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#607 1997 German Grand Prix

2021-04-17 02:14

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#1997,

#607 1997 German Grand Prix

Mercoledì 16 Luglio 1997, Gerhard Berger torna al volante della sua Benetton dopo oltre cinquanta giorni trascorsi tra casa e ospedale a cercare di gu

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On Wednesday July 16th 1997, Gerhard Berger was back at the wheel of his Benetton after more than fifty days spent between home and hospital trying to heal his sinusitis problems with three surgical operations and contemplating at the same time his substitute Alexander Wurz surprising everybody with excellent performances in the three races run, culminating with the podium at Silverstone. His return to the track, however, was not the most welcome: during the test session on the Monza circuit in which Flavio Briatore's team also participated, Berger ended up off the track at a speed of 300 km/h. An accident that doesn't affect the veteran ex-Ferrari driver in the slightest:

 

"It could have been a bad accident, luckily I went on the grass and had no problems or damage. But it wasn't exactly an easy comeback. I've been in Formula One for a long time, I've seen and been through a lot. So I'm not losing my heart. I'm a racer and I want to continue this activity. Even though my contract expires at the end of the season, I have good relations with the team".

 

Then, about the rumours that he will be at the head of Benetton from 1998, Gerhard responded by saying:

 

"By the way, I've read about my possible appointment as manager to replace Briatore. No, I want to be clear, I have never spoken to the team about doing another job. I aim to race for another two or three seasons. Usually, in this period, you worry about finding a place for the following season, but I haven't had the time or inclination to think about it".

 

Not only Berger, however, ended up off the track. The day before, Michael Schumacher returned to the pits with his Ferrari on three wheels at very low speed: the red flag was already shown for Fisichella's off-track with his Jordan (accelerator semi-blocked at 250 km/h) when the German's Ferrari suddenly burst its right rear tyre, at a speed of 300 km/h at three hundred metres from the Parabolica corner. Michael kept control of the single-seater showing his usual coolness and mastery, but when he returned to the pits his face was one of fear.

 

The next day, Alesi too had to end his tests early due to a spin at the Ascari Variante, and like him, Ralf Schumacher also ended up on the grass. Michael fared better, but he was unable to complete the programme set by Ferrari for the day. The German was supposed to simulate a Grand Prix, and for this reason he regularly started with the car in race trim, but after two laps he saw the red flag waved by the stewards because Jarno Trulli's Prost had stopped on the track after spinning. When Schumacher restarted after a few laps, he was suddenly forced to return to the pits because of some mechanical problems. Jacques Villeneuve, on the other hand, was able to complete his work safely.

 

The next day, Schumi was again forced to stop due to the breakage of the new engine, which arrived the same day from Maranello. The German completes fourteen laps with the old one, then, in the middle of the afternoon, starts to simulate the Grand Prix with the new 046/2. But on the forty-sixth lap, at the Lesmo bend, he stops. And while many drivers complain that the kerbs along the track are too high, Ralf Schumacher sets the fastest lap on the fourth and final day of practice, smashing the circuit record. Heinz-Harald Frentzen, meanwhile, lashes out at the Sun's press campaign, as the English weekly, after continuous criticism of his performance, even goes so far as to suggest that he may be fired from Williams in favour of his predecessor, world champion Damon Hill:

 

"I can't justify myself all my life, someone is passing terrible gossip to that newspaper, and someone will have to pay".

 

The German driver thunders against the press. New accusations and controversy also involve Ferrari, after Patrick Head's attack:

 

"Ferrari has an anti-skating system that the federation has approved. In our opinion, it is not regular, but if they have approved it for the Maranello cars, they will have to approve it for us too".

 

But Ferrari's sharp response was not long in coming:

 

"If they are convinced of what they are saying, they should ask for a technical check on our cars. They will see that there is nothing irregular about it".

 

Meanwhile, in Paris, Alain Prost is threatening to abandon Formula 1 if the plan to transfer the team that bears his name from Magny-Cours to Satory, near Versailles, is not approved. In an interview with French newspaper Les Echos, the four-time world champion explains that the change of location is a necessary condition for becoming a competitive team capable of fighting for the World Championship. The abandonment of Magny-Cours, according to Prost, will not lead to redundancies in the team, where ninety people work, as the Frenchman wants one hundred and fifty:

 

"But if they get in my way I might abandon the project".

