EXCLUSIVE TACH COVERAGE
1997 Luxembourg Grand Prix
Nicholas Frankl Report 9-28-97 12p PDT
How Lucky Can You Get ?!
European Bureau Chief
There is such a thing as being in the right place at the right time but Jacques Villeneuve seems to be making a habit of it! Take the Hungarian Grand Prix - Damon Hill was cruising to victory when, with one and a half laps remaining his car got stuck in third gear and he had to watch the young French-Canadian sail past him to take first place and 10 very valuable points.
Then, a few weeks later, in Austria he had no chance of catching rising Italian star Jarno Trulli when the engine in the Prost car decided to explode giving the Williams-Renault driver yet another 10 points.
The icing on the cake came at this week-end's Grand Prix when his arch-rival Michael Schumacher was taken out on the first lap by his own brother! It was very bad luck indeed for the double world champion who had a one point lead going into the race. With little love lost between team-mates Fisichella and Schumacher Junior the Italian gave Ralf's Jordan a shove . This launched the 21 year old German into the air, falling more or less on top on the No 5 Ferrari and very nearly injuring his brother, whom he loves.
Schumacher Sr tried to struggle on but had to retire two laps later with suspension damage. This time it was not Trulli in the lead but the two silver McLaren-Mercedes cars. Not since 1954 has Mercedes-Benz been in a position to cheer one of their own drivers to the chequered flag and here we had both of them, just like in the halcyon days of Fangio and Moss!
Mika Hakkinen was cruising to the very first victory of his long career closely followed by David Couthard when ,within minutes of each other, both engines blew up to give Villeneuve yet another lucky win!
"The McLarens would have beaten me today" said Villeneuve after the race. "I feel great and I am sure Michael and the Ferrari team do not feel too good." An understatement if ever I heard one.
Anyway, with just two races remaining Villeneuve now has a 9 point lead. The Suzuka track traditionally favours the Williams cars so whilst it ain't over till the fat lady sings the odds have moved very heavily indeed in Jacques' favour.
Luxembourg Grand Prix Preview:
Hakkinen at last!
European Bureau Chief
Let us get one misconception out of the way at the beginning-there will not be a Grand Prix in Luxembourg on Sunday. It is just an excuse of a title to give Germany two races at a time when they have three top drivers competing-the Brothers Schumacher and Heinz-Harald Frentzen. Add to this the amount of money in Germany and the tremendous interest in Formula One and you have a perfect opportunity for making yet another fortune if your name is Bernie Ecclestone. Can't blame him really, they would not hold the Ryder Cup in Alaska either, sports promoters will always go where the money is, be it tennis, golf or in this case autoracing.
The circuit of course is not what it used to be, the famous 14.2 mile track is now a pale shadow of its former self with just 2.831 miles remaining.
With the 1997 season reaching a nail-biting finish all eyes were on Villeneuve and Schumacher during final practice because on a tight track such as the 'Ring it is very difficult to overtake just like it was last Sunday in Austria.
Well, to cut a long story short neither of them made it to the coveted pole position because the popular, long-suffering Mika Hakkinen finally did it. He simply pulverized the opposition to clinch the first pole of his long, exciting but so far not too successful career.
That of course is relative, lots of drivers would be proud of all his second and third places over the years but Mika is convinced that he is the fastest driver in the world and on his day few would argue with him. Still, a few days ago he was in the lead in Austria from the start only to have his engine expire a mile or two down the road.
Michael Schumacher had yet another miserable day, he ended up in fifth position on the third row of the grid, behind not just Hakkinen but Villeneuve, Frentzen and Fisichella as well. It will take a miracle for him to get past Frentzen who has personal as well as professional reasons for holding him up as long as possible.
Readers with long memories will remember that Mrs Schumacher was Heinz-Harald's girlfriend before she moved on.. David Coulthard seems to be a new man since Ron Dennis renewed his contract for 1998 and is confident of victory.
The race will be over 67 laps which is equivalent to 305 kilometres.
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