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F1 Grand Prix Report: How Lucky Can You Get

30 September 1997

Andrew Frankl
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.