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#605 1997 French Grand Prix

2021-04-18 01:00

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#1997,

#605 1997 French Grand Prix

Alcuni cambiamenti sulla griglia di partenza movimentano i giorni che precedono il Gran Premio di Francia da disputare sul circuito di Magny-Cours. Do

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Some changes on the starting grid animated the days preceding the French Grand Prix to be held on the Magny-Cours circuit. After the dismissal of Nicola Larini in favour of Gianni Morbidelli, Sauber was also obliged to find a replacement for the latter, given that during the tests made in view of the French Grand Prix, on 18 June, Morbidelli went off the track in a chicane crashing violently against a protection barrier, and in the recoil following the impact, the driver's left arm hit the steering wheel, causing a fracture. The accident, which took place at high speed (around 200 km/h), seems to have been caused by the fact that the wheel slipped on the kerb, sending the car into a spin.

 

The driver was first examined at the circuit's medical centre and then transferred to the nearby hospital in Nevers. The X-rays showed a serious fracture in his left arm, which prompted Ferrari (with whom the driver was under contract even though he had been loaned to Sauber) to have him transferred by helicopter to a clinic in Paris, where he would be treated by Professor Saillant, an orthopaedic surgeon who has been treating athletes in various sports for years. Morbidelli, however, will be out for at least a month and a half and will not be able to take part in next week's French Grand Prix. It is therefore up to the Argentinean Norberto Fontana.

 

Alain Prost, on the other hand, has to accelerate his search for high calibre drivers for his team, since Olivier Panis, whose accident turns out to have been caused by a broken rear suspension, is well but will be out for a while. The four-times world champion intensified the contacts with Damon Hill, but the penalty to be paid to Arrows to free the British driver was too high, therefore he had to fall back on the Minardi driver Jarno Trulli, a young promise strongly wanted by Cesare Fiorio, who in case he succeeded in getting important results could also earn a reconfirmation for the next season.

 

Jarno Trulli is called on June 17th by the French team on the circuit of Magny Cours for a series of tests. At first, together with the Italian driver, the Frenchman Emmanuel Collard is also summoned and he tests the car since June 16th. Jarno's debut at the wheel of the Prost turns out to be very good, despite his rather slow laps in comparison with the other drivers present, because his task is to get familiar with the car and with the Mugen-Honda engine. Minardi, on its part, replaces the Italian with another young driver, Tarso Marques

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Nothing to do for Gerhard Berger, who also in France had to leave his seat to Alex Wurz, who retired in Canada but was however the protagonist of an excellent weekend where he did not pay the price in the direct confrontation with the more experienced Alesi. Berger, on 16 June, underwent an operation on his jaw to eliminate the infection created by a sinusitis that had been causing him a lot of discomfort for some time. On the tyre front, Goodyear brought important news. Under pressure from the various teams that benefited from the supply of tyres from the American company, Goodyear worked hard to narrow the gap with Bridgestone, developing a new type of tyre manufactured in such a way as to withstand greater stresses that in Montreal had caused bubbles to form on the tyres, making driving much more difficult. During the tests at Magny Cours, Schumacher continued to run with the step 2 engine, while Irvine used step 1. The next day the Williams and McLarens, Jordan and Sauber were also on the track and Schumacher completed 96 laps simulating a Grand Prix without experiencing any technical problems.

 

The two teams contending for the title certainly don't stay with their hands in their hands: Ferrari arrives in France with a new front wing and the Step 2 engines ready for use. On the other hand, Williams looked at the future and announced the agreement for the supply of engines by BMW starting from the new millennium. This coincides with the abandonment of Renault, which will also continue to make its engines available in the coming seasons, but these will be managed and developed by Mecachrome, an activity from which Renault will in any case benefit. For the current season, however, the only change to be notified is the platinum head of Villeneuve; the Canadian must react to the trivial mistake made in Canada, especially to put a stop to Schumacher's attempt to escape, who seems strangely submissive on the eve of the French Grand Prix:

 

"We have tried some new things and there are others, but I don't know how they will go. For example, there's a fast corner where we're going badly, only there we lose three tenths of a second. At this moment I doubt very much that I can become world champion, there are ten races left. Indeed, we with great reliability, some technical improvements and a good strategy have done much more than I expected, and it's also true that Williams is more vulnerable than before, but we have two very risky races ahead of us. Because even in Great Britain we risk not to take points and then...we will talk about it again".

