1997 Australian Grand Prix

The 1997 Australian Grand Prix was a Formula One motor race held on 9 March 1997 at the Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit in Albert Park, Melbourne. It was the first race of the 1997 FIA Formula One World Championship. It was the second Grand Prix to be hosted in Melbourne. The 58-lap race was won by McLaren driver David Coulthard after starting from fourth position. Michael Schumacher finished second for the Ferrari and Coulthard's teammate Mika Häkkinen was third.

1997 Australian Grand Prix
Race 1 of 17 in the 1997 Formula One World Championship
Albert Lake Park Street Circuit in Melbourne, Australia.svg
Race details
Date 9 March 1997
Official name LXII Qantas Australian Grand Prix
Location Melbourne Grand Prix Circuit, Albert Park, Melbourne
Course Temporary Street Circuit
Course length 5.302 km (3.295 miles)
Distance 58 laps, 307.516 km (191.110 miles)
Weather Partly Cloudy, Dry
Pole position
Driver Williams-Renault
Time 1:29.369
Fastest lap
Driver Germany Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault
Time 1:30.585 on lap 36
First McLaren-Mercedes
Second Ferrari
Third McLaren-Mercedes
Lap leaders

This race notably marked the debut of Bridgestone, who entered the sport for the first time, joining Goodyear, who had been the sole tyre supplier in Formula One since 1992.



Two new teams came into Formula One in 1997: Stewart and Lola. Footwork reverted to their old name of Arrows and acquired Yamaha engines, while Ligier were bought by Alain Prost and changed their name to Prost Grand Prix. Tyrrell acquired Ford engines.

The change that dominated the drivers line up was Damon Hill's surprise sacking from Williams having just won the World Championship. He joined Tom Walkinshaw and the newly purchased Arrows team. In the week up to the race, there were rumours, which proved to be unfounded, of Hill having left Arrows due to the poor performance of the car.[1] Pedro Diniz brought significant sponsorship backing, and was hired as Hill's teammate. Williams retained Jacques Villeneuve and replaced Hill with Heinz-Harald Frentzen.

Villeneuve was the bookmaker's favourite heading into the new season. He said that being the favourite put "extra pressure, but it's good pressure [on me]".[2][3]

Ferrari retained Michael Schumacher and Eddie Irvine, Benetton kept Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger and McLaren retained Mika Häkkinen and David Coulthard. The Jordan team had two new drivers in Giancarlo Fisichella, previously at Minardi, and Ralf Schumacher, brother of Michael. The new Prost Grand Prix team kept Olivier Panis and signed Japanese rookie driver Shinji Nakano. Sauber kept Johnny Herbert and the loss of Frentzen saw Peter Sauber sign Ferrari test driver Nicola Larini. Tyrrell retained Mika Salo for a third year and added Jos Verstappen to the team from Arrows. Minardi with V8 Hart engines signed Ukyo Katayama and Italian driver Jarno Trulli. Heinz-Harald Frentzen and Olivier Panis were both making their 50th race entry, and Johnny Herbert was making his 100th race entry.

The new Stewart Grand Prix team had signed Rubens Barrichello and Danish driver Jan Magnussen. Lola recruited ex-Footwork Arrows driver Ricardo Rosset and former Benetton test driver Vincenzo Sospiri.

Bridgestone also made their first official appearance in Formula 1, breaking Goodyear's reign as a sole tyre supplier which began in 1992. They provided tyres for Minardi, Arrows, Prost, Stewart and Lola. Previously, the company had produced Formula One tyres at the 1976 and 1977 Japanese Grand Prix for Japanese entrants such as Kazuyoshi Hoshino's Heros Racing and Kojima.

The British television coverage switched to ITV for the 1997 season and beyond, after 18 years of regular coverage for the BBC. Former driver Martin Brundle joined Murray Walker in the commentary box.

