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Spain  1997 European Grand Prix
Race details
Race 17 of 17 in the 1997 Formula One season
Jerez.svg
Date October 26, 1997
Official name XLII European Grand Prix
Location Circuito Permanente de Jerez
Jerez, Spain
Course Permanent racing facility
4.423 km (2.748 mi)
Distance 69 laps, 305.187 km (189.612 mi)
Weather Sunny
Pole position
Driver Canada Jacques Villeneuve Williams
Time 1:21.072
Fastest lap
Driver Germany Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams
Time 1:23.135 on lap 30
Podium
First Finland Mika Häkkinen McLaren
Second United Kingdom David Coulthard McLaren
Third Canada Jacques Villeneuve Williams

The 1997 European Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on October 26, 1997 at the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, Spain. It was the 17th and final race of the 1997 Formula One season. The race, contested over 69 laps, was won by Mika Häkkinen in a McLaren, his first Formula One race victory. His team-mate David Coulthard finished second and Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve took third, which was sufficient for him to win the World Championship.

Michael Schumacher, driving for Ferrari, had led the championship by a single point ahead of Villeneuve going into the race. During the race Villeneuve and Schumacher collided while battling for the lead and the resulting damage to Schumacher's car forced him to retire. The blame for the incident was later attributed to Schumacher by the sport's governing body, the FIA, and he was stripped of his second place finish in the championship. Schumacher's tactics were widely criticised by the media, including publications based in his home country of Germany, and in Ferrari's home country of Italy.

Following the race Williams and McLaren were accused of colluding to decide the finishing order. Villeneuve stated that "It was better to let them through and win the World Championship." The FIA determined there was no evidence to support the claims, and dismissed the accusations.

Contents

Background

Before the race, the final round of the 1997 season, two drivers were still in contention for the world drivers' championship. Michael Schumacher led going into the race with 78 points and Jacques Villeneuve was in second position with 77 points. Villeneuve had won two more races than Schumacher during the season, meaning that in the event of a tie on points, the rules stated Villeneuve would be world champion. Villeneuve's teammate, Heinz-Harald Frentzen (third with 41 points) and Jean Alesi (fourth, 35 points) could not win the championship, even with the 10 points awarded for a race win.

A cartoon made by Gurmit Flora, one week before the Grand Prix. The cartoon suggests that Michael Schumacher will ask his teammate, Eddie Irvine, to take out Jacques Villeneuve during the race.

Villeneuve had to finish the race in a points-scoring position (points were awarded for drivers finishing in sixth place or higher) and ahead of Schumacher to become world drivers' champion. Schumacher would be world champion if he finished ahead of Villeneuve, or if Villeneuve failed to score any points by finishing lower than sixth or not completing the race.

In the constructors' championship, Villeneuve's Williams team led with 118 points, with Schumacher's Ferrari team 16 points behind, but Ferrari had only won five races during the season compared with Williams's eight. Williams had therefore clinched the constructors' title before the race, as even if Ferrari finished first and second in the race, thereby taking 16 points, and both Williams cars failed to score a point, they could not beat Williams.

Qualifying

During the qualifying session, held on Saturday October 25 to determine the starting order for the race, three cars set identical times, the first time this had happened in the history of the world championship.[1] Jacques Villeneuve was first to set a time of 1:21.072, fourteen minutes into the one hour session. A further fourteen minutes later, Michael Schumacher posted an identical time. With nine minutes of the session remaining, Heinz-Harald Frentzen crossed the line, again with a time of 1:21.072. Under the regulations of the Formula One world championship, in the event of drivers setting equal times in qualifying, the first driver to set the time is given precedence. Villeneuve was awarded pole position on the starting grid for the race, with Schumacher second and Frentzen third. Fourth place on the grid went to reigning world champion Damon Hill in his Arrows, with a time of 1:21.130, 0.058 seconds behind the time of the leading three. Hill had been on course to get pole position but had to slow towards the end of the lap because of yellow flags due to an incident involving Ukyo Katayama's Minardi.

