Victory for Michael Schumacher within the 1997 Eastern Grand Prix at Suzuka arrange an exciting championship showdown. However the race used to be anything else however simple.
Jacques Villeneuve arrived in Japan desiring to take only one aspect off his rival to clinch the championship.
The issues state of affairs had modified dramatically within the earlier races. Villeneuve had scored a most 20 to Schumacher’s one. The Ferrari motive force used to be already speaking relating to the name being over. “We now have already succeeded in our expectancies this yr,” stated Schumacher prior to the weekend started. “Although we don’t win the championship we will be able to have fulfilled our expectancies, or much more.”
Villeneuve’s probabilities of wrapping the name up with a race to spare seemed just right while he beat Schumacher took pole place in an in depth qualifying consultation.
Then got here the scoop which surprised the paddock: Villeneuve used to be being thrown out of the development.
Villeneuve races underneath attraction
Accelerating out of Spoon curve throughout the Saturday morning apply consultation, Villeneuve handed Jos Verstappen’s stranded Tyrrell which used to be being recovered underneath waved yellow flags. Villeneuve, along side 5 different drivers, did not backtrack for the caution.
The FIA had presented a chain of escalating warnings to drive drivers to decelerate for yellow flags. Johnny Herbert, Rubens Barrichello, Ukyo Katayama and Schumacher have been amongst individuals who did not backpedal and all won one-race bands that have been suspended till the top of the season.
Heinz-Harald Frentzen were stuck prior to so he used to be given a ban suspended for 5 races. And Villeneuve, who had already dedicated the similar offence on 3 earlier events, used to be hit with an instantaneous ban from the following race.
This had massive implications for the championship. With Villeneuve absent, Schumacher had the risk to show his 9-aspect championship deficit right into a unmarried-aspect lead in advance of the general race at Jerez.
Later, Villeneuve admitted he’d realised the danger he used to be taking as he approached the yellow flag. “Then I assumed ‘oh, it’s a immediately’,” he stated. “And I stopped up doing it, and I shot myself within the foot.”
“I did spend a few 2d eager about it. Even when I handed the automobile I considered hitting the brakes so it wouldn’t seem at the timing monitors, that is what they appear out for. However then I assumed ‘no, I don’t need to play foolish video games like that’. So I didn’t. However I will be able to at some point.”
Necessarily Williams lodged an attraction once more Villeneuve’s ban. Without a time to convene a listening to, the pole sitter used to be allowed to participate within the race however did so figuring out he used to be very more likely to lose any issues he won. Many wondered the knowledge of bold to attraction: 3 years in advance Jordan had lodged a equivalent protest for Eddie Irvine, handiest to peer the FIA building up his ban from one race to 3.
The setback piled the drive on Villeneuve who ahead of the weekend started had admitted profitable the championship in 1997 used to be “essential” for him, in part as a result of the plan to extensively amendment the automobiles for the following season.
“To begin with the principles amendment for ’ninety eight – this may well be the remaining actual season of Method One,” he stated. “So it’s the most important season.”
“After which final yr I used to be a rookie, I used to be at the back of all the season and were given shut against the top. So for a primary season that felt just right. It wasn’t a query of dropping it, it used to be extra a query of now not profitable it, which used to be appropriate, there used to be all the time this yr.”
“However this yr if we don’t win it it’s extra that we misplaced it in some way as a result of we had probably the most aggressive automotive at the beginning of the season.”
1997 Eastern Grand Prix qualifying
A rejuvenated Ferrari introduced to the drive on Villeneuve. The F310B’s new entrance wing, which flexed visibly underneath height loadings across the tremendous-rapid Suzuka direction, helped the workforce report its highest mixed qualifying results of the yr. Schumacher covered up along his name rival, simply six-hundredths of a 2d slower, and Irvine subsidized him up in 3rd.
McLaren’s rapid-beginning automobiles were a risk in up to date races and Mika Hakkinen threatened to become involved within the name struggle from fourth at the grid. David Coulthard used to be smartly down within the staff’s different automotive, on the other hand.
Whilst Schumacher may just rely on lend a hand from Irvine, Villeneuve’s staff mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen used to be down in 6th, edged out through an on-shape Gerhard Berger. Subsequent got here Jean Alesi in the second one Benetton.
