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Reflections on the European Grand Prix

28 October 1997

Andrew Frankl
European Bureau Chief

Oh dear! What can I say after sticking my neck out and hoping for a Ferrari victory?! Not a lot really. The guy got it wrong, drove into his only rival and to top it all claimed innocence! Wow! That, as the saying goes is just a little bit rich.

Certainly as far as the British daily papers are concerned. Take the Daily Telegraph: "Villeneuve flavours success with touch of poetic justice". Or The Sun which had a picture of the triumphant new world champion: "You got what Shu deserved". (This paper can never resist playing on words..) Last year's champion Damon Hill was equally scathing: "I said before the race I didn't think Michael could afford to take Jacques off because it would tarnish his image. But what he did here underlines in people's minds just what his antics and tactics are. At least he is consistent".

Frank Williams, boss of the winning team simply said "It was Adelaide revisited only this time it was Jacques and not Damon." And Jacques..well, he simply said: "Michael tried to take me off but he did not do it well enough." Astonishingly enough Schumacher was unrepentant. "I would do the same again". Asked about the crash he said: "a mistake by me? I braked at the maximum and he braked even later. He used me a little bit as his braking system." A bit strange and a bit sad really, in the days before on board cameras maybe he could have explained it away but having seen the replay 20 times there is no doubt in anyone's mind except his that he drove into his rival's car deliberately. Even the Italian daily sports paper had a banner headline: "Schumacher-what folly!"

So ends the 1997 Formula One motor racing season, a season rich in drama, rich in excitement.

On the plus side the biggest and in fact only injury was that of Olivier Panis, he broke both legs in Canada but was back in action a few weeks later.

A tremendous tribute to the new rules and regulations. Also on the plus were some sensational drives, especially those of Schumacher in Monaco and Spa.

On the minus side there were some boring processions such as the race at Monza and of course the unnecessarily dramatic finale just 24 hours ago. Now everybody will take a few days off, start meeting their new teams, their new cars and soon they will be back behind the wheel testing next year's cars.

The Auto Channel will of course follow all the off-season developments and will be back with you on the grid on March 8 1998 in Australia. See you there.