Monday, 12 march 2018, 05:50 , by Matthew Scott
Formula 1 was served warning of the red-tinted dominance to come on this day 18 years ago. Michael Schumacher led a Ferrari one-two at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix to pick up a victory which would propel him towards the first of five-consecutive titles.
Ferrari entered the 21st Century determined to end their wait for a drivers' title, which had stretched at this point to 21 years since Jody Scheckter's 1979 triumph.
Schumacher too entered the season looking for redemption having placed fifth in the championship in 1999, then his lowest finish.
Two-time defending champion Mika Hakkinen looked the man to beat as he qualified on pole, despite running into mechanical trouble on Saturday, with McLaren team-mate David Coulthard on second.
Schumacher led his stable-mate Rubens Barichello on the second row of the grid, but the German had run out of time when setting his fastest lap right at the end of the hour-long session.
As Hakkinen and Coulthard sped away at the start, Schumacher had to hold off Heinz-Harald Frentzen to keep fourth, his countryman having overtaken Barichello, and Schumacher had to work hard to hold onto the McLarens, aided by an early safety car.
When action resumed, suddenly things began to fall Schumacher's way. Coulthard soon had to retire with engine difficutly and, just seven laps later, Hakkinen also fell foul to a similar issue, leaving Schumacher in clear air.
From there, it was easy street for Schumacher and he led home a simple one-two for the Scuderia, with his brother Ralf also making a trip to the podium in the Williams.
Schumacher won the following races in Brazil and San Marino, with Hakkinen and Coulthard running into further trouble at Interlagos, giving him a firm advantage, which was converted with a stunning end-of-season surge into the first of five titles in a row.