Bridgestone weren’t in a position to recreate their large-killing shape from Spain and Hungary at their house race. Olivier Panis used to be the best Bridgestone-display qualifier in 10th position in spite of his Prost taking advantage of a brand new S-specification Mugen-Honda engine.
Reigning Method Nippon (now Eastern Tremendous Formulation) champion Ralf Schumacher placed his circuit wisdom to just right use in apply however did not ship in qualifying. He placed his Jordan thirteenth, 4 puts at the back of staff mate Giancarlo Fisichella.
Qualifying used to be pink-flagged after Gianni Morbidelli crashed closely at Dunlop. The Sauber motive force, who’d been pressured out early within the season with an arm damage, used to be not able to start out the race.
1997 Eastern Grand Prix grid
Villeneuve’s catch 22 situation created the cases for a atypical race. He knew that he used to be not likely to stay any issues he scored at Suzuka, so the most productive he may just do used to be restrict Schumacher’s possible to extend his rating.
The situation used to be very similar to ultimate yr’s championship determining race the place Lewis Hamilton wanted of his competitors to overhaul Nico Rosberg, so he subsidized the sector up at key issues right through the race. However Villeneuve may just come up with the money for to take higher dangers and didn’t need to appreciate the reality he used to be racing his group mate.
Throughout the year Schumacher were within the beneficial place of with the ability to depend on lend a hand from his group mate. However Irvine may play a extra an important position than same old in what became out to be a unusual race.
“We’ve got been talking approximately [team orders]all yr,” stated Irvine. “I do know the location. I’ve to lend a hand Michael as best possible I will be able to.”
1997 Eastern Grand Prix
The tone of what used to be to return used to be set in an instant because the beginning lighting fixtures went out and Villeneuve swerved throughout Schumacher’s bows, made up our minds to stay the Ferrari again. Positive sufficient, he hadn’t made it midway across the first lap sooner than he started slowing the sector within the wish anyone may attempt to cross Schumacher.
Villeneuve’s hopes progressed from the beginning while Hakkinen used some other speedy McLaren begin to cut up the 2 Ferraris. He used to be sat on Schumacher’s tail as Villeneuve introduced the sector round on the finish of a gentle first lap, seconds masking the highest six automobiles.
Ferrari, on the other hand, had deliberate for this. As Villeneuve slowed the sector exiting the Esses, Schumacher gave the impression to in short raise in entrance of Hakkinen, and Irvine darted across the pair of them. He used to be now on Villeneuve’s tail, who had little interest in preventing him, so he allow the Ferrari pass.
At this aspect the race used to be verging at the comical. Whilst Villeneuve subsidized up the sector once more hoping Hakkinen might take a pop at Schumacher, Irvine pulled 5 seconds transparent in one lap. By way of lap six he used to be 12 seconds in advance and remaining-positioned Ukyo Katayama used to be 12 2d at the back of Villeneuve.
Now Villeneuve placed his foot down. Both he’d given up on any person passing Schumacher or he used to be cautious of Irvine getting to this point in advance he may just make his pit prevent and are available out in advance. However the race swung in Ferrari’s favour as McLaren and Benetton pulled their automobiles in among laps thirteen and 14. Now Ferrari may just pit Irvine and convey him out with minimum visitors in advance of him, which they did on sixteen.
Williams have been operating out of choices. Stay Villeneuve in advance of Schumacher used to be their ultimate easiest probability to persuade the race in his favour however right here too they slipped up. While Schumacher got here in on lap 18, Villeneuve used to be disregarded for an additional lap because the Ferrari motive force set a brand new quickest lap of the race. Villeneuve left the pits fractionally too past due to stay Schumacher at the back of, despite the fact that the Ferrari motive force dived within the Williams as Villeneuve drifted against the racing line at flip one.
Schumacher pointed an accusing finger at Villeneuve afterwards. “It’s not that i am positive whether or not it used to be the right kind factor to do, to return around the street and take a look at to push somebody,” he stated. “I used to be in a position to right kind my very own state of affairs and took him at the inside of, however it might were very bad.”