 

Meanwhile, Jean Todt celebrates his fourth year at Ferrari:

 

"I broke a record and I'm proud of it, I never thought I'd stay this long. But now I'm happy in Italy, and I hope to stay if they renew my contract, which expires next year. They were the most difficult four years of my career, but now that they are passing I can say they were good".

 

Like Schumacher, the French manager is also not confident ahead of the French Grand Prix:

 

"Williams always has the potential to win everything while we are still vulnerable despite having done so much, more than we expected. This is a circuit that doesn't work for us if it's sunny, but who would have thought we'd be leading the world rankings here?"

 

However, judging by the results of free practice, the World Championship leader appears even more determined to increase his lead in the overall standings. The best time of the day was obtained with the new engines, which this time do not have any reliability problems, even though the rain affected a good part of the teams' work. Schumacher justifies his best time with the wet track, and begins a sort of strategy that continues throughout the weekend, claiming that his Ferrari has very little chance of doing well and keeping up with Williams both in qualifying and in the race, as it is a difficult circuit for the Red, at least in his opinion:

 

"It was an interesting day, but we were favoured by a set of circumstances. The new engine went well, but I don't think we'll be able to be the best if the weather stabilises. It will be an advantage for us if it continues to rain. In fact, I'll do the rain dance, in the wet or damp we'll have a good chance of winning, otherwise, in my opinion, it will be difficult to even take points. And I wouldn't be surprised if I finish between fourth and tenth on the grid".

 

But Schumacher's pretext barely lasts a day, because on Saturday, despite a sun high in the sky and a completely dry track, the German brings his Ferrari, deprived of its main sponsor Marlboro because of the law against tobacco sponsorship already in force in France (it will continue like this in England and then in Germany, where a very interesting case is looming on the legal and laughing stock. The German Grand Prix in Hockenheim in July will be run without writing, but at the Luxembourg Grand Prix, also held in Germany, in September, the writing will be present), brings his Ferrari to pole position, the second in a row and the sixteenth of his career, as well as number 120 for Ferrari, despite the words spoken since Friday did not show any confidence:

 

"I'm a realist and I say things based on what I know, the knowledge I have at that moment. And the only thing I knew for sure was that last week, during the tests we did here, I was taking a second, or a second and a half, from the best. On that basis I said to myself: it will be difficult to do better, maybe I will do worse. And with that state of mind I went out on track. I did my lap and I was surprised by the time I did. But I thought: now the others will come out and go faster. And instead nobody went faster and here I am. I couldn't have predicted what I found out later: that the car is going better. I honestly don't know if the credit for this is the new wing, it might be but I couldn't say how much better it would have made me. It was a real surprise for me too but let's be clear: I'm perfectly happy with it".

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Frentzen's Williams (Williams, too, has a simple question mark on its side instead of the Rothmans logo) was placed at his side. He beat the younger Schumacher, Ralf, by six thousandths and Jacques Villeneuve by fifty thousandths. The memory of the mistake he made on his home circuit is still fresh in the Williams driver's mind, especially after the accident in the morning that affected the whole day. And the pole position of his rival does not help him to lift his morale.

 

Great performance for Jarno Trulli, sixth at only four tenths from the pole, and behind the other Ferrari of Irvine, who at the end of the session declares to be more than optimistic for Sunday, aiming without putting words at the podium. Words that contrast, and not a little, with those spoken by Schumacher, who remains on the same line as the declarations made on Friday, speaking of serious tyre problems that in all probability will materialise on the F310B, and then concluding with the hope that it will rain:

 

"The race will be a disaster and I say that with good reason. In last week's practice I saw that in race conditions we wear a lot of tyres, while Williams had simulated a Grand Prix by making just one pit stop. If this is the case, this French Grand Prix is full of risks... We chose intermediate tyres, neither too soft nor too hard. A prudent choice, but I don't know how it will end up yet".

 

Schumacher's words seem to irritate an already restless Villeneuve, who does not spare criticism for his team:

 

"After the accident in the morning I ruined my Williams and had to drive with the spare car for half of qualifying. But it is unacceptable that a team like ours does not have a spare car with the same settings as the first car. The mock-up wasn't even ready... the technicians didn't make the adjustments I wanted. I think Schumacher is too cautious in his predictions. Anyway, he went faster than I expected. Maybe it's the type of circuit, but the Ferrari is getting scarier and scarier".

