The Ferrari driver was issued a stop-go penalty but controversially served it on the final lap
Mika Hakkinen was dominating the very wet British Grand Prix in 1998. In fact his lead was so big that even a spin and a trip through the gravel wasn’t enough to put a serious dent in it, but the worsening conditions prompted a safety car that would change the entire race.
Hakkinen’s massive lead was suddenly gone, and the damage he sustained during his spin would make it difficult for him to build the gap back up. When the safety car came in with 10 laps to go he couldn’t hold off Michael Schumacher, who swept past and flew off into the lead.
Schumacher looked set to win until with three laps to go he was issued a 10 second stop-go penalty for passing Alex Wurz’s Benetton behind the safety car. That was surely it - he didn’t have enough time in hand to take his penalty and retain the lead, so he kept going. But on the last lap, he dived into the pits, served his penalty, and won the race in the pit lane. It lead to a whole heap of confusion.
The finish line was located before Ferrari’s pit box, so he’d actually crossed the line to win before he’d even taken his penalty. So, what happened and why wasn’t he actually penalised?
Ferrari claimed that the penalty was issued too long after the incident happened, and also that when they were issued the penalty they didn’t fully understand what type of penalty it was meant to be - a 10 second stop-go, or 10 seconds added to his race time. The stewards suggested the latter but since that wouldn’t change the result, McLaren protested and wanted 25 seconds added to Schumacher’s time - roughly what a stop-go would have cost him.
Eventually the stewards decided that neither penalty could justly be applied and Schumacher and Ferrari got away with it. The whole thing was a bit of a farce and all three stewards lost their licences as a result.
On a more positive note though, how good is it to watch Schumacher push that hard in the wet?!