In the build-up to the weekend, Michael Schumacher said that the circuit "wasn't particularly special", resulting in some criticism from locals.[4] There were also protests in the lead-up to the race, with protestors pouring diesel on to the track the week before the race.[4] A strike also meant that there was no tram shuttle service running, with spectators forced to catch buses to the track. Jeff Kennett, the Premier of Victoria, labelling them "bloody minded" and that they will have to "incur the wrath of the community".[4]

Practice and qualifyingEdit

Canadian Jacques Villeneuve took his fourth career pole position with a lap of 1:29.369, while Heinz-Harald Frentzen could only manage a 1:31.121 to fill the remaining spot on the front row. Only six drivers managed to qualify within 3 seconds of the pole position time. The session was red flagged with just over two minutes remaining after a collision between Gerhard Berger and Nicola Larini on the straight between turns 10 and 11. This resulted in many of the cars effectively having to complete a one-lap sprint to post a lap time before the end of the session. Damon Hill struggled during the session, only just qualifying inside of the 107% limit due to an oil leak which hampered the lap times. Both of the Lola cars failed to make the qualifying limit and were over ten seconds slower than Villeneuve in their first and only F1 qualifying session, as the team had to withdraw from the next race due to a lack of funds. Pedro Diniz was also outside of the 107% time, but he was permitted to race as he had set a time in practice within the 107% time.


On the parade lap, Damon Hill's throttle jammed, leaving him stranded on the track and causing him to retire from the race. At the first corner, Eddie Irvine misjudged his braking, hitting both Villeneuve and Herbert - all three retired from the race. Williams adopted a two-stop strategy, while most other teams were going for one-stop races. Jos Verstappen spun off on lap two while attempting to overtake Ukyo Katayama. Frentzen quickly built up a lead: 2.7secs on the first lap, 3.7s on the second, 5.3s on the third and 7.2s on the fourth. Both of the Jordan cars soon retired from the race, Ralf Schumacher suffering a gearbox problem and Fisichella spinning off the track while passing Barrichello. By lap 12, however, Frentzen eased off, and for the next six laps the gap between first and second stayed at 17-18s. Frentzen pitted on lap 18 and rejoined third.

Jean Alesi retired from the race after running out of fuel, to the fury of his Benetton team, who had been trying to call him into the pits for 5 laps. In the laps that followed he was able to close up on Coulthard and Schumacher. Frentzen lost time in traffic, struggling with his brakes. Coulthard and Schumacher pitted in mid-race and so Frentzen moved ahead again and ran very quickly for a few laps before he began to fade again. On lap 40 he came in for his second stop. The gap to Coulthard was only 23secs, and with the time in the pitlane being around 22-24secs it was unclear whether he could emerge ahead. In the end, his pit stop was delayed for several seconds by a right rear tire problem, allowing Coulthard and Schumacher to move ahead. At the front David Coulthard continued to keep away from these incidents to lead the race, followed by Michael Schumacher and Frentzen. Frentzen closed up on Coulthard and Schumacher who were by then running together but Schumacher had to make an unscheduled fuel stop towards the end of the race, promoting Frentzen to second. Large quantities of dust had been coming from Frentzen's brakes for some time and with three laps to go a brake disc failed, sending him into the gravel trap at the end of the start/finish straight. Coulthard went on to take his second career win. It was McLaren's first win since Ayrton Senna won the 1993 Australian Grand Prix. It was also their first win with Mercedes as an engine supplier, and Mercedes' first victory as an engine manufacturer since the 1955 Italian Grand Prix.



Pos. No. Driver Constructor Time Gap Grid
1 3   Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault 1:29.369 1
2 4   Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault 1:31.123 +1.754 2
3 5   Michael Schumacher Ferrari 1:31.472 +2.103 3
4 10   David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.531 +2.162 4
5 6   Eddie Irvine Ferrari 1:31.881 +2.512 5
6 9   Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes 1:31.971 +2.602 6
7 16   Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas 1:32.287 +2.918 7
8 7   Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault 1:32.593 +3.224 8
9 14   Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen-Honda 1:32.842 +3.473 9
10 8   Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault 1:32.870 +3.501 10
11 22   Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford 1:33.075 +3.706 11
12 11   Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot 1:33.130 +3.761 12
13 17   Nicola Larini Sauber-Petronas 1:33.327 +3.958 13
14 12   Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot 1:33.552 +4.183 14
15 20   Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart 1:33.798 +4.429 15
16 15   Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen-Honda 1:33.989 +4.620 16
17 21   Jarno Trulli Minardi-Hart 1:34.120 +4.751 17
18 19   Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford 1:34.229 +4.860 18
19 23   Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford 1:34.623 +5.254 19
20 1   Damon Hill Arrows-Yamaha 1:34.806 +5.437 20
21 18   Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford 1:34.943 +5.574 21
107% time: 1:35.625
2   Pedro Diniz Arrows-Yamaha 1:35.972 +6.603 221
24   Vincenzo Sospiri Lola-Ford 1:40.972 +11.603 DNQ
25   Ricardo Rosset Lola-Ford 1:42.086 +12.717 DNQ
  • ^1 - Diniz set a lap time outside the 107% limit, but he was allowed to start at the back of the grid.


