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How Jacques Villeneuve Overcame Michael Schumacher and Ferrari Ally’s Cheap Tactics to Win 1997 Title

Aishwary Gaonkar

How Jacques Villeneuve Overcame Michael Schumacher and Ferrari Ally’s Cheap Tactics to Win 1997 Title

The 1997 championship finale at Jerez became one of the most controversial championship decider races with Michael Schumacher’s disqualification for causing a collision with Williams’ Jacques Villeneuve. The German driver, looking for his third and Ferrari’s first drivers’ championship in 18 years, was desperate to clinch the title that season. However, Villeneuve posed a strong fight and was only one point behind Schumacher going into Jerez, setting up a blockbuster finale.

Now, Villeneuve was quite wary of Schumacher being an aggressive driver in crucial moments in the championship decider races. In the ‘Greatest Races’ feature for F1 TV, the Canadian highlighted his fear of Schumacher deploying his arguably ‘dirty tactics’ of crashing his rival out of the race to win the championship.

Villeneuve said, “I was aware like everybody else on how he had won a few other championships, mainly against Damon by putting Damon in the wall. We were aware that something like that would happen. And the only fight we could have was to make sure everybody else was aware to try and block Michael from doing that”.

The former Williams driver referred to Schumacher’s controversial incident with Damon Hill at the 1994 season finale in Adelaide. Back then too, the German driver had a one-point lead before the final race.

The parallels of Adelaide 1994 and Jerez 1997

When Hill attacked him to take the race lead in Adelaide, Schumacher turned into him and went airborne, while damaging the suspension on Hill’s car. As both of them retired from the race, Schumacher won his maiden F1 title. Thus, Villeneuve foreshadowed how the Ferrari man could pull off a similar move on him at Jerez.

And the Canadian’s fear came true in the 1997 European Grand Prix. After having a poor race start, Villeneuve was chasing Schumacher for the lead. After multiple stops for fuel and tires, when he finally came close in the final stint, Schumacher was caught off guard.

As Villeneuve dived down the inside at the Dry Sac corner, the Ferrari driver aggressively turned in to get back at his rival. However, in turn, he damaged his car and went on to beach it in the gravel trap on the outside.

This led to Schumacher having to retire from the Grand Prix and also face disqualification from the championship, leaving Villeneuve to clinch the title unopposed. However, this wasn’t the only ‘dirty’ tactic by Ferrari that weekend against Villeneuve.

How Villeneuve had to face several blocking tactics from Ferrari in the 1997 finale weekend

Before the main race, Jacques Villeneuve was also blocked by Schumacher’s teammate Eddie Irvine during practice. The Canadian referred to this move as purely annoying and psychological from Ferrari to get under his skin in the F1 TV feature. However, it did rattle him back then as the Williams driver had an altercation with Irvine after the session.

During the race, even Sauber Ferrari’s Norberto Fontana blocked Villeneuve when the latter was trying to lap him. Villeneuve recalled this and highlighted how Fontana came clean later about why he had to block the Williams car.

Apparently, Ferrari had instigated this and asked their customer team to block Villeneuve and stall him from catching Schumacher. They were coercing Fontana to do this or else he won’t keep his seat.

Post this, Villeneuve did expect Schumacher to pull off something whenever he got the chance to attack the German. However, when the Williams man actually went for the pass, he did not immediately realize that Schumacher had turned in, as the latter was in his blind spot on the outside.

As mentioned earlier, Schumacher faced a DNF and a disqualification. However, even Villeneuve had to nurse his car due to some damage he picked up during that collision. Eventually, he had to let the McLaren duo of Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard pass him but held on to P3 and got enough points to win the 1997 championship.

Post Edited By:Vidit Dhawan

About the author

Aishwary Gaonkar

Aishwary Gaonkar


Aishwary Gaonkar is the F1 Editor at The SportsRush. Having written over 757 articles about different aspects of the sport, Aishwary passionately likes to dive deep into the intricacies of the on-track events. He has been an avid F1 fan since the 2011 season, amid Sebastian Vettel's dominance. Besides the 4-time champion, he also likes Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Among the current drivers, he thinks Charles Leclerc and Oscar Piastri have championship-winning caliber. Longing for a Ferrari world championship, Aishwary is also a fan of Aston Martin's underdog story and their bid to win the F1 championship. Other than F1, he follows tennis and cricket too.

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