 

Between errors and a consequent great difficulty in finding constancy, Schumacher's psychological games are perhaps further destabilising Villeneuve, whose race promises to be rather complicated. Whether Schumacher really wanted it or not, on Sunday morning rain fell on the Magny Cours circuit, forcing the drivers to carry out the warm-up on damp asphalt. In the early afternoon, however, the track was dry again, even if some sinister black clouds made one think of an imminent downpour.

 

Williams starts with the intention of making only one pit stop, as well as Benetton, while Ferrari starts with the idea of stopping twice. The house of Maranello finally brings the step two engine to the race on both cars, as it is considered to have reached the right reliability. When it was time to put on our helmets and get into the cockpits, it was clear that we would start with slick tyres.

 

At the start Eddie Irvine distinguished himself by moving up from fifth to third position and chasing Schumacher and Frentzen, who easily maintained their positions; Villeneuve, on the contrary, had to fight with Ralf Schumacher to keep the fourth place, managing to get the better of him at the Adelaide bend.

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An unhappy start, like the whole championship up to now, for Damon Hill, who went off the track at the first bend and was forced to go to the pits to replace his front wing. The race of the reigning champion can already be said to be compromised. The first part of the race was rather monotonous in the leading positions, as the first four drivers were well spread out among them and no one was able to worry those in front of them, a situation that made it clear how much progress the Rossa had made in the last few races.

 

In the middle of the pack, some battles entertained the spectators as much as possible, such as the skirmishes between Diniz and Verstappen, who ended up touching each other and damaging their cars; Diniz returned to the pits to unstick the wing that had slipped under the car, Verstappen a few laps later hit the wall at turn 8 and had to retire. The same epilogue for Mika Hakkinen, who was stuck behind Schumacher's Jordan together with Coulthard, before the Mercedes engine excluded him from the games throwing smoke and flames from the McLaren rear axle on lap 18.

 

Around lap 20 the times began to rise, and it was Schumacher himself who is the first to come into the pits among the leading drivers, revealing his and the team's intention to opt for a two-stop strategy. Immediately afterwards it is the turn of Frentzen and Irvine, who entered at the same time and avoided an accident that would have eliminated both, with the Williams mechanics risking an unsafe release. Villeneuve tried to do something different, but his longer stint didn't bring the hoped-for results, and at the moment of his stop he have to note that he is even further away from Irvine. Everything remained unchanged.

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In the following laps, Schumacher lost some time by lapping, but then posted a series of fast laps and re-established an advantage of around twenty seconds over Frentzen. The reason why Schumacher is actually pushing is the risk of rain, which seems to be increasing lap after lap, and which is putting all the pit walls in a state of apprehension, as opposed to the excitement in the stands, hoping to see some battles and upsets in an exaggeratedly flat race. Meanwhile, the rain arrived.

 

When the time comes to make the second pit stop, the indecision increases: wait as long as possible for the rain to intensify, for now still too light, go straight back to the pits and remount slicks as well as refuel, or try the gamble of mounting intermediate tyres? At the Ferrari wall, Ross Brawn and Giorgio Ascanelli consulted each other constantly, and they decided to let Eddie Irvine come in first on lap 45, opting for the more suitable slick tyres, and to leave Schumacher on the track for now, given the considerable advantage he had over Frentzen.

 

Two more passages on the finishing line and also Schumacher re-entry back for his second stop, leaving the leadership to Frentzen, who waiting on for another lap despite the mechanics were already ready to welcome him to the pits; on the other hand Villeneuve is forty seconds far away, and who knows, just in that lap a thunderstorm could break out and allow him to take the lead of the race. Faint hopes that do not materialize, because the German re-entry to the pits and give the first position back to Schumacher, once again undisputed leader of the race.

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Behind the leading duo, potential battles open up that liven up the final part of the race as hoped: Irvine struggles to get confident with his new set of tyres and continues to run on rather high times, so Villeneuve tries an overcut on the Northern Irishman delaying his stop again; moreover, Ralf Schumacher, Coulthard, Wurz and Alesi are all close to each other to fight for the points positions. Villeneuve's strategy proves to be unsuccessful again: Jacques returns to the pits on lap 53 just as the rain is intensifying, and it is no coincidence that Trulli tries his luck by fitting intermediate tyres. It was a far too risky choice at that point in the race, as the track is not yet suitable for that type of compound.

