Unbeaten Legend: Michael Schumacher’s 1998 Ferrari F300

Questions surrounding “The Greatest of All Time” in any category will always ignite debate among enthusiasts. It doesn’t matter whether we are talking about sports or classic cars; everyone will have a valid opinion. That brings us to this 1998 Ferrari F300. It was not the most successful Formula 1 car produced during the company’s illustrious racing history, but it holds a couple of significant claims to fame. It has been part of a private collection since 1999, but the owner feels a new home is in this classic’s future. Therefore, it is set to go under the hammer on Saturday, 20th August. The Ferrari is listed here at RM Sotheby’s in Monterey, California. The auction estimate is $6,000,000 – $8,000,000, which is definitely not loose change!

The F300 was Ferrari’s weapon of choice for the 1998 Formula 1 season. After coming agonizingly close to securing the championship in 1997, the company threw its full weight behind the new model. It was not a revolutionary car but represented an evolution of the previous year’s F310B. Ferrari focused on the minutest details to shave precious hundredths of seconds from lap times while maximizing reliability. That brings us to a fascinating point because Formula 1 now operates under a strict budget cap. When the F300 was new, there were no such constraints. Various designers and engineers in that era indicated that the development required to shave one-tenth of a second from an average lap time cost each F1 team approximately $1,000,000. It was common for teams to develop new aerodynamic components like wings and diffusers during the season, with the new items generally rendering their predecessors obsolete. That may not sound dramatic, but this happened when a nose-cone and front wing for an F1 car cost around $300,000! You can see why costs spiraled out of control, and a budget cap became necessary. Our feature car carries chassis number 187 and was debuted by Michael Schumacher at the 1998 Canadian Grand Prix. After qualifying third, Schumacher drove the car to victory, marking a dream start to this car’s racing career. It next appeared at the French Grand Prix, where it started second and scored its second win for Schumacher. The German backed up with this car in the British Grand Prix, where it once again started second but romped away to a comfortable victory on a wet track. After a brief break, Ferrari wheeled this chassis out for Schumacher at the Italian Grand Prix. This was the company’s home event, and nothing would have pleased them more than success. Proceedings looked promising early, with Schumacher placing the car in pole position. However, an error saw the German stall at the start before staging one of the great comebacks to secure this car’s fourth and final win. That gave chassis 187 a perfect scorecard, a rarity in any form of motorsport. Ferrari subsequently parked this chassis as last raced, before selling it to a private collector in 1999. They have preserved it but feel it needs a new home.

While I appreciate the technicalities of the current Formula 1 engine regulations and the potential benefits they may bring to road cars, these hybrid cars leave me feeling cold. They possess an uninspiring exhaust sound that will never get my pulse racing. However, the F300 is a different kettle of fish. Forget a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine bristling with hybrid technology. Ferrari designs and builds its own engines, and this car features the Tipo 047 power unit. It is a 3.0-liter 80° V10 that churned out 810hp at an eyewatering 17,300rpm during its heyday. To provide an insight into the energy locked within that V10, I need to delve back into an interview with a Ferrari engineer from around that time. They estimated that if the engine had no cylinder head and a conrod broke on an upstroke at maximum RPM, the errant piston would have enough kinetic energy to reach an altitude of nearly a mile before it started to descend. Those sorts of figures are hard to comprehend and also helps explain why when a Formula 1 engine from this era failed, the results were usually pretty spectacular. There’s no point having all that power if the car can’t apply it to the road. The F300 achieved this via a seven-speed semi-automatic transmission with paddle shifters on the back of the steering wheel. The semi-automatic transmission was standard fare by 1998, but it was a Ferrari innovation that first appeared in its 640 model for the 1989 Formula 1 season. The listing suggests the car hasn’t run since its last competition lap, so it will undoubtedly require work to return to a driving state. However, unless the next owner intends to perform some demonstration runs, I suspect it will remain as it finished that last race with the legendary Michael Schumacher behind the wheel.

