F1: Most controversial crashes of all-time
#4 Michael Schumacher & Jacques Villeneuve (Europe 1997)
The drama began even before the race started, with the two title rivals and Villeneuve’s Williams teammate Heinz-Harald Frentzen all setting identical times to the thousandth of a second in F1’s closest ever qualifying session.
That is a phenomenon that hadn’t occurred before, nor has it since. Due to the lap times of the top 3 being the same, the order in which they set them determined the starting grid and inevitably, Schumacher and Villeneuve were on the front row.
On race day, Villeneuve started from pole but failed to make it count as Schumacher took the lead early on. The German retained the lead for most of the first two-thirds of the race but Jacques was catching the Ferrari.
On Lap 48, he attempted to overtake Schumacher and momentarily got ahead before Michael did something that has gone down in infamy. Schumacher swerved violently right into the Williams’ side-pod, broke his suspension and retired. It was a desperate tactical gamble that didn’t pay off, as Villeneuve’s car was still race-worthy.
Villeneuve ended up getting third place and secured his sole F1 title. The FIA later gave Schumacher one of the most severe penalties they have ever handed out, disqualification from not just the race, but the whole ’97 season. This was undoubtedly the lowest point in the German’s otherwise stellar career.
If you want to hear what happened from Villeneuve's perspective, and for more info on the 1997 F1 season, check this out from the F1 YouTube channel:
But this wasn’t the first time that Schumacher had garnered controversy in a title fight…