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A few days later, on the 22nd July 1997, Benetton makes official the engagement of the promising Giancarlo Fisichella for the next season, to replace the Austrian. The Roman driver's excellent results didn't go unnoticed and Briatore, to get him before everyone else, paid a penalty to Jordan to free him from the current contract with Eddie's team. Giancarlo Fisichella commented with satisfaction:

 

"I'm very pleased to be back in an Italian team but I'm also grateful to Jordan for whom I will try to get the best possible results in this championship".

 

There is therefore an air of revolution at Benetton, given that the situation of the other seat temporarily occupied by Jean Alesi is also being carefully assessed. Alesi certainly did not outdo rookie Alex Wurz in the brief confrontation between the two in the last three races. The likelihood of Wurz replacing Alesi as Fisichella's partner in 1998 is very high. But at this point of the season, there are also other hot topics to be discussed while waiting to leave for Germany, where the tenth round of the championship will be held on the Hockenheim circuit.

 

First of all, on July 22nd, 1997, it became official for the FIA to cancel the seventeenth race on the calendar at Estoril, an event that had already been previously excluded from the calendar because the required renovation work had not been carried out in the required time, and therefore the race had been replaced by the European Grand Prix to be held at Jerez to close the season. After that, the Portuguese government, by acquiring the track, had guaranteed the completion of the works, but by then it was too late and the teams categorically refused a readmission of the Grand Prix to the calendar. In any case, following the test sessions, a small alarm bell is ringing in Ferrari's house, given that the double withdrawal for mechanical reasons that occurred in Great Britain is followed by other problems, in this case with the engine and the gearbox. Hiccups that worry world leader Schumacher:

 

"I can't say I'm satisfied with these three days of testing, we wanted to prepare set-ups and check reliability, but instead we worked very little and unfortunately without positive results. We must continue to work hard, if I don't finish the simulations, the same thing can happen in the race, and in this way, the situation in the championship can change quickly. I am worried, but I hope that our technicians will find the causes of these troubles and solve them".

 

The situation is such that Ferrari continues to work at Fiorano with Eddie Irvine, who is busy with new tests until late in the evening.

 

Differently from Ferrari, McLaren smiled because of Hockenheim, completing race simulations without any failure and showing a very good pace, and Benetton itself, that together with Berger concentrated all its attention on the engine development, a crucial factor for the German track, that with its long straights will be a hard test bench for all engines. Once in Germany, it was Schumacher-mania. The tickets sold out immediately and for the whole weekend, a total attendance of about 300.000 spectators is expected. Dizzying numbers that motivate the German driver even more:

 

"I'm excited, not so much because I'm coming to Hockenheim leading the World Championship, but because I'm racing at home in front of my fans".

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For his home race, especially considering the problems that have surfaced recently, Schumacher doesn't want to take any risks and is opting for the first version of the Ferrari engine rather than step 2, which proved to be problematic during testing and therefore too optimistic a choice for a circuit like this. Eddie Irvine is of a different opinion, and perhaps not having any thoughts of winning the championship in his head, he told journalists at the microphones that he favours the new engines:

 

"Step 2 is more powerful and you need more horsepower. With that, we have a better chance of fighting with our rivals".

 

And talking about the alleged engine problems, Eddie is keen to clarify:

 

"It's not a problem of horsepower, but of how to exploit the ones we have. And in this we are less efficient than others. Each of the two engines has its pros and cons. Whatever choice you make, you risk making a mistake".

 

In the meantime, twelve step 1 and twelve step 2 engines are leaving Maranello for Hockenheim, after Ferrari even tried out a kind of step 3 engine at Monza, in which the cooling water works at 105° instead of 90°. But, finally, the team directed by Jean Todt prefers to be cautious after the double zero of two weeks earlier and, following the line advised by Schumacher, they leave the step two version at rest for the race, benefiting only in qualifying. The air of home is felt by Schumacher, but not only: the young Ralf prints the first time during free practice just ahead of Michael, on a day strongly conditioned by the rain, which does not allow the teams to complete their work programmes. And to those who ask Michael if the fact that his younger brother is leading the charts on Friday was done on purpose, the Ferrari driver, amused, replies:

 

"No no no, I didn't give him any presents, the credit goes to Ralf, he was the best, the fastest, the most everything. If anything, let's say he gave himself a gift".

 

Then, talking about the innovations brought to Germany, Schumacher points out:

 

"We didn't bring anything new, the car is the same as the one we had in France. The only substantial change had to do with the front wing, which I tested a few days ago at Monza, but I don't think it made any significant difference. We didn't even fit it in the rain, so I don't think we'll be using it in this race".