If this F300 is as it last raced, slipping behind the wheel would be one of the world’s greatest privileges. It would also potentially be one of the most uncomfortable experiences on the planet because the seat wasn’t designed for you or me. Each driver races using custom-built seats designed to fit every body contour and provide incredible support. Unless you or I happen to be built exactly the same as Schumacher, we will find uncomfortable lumps and bumps that would be difficult to live with while the vehicle was stationary. If we were behind the wheel pulling 4Gs through Eau Rouge at Spa, those lumps and bumps would go from being uncomfortable to agonizing. The footwell has room for a gas pedal under the right foot, with the brake under the left. The clutch was only needed for race starts and during pitstops and was operated by an additional lever behind the wheel. That wheel is bristling with technology, representing another significant financial investment. Thanks to its inbuilt electronics and composite construction, a Formula 1 wheel from this era left no change from $80,000. There are no gauges, but the driver received the required information from LCD displays mounted on the wheel. There are also controls for the radio, pit speed limiter, the transmission neutral selector, and a range of rotary knobs to control engine mapping and other functions. If you ever wondered whether an F1 driver could multi-task, try absorbing all that at 200mph! The answer would be a resounding yes!

Was this 1998 Ferrari F300 the greatest Formula 1 car of all time? Probably not. The F300 scored six wins during the sixteen-round 1998 F1 World Championship. That figure represents an excellent success rate, but cars like the Williams FW14B and recent Mercedes models have eclipsed that. The high point for Ferrari was the F2002 which scored an incredible fourteen wins from fifteen starts during the 2002 season. This F300 only scored four wins, but it did so from only four starts, giving it a coveted perfect score. There are few racing cars with that pedigree. I would love to think that we may one day see Michael Schumacher slip behind the wheel of this car to cut some demonstration laps. However, following his dreadful skiing accident in December 2013, the odds of that happening seem to grow longer with each passing day. Still, a man can dream. If that never happens, I hope its new owner will continue to cherish and protect this iconic racer because that seems a fitting tribute to one of the greatest Formula 1 drivers of all time.

Comments

  1. RoughDiamond Member

    Nice write-up, Adam. I never gave much thought to the fact the seats were custom made and molded to each driver.

    Like 9
  2. angliagt angliagt Member

    It wasn’t too long ago that Ferrari was selling last year’s
    race cars for $1,000,000 each.
    I wonder if this was one of them?

    Like 3
  3. greg

    Need to wind Lottery, Buy car, and do this:
    https://www.ferrari.com/en-EN/corse-clienti/f1-clienti

    Like 1
  4. Mitcherll

    It would be more fun to drive that thing on a German motorway.
    Closed-off race tracks, well. It’s just that the beginners don’t
    run in front of the – fast – cars.
    But the feeling of speeding up a mountain motorway makes
    my pulse rise more. WRC Rally is more in my interest then
    just to eat up lap by lap in such a thing. Rally pilots are the
    real kings of speeding – do you remember Carlos Sainz or
    Colin McRae? Or Walter Röhrl? Well, then you’re in the club.

    Like 5
  5. CVPanther Member

    Great write-up, Adam.
    I could get to work much quicker if I had this.
    (not counting the warm-up time).
    Shumacher is (was) a giant among giants in the F1 world.

    Like 7
  6. George Mattar

    Not a barn find. This auction house sells only perfect cars.

    Like 6
  7. Derek

    My favourite F1 memory (I haven’t watched it in years) involves Schumacher.

    A wet Japanese GP; Jean Alesi (Ferrari) went onto slicks before anyone else. The rain had stopped but the track was still wet. Schumacher (Bennetton) was leading, but once Alesi got a feel for his car, he started to take time from the leader – up to 7 seconds per lap – and Schumacher couldn’t do anything about it as he was still on wets. Alesi caught him, but as he did so, the engine let go so he never took the lead.

    It’s one of the best displays of natural talent that I’ve ever seen.

    I’m too young to have seen Jim Clark (one of my dad’s sporting heroes).

    I don’t like Schumacher. He was a good driver, but an arrogant so-and-so.

    Like 7
  8. Phil B

    I was at the Montreal GP that year, and at the time Shumacher was winning everything so it wasn’t an unexpected win. The thing that stands out in my memory is the sound the F1 cars made at that time. If you didn’t have earplugs, you would have no hearing by the end of the race, and that was from the stands.