 

However, it is a track that has become extremely treacherous, as demonstrated by Ralf Schumacher's mistake when he went wide at the Adelaide corner in an attempt to get rid of Mika Salo and was nearly overtaken by Alesi; or above all the inaccuracy of his brother Michael, who ended up on the gravel at the Estoril corner risking a sensational silting up. With his heart in his mouth, Schumacher managed to get back on track, aware that he could not let his guard down even though his advantage over Frentzen was thirty seconds.

 

After that also Johnny Herbert and Damon Hill mounted intermediate tyres, at ten laps from the end at Ferrari and Williams pits they looked carefully at the times of these drivers to decide what to do, especially after the British driver of Sauber, by splitting, showed that now the track was sufficiently wet; logically, however, from the Ferrari pit wall, waiting patiently for eventual moves of Williams. The little experience in such conditions conditions conditions the race of Wurz, who makes his excellent performance of the day vain by going off the track and running aground in the gravel.

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His team-mate Alesi and Fisichella also broke off and opted for intermediate tyres. And to add to the chaos of the moment another imprecision of Ralf Schumacher arrives, who goes off the track, but like his brother a few laps before he manages to get back and then immediately starts chasing Coulthard, visibly in difficulty and much slower than the Jordan. Five laps to go.

 

Ferrari and Williams, fearing for the positions of Irvine and Villeneuve who did not have such an advantage as to be able to stay on the track with slick tyres and not risk being caught, decided to call them back to the pits, supplying them with intermediate tyres. If Irvine managed to hold on to third position, the same could not be said for Villeneuve, who returned to the track just behind Coulthard and Ralf Schumacher, who had already made their respective pit stops to fit intermediate tyres. A real disaster for the Canadian, who with a sixth position would lose another nine points in the overall standings to Schumacher.

 

The Formula Cart champion, however, didn't give up, he immediately found the right feeling with tyres and track, approached Ralf Schumacher and passed him; then, at Adelaide bend he did the same on Coulthard, who in the same juncture was also surprised by Ralf, able to exploit the situation to his advantage. The Scotsman found himself, despite himself, from fourth to sixth in only one bend; fortunately for him, Ralf committed another inaccuracy and gave free way both to the McLaren and the Benetton driven by Alesi.

 

The last lap is full of madness and emotions: Michael Schumacher can breathe a sigh of relief when he crosses the finish line first and wins for the second time in a row in the season, after, heedless of the difficulties encountered in the final laps, at the last corner he has enough coolness and lucidity to allow his little brother to split to go hunting for points. In fact, in front of him, there were Alesi and Coulthard in a tussle, and it was the Scot, in the attempt to defend himself from the ex-Ferrarista's attacks, who made a mistake and finished his race mired in the gravel, giving Ralf an unexpected but well-received point.

 

In the meantime, Villeneuve continued to push to try and recover his position on Eddie Irvine; the two started the last lap with just one second separating them. At the last bend Jacques tried a desperate manoeuvre, but he lost control of the car, which skidded and hit the pins that mark the track and then ended up off the carriageway. Luckily for him, there was no gravel at that point, so the Canadian driver was able to restart and cross the finish line ahead of the remounting Alesi, keeping fourth place.

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For Schumacher this was the 25th victory of his career, on a par with Jim Clark and ahead of Juan Manuel Fangio, just to remind us how the German driver is increasingly entering the club of the greatest of all time. The most significant fact, however, is that halfway through the season Ferrari has already equalled the number of victories obtained during the entire 1996 championship, further confirmation of the Maranello team's extraordinary growth. Schumacher and Irvine joke on their big day. The two play and embrace, but perhaps the happiest is Irvine himself, who feels as if he has been freed from a nightmare. The two Ferrari drivers are in front of the cameras, when Irvine turns to his partner, who still doesn't look happy with his car, and exclaims:

 

"Have you seen the car we have? If you didn't notice today, it means you don't understand anything about cars.”

 

This is despite all the pessimistic statements made by Schumacher throughout the weekend. The German admitted his error of judgement, if you want to call it that, in the press conference:

 