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The practice was enlivened not only by the rain, but also by some events on the track, such as Hakkinen stopping because of yet another broken engine, or Villeneuve almost being involved in an accident with the Minardi of Tarsus Marques. The sixteenth and eighteenth places in the Williams' rankings make it clear how little the times of these free practice sessions are indicative, although for the team of Frank Williams and Patrick Head it is shaping up to be a much tougher weekend than expected.

 

The next day, in qualifying, the present and the future of Benetton were on the front row. To everyone's surprise, Gerhard Berger, who was coming back, gained the pole position that had been missing since the 1995 Belgian Grand Prix, when he was still driving a Ferrari, putting behind him the man who had to replace him, Giancarlo Fisichella. An exceptional performance by the 38-year-old Austrian, who seems anything but close to retirement or just back on track after a seven-week break:

 

"With everything I've been through recently I'm happy. I am also happy for Benetton, which has been going through some very tough times recently. I know this track well, I have raced here many times in my life, I was calm, the car was going well, the engine was a bomb, and here I am. However, all this will not influence the decision I took to leave the team at the end of the year. My future doesn't change but I am happy that Benetton is coming out of the tunnel".

 

Fisichella missed out on his first career pole by just 23 thousandths, but given the way things are going he can't complain:

 

"Of course, I'm happy, or rather very happy, but to lose pole by 23 thousandths is a bit of an upset. I gambled everything on the last corner of the last lap, I had a little uncertainty and I went out too wide. Tomorrow I am aiming for the podium, even though my car is going so fast that I don't want to set any limits".

 

Giancarlo also received compliments from Berger:

 

"Well done this Fisichella, I think he is the best Italian driver in recent times, and I am convinced he will become a champion".

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As at Silverstone, Schumacher and Hakkinen make up the second row, while the poor performance of both Williams is inexplicable, since Frentzen is only fifth, while Villeneuve is even ninth. During the qualifying, the Canadian driver uses three engines and three different cars, even climbing on Frentzen's forklift:

 

"I wanted to see if things would have gone better with his set-up. It didn't. I lost a lot of top speed and I didn't do well in the corners. I don't think our car has got worse, but it is the others who have made progress. Now we have to understand what happened and try to make up for it in the race. All is not lost, let's hope for the best".

 

The Canadian's statement inevitably makes one think of Adrian Newey, now with McLaren, and the heart of the design and development of the strongest car of recent seasons, whose absence is already being felt after just a few months.

 

"Jacques was losing three kilometres of top speed, so we changed his engine, but things didn't get any better with the new one either. We can't understand what could have happened".

 

Explains engineer Dudot, the head of the Renault project. Patrick Head's nerves are clear and, surrounded by journalists, he refuses to say a word before leaving. It seems, however, that in a moment of outburst Patrick Head muttered half-heartedly:

 

"I don't understand, either I've become old or there's something wrong with these drivers'".

 

Schumacher, on the other hand, continues to express himself in a very calm manner when asked by journalists:

 

"The important thing is to score points and stay ahead of Villeneuve. If there's a chance to get something more, we won't let it go".

 

Even though there are five different teams in the first six positions, Benetton is the team that manages to place both drivers better and therefore, for the experts, it is the favourite for the race, notwithstanding the strategies to be undertaken - one wonders if it is more profitable to bet on one or two stops - or the choice of tyres, with Ferrari, Jordan and Williams preferring to use the harder compound as opposed to Benetton and McLaren who opt for the softer one.

 

All this, without forgetting the reliability factor. The number of the many pretenders to the success in Germany was immediately reduced after just one lap of the race. At the start, the top four positions remained unchanged. Fisichella had to defend himself on the first long straight from Schumacher and Hakkinen, but he took off deeply and kept the second place; behind them, there was a contact between Irvine and Frentzen coming out of Curve 1, with the German driver who tried to stay beside the Ferrari driver on the outside, without considering the logical widening of the trajectory that Irvine would have done. The contact caused Irvine to puncture his left rear tyre and Frentzen's right front tyre.

