Video: 1997 European GP qualifying: Is this the craziest moment in Formula 1 history?
On 25th October 1997, the qualifying session for the European Grand Prix took place at the Circuito Permanente de Spain, Jerez. What is it so unique about the ’97 European Grand Prix that the qualifying session is remembered more than the actual race?
Even in 1997, the timekeeping was accurate enough to measure lap times up to a thousandth of a second. The results of the qualifying session of the Grand Prix were Jacques Villeneuve securing the pole position followed by Ferrari’s Michael Schumacher and in third place, Williams Renault’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
What makes this qualifying round stand out is the fact that the time set by the three drivers was identical to a thousandth of a second. Jacques Villeneuve set the reference time in the one hour, 12-lap session, crossing the line with a lap of 1’21.072.
Ferrari great Michael Schumacher followed with the identical time taking second position clocking in at 1’21.072, accurate to a thousandth of a second.
It doesn’t stop here, with the commentators and the fans still gasping for breath, Williams Renault’s Heinz-Harald Frentzen comes in third clocking in the ditto 1’21.072 mark making it a three-way tie between them.
Something that had never been witnessed ever before or might not ever happen again, the odds of three drivers finishing with the same time are pretty minuscule. The final grid positions were in order of the reference times set. Neither Schumacher nor Frentzen made it to the podium, but Villeneuve who started on pole position finished third.