1997 Formula One season
|1997 FIA Formula One World Championship season|
|Previous: 1996||Next: 1998|
|Index: Races by country | Races by season|
The season started in Australia, with Canadian Jacques Villeneuve taking the fourth pole position of his F1 career. The moment was short-lived, however, as Villeneuve was out at the first corner after colliding with Johnny Herbert. McLaren's David Coulthard went on to win the race, the second of his career, with Michael Schumacher finishing second and Mika Häkkinen finishing in third place.
Villeneuve once again took pole position in Brazil, and once again he was off at the first corner. The Canadian recovered from his first corner mistake to take the lead on lap 49 from Gerhard Berger. The Austrian finished second and Olivier Panis continued his impressive form from 1996 with third place.
For the third time in a row, Jacques Villeneuve was again on pole position for Argentina. However, he was spared another first corner collision, and instead it was Michael Schumacher who collided with Rubens Barrichello. With Schumacher out, Eddie Irvine went on to challenge Villeneuve for the lead, and he made several attempts to pass the Canadian's Williams but failed on all his attempts and had to settle for second. Ralf Schumacher, in his first full season, managed to get onto the podium after he finished third.
Villeneuve continued his run of consecutive pole positions in San Marino. Villeneuve's German team-mate, Frentzen, won his first and only, Grand Prix for Williams after he finished just over a second ahead of Michael Schumacher, with Eddie Irvine coming third.
Frentzen managed to end Villeneuve's run of pole positions in Monaco. For the second time in successive seasons, the Monaco Grand Prix was raced under very wet conditions. Michael Schumacher won his first race of the season with his future Ferrari team-mate, Rubens Barrichello finishing in second and earning Stewart's first podium finish; Irvine took the final step on the podium for the second time in a row.
In Spain, Williams continued to dominate the qualifying session, as Villeneuve, for the fifth time this season, took pole and Frentzen made sure Williams occupied both slots on the front row. Villeneuve went on to win the Grand Prix, with fellow French-speaking drivers, Olivier Panis and Jean Alesi, coming second and third respectively.
Williams' run of consecutive pole positions was broken in Canada where Michael Schumacher took pole; Rubens Barrichello's Stewart split the two Williams in third place. Schumacher went on to win the Grand Prix, with ex-Ferrari driver Jean Alesi finishing second and Giancarlo Fisichella coming in third. Schumacher earned his second pole of the season in France; he was accompanied by Frentzen on the front row. The two would stay in their respective positions at the end of the race, with Eddie Irvine in third.
Villeneuve earned his sixth pole of the season in Britain, with team-mate Frentzen partnering him on the front row. Villeneuve went on to win the race with Alesi and young Alexander Wurz coming third to make it an all Renault-powered podium. Michael Schumacher failed to complete the race after he retired with a wheel bearing problem.
Gerhard Berger, who hadn't competed at the previous Grand Prix because of the illness and the death of his father, managed to get pole position with Giancarlo Fisichella completing the front row. Berger went on to win the Grand Prix, which would ultimately be Benetton's final win. Michael Schumacher came second and Mika Häkkinen came third.
The next race, in Hungary, was one of the most memorable races in the 1997 season. Michael Schumacher took pole with Villeneuve partnering him on the front row. Damon Hill, in an Arrows which hadn't qualified as high as ninth before the Hungarian Grand Prix, qualified up in third place. The start of the race saw Hill overtake Villeneuve's Williams and on lap ten, the Brit overtook Schumacher to take the lead. Hill kept the lead for the final rounds of pit stops, but coming into the finale of the race, Hill reported that his Arrows was having problems, and in the end, Jacques Villeneuve took the lead on the final lap of the race and went on to win the race, achieving the milestone 100th Grand Prix victory for Williams.
After two very exciting Grands Prix, fans were hoping that Belgium would prove to be an exciting one as well. Villeneuve took pole position with Alesi's Benetton completing the front row. Villeneuve dropped down to fifth place, while his championship rival, Michael Schumacher, won the race with Fisichella coming second and Frentzen coming third.
Alesi got his first, and only, pole position of the season in Italy with Frentzen coming second. David Coulthard won the race; his second of the season, pole sitter Alesi came second and Frentzen came third.
In Austria, Villeneuve managed to get his seventh pole position of the 1997 season; the Canadian was partnered on the front row by Finnish driver, Mika Häkkinen. Villeneuve went onto win the Grand Prix with Coulthard and Frentzen joining him on the podium in second and third respectively.
The next race was the so-called "Luxembourg Grand Prix", actually staged at the Nürburgring in Germany. Mika Häkkinen, who had qualified second at the previous Grand Prix, managed to earn pole. Villeneuve, Alesi and Frentzen finished on the podium, making it, for the second time in the 1997 season, an all Renault-powered podium.