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Both drivers had to complete a full lap on three wheels, irreparably damaging the bottom of the car and, in Irvine's case, the side of the car, from which fire was pouring out as Eddie returned to the pits. Retirement became the only viable option for both Ferrari and Williams. A retirement that just wasn't advisable for those who, like the two protagonists of the accident, had to try to earn their reappointment for the following season. Frentzen, perhaps still in a state of warmth, did not want to take the blame for the accident and even tried to pin it on Irvine:

 

"I was on the outside, Eddie was on the inside and as I came out of the corner he pushed me out and I couldn't go anywhere but on the grass and we inevitably touched. Yes, I had problems with him a couple of times in the past, but that's not the point. His manoeuvre wasn't necessary, he has to understand that he doesn't ride alone on the track".

 

But the surprises weren't over: at Agip corner, Coulthard was the author of an excursion on the gravel, then returned to the pits at the end of the first lap and replaced his front wing, which was visibly damaged. However, having started from the last position, the Scotsman runs half a lap at reduced speed, due to a transmission problem; also for him there is nothing to do. After just one lap, three of the top drivers had already dropped out.

 

In the following laps, the first six positions were occupied in order by Berger, Fisichella, Schumacher, Hakkinen, Alesi and Villeneuve, but as it was already clear from the qualifying sessions, the values in the field were not the same as those seen neither at Silverstone nor even less in the races still before. Berger is constantly gaining on the others, running almost one second faster than Fisichella; Schumacher exerted a light but harmless pressure on Jordan, the same do Alesi on Hakkinen, while Villeneuve not only don't keep up with those who preceded him but is chased by Jarno Trulli's Prost.

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A situation that is, in any case, a stalemate, and the only ones trying to overtake were the two Arrows. Hill overtakes Herbert at the Agip corner and moves up to tenth position. Immediately afterwards his teammate Diniz tried to get rid of the Sauber but at the first chicane Clark made a gross mistake in the braking point hitting Herbert's rear axle. Both drivers had to retire.

 

On lap 16 Benetton revealed its cards: Alesi goes to pits, next time it was Berger's turn to leave the lead to Fisichella. Such a premature pit-stop can only mean a two-stop strategy. The Austrian re-enters right behind Mika Hakkinen, a not ideal situation for him who has to try to push hard on every lap, and having the Finn in front can cause him fatal time losses. Gerhard, however, was in a state of grace and had no problem getting rid of Hakkinen on the braking, a crucial manoeuvre that put him in third position eight seconds behind Fisichella and six behind Schumacher.

 

Between the twenty-first and twenty-second lap Schumacher, Hakkinen and Villeneuve make their pit stops. At the return on track, Michael loses the position on Alesi, who however will have to stop again, while Hakkinen in the meantime seems far from the exceptional race pace shown in Silverstone and has lost several seconds from what is now a close-knit duo in a tussle. Behind him, a large group of drivers, led by Villeneuve, gained ground dangerously.

 

Meanwhile, Fisichella slightly extended his first stint of the race, also because his tyres didn't seem to show any sign of failure, and the lead over Berger remained almost unchanged. This meant that when he came into the pits and then returned to the track, Alesi and Schumacher, although not far behind, were still behind him. It is clear that the two contenders for the victory, except for clamorous unforeseen events, will be Berger and Fisichella.

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The Roman driver now has to try to keep up with Benetton, to get back in front when the latter comes back for the second stop. In this scenario, Berger will have to regain his position on the track. Schumacher could try to re-enter the fight for success, but Alesi's obstacle did not allow him to push his Red car to the limit; the French driver also went wide at the first chicane on one occasion, but the Ferrari driver could not get through. Exactly halfway through the race, Berger is firmly in the lead with about seventeen seconds on Fisichella, then follow Alesi and Schumacher in pairs, and further behind Hakkinen, Villeneuve, Trulli and Ralf Schumacher, who is losing the confrontation with his teammate right here on his home track.

 

This group of drivers led (and blocked) by Hakkinen was further swelled when Jean Alesi pitted for his second stop; the Frenchman left Schumacher in the clear line but found himself at the back of the pack. Even with fresher tyres, the petrol just taken on makes the task of overtaking them quite difficult, if not impossible. Not surprisingly, the ex-Ferrarista will remain stuck behind Ralf Schumacher until the chequered flag, but fortunately for him, he will take advantage of the misfortunes and mistakes of others to get back into the points zone.

 

The error in question saw Jacques Villeneuve as the negative protagonist, who ended in advance a weekend to forget in every way. On lap 33, at the entrance of the first chicane and in the attempt to defend himself from a strong attack of Trulli, Villeneuve loses the rear of his Williams and ends up in the gravel. The Canadian and the Williams see all dark again after the lucky victory obtained in Great Britain. On the same lap in which Villeneuve throws away a probable points placing, Berger stops for the second pit-stop: it is a crucial moment of the race.

