1997 Spanish Grand Prix
This classic Spanish Grand Prix is memorable for the great performance of Olivier Panis, starting from 12th on the grid, and finishing 2nd closing on the leader Jacques Villeneuve by 1.5 to 2 seconds per lap at the end of the race.
Michael Schumacher got off to a great start; having started 7th, he ended the first lap in 2nd position, and was challenging Villeneuve (who was in the Williams) for the lead. However, Schumacher, in the spare Ferrari, was unable to stay with the leader and was starting to slow the cars behind him. By lap 13, the gap between him and Villeneuve was approximately 20 seconds, and a train of cars consisting to David Coulthard, Jean Alesi, Mika Häkkinen, Heinz-Harald Frentzen, and Johnny Herbert was behind him. His lap-times were approximately 1:26 while Villeneuve's was 1:22.
In this high tyre wearing race, especially for the Goodyear tyres, the first pit stops started at approximately lap 14, with the final one being on lap 25, which was Olivier Panis, in his finely balanced Prost with Bridgestone tyres. Soon after, beginning from lap 29, three stop runners were starting to pit for the 2nd time. This enabled Panis to gain positions, and by lap 34, he was 4th, and closing on Alesi and Coulthard who were 2nd and 3rd respectively. Soon after, Panis overtook Coulthard, who was on inferior Goodyear tyres, in a fine move on the approach to turn 1. Panis managed to jump to 2nd place ahead of Alesi in the pits.
Panis was gaining on the leader, Villeneuve, taking approximately 1.5 seconds per lap off the leader. By the end of lap 49, the gap was 10.8 seconds, down on the 13 second gap at the end of lap 47. However, during lap 50, Panis was held up by traffic, firstly Ralf Schumacher's Jordan and then the Ferrari of Eddie Irvine. With marshalls not waving the blue flags, Irvine failed to let Panis through, and thus allowing Jean Alesi and Michael Schumacher to catch him up. When Irvine finally yielded on lap 57, Panis's race was ruined, and the gap between him and Villeneuve was back up to 16.1 seconds. Irvine would later get a stop-go penalty for his actions. After Panis cleared the traffic, he was lapping 1.5 to 2 seconds faster than the leader and managed to close the gap to less than 6 seconds by the end of the race but it was too late and Villeneuve took his 3rd victory of the season.
This was Panis's final podium finish in Formula One. It was also a very rare occurrence of an all-French speaking podium.
Standings after Grand Prix
- Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.
- BBC. "Classic Spanish GP". Archived from the original on 8 May 2009. Retrieved 7 May 2009.
- Murray Walker, Martin Brundle (Commentators) (1997). ITV F1 - Spanish Grand Prix (Television). Barcelona, Spain: ITV.
- Formula 1.com. "1997 Spanish Grand Prix". Archived from the original on 2009-05-11. Retrieved 2009-05-07.
1997 Monaco Grand Prix
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1997 Canadian Grand Prix
1996 Spanish Grand Prix
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1998 Spanish Grand Prix