Girish Mahajan

1997 Argentine Grand Prix

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Date  13 April 1997
Course length  4.259 km (2.646 mi)
1997 Argentine Grand Prix
Official name  XX Gran Premio Marlboro de la Republica Argentina
Location  Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Course  Permanent Racing Facility
Distance  72 laps, 306.648 km (190.542 mi)

The 1997 Argentine Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held at Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 13 April 1997. It was the third race of the 1997 Formula One season and the 600th World Championship event. The 72-lap race was won by Williams driver Jacques Villeneuve after he started from pole position. Eddie Irvine finished second for the Ferrari team and Jordan driver Ralf Schumacher came in third.

Contents

Pre-Race

Most of the talk before the grand prix was about Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Eddie Irvine and their poor starts to the season. Despite going out of business, Lola Team Principal Eric Broadley was confident that the team could be up and running again by the San Marino Grand Prix, albeit with a new main sponsor. The Tyrrell team also caused a stir after arriving at the grand prix with four new wings on the car, two on the nose cone, the other two alongside the drivers head. They resembled x-wings and this was soon used as their nickname. The practice session bought no surprises with the two Williams cars first and second.

Qualifying

As with the practice session, both Williams were once again on the front row, with Jacques Villeneuve on pole. The first real surprise of the weekend was the performance of Olivier Panis in the Prost, who managed to qualify third on the grid. Another strong performance was the fifth place of Rubens Barrichello in the Stewart. As expected, both McLarens qualified low down the field, complaining of poor handling on the bumpy surface. Interestingly, slowest qualifier Pedro Diniz's lap time would have still been comfortably fast enough to have put him on pole for the previous year's race.

Race

As the red lights went out, Jacques Villeneuve cleanly navigated the first corner and began to pull away from the other front runners. Michael Schumacher (who was unsighted by oil from Frentzen's car) almost collided with Panis, but the Frenchman moved off line to drop a few places rather than to collide with the Ferrari. Going into the first corner, Michael Schumacher was alongside his teammate Irvine and Rubens Barrichello. However, Michael then understeered and crashed into the back of Barrichello's car causing the Brazilian to spin and getting himself to retire. Barrichello would eventually change his front nose and get going again. But in the melee, Coulthard crashed into the back of Ralf Schumacher's Jordan, ripping of his front wheel and putting him out of the race. The track was unpassable with the back of the field taking to the grass to get round the incident, so the Safety Car was called out. At the restart after 4 laps, Villeneuve once again pulled away from Frentzen and Panis, but Frentzen's race ended on lap 6 with throttle problems. The chance of victory for Prost ended on lap 18, also with throttle problems. On lap 24 the two Jordans collided with Giancarlo Fisichella retiring from the race. Hill, who was up to 4th at one point, retired with engine failure on lap 33. Although in the final few laps Irvine closed the gap to Villeneuve, the Canadian held tight and went on to win his sixth career grand prix. Irvine finished second, the highest finish of his career at that point, with Ralf Schumacher scoring his first podium in third.

Post-race

The talk before the race was on the futures of both Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Eddie Irvine, but both were reassured after the race. A strong performance from the German improved the relationship with Williams, while the second from Irvine meant the Italian press no longer called for his sacking.

There were rumours of discontent in the Jordan camp as both cars collided and the team did not go to the pit wall to celebrate Ralf Schumacher's podium but the team claimed this was done out of superstition after Rubens Barrichello narrowly lost 3rd place at the 1995 Hungarian Grand Prix, although in later races the team were shown awaiting their cars on pit wall if they were in the top 3.

On the podium the organisers mistakenly flew the Irish flag instead of the Union Jack, as was usually displayed, for Eddie Irvine. Although Irvine himself, being from Northern Ireland, identifies himself as being Irish despite holding a British passport, his parents' house in County Down was targeted by loyalists as they felt they had been betrayed by the Ferrari driver.

Championship standings after the race

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
  • References

    1997 Argentine Grand Prix Wikipedia


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