A look back at Hungary: 1997

  • 26 Jul 2017 17:53
  • comments 1
  • By: Sam Gale

With the Hungarian Grand Prix coming up this weekend, we have been looking at classic races from the events past. This time it's the 1997 edition where Damon Hill hit tragedy on his way to what would have been an unlikely victory

1997 Hungarian Grand Prix

Heading into the race Michael Schumacher had a fairly sizable 10 point lead over Jacques Villeneuve in the championship, in a year where the performances of the two title contenders tended to vary hugely, not sharing the podium all season. There was also the quirk of this season of having a few midfield runners having Bridgestone tyres such as the Minardis and the Arrows, which worked better in higher temperatures, whilst the goodyears which were run by most of the top teams such as the Ferraris and Williams, creating an opportunity for a surprise result or two.

This sort of thing was expected to happen in Hungary as temperatures were high on friday so the Prost of Jarno Trulli was third quickest in the heat, with Hill in fifth and Barrichello seventh, all on Bridgestones.

Even so it came as somewhat of a shock when Damon Hill pulled out his best qualifying result of the season, helped by the warm temperatures and the fact that the Yamaha engine in the Arrows was not as disadvantaged as it was at other tracks because of the lack of importance for horsepower. The two title contenders of Schumacher and Villeneuve qualified first and second respectively, with many looking forward to the battle between the title contenders and not really factoring Hill as much of a problem, having only scored one point since winning the championship the year before as Villeneuve’s teammate.

The rising temperatures in Hungary meant that Hill felt that he would be in with a chance of a shock result, and Diniz’s fifth in the warmup session proved that the Arrows pace was genuine. At the start Hill passed Villeneuve for second with the canadian having a poor start and had dropped to fifth behind Irvine and Hakkinen. In the opening laps it was clear that Hill and Schumacher had the pace over the rest of the field but the tyre life proved to be poor on the soft Goodyear tyres. Schumachers tyres started to blister by lap six and fell back rapidly, inviting the rest of the field into the mix, with the top seven running nose to tail pretty much before Hill passed Schumacher on lap 11.

Schumacher pitted on lap 14 for new rubber and with Hakkinen retiring after a hydraulic problem and Irvine already pitting, it left Villeneuve behind Hill to chase the Arrows. The gap did close in the next few laps before there first stop, but it was clear after the stop it was Hill who had the pace over the rest of the field, beginning to build a huge lead on the reliable Bridgestone tyres as the Goodyears faded. By the time he pitted for the second time on lap 51 he had more than enough of a lead to control the lead, eventually getting it out to 35 seconds over villeneuve, enough for an unexpected pitstop or puncture. However with three laps to go problems struck the Arrows.

The Arrows had been a fairly unreliable car throughout the season but it had looked like any problems would be gone and the team, engine and tyre manufacturer would be all set for a famous first win. But a Hydraulic problem so close to the end meant that Hill rapidly lost time. He was stuck in third gear with a throttle problem meaning the engine would continue to cut out on him before sputtering back into life. On lap 75 he lost nine seconds then on 76 a further 20. Within touching distance of the line, on the last lap Villeneuve took the lead, after being outclassed by his former teammate all race. It was heartbreak for Hill, with the malfunction owing to a faulty washer that would have cost 50 pence. He at least managed to take second place as some sort of consolation, but scant reward, as it cost the Arrows and Yamaha their chance at a one and only victory.

 

 

Sam Gale

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