 

The mechanics take 6.4 seconds to change the tyres and top up the fuel, an excellent time, but not enough for Berger to stay in the lead. Fisichella managed to stay ahead by a matter of tenths. However, the fight remained very open, because Berger immediately stuck to the Jordan's exhaust pipes and Fisichella, maybe a bit upset by the real possibility of winning the race, made a mistake at Ost bend, promptly taken advantage of by Berger who took advantage of the slipstream coming out of the chicane and regained the first position with immediate effect at ten laps from the end.

 

There begin to be some elasticity between the two as the gap fluctuated between two and three seconds. Then, at six rounds from the checkered flag, while he is speeding on the straight, the rear left side of the Jordan driven by the Italian driver was punctured by debris: Giancarlo managed to keep control of the car, but he had to run half a lap on three wheels to go back to pits; in the frenzy of the moment, at the last bend before entering the pit-lane the Jordan spin, and, consequently, the lost seconds increased even more. The tyre change took place regularly, but after returning to the race the car lost power, and Fisichella have to stop at the side of the track and get out of the car, as a victim of a substantial oil leak. It is a real shame for him, who went from a potential and fantastic victory to a sad retirement that he certainly didn't deserve.

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A little thrill also runs down Schumacher's spine, who at the fortieth of the forty-five laps planned returns to the pits for an unscheduled pit-stop, since, as it will be discovered after the race, he risks running out of petrol before the end because of a problematic refuelling during his first stop. Luckily for Michael, he was able to hold on to Hakkinen for a couple of seconds. Thanks to Fisichella's retirement, Hakkinen unexpectedly climbed onto the podium, something he had been missing since the opening race in Australia. In the last stages nothing else happened and nothing prevented Gerhard Berger from going to win a well-deserved success, his tenth in his career, which he had been missing since 1994, when he obtained his last triumph at the wheel of a Ferrari, again on the Hockenheim circuit.

 

On the stands the crowd is in raptures for the local idol Schumacher, more and more leader of the World Championship and author in his turn of another extremely consistent race that allows him to gain six points on Villeneuve, lost in the woods of the Hockenheimring. Alain Prost can also smile again, who places another Italian to keep an eye on, Jarno Trulli, in fourth position, ahead of Ralf Schumacher and Jean Alesi. On the podium, Schumacher and Hakkinen celebrate the thirty-eight-year-old Berger with a bath of champagne. Pole, victory and fastest lap, a better comeback than this Gerhard could certainly not have imagined:

 

"I don't know if fairy tales exist, but I lived one. I think I had a special force pushing me today, and I think I know where it came from".

 

Says Gerhard referring to his father, who recently passed away in a plane crash.

 

"At one point in the race someone in front of me had broken the engine, and on the straight the smoke was so thick you couldn't see anything, I almost had to stop. I must have lost four or five seconds. I thought I had lost the race and, to be honest, I was surprised to be so close to Fisichella when I came out of the pits. Then Giancarlo made a mistake at the second chicane and I managed to pass him easily. Today's performance shows that we have potential, in fact we have had it since the start of the season, but unfortunately because of certain dynamics we weren't able to make the most of it. On this type of circuit, the car adapted very well and we were very fast. The next race will be on a track with completely different characteristics, and it will be interesting to see how our car reacts. I think we can be competitive until the end of the season, and we can take more satisfaction".

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Flavio Briatore is also beaming, as is only logical:

 

"We had calculated everything with great precision. Gerhard had to come in according to a timetable and he has respected it in full. A small hitch in the second refuelling delayed him by a few seconds, otherwise, he would have been back in front of Fisichella as we had planned. Gerhard has been fabulous and I think that from today we will be back among the protagonists of the world championship even if we cannot aspire to win it. A success that was needed, we have shown that we are still up to the situation. Everyone was talking about a crisis, but the truth is that we finished a cycle with Schumacher and it took a while to start a new one. I think the future is on our side".

 

It is curious how the order from Ferrari to Michael Schumacher, regarding the lack of fuel in the tank, came only at the last moment. But Maranello team manager Jean Todt explains the reasons behind it:

 

"The fact is that here with these radios everyone can be heard and secrets are no longer secrets. If we had told them straight away, we could have given someone the chance to change their strategy and go one better than we did".

 

Even harmless journalists often manage to intercept the conversations between the pit lane and the Ferrari driver and those of the other teams with modest radio receivers:

 

"So we didn't tell him anything and called him back suddenly'".