Race

Michael Schumacher (red) and Jacques Villeneuve (blue) collide at the Dry Sack corner.
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Beginning

Villeneuve started the race in pole position, with Schumacher in second. Just a few moments before the start of the race, a blue liquid came out of Villeneuve's Williams. However, this did not influence his car during the race. Schumacher's getaway at the start was better than Villeneuve's and he had taken the lead by the time they reached the first corner. Schumacher would lead 40 of the first 47 laps of the race[2] Frentzen also got a better start than Villeneuve and overtook him. Under the orders of the Williams team, on lap eight Frentzen let teammate Villeneuve past. Schumacher made his first pit-stop on lap 22 and Villeneuve made his first stop the following lap. Both retained their positions. During the first round of pitstops the McLarens swapped places with David Coulthard leading Mika Häkkinen and Frentzen dropped to fifth position behind both of them. The order of the leaders after the second round of pitstops on lap 43 and lap 44 remained the same but with Villeneuve closer to Schumacher.

Collision

Villeneuve went into lap 48 less than a second behind Schumacher. Partway through the lap he attempted to overtake Schumacher at the Dry Sac corner. Braking later than Schumacher, Villeneuve held the inside line and was ahead on the track when Schumacher turned in on him resulting in a collision. ITV's then pit lane reporter James Allen has noted that onboard footage shows Schumacher twitching his steering wheel left before turning right into Villeneuve.[3] Martin Brundle, in the commentary box alongside Murray Walker, immediately saw that Schumacher's move had been deliberate, saying, "That didn't work Michael, you hit the wrong part of him, my friend".[4] The right-front wheel of Schumacher's Ferrari hit the left radiator pod of Villeneuve's Williams - unlike the 1994 collision with Hill where Schumacher inflicted damage on his suspension - and caused Schumacher to retire. Villeneuve described the incident after the race "The car felt very strange. The hit was very hard. It was not a small thing."[5] He continued but the damage to his car meant he was slower than the cars behind him.

Conclusion

At the time of the incident there were 22 laps of the race remaining. The slower pace of Villeneuve's car meant that on the last lap, he had been caught by both McLarens, Häkkinen having regained second place from Coulthard under team orders. After the race Villeneuve stated "I did not fight then. It was better to let them through and win the World Championship. It is a good exchange."[5] Gerhard Berger in fourth place was also catching Villeneuve but he did not pass before crossing the finish line. The final margin between Villeneuve and Berger was 0.116 seconds. Third place meant Villeneuve finished ahead of Schumacher in the drivers championship by 3 points, and was World Champion. Häkkinen's victory was the first of his career.

Post-race

Schumacher/Villeneuve collision

The Curva Dry Sac corner, the scene of Villeneuve and Schumacher's infamous collision.

Before the race at Jerez, the president of the FIA, Max Mosley, had promised to issue penalties to anyone who tried to influence the outcome of the championship.[5] Race officials issued a statement following the race stating that they had "unanimously concluded it was a racing accident and no further action is necessary."[6] However Schumacher was subsequently summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the FIA and on November 11, 1997 it was announced that Schumacher would be disqualified from the 1997 World Championship. This meant he lost his second place in the overall standings to Heinz-Harald Frentzen but he would retain his race victories and other results and would not be fined or face any further punishment in the following season. Max Mosley stated that the panel "concluded that although the actions were deliberate they were not premeditated".[7]

Ferrari also escaped unpunished despite Article 123 of the FIA International Sporting Code stating: "The entrant shall be responsible for all acts or omissions on the part of the driver." Under this rule, which has never been invoked for a driving incident, Ferrari could have been punished for failing to control its driver. When questioned on the subject Max Mosley said that the World Council had decided not to invoke Article 123. Another question which the World Council failed to address was whether or not there would be any public sanction against the stewards at Jerez, who had dismissed the Schumacher-Villeneuve incident, which, has been claimed, was a dereliction of their duty.[8]

Media reaction

The German newspapers were among the many from across Europe that attacked Schumacher. Bild said "Schumacher was to blame for the crash." "He played for high stakes and lost everything - the World Championship and his reputation for fair play. There is no doubt that he wanted to take out Villeneuve". The Frankfurter Allgemeine called him "a kamikaze without honor'" and commented that the "'monument is starting to crack because the foundations are faulty." A German TV station asked fans for their views and received the views of 63,081 votes. 28% said they could not support Schumacher any longer.[9]

In Italy there was widespread condemnation of Schumacher. The daily newspaper Unita called for him to be fired by Ferrari. "Schumacher ought to face charges in a Spanish court for the grave deed he committed" it reported. "The driver covered himself, Ferrari and Italian sport as a whole with shame. We are waiting for Ferrari to announce that it is throwing out Michael Schumacher and hiring a new driver who is more intelligent, has more wisdom and a real sense of morality."[9]

La Repubblica reported that "seeing a world title vanish after waiting 18 years is sad enough. But to see it go up in smoke with the move from Michael Schumacher is unfortunately much worse. It's shameful." Gazzetta dello Sport said that if Ferrari had won the title it would have been "a title to hide" and said that it preferred to go on waiting for the day when "our passion for Ferrari has a happy ending."[9] Even La Stampa, the newspaper owned by the Agnelli family, which also controls Ferrari, said "His image as a champion was shattered, like a glass hit by a stone."

