9 January 2019
Fascinating F1 Facts: 42
There are lots of weird statistics in Formula 1, but one of the most bizarre occurred in the course of the 1997 season, when Michael Schumacher (Ferrari) and Jacques Villeneuve (Williams) battled for the World Championship until the last race of the season, the European Grand Prix in Jerez de la Frontera, held at the end of October.
The showdown in Spain is well-documented so we need not trouble ourselves with that story, but what was utterly strange when the dust had settled was the fact that in the course of the 17 races that season the two title contenders never met on the podium.
How could that be possible?
Well, Villeneuve won seven Grands Prix and finished third in Jerez, thus scoring eight podiums in total, while Schumacher won five races and was second three times, which meant that he also only managed eight podiums. Thus, together they collected 16 podiums in 17 races, but without any overlap at all. The only race without either man on the podium was the Italian GP at Monza, which was won by David Coulthard (McLaren), ahead of Jean Alesi (Benetton) and Villeneuve's Williams team-mate Heinz-Harald Frentzen.
There were 25 drivers who qualified for races that year and, remarkably, 15 of them made it to the podium on at least one occasion. Four teams (Williams, Ferrari, McLaren and Jordan) had both drivers score podiums, while Benetton enjoyed top three finishes with three different drivers, as Alexander Wurz was third in Britain while standing in for Gerhard Berger, who was out of action with a sinus problem. In addition to this, the Arrows, Prost, Sauber and Stewart teams all managed to collect at least one podium in the course of the year, which meant that 75 percent of the teams competing that year collected podium finishes.
For the record the list is as follows: Villeneuve and Frentzen (Williams), Schumacher and Eddie Irvine (Ferrari), Alesi, Berger and Wurz (Benetton), Coulthard and Mika Hakkinen (McLaren), Ralf Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella (Jordan), Olivier Panis (Prost), Damon Hill (Arrows), Johnny Herbert (Sauber) and Rubens Barrichello (Stewart).