The day Michael Schumacher was disqualified from the World Cup
A few weeks ago, Jacques Villeneuve, former F1 driver and 1997 title champion, frequented MD in the paddock of the Italian F1 GP, in Monza, a circuit where a few days later he would ride the Alpine A521 of the last year in honor of the 25 years that its title will be on October 26. The Canadian won the crown with a Williams powered by a Renault engine, and for this reason the French company was going to put him at the controls of the car that Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon drove last year, with the Asturian accompanying him on an important day.
Before, Jacques, remembered for MD of this course in which he was champion. He remained on a precise moment which is already part of the history of F1: “Without a doubt, I keep what I lived in Jerez (European GP 1997), where I won the championship during of the last race. When a whole season’s work is done and you’re risking everything on a map in the last race, and on top of that after such a tough year, the energy and what you feel when you get there is incredible. I will never forget it, ”said the 51-year-old Canadian (April 9, 1971). Jacques refers to one of the tightest and most controversial endings anyone can remember.
This F1 European GP at Jerez was the 17th and last race of the year 1997. Jacques arrived with 77 points, one less than Michael Schumacher, and the two played him in a race in which whoever was in the lead would win the crown. It was only Villeneuve’s second season in F1, but he was already dueling without offending an already double champion like Schumacher, the new star of F1 since Senna’s death in 1994, who in 1997 was living his second year. at Ferrari. Jacques did not move his pulse and he showed it by taking pole right in front of Michael. They came out 1st and 2nd in a title-defining head-to-head. The tension was maximum. And there would emerge one of the most famous images in the history of F1, the accident between the “Kaiser” and the Canadian.
In the final part of the race, after his second stop, Villeneuve had 25 laps to catch Michael and pass him. He just had to stay ahead. He managed to reach him and what many expected happened there. Michael closed and they touched. “When he sees me on the inside he turns left and once he realizes I’m there you see him turn very aggressively. He then went into the gravel and got stuck. The next lap, I saw him on the wall with his hands on his hips and I remember seeing his face, his anger, he was sweating and Michael was never sweating,” Villeneuve said years ago for F1. Michael got stuck in the gravel and Jacques would finish third as the new F1 champion.
“Jacques had nothing to lose. He tried to pass me, like I would have done. I braked as late as possible, and so did he. I don’t think I made a mistake, ”said the German after the meeting.
Disqualified and driver training
A few days later, the World Council of the International Automobile Federation ruled that the incident had been deliberately caused by Schumacher in an “instinctive and unpremeditated” manner. Michael was expelled from this World Cup, they took away his place of vice-champion and forced him to participate in a campaign for road safety in seven European capitals, since the president of the FIA at the time, Max Mosley, considered that “a reformed sinner is the best speaker and Michael will have a lot of impact especially with young people”.
“I made a mistake. I didn’t want to admit it, but I’m also capable of making mistakes,” the ‘Kaiser’ later admitted.
“What happened on the Jerez track happened under the pressure that comes with a world title and I’m sorry. Now I have to accept the consequences and it’s not easy,” he said. added in front of hundreds of reporters.
“The last few weeks for me have been very difficult. Two or three days after the Grand Prix, I started to understand what had happened. I couldn’t sleep, which is strange to me. I am a human being, like any other. Losing second place is very hard. Watching the recording of the Grand Prix, I kept asking myself: why did I do this?
Despite what happened, the German would get out of this pothole. Then would come his domination at Ferrari, with 5 titles in red (2000-2005) which would leave him with 7 crowns as the most successful driver still today, a record he shares with Lewis Hamilton.
Success and glory, but also mistakes
His successes and glory remain above his shadows, though there are many to remember. One of them happened three years earlier, in 1994 in Adelaide Michael won his first title after a touch with Damon Hill. Precisely, Damon spoke after the accident with Villeneuve: “I said before the race that I didn’t think he would dare to try a maneuver like Adelaide’s, because his image would be very damaged. But I was wrong. In this, he is very regular,” commented the Briton ironically.
Those accidents aside, the day Michael intentionally parked his car at La Rascasse, Monaco 2006, to harm Alonso in qualifying, will also be remembered. Long before his two-race suspension for not respecting the black flag in the 1994 British GP. The champions are wrong too.
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