In the British newspapers, Schumacher's manoeuvre against Damon Hill at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix was used as a comparison in many of the reports. The Daily Mail reported that Schumacher had now "lost the last vestige of his reputation of being a sportsman" and The Times wrote that Schumacher had "sacrificed his reputation by an act of such cynicism that it lost him the right to any sympathy."[9]

Ferrari hosted a press conference on the Tuesday after Jerez during which Schumacher admitted that he had made a mistake but said it was a misjudgement rather than a deliberate attempt to take out Villeneuve. "I am human like everyone else and unfortunately I made a mistake," he said. "I don't make many but I did this time."[9] In their respective books on Schumacher, James Allen and Swiss motorsports author Luc Domenjoz have both since expressed the view that Villeneuve went into the corner too fast, and without Schumacher turning into him would have overshot the turn.[10]

Jerez circuit

On December 12, 1997, the World Motorsport Council ruled that the mayor of Jerez, Pedro Pacheco, disrupted the podium ceremony. Originally, the verdict was that no further F1 races would occur at the track. However, when Mr Pacheco appeared before the WMSC, this ruling was rescinded.[11]

The people chosen to present the trophies were dependent on the race order, with Daimler-Benz chairman Jürgen Schrempp only willing to make a presentation to a McLaren-Mercedes driver. As the McLarens of Häkkinen and Coulthard passed Villeneuve's Williams on the last lap, this would have meant he could present either the trophy for first or second position or the winning constructor trophy. There was some confusion due to the late changes in position and whilst the Mayor and the president of the region presented trophies, Schrempp did nothing. FIA president Max Mosley later announced "The disruption caused embarrassment and inconvenience to those presenting the trophies and therefore, no further rounds of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship will be held at the Jerez circuit."[12] As of 2009, this race was the last time that Jerez hosted a Formula One Grand Prix.

Collusion allegations

Murray Walker: "A case of champagne from Ferrari to Sauber for Norberto Fontana. Because the Argentinian newcomer, up from Formula Three, really, really, helped Michael Schumacher on his way there"
Martin Brundle: "What engines have they got in that Sauber, Murray? Isn't it a Ferrari?"
Murray Walker: "Well it is, yes. Martin, you are a cynical chap"

On November 8, The Times newspaper published an article accusing Williams and McLaren of colluding to decide the finishing order at the end of the Grand Prix.[13] The article's claims were based on recordings of the radio transmissions made by the two teams.[14] The FIA World Council rejected the claims when the matter was brought before them. FIA president Max Mosley stated "It is quite clear that the result of the race was not fixed. There was no arrangement between McLaren and Williams that Mika Häkkinen was going to win. They were able to demonstrate very clearly that was not the case."[15]

In 2006, Norberto Fontana claimed in an interview with the Argentinian newspaper Olé[16] that a few hours before the Grand Prix the Ferrari team director Jean Todt visited the Sauber motorhome and told the Swiss team, which used Ferrari engines at the time, that the Saubers must block Jacques Villeneuve if they were in a position to do so in order to help Michael Schumacher win the World Championship.

The Sauber team owner and manager at the time, Peter Sauber has however denied these allegations and said "Ferrari never expressed the desire that we should obstruct an opponent of Schumacher on the track".[17]