Japan saw Villeneuve, for the eighth time that season, take pole position. Villeneuve was disqualified from the race, after failing to slow down under yellow flags during qualifying. He raced under appeal, but finished only fifth. Michael Schumacher won the race, while Frentzen came second and Irvine came third. Villeneuve's Williams team dropped his appeal after the race, leaving Schumacher one point ahead of Villeneuve in the Drivers' championship, meaning that the title would be decided at the season finale in Jerez.
Some commentators recalled the 1994 finale, which saw a title deciding collision between Schumacher and Damon Hill. At Jerez, the qualifying session was noteworthy, as three drivers, Villeneuve, Schumacher, and Frentzen, all registered the same fastest qualifying time; Villeneuve was awarded pole position since he had set the time first; this would be the final pole of his F1 career. At the start of the race, Schumacher had a good start, overtaking Villeneuve to take the lead. By lap 48 Villeneuve was catching up to Schumacher and attempted to overtake. Braking later than the German at the Dry Sac corner, Villeneuve had the inside line and was slightly ahead when Schumacher turned into him, his front right wheel connecting with the sidepod of the Williams car. Schumacher retired on the spot and Villeneuve went to take third place and earn four points, enough to take the 1997 title. Schumacher was later punished by the FIA for causing an avoidable accident and was disqualified from the Championship, although his race results (grid position, finishing position, points) still counted towards his official statistics.
Drivers and constructors
Three new teams came into Formula One in 1997: Prost, who replaced Ligier; Stewart and Lola, the latter of which only entered the 1997 Australian Grand Prix after the team's dismal performance in the Grand Prix which saw a lack of sponsorship for the next Grand Prix in Brazil. Footwork changed their name to "Arrows" and switched from the Hart engines used the previous year to Yamaha engines. Tyrrell changed their engines as well, swapping the Yamaha engines in preference to the Ford engines. Jordan-Peugeot signed up highly-rated British engineer, Dr. John Davis. He helped the team with its new windtunnel facility at Brackley, the tunnel itself was funded by Ferrari inexchange for Eddie Irvine who moved to Ferrari the previous year.
- Notable changes
- Arrows: The biggest news at the beginning of the 1997 season was Damon Hill, 1996 champion, being dropped by Williams in preference to Heinz-Harald Frentzen, Hill was partnered with Brazilian Pedro Diniz, whose sponsorship money helped pay the World Champion's wages.
- Williams: The Champion team dismissed the 1996 World Champion, Hill, employed Heinz-Harald Frentzen, the German who the team wanted in last years since the death of Ayrton Senna.
- Prost (ex-Ligier): Reliant on their Japanese engine partners Mugen-Honda, Shinji Nakano, a Japanese driver, joined Prost to partner Olivier Panis for the season; Nakano replaced Diniz who went to Arrows.
- Sauber: Sauber beat Ferrari to the signing of Nicola Larini; the Italian was linked with the vacant test driver's seat at Ferrari.
- Jordan: The Irish team changed their driver line-up for 1997. Ralf Schumacher, Michael's younger brother, was given the team leader's seat; he was rumoured to be partnered with Nigel Mansell, but the 1992 champion rejected the offer. Instead, Jordan went for Giancarlo Fisichella, who had raced for the Alfa Romeo factory team in the International Touring Car Championship the previous year. Rubens Barrichello went to a new team, Stewart Grand Prix.
- Minardi: Minardi ran Italian rising star Jarno Trulli alongside Ukyo Katayama for the 1997 season. The announcement filled the final seat in the 1997 Formula 1 World Championship. The decision was made after Minardi released promising Italian Giancarlo Fisichella from his contract so that he could join Jordan. Having signed Ukyo Katayama, and his Mild Seven sponsorship, for one seat, owner Giancarlo Minardi felt that his team needed a young Italian and Trulli was the obvious choice for Minardi.
- Ferrari: Schumacher and Irvine
- Benetton: Berger and Alesi. And, with Austria signing a new five-year deal to host a Grand Prix, the country needed a new driver to cheer, as Karl Wendlinger was no longer fit to drive a Formula One car and Gerhard Berger planning to retire at the end of the season, Benetton came up with an answer, Alexander Wurz; the young Austrian would become Benetton's test driver.
- McLaren: Häkkinen and Coulthard
1997 Constructors Championship final standings
|12||MasterCard Lola-Ford||T97/30||Ford EC4||B|
1997 Drivers Championship final standings
- Michael Schumacher was disqualified due to dangerous driving in the European GP, where he caused an avoidable collision with Villeneuve. Thus, he was excluded from the championship standings
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