1997 European Grand Prix
|1997 European Grand Prix|
Race 17 of 17 in the 1997 Formula One World Championship|
|Date||26 October 1997|
|Official name||XLII European Grand Prix|
Circuito Permanente de Jerez|
|Course||Permanent racing facility|
|Course length||4.428 km (2.748 mi)|
|Distance||69 laps, 305.532 km (189.612 mi)|
|Weather||Sunny with temperatures reaching up to 25 °C (77 °F)|
|Time||1:23.135 on lap 30 (lap record)|
The 1997 European Grand Prix (formally the XLII European Grand Prix) was a Formula One motor race held on 26 October 1997 at the Circuito Permanente de Jerez, Spain. Originally scheduled as the Grand Prix of Portugal at the Estoril circuit, it was moved when Estoril's management had financial difficulties. It was the 17th and final race of the 1997 FIA Formula One World Championship. The 69-lap race was won by Mika Häkkinen in a McLaren, his first Formula One race victory. His teammate David Coulthard finished second and Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve took third, which was sufficient for him to win the World Championship. As of 2020[update], these are Williams's last Drivers' and Constructors' World Championships. This was also the final Grand Prix for Ukyo Katayama, Norberto Fontana, and 10-time Grand Prix winner Gerhard Berger.
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.
Originally scheduled as the Grand Prix of Portugal at the Estoril Circuit, the race was moved to the Jerez Circuit when Estoril's management had financial difficulties. The race was added to the schedule after Japan because engine suppliers Renault did not want their last Formula One race to be in Japan.
Heading into the final race of the season, two drivers were still in contention for the World Drivers' Championship. Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher was leading with 78 points; Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve was second with 77 points, one point behind Schumacher. Behind Schumacher and Villeneuve in the Drivers' Championship, Heinz-Harald Frentzen was third on 41 points in the other Williams, with Jean Alesi and David Coulthard on 36 and 30 points respectively. 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 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 World Constructors' Championship, Williams led with 118 points and Ferrari were second on 100. 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.
Following the Japanese Grand Prix on 12 October, the teams conducted testing sessions at various locations around the world. Williams, Benetton, Sauber, Jordan and McLaren conducted at a test session at the Silverstone Circuit. Williams, Sauber and Jordan tested using 1998-spec cars, in preparation for the 1998 season. Arrows conducted testing at the Circuit de Nevers Magny-Cours circuit, performing wet weather tyre development with tyre suppliers Bridgestone with the circuit flooded to simulate wet weather conditions. Prost conducted testing at Circuit de Catalunya and performed tyre testing for Bridgestone, as well as testing their 1998-specification car. Ferrari remained at the Suzuka Circuit testing an electronic differential used by driver Eddie Irvine at the previous race.
Practice and qualifying
Four practice sessions were held before the Sunday race—two on Friday from 11:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 14:00 CEST (UTC+2), and two on Saturday morning held from 09.00 to 09.45 and from 10.15 to 11.00 CEST. In the first two practice sessions, Prost driver Olivier Panis set the fastest time with a lap of 1 minute and 22.735 seconds, one-tenths of a second faster than Arrows driver Damon Hill. Villeneuve and Rubens Barrichello were third and fourth. Mika Häkkinen and Coulthard, set the fifth and eighth-fastest times respectively for McLaren; they were separated by Frentzen and Alesi. Michael Schumacher and Ralf Schumacher completed the top ten.
In the final two practice sessions, Coulthard set the fastest lap with a time of 1:20.738; Häkkinen finished with the second-fastest time. The Williams drivers were quicker—Villeneuve in third and Frentzen in sixth. Panis slipped to fourth ahead of Gerhard Berger, their best times one-tenth of a second apart. They were ahead of Stewart driver Jan Magnussen, Shinji Nakano for Prost, Hill and Alesi.
The qualifying session was held on Saturday afternoon and lasted one-hour between 13:00 to 14:00 CEST, each driver was allowed up to twelve timed laps, with their fastest lap used to determine their grid position. Cars were timed using a TAG Heuer timing system, which measured to an accuracy of one-thousandth of a second. At the end of the session, the three fastest drivers had all set the same laptime, the first time this had happened in the history of the World Championship. 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, in the event of drivers setting equal times in qualifying, the order in which the times were set is considered, with the first driver to set the time 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 the reigning World Champion, 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. Villeneuve's pole position was the last for a Canadian driver in Formula One, and the last for a driver from North America, until Lance Stroll at the 2020 Turkish Grand Prix.
A half an hour warm-up session took place on Sunday morning for teams to set-up their cars for the race later that day. A majority of the teams appeared to use the soft compound tyres except for Jordan who were using the harder tyre compound. Häkkinen lapped fastest with a time of 1:23.016 ahead of Berger in second position and Panis in third. The top ten was completed by Coulthard, Villeneuve, Herbert, Michael Schumacher, Frentzen, Nakano and Hill. There were no incidents during the session.
