British Grand Prix
July 13, 1997 - Silverstone Circuits Limited - Silverstone, England
Jacques Villeneuve 1996 Winner
Villeneuve back on track
Canadian Jacques Villeneuve put his hopes for the Formula One World Driving Championship back on track with a victory in Sunday's British Grand Prix at the Silverstone Circuit in England.
Villeneuve was joined on the podium by Benetton Racing teammates Jean Alesi of France and Austrian Alexander Wurz, making only his third grand prix start in place of injured countryman Gerhard Berger.
Also collecting championship points were Scotland's David Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher of Germany and defending Formula One champion Damon Hill -- who earned his first point since sewing up the Formula One title with a victory in Japan last October.
The 26-year-old Canadian climbed right back into the thick of the championship fight with German Michael Schumacher, who dropped with 20 laps to go. Schumacher's lead in the points drops from 14 to four over Villeneuve as a result of Sunday's race.
Villeneuve's victory wasn't an automatic run from the pole to victory, as the phenomenal second-generation driver and his Williams racing crew worked through mechanical problems and benefited from another rough day for Mika Hakkinen. Hakkinen, the impressive Finn who is rumored to be losing his seat with McLaren after this season, was leading when his Mercedes engine broke with just seven laps to go.
It was yet another disappointment this weekend for Hakkinen. During Saturday's pole qualifying session, Hakkinen appeared to have the pole locked up when Villeneuve and his Williams teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen of Germany performed some late session heroics. But Villeneuve felt that Hakkinen was basically ripe for the picking late in the race, and he was confident he could overcome Hakkinen for the win regardless.
The Canadian ace is looking forward to the German Grand Prix in two weeks although he doesn't necessarily feel the Hockenheim ring favors his Williams racer. A month ago when Michael Schumacher won the Canadian Grand Prix, Villeneuve, who was knocked out after two laps, grinned as he said he was hoping to return the favor to Schumacher before his home fans.
Villeneuve said he was looking forward to the German Grand Prix in the hopes of winning that race in return for Michael Schumacher capturing the Canadian race.
Villeneuve's win Sunday is the 100th for Williams, joining Ferrari and McLaren as the only manufacturers to eclipse the century mark in grand prix victories. Williams closed its gap in the constructors championship to three points from Ferrari as the British racing team looks for its fifth title in the last six seasons.
The win is the fourth of the year for Villeneuve and the eighth of Villeneuve's two-year Formula One career. His pole start in this event was the ninth of his career.
Alesi came home 10 seconds behind Villeneuve to post his best finish of the year and his third podium of the season. The Benetton team used a one-stop strategy with both Alesi and Wurz, which seemed to pay tremendous dividends for the team.
Hill's finish drew tremendous cheers from the partisan crowd, 90,000 strong, at the track northwest of London. Hill's weekend was marred by an altercation with a journalist as stories continued to surface about the future of the 1996 champion with the Arrows team.