1997 Australian Grand Prix
|Race 1 of 17 in the 1997 Formula One season|
|Date||9 March 1997|
|Official name||LXII Qantas Australian Grand Prix|
|Location||Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Albert Park, Melbourne|
|Course||Temporary Street Circuit
5.303 km (3.295 mi)
|Distance||58 laps, 308.792 km (191.110 mi)|
|Weather||Partly Cloudy, Dry|
|Time||1:30.585 on lap 36|
The 1997 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula One race held on 9 March 1997 at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, Melbourne. It was the first race of the 1997 Formula One season. It was the second Grand Prix to be hosted in Melbourne.
Two new teams came into Formula One in 1997: Stewart and Lola. Footwork reverted to their old name of Arrows and acquired Yamaha engines, while Ligier were bought by Alain Prost and changed their name to Prost Grand Prix. Tyrrell acquired Ford engines.
The change that dominated the drivers line up was Damon Hill's surprise sacking from Williams having just won the World Championship to join Tom Walkinshaw and the newly purchased Arrows team. In the week up to the race, there were rumours of Hill having left Arrows due to the poor performance of the car, rumours that were quashed.
Ferrari retained Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine, Benetton kept Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger and McLaren signed on Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard. The Jordan team had two new drivers in Giancarlo Fisichella the Italian youngster from Minardi and had signed Ralf Schumacher brother of Michael in an interesting line up. The new Prost Grand Prix team kept Olivier Panis and signed Japanese rookie driver Shinji Nakano. Sauber kept Johnny Herbert and the loss of Frentzen saw Peter Sauber sign Ferrari test driver Nicola Larini. Tyrrell retained Mika Salo for a third year and added Jos Verstappen to the team from Arrows. Minardi with V8 Hart engines signed Ukyo Katayama and promising Italian driver Jarno Trulli. This was a milestone grand prix for Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Olivier Panis, both making their 50th race entry, and Johnny Herbert's 100th race entry.
The new Stewart Grand Prix team had signed Rubens Barrichello as their main driver and highly promising Danish driver Jan Magnussen. Lola recruited pay driver Riccardo Rosset and former Benetton test driver Vincenzo Sospiri.
Bridgestone also made their first official appearance in Formula 1 breaking Goodyear's reign as a sole tyre supplier which began in 1992. Bridgestone provided tyres for Minardi, Arrows, Prost, Stewart and Lola.
The British television coverage switched to ITV for the 1997 season and beyond, after 18 years of regular coverage for the BBC. Former driver Martin Brundle joined Murray Walker in the commentary box.
In the build-up to the weekend, Michael Schumacher was criticised for saying that the circuit "wasn't particularly special", with locals responding by calling him an "overpaid prima donna". There was also protests in the lead-up to the race, with protestors pouring diesel on to the track the week before the race. A strike also meant that there was no public services running, Jeff Kennett, the Premier of Victoria, labelling them "bloody minded" and that they will have to "incur the wrath of the community".
Practice and qualifying
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve took his fourth career pole position after a stunning lap of 1:29.369, while Heinz-Harald Frentzen could only manage a 1:31.121 to fill the remaining spot on the front row. Only 6 drivers managed to qualify within 3 seconds of the pole position time. The session was red flagged with just over two minutes remaining after a collision between Gerhard Berger and Nicola Larini on the straight between turns 10 and 11. This resulted in many of the cars effectively having to complete a one-lap sprint to post a lap time before the end of the session. Damon Hill struggled during the session, only just qualifying inside of the 107% limit due to an oil leak which hampered the lap times. Both of the Lola cars failed to make the qualifying limit and were over ten seconds slower than Villeneuve in their first and only F1 qualifying session, as the team had to withdraw from the next race due to a lack of funds. Pedro Diniz was also outside of the 107% time, however he was permitted to race, having set a time in practice within the 107% time.
Before the race even began there were problems for the reigning world champion, Damon Hill. On the parade lap his throttle jammed leaving him stranded on the track and causing him to retire from the race. The drama continued into the first corner as Eddie Irvine dived into the first corner and misjudged his braking, hitting both Villeneuve and Herbert - all three were out of the race. Jos Verstappen spun off on lap two while attempting to overtake Ukyo Katayama. Both of the Jordan cars soon retired from the race, Ralf Schumacher suffering a gearbox problem and Fisichella spinning off the track while passing Barrichello. Jean Alesi embarrassingly retired from the race after running out of fuel, despite the Benetton team calling him into the pits 5 laps earlier. At the front David Coulthard continued to keep away from these incidents to lead the race, followed by Michael Schumacher and Frentzen. Schumacher had to make an unscheduled fuel stop towards the end of the race, promoting Frentzen to second. However, large quantities of dust had been coming from Frentzen's brakes for some time and with three laps to go a brake disc failed, sending him into the gravel trap at the end of the start/finish straight. Coulthard went on to take his second career win. It was also McLaren's first win since Ayrton Senna won the 1993 Australian Grand Prix.
Standings after Grand Prix
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- Rosenthal, Jim (1997-03-08). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 11:25-11:40.
- Goodman, Louise (1997-03-08). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 03:10-03:20.
- Goodman, Louise (1997-03-08). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 15:04-16:04.
- Rosenthal, Jim (1997-03-08). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 09:30-11:15.
"1997 Australian Grand Prix". Chicane F1. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
1996 Japanese Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1997 Brazilian Grand Prix
1996 Australian Grand Prix
|Australian Grand Prix||Next race:
1998 Australian Grand Prix
1996 Australian Grand Prix
|Formula One Promotional Trophy
for Race Promoter
1998 San Marino Grand Prix