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Race Day : July 27th 1997


Berger returns to trounce the field twice,

Fisichella sparkles for Jordan.

"Everybody knows the difficult times I have had in the past weeks and the only way to sort it out was to do a quick lap and that’s what I did today."

So said a 37 year old Gerhard Berger, the man who rode rough-shod over the opposition and then went back and did it again. His statement reveals undertones of the casualness of a true veteran and the sincerity of a man finding himself at the inevitable cross-roads of his career. Standing down to be replaced by the young driver Giancarlo Fisichella, it is ironic that the two strongest performances of the day were by the very same duo and the ‘Old Dog’, driving his first qualifying session for over two months due to a sinus infection, showed the young whippersnapper his back side.

Being Austrian is the next best thing to being German but this did not specially please the crowd who, baying and rippling in a sea of ‘Mexican waves’, blared their klaxons at anything red or yellow. The noise of the crowd erupting at the mere oscillation of the red-gloved wrist of their idol, Michael Schumacher, drowned the air compressors and the shrill revs of the engines being started for the qualifying session.

Early out and first to hang on to provisional pole, was Mika Hakkinen’s McLaren setting the yard stick of 1.42.5 and proving the strength of the Mercedes engine. The Jordan boys of Ralf Schumacher and Fisichella were mixing it well and slotted behind in 2nd and 3rd but for the briefest of moments when older brother, Michael, driving for all he was worth in a Ferrari that looked decidedly ragged and off the pace, snatched the Italian’s 3rd slot. This would rise to 2nd place before Fisichella’s Peugeot powered Jordan re-took and kept his slot on the front row of the grid. "I am reasonably happy with fourth place, which is what I had expected." Said Schumacher and this time the underplaying of his comments was absent. "We went better in qualifying than we did in the morning session. My closest rival, Villeneuve is only ninth and that is very important. As for any prediction about tomorrow, this time I would rather not make any."

He did indeed trounce Jacques Villeneuve by over eight tenths of a second which is considerably better than of late, both William’s suffering from bad understeer and leaving the team in a quandary as to how to rectify the problem. Despite valiant efforts from both drivers, the car just did not have the legs and left the Canadian trailing in 9th position with his team-mate Frentzen, for once looking a little more confident but still only on the third row. "We just didn’t have the speed and I was pushing all the time." Said Villeneuve. Having had to use the spare car for the tail end of the session, he commented, "In the race car with the same downforce levels as Heinz I was quite a bit slower down the straight"

David Coulthard could not match team mate Hakkinen’s pace and was hard pushed to stay ahead of the lower ranks but ironically and no doubt of scant comfort to him, he ended a slot up on the Williams of Villeneuve, in 8th. "I struggled a bit with nervousness at the rear of the car on entries (to corners) and because of that I had a spin on the 2nd to last corner." He said. "It doesn’t bode well for the race other than to hope that our reliability will let us score some points."

The last few minutes produced the usual rush of aspirants to pole but none amounted to a hill of beans beside Berger’s efforts. He was out on several occasions giving the car everything until there was nothing left to give spinning the car on his last lap seconds before the session ended.

For a circuit that most definitely did not suit the Arrows of Damon Hill his time of 1.43.36 gave him 13th position, 1 ahead of Sauber’s Johnny Herbert and 1 behind Rubens Barichello. Saying that he was ‘satisfied’ rather than pleased with his result, he too could not help feeling the ‘Berger factor’ saying with some relief, "He’s still got it and it’s good to see, because he’s older than me!"

The Benetton team of Flavio Briatore, is the strongest looking team at Hockenheim having not only got the pole, but the high ground in morale, having possibly secured the driver of the season. All team boss Eddy Jordan would say about the loss of his boy Fisichella to the Italian team next year, was that "Negotiations were still continuing and nothing is settled." Obviously pleased about Ginacarlo’s progress he said, "It’s a great feeling to know that we will be starting from the front row but ultimately however, it is the race result which counts, so we must put the great feeling of today aside and concentrate on what we have to do tomorrow. We really need to get that win." He added without a hint of humour, "Once we win one we can win a lot." Few who could face his steely glint, would disagree.

The whole weekend somehow has been about old men running out of puff and the new breed taking over Ecclestone’s asylum. The Home crowd failed to get their main man, or his brother, on the front row, but has witnessed the ascension of a couple of stars to the Formula 1 firmament. Whether they can hold it together for the race or be trampled by the stampeding Buffalo of the old guard remains to be seen. Michael will most probably have a fight on his hands and not from the blue and white quarter as one may expect but whether the yellow snake will be hissing at his wheels, or he will be chasing it’s tail , the crowd will have something to cheer about over their Bratwurst and beers.

Last year Berger led the race until the last lap when his engine expired. To get into that position for tomorrow’s race, would have been lucky up until today, but now he could be on to a very fine swan song indeed.



Chris Richardson



Qualifying positions for the

45th German Grand Prix, Hockenheim.




1. Gerhard Berger Benetton 1 41.873

2. Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan 1:41.896

3. Mika Hakkinen McLaren 1:42.034

4. Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1:42.181

5. Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams 1:42.421

6. Jean Alesi Benetton 1:42.493

7. Ralf Schumacher Jordan 1:42.498

8. David Coulthard McLaren 1:42.687

9. Jacques Villeneuve Williams 1:42.967

10. Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1:43.209

11. Jarno Trulli Prost 1:43.226

12. Rubens Barrichello Stewart 1:43.272

13. Damon Hill Arrows 1:43.361

14. Johnny Herbert Sauber 1:43.660

15. Jan Magnussen Stewart 1:43.927

16. Pedro Diniz Arrows 1:44.069

17. Shinji Nakano Prost 1:44.112

18. Norberto Fontana Sauber 1:44.552

19. Mika Salo Tyrrell 1:45.372

20. Jos Verstappen Tyrrell 1:45.811

21. Tarso Marques Minardi 1:45.942

22. Ukyo Katayama Minardi 1:46.499



1997 Championship Contents

Formula 1 Contents