class victories and has made numerous one-off appearances in other categories, such as the Japanese Super GT and Asian Le Mans Series.

In recent years, Nakano has been involved in punditry roles, and is actively involved in Honda’s young driver development programme.

Esteban Tuero

The Argentine driver signed for the plucky Minardi team at the age of 19 years old, making him the third-youngest F1 driver at the time (he has since been demoted to eighth on this list).

His most memorable moment probably came at the season finale in Japan, when he collided with Tyrrell driver Takagi. The result of this collision triggered the puncture which ended Michael Schumacher’s attempted fightback through the field.

Tuero left F1 abruptly after 1998 (he reportedly had a contract for 1999) and returned to his home country – aside from a part-time campaign in the FIA GT Championship in 2008 – and would forge a strong career in touring cars. He won the Turismo Nacional Class 3 title in 2008 and retired from racing altogether in 2016.

Since then, Tuero has kept himself fairly quiet, apart from a brief appearance in the news when he sustained multiple injuries in a motorbike accident in 2020, from which he recovered.

Ricardo Rosset

The well-backed Brazilian driver is probably better known for being part of the disastrous Lola entry from the year before, and the 1998 season probably represented his last roll of the dice with the fading Tyrrell team.

Unfortunately, he was soundly beaten by teammate Takagi, and his season included a few embarrassing ‘did not qualify’ results. He exited F1 after 1998, and focused on the family sportswear business.

It took ten years for Rosset to recover his love of competitive racing, and in 2008 he began competing in GT championships in Brazil. He became a three-time winner of the Brazilian Porsche GT3 Cup (2010, 2013 & 2015), and made guest appearances in the Brazilian Stock Car Championship. A lack of a recent racing record suggests that he has once again stepped away from competitive motorsport.

Toranosuke Takagi

Having forged a competitive reputation in his junior career and in a test driver role, Takagi outshone teammate Rosset, but was unable to generate any positivity for the final year of the Tyrrell team.

His comparatively positive year earned him a seat at Arrows for 1999, but an unimpressive season against Pedro de la Rosa signalled the end of his time in F1.

Takagi returned to Japan to once again compete in the Formula Nippon (now Super Formula) series, and surprised many by completing one of the most comprehensive championship-winning campaigns in the series’ history.

With his stock raised again, he attempted an F1 return, but a single-seater stint in the USA followed, and he took a best result of third place at the Texas Motor Speedway IndyCar race. He returned to Japan for 2005 and claimed the Super GT title in his first season, but his racing career appears to fizzle out by 2010.

Olivier Panis

A disastrous season for the Prost team was the reason behind Panis’ lowly standing in the 1998 Championship, and the 1996 Monaco GP winner stayed with the team for one more painful year in 1999.

He made a rogue move by actively choosing a test driver role over a race seat for 2000, and it resulted in a return to the grid for 2001 with BAR-Honda. He was outscored by Jacques Villeneuve in his two seasons there before switching to Toyota for 2003. After only a couple of point-scoring finishes, he retired from F1 at the end of 2004, but continued as test driver until the end of 2006.

A switch to GT and sportscars beckoned, and Panis became involved in the French FFSA GT Championship (best championship finish of second in 2012) for several years, the Le Mans Series and made four Le Mans appearances. He’s made several appearances in France’s famous ice racing competition, the Andros Trophy, alongside his son Aurélien.

Having toned down – but not completely given up – his racing activities in recent years, he is now the manager of his own racing team: Panis Racing.

Jos Verstappen

Perhaps not achieving the results that his talent deserved, ‘Jos the Boss’ had only a half-season in 1998, and tagged in for the struggling Magnussen at the Stewart team. He returned to the F1 grid properly with the Arrows team in 2000, and raced until the end of 2001. One final season in F1 came at the Minardi team in 2003.

With an F1 career fizzling out, Verstappen Snr raced for Team Netherlands in the brief A1 GP series, taking one win in South Africa. It was by now that the racing efforts of his son Max had begun to intensify, and Jos famously became very heavily involved in Max’s fledgling racing career.

Jos took a class victory at Le Mans in 2008, but made minimal racing efforts after that. With Max now an accomplished F1 World Champion, Jos has been semi-seriously trying out various racing activities. Max has frequently spoken of his desire to race alongside Jos at some point in the future.

Read next: Where are they now? The 12 champions of the now-defunct GP2 series