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Race Day : May 25th 1997

Cool Villeneuve Takes Reigns From Frentzen

Villeneuve Leads a Williams Front Row.

Jacques Villeneuve today established why he remains the favourite for the 1997 World Championship. A cool qualification where he waited until the closing moments of the session before emulating his former team-mate Damon Hill by snatching pole with an unbeatable run.

Initially it looked as if qualifying was in the hands of the Gods... rain was spitting onto the circuit and for a while there was a worry that it may become a wet session. As a result all the teams pushed their cars out at the very beginning of the session. Fortunately the rain really did stay on the plain. and it was possible to have a normal fight for qualifying.


The Cinderella story of Monaco looks unlikely to repeat itself. Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari was never at its best on this circuit and it soon showed an even worse side to it’s nature by blowing up its Evo-2 engine after just a couple of laps. Michael’s team-mate, Eddie Irvine, fared even worse by qualifying in 11th position. Having said that, Irvine’s usual position on the grid these days is in the middle of the pack. His race form, however, is a different story-he seems to achieve the impossible and is now a regular podium finisher. Michael Schumacher continued trying for a fast time in his spare car, but ultimately found he could do little to improve on the time he'd set early on. A disappointing 7th place means that he'll be lucky to leave Spain with a satisfactory result.

The stars of the last race, Stewart, were unable to show any promise today. It’s strange to see the car that finished the last race in 2nd come so far back in qualifying at Barcelona. It’s possible that the race will bring some good results, but it seems that the Ford power plant is unable to help when it comer to circuits where power is a priority. It's quite obvious that the car has potential - you only have to see the surprised looks on people's faces when they manage to do well. With a bigger budget the Stewart team has every chance of becoming a major Formula One player in the very near future.

It was interesting to note that the new Goodyear tyres have improved the situation for many of the teams. Teams, that is, that weren’t running on Bridgestone tyres. In fact, it was this factor which made Damon Hill’s position look somewhat better than it might have done. A dismal warm-up to

the Grand Prix of Spain had left the World Champion languish ing at the back of the field complete with a one lap penalty to be applied to his qualifying session. l5th place didn’t look too bad in the circumstances, and at least the Arrows seems to be finding some reliability. Having said

that, 15th ir no place for a World Champion and Tom Walkinshaw will have to work pretty hard if he wants to retain the driver in 1998.


Elsewhere the two Jordans qualified in ?th place... nothing to be disappointed about, but they’ll have to work hard to keep up with the McLaren team who improved on their recent poor performances to do well with both Coulthard and Hakkinen qualifying in 3th & 5th respectively.

But the star of the day was Jacques Villeneuve. His team-mate, Heinz Harald Frentzen had looked like the likely pole-sitter for most of the session. A cool and stunning drive by the German was better than Villeneuve's by such a margin that it looked to be his pole for the weekend. But Villeneuve came out near the end of the sessions and did exactly what he needed to secure the treasured pole position - he went faster than his team-mate and he transferred all the pressure across. His ability to deal with pressure and transfer it onto others is an excellent strength to have in a sport which can be as much of a mind game as it is racing. If he can make a half decent start on Sunday, and he's not been too great lately, then he has to be the favourite - but don’t discount his German friend...

David Coveney.


Top Ten Grid Positions:

1. Jacques Villeneuve/Williams    1 minute 16.5
2. Heinz-Harald Frentzen/Williams 1:16.8
3. David Coulthard/McLaren        1:17.5
4. Jean Alesi/Benetton            1:17.7
5. Mika Hakkinen/McLaren          1:17.7
6. Gerhard Berger/Benetton        1:18.0
7. Michael Schumacher/Ferrari     1:18.3
8. Giancarlo Fisichella/Jordan    1:18.4
9. Ralf Schumacher/Jordan         1:18.4
10. Johnny Herbert/Sauber         1:18.5


1997 Championship Contents

Formula 1 Contents