"My predictions at the beginning of this weekend turned out to be completely wrong. But it's good to be wrong like that. We got a pole and a win, I'd say you can't do better than that! The way we did it, with no mistakes in finding the right set-up or race strategy, is the perfect way to win races. What a great day, for me at least: pole position and victory, more points in the world championship and Irvine next to me. Our secret perhaps lies in the set-up we chose before the start. The weather was so uncertain that it wasn't easy, but in the end we decided on a mixed set-up that would be good in both dry and wet conditions. That's what we did and it was a wise decision. We started with the strategy of only making two pit stops. And we maintained this strategy despite the difficulties that the water created. I know you are amazed that I predict the worst and then the best comes along, but this is not a tactic, it's just realism. Then there's the fact that the cool temperature these days didn't create the problems that the heat does with the tyres. It was simply a perfect race for everyone, from the whole team. The bad moment was when I saw those black clouds. I was wondering: do I continue? Do I go back in and change the tyres? I was talking to the pits on the radio, they were asking me, I was asking them. I felt the car was doing well and so we decided to continue. And everything went well. At a certain point I skidded on the smooth tarmac and ended up on the embankment, but I have to say that the sand at Magny Cours is the best of all the circuits because it is compact. Elsewhere I would have sunk into it, but here I came out of it and continued to the finish line. What is it that makes Ferrari fly now? A lot of things studied by our technicians. Putting them together one by one they have produced improvements and the car is now starting to go well. A few days ago I was pessimistic, it's true. But I admitted I was wrong and explained why. With the knowledge I had up until then, it was good to be realistic and maybe a little pessimistic".

 

It goes on after that:

 

"On Saturday, however, the Ferrari was flying. Maybe it's thanks to the new front wing? Maybe, but it's impossible to quantify the improvement given by a wing. Maybe that wing produces a better airflow throughout the rest of the car and that in turn generates many other small advantages. What I do know is that with this new wing the car felt better, it was more driveable, more balanced. Corner entry, for example, was much better. Maybe it's also thanks to the new step two engine? This was the first time we used it in a race, but it wasn't new to me. We've been testing the Step Two engine for a while now, but it wasn't what made us fly. Let's say that this engine now gives us an advantage of two tenths of a second, which is not a bad thing, but we can improve a lot more with aerodynamics. The most important thing is that we have achieved reliability with the step two engine. Ferrari is not yet at the level of Williams but we are on the right track. On some circuits we are very close to Williams, on others we are a long way off, but we are progressing very well. But now it's better not to talk about the title because there are still a lot of races left, it's too early. Right now I don't want to think about the World Championship, I prefer to keep a close contact with the Williams, to be always there attached or behind or in front, but to be close, to be competitive. If we can do that, towards the end of the championship we can all think about winning. The 1996 season was a half disaster: the famous black summer, a series of breakdowns and retirements that created a lot of difficulties and put us out of action. From this point of view, 1997 represents enormous progress: the real innovation for us is reliability. Today Ferrari has a really good organisation that allows us to face and solve problems better. When we have the new wind tunnel we will be close to the top of Formula 1. There is a new philosophy that Ferrari needed. One direction, one sure course, navigation without uncertainty. The ability to choose a path and follow it all together. The ability to make choices, to set priorities. These are important things because you work better, all together and without wasting time, focused on precise objectives".

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Irvine, on his fourth podium of the season, also expressed his joy:

 

"After two negative races, I needed to regain morale. I was sure I could get a good result, because in the last few days the car had improved a lot and I was very comfortable. In the final Villeneuve was threatening, the asphalt hadn't got very wet, and after a few laps my intermediate tyres had deteriorated and I couldn't drive as I wanted. I cut back a bit on the last chicane to avoid a spin, and I saw the Williams trying to overtake me. Villeneuve I saw him in the mirrors and I saw he was going fast, he was getting closer and closer, but what was I to do? I wanted to keep my third place, he was the one who had to overtake me and see if it was possible. How did it end? I don't know, I haven't seen him since".

 

Then a few words about his future:

 

"I for one wouldn't want to remain a number two for my whole career. I would like to go somewhere else as number one. But today it would be a mistake for me to leave Ferrari. Of course, it is not easy to work with Schumacher, who is a declared leader, but I have also learned a lot from him, so I would be happy to stay for another year, then I will see".

 

Like Schumacher, Jean Todt was amazed by Ferrari's performance at Magny Cours:

 

"I didn't expect Ferrari to be so strong. This is the result of all the development work we have done on this car. A lot of little things that put together give results. But now I have to say something I've been saying for a long time: let's keep our feet on the ground. We still have some new things for this car of ours. The Silverstone Grand Prix won't be easy, although I hope that the improvements made over the last few days will help us there. But let's wait. If at Silverstone and then in Germany we confirm these improvements, fine, then we'll start talking about the World Championship. But for now, we're still keeping our feet on the ground, even though I'm happy with a result like this".

