58 – 1997 European GP


A series taken from the 162-page Motor Sport special 100 Greatest Grands Prix (other specials are available here).

After a second season with Ferrari, Schumacher’s reputation was sky-high. While some could not forgive his title-winning chop on Damon Hill in ’94 he had driven with tenacity in the third-best car and now had a chance to win the title. 

Benetton wasn’t the sole reason for his success. Heading to Jerez for the final round of 1997 Schumacher led Jacques Villeneuve by one point; if he could simply finish ahead of the Williams he would win the title. Villeneuve, Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen bizarrely all set identical times of 1min 21.072sec during qualifying, but the Canadian would take pole as he had crossed the line first.

Vew this race on the Database

Schumacher seized the initiative with a fine start and led into the first corner, with Frentzen also beating his team-mate. After Williams gave the order to switch positions Villeneuve began to close in on Schumacher until, on lap 48, he was less than a second behind.

At Dry Sack Villeneuve dove down the inside, nosing ahead of the Ferrari. Schumacher hesitated for a moment, as if weighing up his decision before steering into the Williams. The two cars tangled, then separated, Villeneuve gingerly carrying on, Schumacher beached in the gravel, the championship lost.

The FIA stripped him of his place in the standings and although he kept his race results for the year, he lost the respect of many. Not even the best of his generation could get away with that. ACH

About 100 Greatest Grands Prix | From the editor Damien Smith
The Grand Prix motor races we can never forget…

This was a special one-off magazine, dedicated to our love of Grand Prix racing and produced by the same team that brings you Motor Sport each month.

It seemed a good idea: whittle down 107 years of racing history to come up with 100 GPs that could be considered the ‘greatest’ – then rank them in meritocratic order. By week three, the old grey matter was beginning to ache…

Defining greatness was the first task. There were the obvious races – the wheel-to-wheel duels, the comeback classics. But there were also individual performances of supreme dominance, races that might not necessarily have been the most exciting to witness. Greatness goes way beyond thrill-a-minute, we decided.

Choosing which races should make the list was hard enough; ranking the top 100 in some sort of order was even tougher, especially when it came to the crunch: which should be number one? We never did agree unanimously on the ‘greatest’, but if the magazine was to be finished a decision had to be taken. And that’s what I’m here for!

Will you agree with our choice and order? Probably not. But if steam begins to issue from your ears, take a deep breath. In any exercise such as this, there is no definitive list – because there can’t be. Our top 100 is based on opinion, nothing more, designed to be a bit of fun and to spark good-natured debate among fans of the world’s greatest sport.

You can download 100 Greatest Grands Prix in PDF form in the Motor Sport app.

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