Radio killed the F1 video car

schumacher 1997 belgian gp

On this day…. 17th August

Brought to you by TJ13 contributor Oddball

1997 Belgian GP

Oh what a month that was. It began with my heart being removed by a 50 pence rubber O ring whilst watching the Hungarian GP. Now I faced the prospect of actually missing the Belgian GP in Spa race because of a very friendly duck.

I had driven hard to make the ferry at Hull, but just as I pulled into the port a low flying duck took a liking to my cars front end…it wasn’t a pretty site.The kindly foul appeared to decide to try and take a swim inside my radiator, though it succeeded only in putting enough kinks and holes in it to free the water inside.

One was not amused.

I soon learned the nature of true friendship, as the rest of my group gathered round.. then buggered off to embark the ship. I was left with an injured duck, a brutalised car and the growing feeling I was not going to make the race. I engaged the ‘better half’ though despite her efforts the boat sailed and I rode home with a man from the AA (breakdown service).

It so happened he was an F1 fanatic too. “It’s a bloody good track that Spa… one of the best,” he raved.

“YES!! I BLOODY KNOW.. Thanks for Reminding Me…… PAL”, I silently retorted.

On Sunday, I decided it was time to de-feather the front of the car. I tuned the radio in to the F1 commentary and began to drift away in my mind to the Ardennes mountains. Listening to an F1 race on radio, allows your mind to fill in the blanks.

I chuckled as the cars began to form the grid because an excitable Ralf Schumacher spun his Jordan car at Stavelot and had to run all the way back to the pits for his spare car. I was now imagining how hard the rain was falling and how my mates didn’t have full wet weather gear as most of their spare clothes remained in the car.. Ha ha Karma’s a bitch.

Explaining the incident, Schumacher famously said: “I had nothing to lose, and I lost it.”

Both Williams drivers and Jean Alesi, who was alongside the pole sitter Jacque Villeneuve in the Benetton, were sporting full wet tyres while the rest were on intermediates. The race started behind the safety car, which circulated for what seemed like an age – but was just the first three laps. On lap 4 the race proper began. Villeneuve led from Alesi followed by Schumacher with the rest of the pack quickly falling away.

On Lap 5 Michael Schumacher in his Ferrari made a brave pass inside Alesi at the La Source hairpin, then overtook Villeneuve at the Rivage loop on the same lap.

I was on tenterhooks and fully focused I saw these great moves in my mind’s eye. By the end of the lap, the German had pulled out a full 5 seconds on his competition. One more lap and the gap was a massive 17 seconds.

I was now jumping around, squealing with delight like a 4 year old and if anyone was watching I would have been carted away with a tight jacket and placed in a padded room.

As each lap passed, I could see the drying line and the tiniest details from the hysterical commentary about tyre and track evolution became of epic importance.

I started to smell the oil, feel the pulse of the engines as the cars passed – and of course this race is at Spa, where the pastries are damn fine too.

The circuit isn’t actually in Spa, by the way.  It is close to the town of Francorchamps, completely within the municipality of Stavelot.

Michael Schumacher continued to pull further away, and by lap 12 his lead had reached a full minute. The track was drying and the drivers began pitting for slick tyres.

The German pitted on lap 14, survived a couple of hairy moments and managed to stay on track, eventually winning the race by 26 seconds.

Even with the history Michael was yet to write, this for me was one of his greatest victories and stamped his card as Rain Meister.

Its a race I’ve never since watched back, and I never plan to do so as it may spoil one of the greatest races I have ever witnessed.

9 responses to “Radio killed the F1 video car

  1. Great story, Oddball.

    I agree that this was one of Michael’s greatest wins. Many of Schumi’s best wins, in my opinion, can be found in the 1996-2000 period; the early Ferrari-Schumacher years.

    Michael’s headline stats – so outrageous that they are – undermine, in a way, what he did at/for Ferrari for 5 years prior to finally getting the dominant Ferrari’s of 01,02 and 04.

    And then, after 5 years… Suzuka 2000.

    • I still think Schumacher became the Regenkönig in Spain 1996. The Williams were outperforming the rest of the field like Mercedes is doing today. Schumacher didn’t take the lead until lap 13, then started putting 3 seconds a lap on everyone. He lapped all but Alesi and Villeneuve, but easily could have done it if he wanted to. 14 of the 20 who started never finished, with most spinning off in hydroplane conditions. It was a legendary driving performance.

        • Bridgestone really did make a great tyre that day,like I said before..oh for a 50p washer in the hydraulic system, that arrows on that day was a damn fine machine

    • I finally got to watch Michael race the following year and I have to admit..I was hooked, he took my heart with him and replaced Senna as the man to watch. Yes as an Englishman I had an eye on Hill or Irvine but MrS in my beloved Red cars just set my pulse racing..and no, its not a bromance like my ex friends keep pointing out.(looking around the office with pictures on the wall:))

  2. This was the first and only F1 race I attended. I unintentionally got in Michael Schumacher’s way on the walk to circuit and he beeped his moped horn at me. My claim to fame.

    The many Germans in the crowd cheered when the rain started coming down. They knew Schumacher was likely to win then.

        • Lol, its funny how those things stick with you and probably mean more than the actual race. When I wrote this article I relived that day and can tell you it was a brilliant experience even though I never arrived. The chaps got screwed over a taxi,the wife didn’t speak for a week and the Volvo was never the same again(I tried to drive with the temp needle straining the stops) but sitting on that gravel with a beer really put the world in order. I bet the same happened when you realise who had the nerve to beep their horn and make you jump out of your skin! It’s a tale you will probably tell your grandkids..I just wish every fan could get an experience like that but with today’s prices its getting harder to attend a live race.

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