 

Managing to get both cars in the points for the first time this season, but still coming home with disappointment written all over their faces: it's quite a paradox that Williams' technicians, engineers, mechanics and drivers are having to deal with, as they can now officially admit that they no longer have the huge technical advantage they had over their competitors in previous years. Ferrari has practically wiped out that deficit, and even has a considerable advantage in the standings. A change in the balance of the World Championship is also tangible in the words of Frentzen, who was surprised by the exceptional progression of the Maranello red car:

 

"I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw Schumacher pull away. I thought: he started with little petrol and therefore he will make three stops, but no, he was going like hell. We weren't at our best because we'd messed around with the set-up because of the uncertain weather. Anyway, it went well and I'm happy with my second place. At the start of the year it all looked easy, Ferrari had problems, we were invincible. Now the tables are turning, and on the eve of Silverstone, our Grand Prix. We took the bait for Schumacher's complaints and we deluded ourselves. He was bluffing and meanwhile his team was working on the problems. We stopped and now we are forced to chase. Our Renault engine is fine, but now we need to push it more. It needs a good evolution, otherwise, Ferrari will go away".

 
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Frank Williams also speaks, who very honestly admits:

 

"Ferrari's victory doesn't make a dent, it's well deserved. Our drivers had some problems. Which ones? Before commenting, I prefer to talk to them".

 

The Williams debacle has the puzzled look and stern voice of Patrick Head, the team's technical director and right-hand man:

 

"We don't know why we are going slower, but for sure we did something wrong in the set-up, in the strategy, at least Villeneuve. Frentzen had prepared for an almost dry track and he was right. Villeneuve, with his engineers, decided for an almost wet set-up. It was his choice and he got it wrong".

 

And he also has the voice of Bernard Dudot, Renault's technical director, who is peremptory in saying:

 

"We haven't given up either the drivers' title or the constructors' title. Today at Ferrari everything went well, chassis, reliability, drivers. But we remain ahead".

 

Jacques Villeneuve, dark in face in front of the microphones in the parc fermé, first waits for the verdict of the judges, who make him wait almost two hours before communicating that he has saved his three points and that he has not been disqualified for cutting the track on the last lap, then he tells the last moments of the race where he risked to retire again:

 

"It's true, I'm not satisfied, but honestly I don't think we could have done more. It went better than on other occasions, at least I bring home points. I fought hard and tried to get the podium on the last lap, I was much faster than Irvine and I had to try, but I spun. Luckily the engine didn't die, the car wasn't damaged and I was able to cross the line. I came back onto the track with a half-turn as I was in a dangerous position for the others at the pit entrance. I didn't know it was the last lap or I wouldn't have tried everything. Eddie closed me down, but the mistake was mine".

 

But Jacques also admits that he made the wrong decision when he decided to start with an almost wet car set-up at the beginning of the race:

 

"We thought it would rain more and instead the dry asphalt at the start penalised me heavily. The car wasn't going well at all. After the first stop we changed something, modifying the rear wing, but by then it was too late. The opposite happened compared to Monte Carlo: then we didn't expect water, today it only rained at the end".

 

He then concludes by saying:

 

"There is more pressure than before, it is obvious, last year we always finished first or second, now we feel the breath of the others on our necks. It's not us who have got worse, it's our opponents, especially Ferrari, who have grown. But there's no need to dramatise, nor do we intend to give up. Three points are better than nothing, the championship is still open. I have fourteen lengths of gap, a race and a half, the fight with Schumacher will be hard, but it is not over".

 

On June 29th, 1997, in the morning, at Maranello, the Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo talks for an hour and a half with the managers of the Gestione Sportiva to take stock of the work to be done to consolidate the successes on the track. In the afternoon, he visits the factory and congratulates everyone. Meanwhile, while the racing team returns from Magny Cours, Ferrari's test team is already on its way to Silverstone, where Schumacher and Irvine will do a series of tests ahead of the British Grand Prix the following week. They say from Ferrari:

 

"Silverstone and Hockenheim are the turning points of the championship. We have no idea how the car will go on these circuits. In England, as far as we know now, we should be weaker than the others, but it's impossible to say exactly whether we lose half a second, one second or two. We're going to do these tests to understand that and prepare for this important trip. In any case, even if we improve and manage to defend ourselves and keep our distance in these races, it would be premature to talk about the world title".

 

Forty-seven points for Schumacher against Villeneuve's thirty-three; sixty-five points for Ferrari against Williams' fifty-two. Ferrari doesn't want to leave anything to chance; is Williams ready to make a comeback?

 

Davide Scotto di Vetta

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