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Monday, November 2, 1998 Published at 02:32 GMT

Mika wins as Schu let down by puncture

Podium position: Mika Hakkinen celebrates

Mika Hakkinen is F1's new world champion - thanks to a sensational blow-out that dumped Michael Schumacher out of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Schumacher recovered from a last-place starting position on the grid following a stall to power his way up to third in the final, championship-deciding grand prix of the 1998 season.

Jonathan Ledgard describes the race on Radio 5 Live after Schumacher retired
But his departure in 32nd lap left the field clear for Hakkinen to take the title, irrespective of whether or not he actually completed the race.

Savouring his victory, Hakkinen said: "When Michael was forced to start from the back of the grid it raised an enormous amount of pressure from me.

"The race was not as difficult as others I've had this season. But a lot of that's down to the team who kept letting me know where Eddie and Michael were."

[ image: Blown out: Michael Schumacher exits the Japanese Grand Prix]
Blown out: Michael Schumacher exits the Japanese Grand Prix
Speaking for Ferrari, Eddie Irvine said: "What happened to Michael at the start didn't change our tactics for the race, it destroyed them.

"When Michael went to the back I knew it was up to me. I made a fantastic start and got close to Mika at some points but just couldn't manage to get in front."

Fatal stall

It is the first time in seven years that McLaren has won the drivers' championship.

The tension rose before the race began with a false start by Jarno Trulli in the Prost Peugeot, which sent him to the back of the line up and shortened the race by one lap.

[ image: Devastated: Schumacher inspects the damage]
Devastated: Schumacher inspects the damage
Then Schumacher effectively wrote himself out of any chance of winning at Suzuka, which he needed to do to claim the world title, by himself stalling and joining Trulli at the rear of the grid.

The Ferrari had nudged forward by a couple of inches and stalled as the German put it into gear.

Schumacher acknowledged the mistake, which gave him a mountainous 20 cars to overtake, with only the tiniest shake of his head.

Schumacher's rapid progress

The final race of the 1998 season eventually got under way after being reduced from 53 to 51 laps.

The initial sparring saw the second Ferrari of Eddie Irvine race into second from third, behind Hakkinen, the leader.

[ image: The pits: Schumacher sits out the race]
The pits: Schumacher sits out the race
Schumacher stormed from the rear of the grid to 12th and quickly from there to seventh after making easy work of his brother Ralph in the Jordan.

But he found himself stuck behind two-time Suzuka winner Damon Hill in the Jordan, and the subsequent battle put nearly 30 seconds between the German challenger and Hakkinen before he could move up to fifth.

Winning margin

Jonathan Ledgard watches Hakkinen's champion's salute
But this was to be 30-year-old Hakkinen's day and season as he took the chequered flag to secure the championship with a 14-point margin of victory.

The Monaco-based driver, whose racing career was in doubt after an horrific crash in Australia in 1995, managed to squeeze a hand out of the cockpit to acknowledge his eighth grand prix victory of the season.

[ image: Thumbs up for winner Hakkinen]
Thumbs up for winner Hakkinen
Irvine finished second in the other Ferrari and David Coulthard was third in the other McLaren.

Damon Hill finished a clinical race by grabbing fourth at the final corner to give the Jordan team fourth - their highest ranking in the constructors' championship.

Williams finished a disappointing season with Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Jacques Villeneuve in fifth and sixth respectively.

McLaren also took the constructors' championship for the eighth time in its history.

British driver Johnny Herbert came in 10th in his final ride for Sauber before driving for Stewart next year.

The 1999 season begins in Melbourne on 7 March.

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In this section

Toyota set to join F1

Irvine's $2m miss

Hakkinen crowned F1 champion

Finn toasts team success

1999 Championship standings

Ferrari dream in tatters

F1's emotional champion

Dreams shattered in Irvine's home village

Grand Prix's favourite son

Mika's glory: Japanese GP in pictures

Top cat Eddie

The best man won

Damon Hill: An F1 career in pictures

Silverstone to stage F1 Easter parade