The race took place in the afternoon, starting at 14:00 CET (UTC+1), in dry and sunny weather. 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 led 40 of the first 47 laps of the race. Frentzen also got a better start than Villeneuve and overtook him for second position. 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 Coulthard leading Häkkinen and Frentzen dropped to fifth position behind both of them. The order of the leaders after the second round of pit stops on lap 43 and lap 44 remained the same but with Villeneuve closer to Schumacher.
Villeneuve went into lap 48 less than a second behind Schumacher. Partway through the lap he attempted to overtake Schumacher at the sharp, right-hand Dry Sack 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 with his front-right wheel and Villeneuve's left-hand sidepod. 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. 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". 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 Hill's 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." He continued but the damage to the mounts on his car's battery meant he was slower than the cars behind him.
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." Berger in fourth place (in what turned out to be his final Grand Prix) 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 three points, and became World Champion. Häkkinen's victory was the first of his career.
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. Race stewards reviewed video footage of the collision between Villeneuve and Michael Schumacher and determined that it was "a racing incident" and took no further action against Schumacher. However, Schumacher was subsequently summoned to a disciplinary hearing by the FIA and on 11 November 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 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". Schumacher was also ordered to take part in a road-safety campaign during the 1998 season.
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.
The German newspapers were among the many from across Europe that criticised Schumacher. Bild blamed Schumacher, saying "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 honour" and alluded to a "monument [that] is starting to crack because the foundations are faulty". A German television channel polled 63,081 fans and found that 28% no longer felt they could support Schumacher.
In Italy Schumacher was widely condemned. The daily newspaper l'Unità felt that Schumacher deserved to be sacked for bringing shame to Italian sport, and said that "Schumacher ought to face charges in a Spanish court for the grave deed he committed". La Repubblica said 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 they would prefer to wait for Ferrari to win a title in circumstances which wouldn't render it "a title to hide". Despite being owned by the Agnelli family, which also controlled Ferrari, La Stampa said "His image as a champion was shattered".
In England, Schumacher's manoeuvre against Damon Hill at the 1994 Australian Grand Prix was used as a comparison in many media reports. The Times wrote that Schumacher had "sacrificed his reputation by an act of such cynicism that it lost him the right to any sympathy". The BBC pointed to Schumacher's "history of being involved in controversial collisions", saying the German driver had a "chequered record" and claiming the 1990 Macau Grand Prix and 1991 Nürburgring 430 kilometres as other instances of previous Schumacher controversy. The public broadcaster also posited that the affair "left Formula One's glamourous image in a poor light." The Independent noted that "many observers remain convinced Schumacher and Ferrari, major attractions in the Formula One show, have been given preferential treatment". In 2006, nine years after the incident, The Guardian would cite it as an example of Schumacher's "ruthlessness".
In the Australian telecast of the race, former world champion Alan Jones stated that there was “no doubt in his mind that Schumacher deliberately drove into the side of him to have him off, ala Damon Hill at Adelaide”, while co-commentator Darrell Eastlake said that it's "not the way the world championship should have been decided and viewers around the world would be disappointed with that sort of act” and his "credibility falls away a bit”.
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." 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.
On 12 December 1997, the World Motorsport Council ruled that the mayor of Jerez, Pedro Pacheco, disrupted the podium ceremony. Originally, the verdict was that no further Formula One races would occur at the track. However, when Mr Pacheco appeared before the WMSC, this ruling was rescinded.
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." As of 2020[update], this race was the last time that Jerez hosted a Formula One Grand Prix, although it has held many pre-season test days.
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 8 November, The Times newspaper published an article accusing Williams and McLaren of colluding to decide the finishing order at the end of the Grand Prix. The article's claims were based on recordings of the radio transmissions made by the two teams. 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."
In 2006, Norberto Fontana claimed in an interview with the Argentinian newspaper Olé 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 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."
In 2014 David Coulthard gave an interview to Charles Bradley in Autosport where he claimed that indeed an agreement between McLaren and Williams was in place. "Ron [Dennis] had made that deal with Frank [Williams], which none of us knew anything about, that if we helped Williams in their quest to beat Ferrari they wouldn't get in the way of helping McLaren. Ron would probably still deny it today. That's what happened."
Championship standings after the race
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings. Drivers' Championship standings accurate as at final declaration of race results. Michael Schumacher was subsequently disqualified from the championship, although his points and results remain on record.
- Bold text indicates 1997 World Champions.
- "1997 European GP". ChicaneF1. Archived from the original on 27 August 2012. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- "1997 European Grand Prix results". ESPN. Archived from the original on 1 June 2017. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- Weather info for the 1997 European Grand Prix Archived 12 April 2020 at the Wayback Machine at Weather Underground
- "Portugal is off!". Grandprix.com. Inside F1. 28 July 1997. Archived from the original on 2 July 2018. Retrieved 22 June 2011.
