Brought to you by TheJudge13 chronicler Carlo Carluccio.
– 1997: Three into One doesn’t fit!
The Formula One circus arrived in Jerez, Southern Spain, for the final race of the 1997 season, The European Grand Prix.
Michael Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve were the main protagonists, with everybody else merely bit part players for the main show.
They had left Suzuka with the Williams driver a point ahead and arrived at a cool Spanish track with Villeneuve one point behind in the standings. Fear not, I shall explain.
In qualifying at Suzuka, Villeneuve passed waved yellow flags after Jos Verstappen’s Tyrrell came to a halt beside the track. Nine drivers ignored the instruction to slow down but Villeneuve had infringed this rule twice previously in the season. The FIA penalised him and he would have to start at the back of the grid.
Williams appealed the decision, and therefore he started from pole position with the intention of affecting Schumacher’s race. Villeneuve would eventually finish in fifth position with the Ferrari driver winning the race. It was these two points that he lost when the FIA Court of Appeal rejected his appeal and he was disqualified from the results.
There was no love lost between the two teams and their respective drivers. For this reason, at the season finale, tensions were running understandably high.
Early in qualifying Villeneuve set a time of 1m 21.072. Less than fifteen minutes later Schumacher stopped the timing beam at 1m 21.072 also. He had been faster on his first and second splits but lost a little time at the chicane where yellow flags were held out after his brother Ralf had spun off.
With ten minutes of the session to run Frentzen – Villeneuve’s team-mate – went out for his final run. He was quicker through the first two splits but got the car sideways at the chicane, losing him a little time. His final qualifying time was – 1m 21.072.
For the first time since Formula One began, the top three all shared the same time. The rules for this happening are simple. First come – first served. Therefore Villeneuve would take pole position from Schumacher in second and Frenzten in third.
Villeneuve : “It’s very surprising, but I guess it’s the best way to have the championship settled. I’m actually surprised that the lap was quick enough for pole. I made a few mistakes and the wind was strong, so I didn’t push too hard because I didn’t know what it was going to do.”
Schumacher: “I had the situation under control. I knew from my dashboard read-out I was going to do a 1m 21.0s, but I didn’t know if it was going to be in front or behind Jacques. To have us both on the front row is what I was looking for. It proves we are all competing on a very high level.”
Frentzen: “I think next year we need four numbers after the dot.“