What really happened at the 1997 Formula 1 final
E s was the classic showdown. Man against man, team against team. On the one hand Michael Schumacher, who was to lead Ferrari back to the world title for the first time since 1979. On the other, Jacques Villeneuve, the Canadian rebel, who wanted to put the seventh World Cup trophy in the showcase for Williams in 18 years and to give the outgoing motor partner Renault a nice farewell present.
One point separated the combatants. Schumacher advantage. Both parties were confident of victory. Villeneuve drove the ratings up with psycho tricks. He recalled Michael Schumacher's foul at Adelaide in 1994 and left no doubt that his opponent would drive him into his car in an emergency just as he had done with Damon Hill 3 years earlier. Note: If both fail, Michael Schumacher would be the new champion.
That was the fuse. A secret pact was brewing behind the scenes. McLaren team boss Ron Dennis promised Frank Williams that his drivers would not intervene in the championship duel. The hatred of Ferrari welded the English together.
The hype surrounding the final race reached its climax when Villeneuve, Schumacher and Frentzen conjured up a time of exactly 1.21.072 minutes on the asphalt in the final training to a thousandth of a second. Pole position belonged to Villeneuve because he was the first to set the time.
After the last tire change, there was the first and only open exchange of blows between the championship rivals on the racetrack. Until then, the two had not even seen each other on the podium. Villeneuve knew that he had to take advantage of the new rubbers quickly. That is why he put everything on one card on lap 48 in the Dry Sack corner.
His attack came from an ambush. Villeneuve swerved to the right at the last second, Schumacher saw a reflex in the rearview mirror, instinctively pulled inward, and when the Williams was already lying next to him, the Ferrari driver turned right a second time. The right front wheel hit the Williams exactly on the crash structure of the side box.
While Schumacher slid into the gravel bed and dug into it, his rival kept the battered Williams on the track. 'I knew that he would do it,' teased the new world champion afterwards. 'But I would rather end up in the gravel than a second place.'
Villeneuve savedcrossed the finish line and let the two McLaren drivers go ahead on the last lap. A third place was enough for him. Schumacher only admitted his mistake on Tuesday after the race. Nevertheless, the FIA withdrew all points of this season from him on November 11th.
Our fictional Abu Dhabi final 2014
The finale has its appeal today as it was then. Because the two title contenders are so different. Lewis Hamilton's type is more like Jacques Villeneuve. An enfant terrible. What Hamilton is to his chains and tattoos, Villeneuve to his hair. He colored them differently every three races. In Jerez they were blond. Nico Rosberg is more of the model student. And verbally the same diplomat as Michael Schumacher.
Due to the score, however, the roles in Abu Dhabi have been reversed. Hamilton is Schumacher because he is going into the final with a lead. Rosberg is in the situation of Villeneuve. But victory alone is not enough for him. He needs higher powers so that Hamilton doesn't come second. In anticipation of a certain victory, Hamilton had 100,000 silver caps made with the words 'World Champion 2014'. Rosberg's crew puts on blonde wigs.
This time, accomplices and secret agreements with other teams are not enough. The Mercedes drivers are dependent on themselves. It will also be difficult to get Rosberg, Hamilton and a third driver - let's say Valtteri Bottas - on pole position with the same lap time. This time Bernie Ecclestone would really have to manipulate the timing. Rosberg definitely belongs to the best starting position because he drove the time before Hamilton and Bottas.
Hamilton saved three fresh sets of tires in practice, Rosberg only two. When the starting lights went out, Hamilton took command. He has a maximum of 4.2 seconds ahead of his competitor, who puts all his cards on the last section from the start.
After the last tire change, it comes to a wheel-to-wheel duel. Rosberg stopped after Hamilton, and therefore the fresher tires. He knows he needs to take advantage of it quickly. That's why he put everything on one card in the 48th lap at the end of the long straight.
At the last moment, he swerved to the left. Sorry, the curve goes to the left and not in the other direction as it was back then. Hamilton sees his teammate too late, instinctively pulls inward, and when Rosbergs drives side by side with him, the Englishman gives in again. His left front wheel hits the right side box of the Mercedes with starting number 6.
Hamilton cannot turn into the gravel like Schumacher because there is none. His engine just dies. Anti-Stall has signed out. At the Mercedes box one is dismayed. 'No collision please,' team boss Toto Wolff told his driver. And now that. The beautiful World Cup party is inBucket.
Rosberg has to be at least fifth. Just like Villeneuve 17 years ago. In the Canadian's Williams, the battery loosened after Schumacher's ram blow. It was stowed in the left side box. That is no longer possible with modern cars. There it is under the tank.
Hamilton initially blames Rosberg: 'He would never have made the curve if he hadn't leaned against me.' Rosberg becomes unusually clear: 'He did it on purpose.' A few days later, at the request of the press department, he will correct himself: 'Lewis did not expect my attack.'
Hamilton only admitted his mistake on Tuesday after the race. The FIA will deprive him of all points of this season at the award ceremony on December 3rd in Doha. Daniel Ricciardo finished second in the World Cup. And Sebastian Vettel has to cancel his vacation in third place to pick up the bronze medal.
Red Bull celebrates a double victory in Abu Dhabi. Because Rosberg still makes room in the last lap. Third place is enough for him. Arriving is more important than the sixth win of the season. With 347: 334 points he is world champion for the first time. 32 years after his father won the title.