 

But Schumacher is not entirely happy:

 

"I want to win the World Championship fighting with my rivals, I don't want to exploit their misfortunes and seeing them retire doesn't fill me with joy. Just think that I didn't know anything about Villeneuve. After the arrival I asked for the list of the first six on the finish line, they read it to me and I asked: Villeneuve? What do you mean, you don't know, they said, he retired a while ago. I didn't know anything and that's not what they told me on the radio either. If there were two or three races left I would feel safe, I know I could defend this lead. But there are seven races left and things can change quickly. But let's say one thing: this weekend we've been better than them, we've been faster and that gives us hope. The next few circuits can be good for us because we won't have to unload the aerodynamics like we had to do here and that means we can defend our advantage well and maybe even increase it. But don't kid yourself that the Williams will always be this bad. In Budapest, to give you an example, we should be favourites".

 

In addition to the second and unexpected pit stop, Schumacher had another bad moment during the race, as about halfway through the race the fifth gear of the gearbox stopped working. But the German driver doesn't like to talk about his troubles, and instead prefers to pay tribute to the day's two heroes, Berger and Fisichella:

 

"Berger was impressive and Fisichella was faster than me, he was great, he did a splendid race; it's a shame about that flat tyre at the end. When I saw him stopped off the track, on the lap after the finish I picked him up and took him with me. I think it's great for those who follow us to see that the drivers are friends, they love each other and help each other out when they can".

 

Mika Hakkinen maintains his usual cool head and says a few words about the strategies:

 

"I'm not particularly surprised to be on the podium, even if it's true that I haven't been there for a while. Hopefully, we can continue this result. For the situation we were in, stopping only once to change tyres and refuel was the right choice. Otherwise, if we had been in Gerhard's place, it would have been wiser to do two, as, in fact, they decided to do at Benetton".

 

Having snatched a lift from Schumacher to get to the pits (the German even got a reprimand for this), and receiving compliments from the latter for his performance, can only be a meagre consolation for Fisichella:

 

"I don't believe it, what happened is absurd, incredible. It was done, second place was mine and I felt calm and safe. The car was going well, not even Schumacher could keep up with me. Suddenly everything vanished into thin air, my happiness, the work I had done over the last few weeks. I am sad, very sorry. You can't lose a podium because you have a flat tyre. It can happen on the motorway, not on a Formula 1 circuit. And not when you're having the best race of your career".

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In the pits, Eddie Jordan, the team boss, tries to console him by shaking his hand, patting his cheek, and telling him that he will win in Hungary, in the next race:

 

"Yes, it is possible to win. And it is the conviction that allows me to overcome this moment, to look ahead. Here I realised that the car is competitive, that we will win before the end. We went faster than Ferrari, Schumacher always remained behind, a great satisfaction. In Monza, we can do it, maybe already in Budapest. But the right day was today, with a perfect car, a circuit that I like, a good start. Then the puncture. What did I think? At 300 km/h there is no time to think, I was only afraid of ending up against a wall. The only mistake I made was when I went long at a chicane, otherwise Berger would not have passed, even though he was going very fast. The first place might have been enough, but not the second, it's too much. A great disappointment in a great race. I was sure to finish on the podium, after Saturday's practice I had the courage and even talked about victory. I'm not a braggart or reckless, I understand when the car is going. And now it's perfect. After the puncture the car was touching one side, the suspension was bent and the gearbox pressure dropped. With the right tyres, this wouldn't have happened. I knew I could only afford one pit stop. And it was a winning choice, which was taking me to the podium. Instead...".

 

Finally, talking about Schumacher and the fact that he gave him a lift to the pits, he says:

 

"Michael is a gentleman and I think today I scared him a little bit. He understood how I felt and was the first to console me. But there is only one way to erase my anger: a win. And that must come soon".

 

Jacques Villeneuve, who in Germany added another retirement to his season record, the fifth to be precise, a huge amount if compared to Schumacher's two, who is now 10 points behind in the general classification:

 

"Everyone had already elected me world champion before the start of the season, but I knew it wouldn't be easy. And the facts are proving me right. Today it went badly, but it doesn't have to continue like that. We showed at Silverstone that in just one race you can make up the whole gap; ten points are a lot for Schumacher, but we can still beat him".

 

Yes, the championship is still wide open and any kind of reversal is still possible, but at Williams they are desperately looking for a minimum of consistency.

 

Davide Scotto di Vetta

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