Pos. No. Driver Constructor Tyre Laps Time/Retired Grid Points
1 10   David Coulthard McLaren-Mercedes G 58 1:30:28.718 4 10
2 5   Michael Schumacher Ferrari G 58 +20.046 3 6
3 9   Mika Häkkinen McLaren-Mercedes G 58 +22.177 6 4
4 8   Gerhard Berger Benetton-Renault G 58 +22.841 10 3
5 14   Olivier Panis Prost-Mugen-Honda B 58 +1:00.308 9 2
6 17   Nicola Larini Sauber-Petronas G 58 +1:36.040 13 1
7 15   Shinji Nakano Prost-Mugen-Honda B 56 +2 Laps 16  
8 4   Heinz-Harald Frentzen Williams-Renault G 55 Brakes 2  
9 21   Jarno Trulli Minardi-Hart B 55 +3 Laps 17  
10 2   Pedro Diniz Arrows-Yamaha B 54 +4 Laps 22  
Ret 22   Rubens Barrichello Stewart-Ford B 49 Engine 11  
Ret 19   Mika Salo Tyrrell-Ford G 42 Engine 18  
Ret 23   Jan Magnussen Stewart-Ford B 36 Suspension 19  
Ret 7   Jean Alesi Benetton-Renault G 34 Out of Fuel 8  
Ret 20   Ukyo Katayama Minardi-Hart B 32 Electrical 15  
Ret 12   Giancarlo Fisichella Jordan-Peugeot G 14 Spun Off 14  
Ret 18   Jos Verstappen Tyrrell-Ford G 2 Spun Off 21  
Ret 11   Ralf Schumacher Jordan-Peugeot G 1 Gearbox 12  
Ret 3   Jacques Villeneuve Williams-Renault G 0 Collision 1  
Ret 6   Eddie Irvine Ferrari G 0 Collision 5  
Ret 16   Johnny Herbert Sauber-Petronas G 0 Collision 7  
DNS 1   Damon Hill Arrows-Yamaha B 0 Throttle 20  

Championship standings after the raceEdit

  • Note: Only the top five positions are included for both sets of standings.


  1. ^ Rosenthal, Jim (8 March 1997). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 11:25–11:40.
  2. ^ Goodman, Louise (8 March 1997). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 03:10–03:20.
  3. ^ Goodman, Louise (8 March 1997). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 15:04–16:04.
  4. ^ a b c Rosenthal, Jim (8 March 1997). F1: Australian Grand Prix Qualifying Live (Television production). London, England: ITV. Event occurs at 09:30–11:15.
  5. ^ "1997 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying". Chicane F1. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  6. ^ "1997 Australian Grand Prix Qualifying". Grand Prix Racing. Archived from the original on 25 November 2006. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  7. ^ "1997 Australian Grand Prix". formula1.com. Archived from the original on 29 October 2014. Retrieved 24 December 2015.
  8. ^ "1997 Australian Grand Prix". Chicane F1. Retrieved 2 August 2007.
  9. ^ "1997 Australian Grand Prix - Race Results & History - GP Archive". GPArchive.com. Retrieved 5 May 2022.
  10. ^ a b "Australia 1997 - Championship • STATS F1". www.statsf1.com. Retrieved 6 March 2019.

Race Details: "1997 Australian Grand Prix". Chicane F1. Retrieved 2 August 2007.

Previous race:
1996 Japanese Grand Prix
FIA Formula One World Championship
1997 season
Next race:
1997 Brazilian Grand Prix
Previous race:
1996 Australian Grand Prix
Australian Grand Prix Next race:
1998 Australian Grand Prix
Preceded by
1996 Australian Grand Prix
Formula One Promotional Trophy
for Race Promoter

Succeeded by
1998 San Marino Grand Prix