In the history of Formula 1, in just a few weekends, a level of tension comparable to that present in was reached Jerez on October 26, 1997, when Michael Schumacher e Jacques Villeneuve they arrived at the final act of that season. The German from Ferrari was one point ahead, at the end of a season marked by continuous reversals. The Williams, however, was clearly the best car and Villeneuve managed to make it prevail, thanks to the famous overtaking against the Kaiser at the Dry Sac curve. The Ferrari driver sought the accident, but was unable to cause the withdrawal of his direct rival, who remained in the race and took home the full booty.
Jock Clear, at the time a track engineer from Villeneuve, wanted to reveal the ‘behind the scenes’ of that incredible day on the official F1 podcast, Beyond The Grid. By a curious case of destiny, Clear – who has also worked with Schumacher in his career – is the coach of the son of the seven-time world champion, Mick, who has been working at Haas this year. Here are some excerpts from Clear’s long speech, which addresses various topics that emerged in those hot days.
“Villeneuve wasn’t very nervous. I am still surprised to remember that I wasn’t nervous in that situation either. I don’t remember exactly what the emotion was, but I do remember waking up in the hotel and saying to myself ‘let’s go and win the world championship’. I remember clearly saying this to myself and I know that Jacques would say the same. He never showed nervousness. I think he was very prepared for that day ”.
An almost lost title
“Partick Head says Villeneuve came close to throwing that title away? Surely he can say that there have been many occasions in which one could say that Jacques has thrown away victories or points, it’s true. But my thought is that that was the style in which Jacques drove. If we had told him to drive differently and perhaps he had been more conservative in some situations, then perhaps he would not have thrown himself into Turn 6 at Jerez. And we know what happened next. He certainly didn’t drive perfectly all year, but I don’t remember a rider in a championship that played head to head driving perfectly all year round ”.
The conspiracy theory
“My only fear was that he was starting to see conspiracy theories. That he began to think that the top of the sport wanted Michael to win. At Jerez we were the first to hypothesize every possible scenario for all the various race situations. Today everyone does it, but at the time nobody did it yet ”.
“Was there a provocation from Villeneuve? No. I don’t think he tried to provoke Michael. I’m pretty sure his thought was: ‘Michael will do it again’. He had no doubts that Michael didn’t have his own ‘ethical’ approach to racing. He had no doubt that if that scenario (Adelaide 1994, with Damon Hill) came back, Michael would do it again. When he threw in the car at Turn 6 he knew he would either pass Michael, or Michael would run into him. In his mind, Jacques knew what he was risking. People may say ‘but yes, Michael would have been disqualified’. If he had won the championship I don’t think he would have been disqualified. We were very calm on the pit wall. Frentzen was behind and joining Villeneuve via radio he told us ‘there are damages on the left side but it doesn’t look too bad’. His first comment was “Jacques won the title”, and we had to try to keep him calm ”.
FP | By the editorial staff
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