Pass advert-loose for simply £1 per thirty days
At this aspect Irvine used to be 14 seconds up the street. “I used to be simply looking ahead to the telephone name,” he defined. Positive sufficient Ferrari temporarily informed him to backpedal and allow Schumacher thru to maximize his drivers’ championship rating. Irvine duly minimize his % via six seconds a lap and the pair swapped puts once more at flip six. Now it used to be Irvine’s flip to stay Villeneuve bottled up, however doing this value him time which sooner or later helped Frentzen to get in advance. He beat Irvine to 2d position and by way of doing so sealed the constructors’ championship for Williams.
The general kick within the tooth for Villeneuve got here while he made his 2d pit prevent early, in a bid to get out from at the back of Irvine, however the refuelling hose didn’t move on correctly. That dropped him to 5th at the back of Hakkinen.
Frentzen made a battle of it within the last degrees, final in on Schumacher and most likely giving the Williams pit wall lead to to marvel why they’d allow him lose such a lot time within the queue at the back of his group mate firstly. His lead to used to be aided via the driving force he’d changed at Williams, Damon Hill, who didn’t precisely dive out of the best way while Schumacher ready to lap him. The Arrows motive force, grappling with a gearbox fault and a damaged head relax, later stated he used to be ready to allow Schumacher thru in a protected position.
Villeneuve took the flag simply in entrance of the 3-preventing Alesi, with Johnny Herbert shut at the back of. Fisichella, Berger and Ralf Schumacher additionally completed at the lead lap, whilst Coulthard went off at 130R at the ultimate excursion.
Schumacher’s victory intended a championship which looked to be misplaced used to be again inside of his take hold of. And he admitted he owed a debt to his workforce mate. “I’ve stated again and again that Eddie is a smart motive force and a superb staff mate,” he stated. “I actually need to thank him for this victory. And if any query marks were raised approximately his long run, I feel they will have to be forgotten now.”
1997 Eastern Grand Prix outcome
|Pos.||No.||Motive force||Group||Laps||Time / hole / explanation why|
|1||five||Michael Schumacher||Ferrari||fifty three||1:29’forty eight.446|
|2||four||Heinz-Harald Frentzen||Williams-Renault||fifty three||1.378|
|three||6||Eddie Irvine||Ferrari||fifty three||26.384|
|four||nine||Mika Hakkinen||McLaren-Mercedes||fifty three||27.129|
|five||7||Jean Alesi||Benetton-Renault||fifty three||forty.403|
|6||sixteen||Johnny Herbert||Sauber-Petronas||fifty three||forty one.630|
|7||12||Giancarlo Fisichella||Jordan-Peugeot||fifty three||fifty six.825|
|eight||eight||Gerhard Berger||Benetton-Renault||fifty three||1’00.429|
|nine||eleven||Ralf Schumacher||Jordan-Peugeot||fifty three||1’22.036|
|10||10||David Coulthard||McLaren-Mercedes||fifty two||Engine|
|eleven||1||Damon Hill||Arrows-Yamaha||fifty two||1 lap|
|12||2||Pedro Diniz||Arrows-Yamaha||fifty two||1 lap|
|thirteen||18||Jos Verstappen||Tyrrell-Ford||fifty two||1 lap|
|three||Jacques Villeneuve||Williams-Renault||fifty three||Disqualified|
|21||Tarso Marques||Minardi-Hart||forty six||Gearbox|
|19||Mika Salo||Tyrrell-Ford||forty six||Engine|
|15||Shinji Nakano||Prost-Mugen-Honda||22||Wheel bearing|
|22||Rubens Barrichello||Stewart-Ford||6||Spun off|
|23||Jan Magnussen||Stewart-Ford||three||Spun off|
|17||Gianni Morbidelli||Sauber-Petronas||Didn’t get started|
1997 Eastern Grand Prix championship standings
9 days after the race, to no nice wonder, the FIA rejected the attraction from Villeneuve and Williams. This intended he didn’t rating issues for 5th position and as an alternative of heading to the general spherical with a one-aspect lead, Villeneuve used to be one aspect at the back of Schumacher with simply the general race at Jerez left to run.
Grand Prix flashback
Browse all Grand Prix flashbacks
F1 historical past
Browse all historical past articles