    Like 2
  9. KEVIN L HARPER

    Many years ago, around 1986 I got the chance to shake down Niki Lauda 1975 312 t4, the fastest thing that I had driven up until then was a Formula Continental, fast but the Ferrari was on a whole different level even though I was only doing about 8/10th’s. Many years later I was in Maranello looking at Schuey’s 2002 or 3 F1 car and reminiscing about the old 312. The thing is that the 312 was still pretty analog, and a team of 15-20 guys could have built it, and really you would only need a team of 3 or 4 to run it even today. The 02 car was similar to this one and it was a space ship and you would need an army of technicians to run it and you probably would need a rack of old computers just to start it.
    I think the technology jump from 1975 to 2000 is much greater than the jump from 2000 to today.
    I think I will hold out and buy an older one.

    Like 5
    • Mitchell

      The old ones used a compressed-air starter their idle speed
      is 3000 rpm. Later on i dont know.
      We know, usual engines have by cold start a fat mixture and
      higher rpm until the exhaust tells 80°, Formula one, laugh,
      start up and go straight into ‘idle’ speed.

      (I never liked Shoebraker too as he’s ambitious and let Rubens
      Barrichello deliberately or mostly with stall order lose.)

      Like 4
      • Gerard Frederick

        Shoebraker? You neant Shoemaker? — ¨deliberately or mostly with stall oder lose?¨ What on earth are you blabbering about?

        Like 2
  10. Jay E. Member

    The only reason I enjoyed this was because of the write up. Very well done. I guess with billionaires out there, you need to park a measly 6-8 million somewhere. Beyond my capacity to comprehend.

    Like 3
  11. Howie

    Before i bid can i test drive?

    Like 7
  12. Al

    Finally, an affordable weekend cruisin classic!

    Like 1
  13. MikeH

    I drove the Nurburgring in the late 60s. Only I didn’t do it in a Ferrari. I did it in my VW T 3. The ring is 20 kms around and it was a blast. I think it cost 20 Marks. ($5).

    Like 3
  14. Chris

    Would love to start this but I guess it needs a tool factory and a team well clued to do this…… please any one to debrief me …. want to buy but want to know if its possible to do some track at Daytona Oval ….me

  15. FrankD Member

    A car I could put in my Family Living room and just stare at. Years ago I purchased a new Ducati 888 SPO. The workmanship was incredible and every morning I would walk by that bike and admire the workmanship. I couldn’t say the same about my 72 Pantera.

    Like 2
  16. jwaltb

    Some barn find. I wish you were joking.

    Like 1
  17. BC 42

    Say hello to Saudi Arabia, my little Italian friend…

    Like 1
  18. JohnSSC

    In 2010 I was helping with race admin for The F430 Challenge Event at Mt Tremblant. Also there were a number of Ferrari F1 cars brought by F1 Clienti. During one of their sessions I didn’t have any other duties so I was able to watch while standing on the pit wall. Just unreal being that close to these racing cars and hearing the difference between the V10s and the V12s. The damage to my ears was well worth it! It was also worthwhile to watch the crews prep these beasts for the client owners (Ferrari maintains, transports and supports the cars owned by their clients so those fortunate few just arrive and drive). I felt like I had them all to myself that day!

    Like 1
  19. Haynes

    My grandfather had one of these that he regularly drove on a track built on the family property in the Caribbean… as a 75 year old man he wore a goofy race outfit and scooted around the 8k course pretending to be Michael Schumacher….constantly bragging to visitors about his “300”…those were the days…such a shame we had to sell the island to settle an inheritance dispute..grandpa kept having children till his mid eighties..so glad we kept the submarine

    • Chris

      An amazing adventure of inheritance with cars submarine and and race track in a private Island, Island sold to cover all costs….. but submarine safe….. could not expect better ….but the case was unsloved …. did Maranello boys flew to the Island everytime and then grandpa wante to impress the crowd…..!?????….

      Like 1
  20. Kenn

    “Money plus death equals greed.” Hence the “inheritance dispute”. Sad, really. Yet will be faced by some beneficiaries on this site I would guess.

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