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Melbourne had it's fair share of controversy this year. Chris Richardson reports on the news and emotions from that weekend.

















Quote of the weekend

" I fantasised that I was at the front again. I saw a picture of a Williams on the big TV screen and I thought it was me, but it wasn’t......."

Damon Hill Australian Grand Prix 1997



Coulthard sheds a tear for McLaren

David Coulthard admitted to letting his emotions get the better of him after winning the Australian Grand Prix for McLaren last Sunday (9th). "What a fantastic start to the season and I must be honest to admit that I shed a few tears in the car on the slowing down lap." Coulthard who held a 20 second advantage over Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari after 58 grueling laps round the 3.274 mile Albert Park circuit also said, " Certainly having Schumacher in my mirrors for most of the race increased the pressure and I made a good start although Eddie came flying past on the grass."


Don’t cry for me Briatore

The last person to admit having a bit of an emotional moment was Jean Alesi when he won at Montreal in 1995. Last weekend however, after refusing to stop for fuel despite repeated requests by his team, it is likely that team boss Flavio Briatore will be shedding no tears for the contumacious Sicilian. Alesi said afterwards, "I lost radio contact with the team and did not realise it was time for me to come into the pits for refueling." Some find it amazing that he managed to ignore the pit boards for three laps at least, whilst others, seeing him talking furiously into his helmet as a crawled to a stop, plainly believe that it was a pretty lame excuse for his impetuosity. The collective pit lane remains in silent vigil as they listen out for the whistle of the cane as it lands with measured severity on Alesi’s backside.


Prost has a satisfying weekend

Melbourne (9th March 97) Alain Prost has expressed himself satisfied with the first race outing of the car bearing his own name after Olivier Panis finished fifth at Melbourne. From this base line, the team will be applying in Brazil the lessons learned in Australia and will be out testing at Silverstone next Monday and Tuesday. At Melbourne, Panis stopped twice and Nakano only once because the team expected the Japanese newcomer would be easier on his brakes than his faster and more experienced colleague. Prost said: "This is the best thing that could have happened. It is going to boost everyone's confidence, especially Bridgestone's who came away with their first Formula One points and Mugen-Honda who have worked very hard over the winter. Everyone has been rewarded by seeing both cars reach the finish. Only one other team can claim so much. As for me, it was a nerve-wracking experience following it all as team boss from the pit wall. I never found grands prix anything like so tense as this when I was a driver.


Stewart has mixed emotions

Jackie Stewart’s debut grand prix was generally regarded as a success whilst neither driver finished the race, Rubens Barrichello having an engine failure and Jan Magnussen suffering suspension failure, they were however classified 10th and 11th. "We didn't expect miracles," Stewart said. "We've been around long enough to know you just can't wake up a giant and beat him up. The McLarens, the Williams, the Benettons, the Ferraris, etc., have been at it for a long time." He went on, "I feel a mixture of joy, relief and disappointment. I feel emotional. It is quite different from racing and I have never felt like this in a car. I was thrilled with the team and thrilled when I saw the cars so close to the finish, especially Rubens. But the disappointment of him not finishing is much worse than anything I remember as a driver." Barrichello said after the race, "The oil pressure warning light came on and I changed my driving style to see if I could nurse the car home, but we didn’t quite make it. Running so well with both of us in the top 10 means we will get there."


Tyrell Unhappy

Everyone at Tyrrell was very disappointed with the team's performance in Australia and there is much work to complete before the Brazilian race. The biggest problem at Melbourne was getting the balance right on the softer compound Goodyear tyres which did not help their search for grip. The team will be attempting to rectify this at Silverstone next Monday and Tuesday. On Monday Mika Salo and test driver Takagi will drive and on Tuesday the Japanese driver will be joined by Jos Verstappen.


No action taken against Irvine

Track officials will not take any action against Ferrari driver Eddie Irvine, when his passing move just after the start of last weekends Australian Grand Prix, resulted in Johnny Herbert, Jacques Villeneuve and Irvine himself being put out of the race. The first corner incident has been put down as a ‘racing accident’.

All the stories conflicted of course with Irvine denying any blame. "I made a very good start and was alongside Coulthard at the first corner and then Villeneuve who moved over on me. I could have made the corner but I just needed the whole of the track." Villeneuve called Irvine's actions 'stupid' adding, "Johnny was on the outside and I was on the inside and suddenly Eddie, who was on the dirty part of the track, was there. Next thing I knew we were both out. There was no way he could have turned in. Both Johnny and myself could have made the corner." Innocent party Johnny Herbert called him an 'idiot', but was philosophical later. "...I saw this red thing behind him (Villeneuve). He was being rammed by Irvine. What’s the point of being angry with Eddie? It’s not worth it."


Frentzen gets an apology

Melbourne (9th March 97) Frank Williams apologized to Heinz-Harald Frentzen after his retirement during the Australian Grand Prix because of a failing brake disk. Frentzen said, "Frank Williams apologised to me immediately for the technical defect, he said I had done a good job."

Certain supporters of Damon Hill voiced their dismay that Williams had never given Hill the same public support. Said one fan rather ruefully, "Where was the apology at the first race in Brazil in ’95 when his suspension broke? Was there one forthcoming after Hill went out at the British Grand Prix with a loose wheel nut?"


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