- "Formula One - The road to Jerez". BBC News (BBC). 25 October 1997. Archived from the original on 4 March 2003. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "F1 Points Tables - 1997". crash.net. Crash Media Group. Archived from the original on 11 February 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2016.
- "Gale Force 97 - European Grand Prix". Gale Force F1. Archived from the original on 20 October 2006. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "The last major tests of the season". GrandPrix.com. 20 October 1997. Archived from the original on 27 April 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- Domenjoz, Luc (1997). Formula 1 Yearbook – 1997–98 (8th ed.). Parragon. p. 220. ISBN 0-7525-2386-4.
119. Free practice will take place:
a) two days (Monaco : three days) before the race from 11.00 to 12.00 and from 13.00 to 14.00.
b) the day before the race from 09.00 to 09.45 and from 10.15 to 11.00
- "The Art of Timing". Atlas F1. 10 February 1999. Archived from the original on 22 October 2011. Retrieved 11 November 2012.
- Henry, Alan, ed. (10 January 1998). Autocourse 1997–1998. Hazleton Publishing. p. 239. ISBN 1-874557-47-0.
- "Grand Prix Results: European GP, 1997". GP Encyclopedia. www.grandprix.com. Archived from the original on 8 November 2006. Retrieved 29 October 2006.
- Gupta, Sahil. "F1: Stroll On Pole For Turkey GP, Becomes 1st Canadian Since Villeneuve To Get P1". carandbike.com. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
- F1, STATS. "Europe 1997 - Qualifications • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Archived from the original on 15 October 2018. Retrieved 15 October 2018.
- "Race morning warm-up". Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. 26 October 1997. Archived from the original on 15 February 1998. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- Siano, Joseph (27 October 1997). "Auto Racing - Yesterday - European Grand Prix - Auto Racing - Yesterday - European Grand Prix - Villeneuve Captures Formula One Title". NYTimes.com. Archived from the original on 19 February 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2010.
- "Sunday race: Facts and Incidents". Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile. 26 October 1997. Archived from the original on 15 February 1998. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- Roebuck, Nigel (3 November 1997). "Among the elite". Autoweek. 47 (44): 52. Retrieved 20 January 2021 – via EBSCO.
- Hinton, Ed (3 November 1997). "Villeneuve Wins F/1 Title – Too Fast in Atlanta? – The End For Emmo". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 20 January 2021.
- 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
- "We're streaming the 1997 European GP – here's why you should watch". formula1.com. 7 April 2020. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- Cooper, Adam (26 October 2017). "The unknown aftermath of Jerez 1997". Autosport. Archived from the original on 9 May 2019. Retrieved 9 May 2019.
- "1997 European Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
- "Schumacher loses championship runner-up crown". BBC News. 11 November 1997. Archived from the original on 1 October 2002. Retrieved 28 October 2006.
- Thompson, Jack (12 November 1997). "Schumacher Gets Slap on Wrist". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on 29 May 2014. Retrieved 28 May 2014.
- "The FIA ignores its own rules". Grandprix.com. Inside F1. 17 November 1997. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2006.
- "The lost honor of Michael Schumacher". www.grandprix.com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2006.
- "Schumacher loses championship runner-up crown". BBC News. 11 November 1997. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
- "Schumacher and F1 on trial". BBC News. 11 November 1997. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
- "Motor Racing: Formula One hands Schumacher a pointless punishment". The Independent. 12 November 1997. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
- Ornstein, David (23 October 2006). "What we'll miss about Michael Schumacher". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 January 2021.
- Jones, Alan (Commentator), Eastlake, Darrell (Commentator) (26 October 1997). European Formula One Grand Prix (Television production). Nine’s Wide World of Sports. Event occurs at 1:12:00–1:13:30.
- Allen (2000) p.26, Domenjoz, Luc Michael Schumacher : Rise of a Genius
- Autosport magazine, 26 July 2007, page 8
- "Goodbye Jerez!". www.grandprix.com. Archived from the original on 29 November 2005. Retrieved 29 October 2006.
- "Sauber contradicts Fontana". www.grandprix.com. 21 September 2006. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- F1 Racing magazine, December 1997 issue, page 18, British edition as imported to America
- "Race-rigging or press manipulation?". www.grandprix.com. 10 November 1997. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2006.
- "A decent decision". www.grandprix.com. 17 November 1997. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2006.
- "The truth will out?". www.grandprix.com. Archived from the original on 30 October 2006. Retrieved 29 October 2006.
- Bradley, Charles (13 March 2014). "What separates the great from the good?" (PDF). Autosport. 215 (11): 46. Retrieved 19 January 2021.
- "Europe 1997 - Championship • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Archived from the original on 1 December 2018. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
1997 Japanese Grand Prix
|FIA Formula One World Championship
1998 Australian Grand Prix
1996 European Grand Prix
|European Grand Prix||Next race:|
1999 European Grand Prix