Classification

Qualifying

Pos No Driver Constructor Time Gap
1 3 Canada Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 1:21.072
2 5 Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1:21.072 +0.000
3 4 Germany Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 1:21.072 +0.000
4 1 United Kingdom Damon Hill Arrows-Yamaha 1:21.130 +0.058
5 9 Finland Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.369 +0.297
6 10 United Kingdom David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:21.476 +0.404
7 6 United Kingdom Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1:21.610 +0.538
8 8 Austria Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 1:21.656 +0.584
9 14 France Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen-Honda 1:21.735 +0.663
10 7 France Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 1:22.011 +0.939
11 23 Denmark Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 1:22.167 +1.095
12 22 Brazil Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 1:22.222 +1.150
13 2 Brazil Pedro Diniz Arrows-Yamaha 1:22.234 +1.162
14 16 United Kingdom Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 1:22.263 +1.191
15 15 Japan Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen-Honda 1:22.351 +1.279
16 11 Germany Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 1:22.740 +1.668
17 12 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 1:22.804 +1.732
18 17 Argentina Norberto Fontana Sauber-Petronas 1:23.281 +2.209
19 20 Japan Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 1:23.409 +2.337
20 21 Brazil Tarso Marques Minardi-Hart 1:23.854 +2.782
21 19 Finland Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford 1:24.222 +3.150
22 18 Netherlands Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 1:24.301 +3.229

Race

Pos No Driver Constructor Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 9 Finland Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes 69 1:38:57.771 5 10
2 10 United Kingdom David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 69 +1.654 6 6
3 3 Canada Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 69 +1.803 1 4
4 8 Austria Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 69 +1.919 8 3
5 6 United Kingdom Eddie Irvine Ferrari 69 +3.789 7 2
6 4 Germany Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 69 +4.537 3 1
7 14 France Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen-Honda 69 +1:07.145 9  
8 16 United Kingdom Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 69 +1:12.961 14  
9 23 Denmark Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 69 +1:17.487 11  
10 15 Japan Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen-Honda 69 +1:18.215 15  
11 12 Italy Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 68 +1 lap 17  
12 19 Finland Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford 68 +1 lap 21  
13 7 France Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 68 +1 lap 10  
14 17 Argentina Norberto Fontana Sauber-Petronas 68 +1 lap 18  
15 21 Brazil Tarso Marques Minardi-Hart 68 +1 lap 20  
16 18 Netherlands Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 68 +1 lap 22  
17 20 Japan Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 68 +1 lap 19  
Ret 5 Germany Michael Schumacher Ferrari 47 Collision 2  
Ret 1 United Kingdom Damon Hill Arrows-Yamaha 47 Gearbox 4  
Ret 11 Germany Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 44 Water leak 16  
Ret 22 Brazil Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 30 Gearbox 12  
Ret 2 Brazil Pedro Diniz Arrows-Yamaha 11 Spun off 13  

References

  1. ^ Henry, Alan (ed) Autocourse 1997-1998 p.239 Hazleton Publishing ISBN 1-874557-47-0
  2. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/1997/10/27/sports/auto-racing-yesterday-european-grand-prix-villeneuve-captures-formula-one-title.html
  3. ^ Allen, James (2000) Michael Schumacher : Driven to Extremes p.26 Bantam Books This is also noted in The Concise Encyclopedia of Formula One p.195
  4. ^ http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=9pKeI0ODeGU&feature=related
  5. ^ a b c "Grand Prix Results: European GP, 1997". GP Encyclopedia. www.grandprix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/gpe/rr614.html. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
  6. ^ "1997 Grand Prix of Europe". GP Race Report. www.gpracing.net192.com. http://www.gpracing.net192.com/races/reports/614.cfm. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
  7. ^ "Schumacher loses championship runner-up crown". BBC News. 1997-11-11. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/29895.stm. Retrieved 2006-10-28.  
  8. ^ "The FIA ignores its own rules". www.grandprix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns01356.html. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
  9. ^ a b c d e "The lost honor of Michael Schumacher". www.grandprix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns01331.html. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
  10. ^ Allen (2000) p.26, Domenjoz, Luc Michael Schumacher : Rise of a Genius
  11. ^ Autosport magazine, 26 July 2007, page 8
  12. ^ "Goodbye Jerez!". www.grandprix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns01392.html. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
  13. ^ F1 Racing magazine, December 1997 issue, page 18, British edition as imported to America
  14. ^ "Race-rigging or press manipulation?". www.grandprix.com. 1997-11-10. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns01347.html. Retrieved 2006-11-21.  
  15. ^ "A decent decision". www.grandprix.com. 1997-11-17. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns01357.html. Retrieved 2006-11-21.  
  16. ^ "The truth will out?". www.grandprix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns17477.html. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
  17. ^ "Sauber contradicts Fontana". www.grandprix.com. http://www.grandprix.com/ns/ns17483.html. Retrieved 2006-10-29.  
Previous race:
1997 Japanese Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1997 season
Next race:
1998 Australian Grand Prix
Previous race:
1996 European Grand Prix
European Grand Prix Next race:
1999 European Grand Prix

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