- March 17 down the years
Ecclestone slams 'third-rate' Tony BlairWhat happened on March 17 in Formula One history?
Bernie Ecclestone launched a savage attack on Tony Blair after a £1 million donation to the Labour party was returned after it became public knowledge, amid accusations it had been given in a bid to get Formula One an exemption from the ban on tobacco advertising. Ecclestone said they had agreed to stick to a "keep mum" policy, refusing either to confirm or deny questions about any donations. Instead, without warning, Blair "started talking". In early 1997 he had promised Labour managers that he would keep quiet about his donation. "I rarely regret anything I do, but I'm disappointed that Blair could not keep his word about that," he said. "I said to those clowns: if someone puts me up against the wall with a machinegun, I will not confirm or deny anything about the donation. They said, okay, okay, we will do the same. The next thing that happens is that Blair has started talking. I only found out by accident. It is third-rate behaviour."
The second race of the season was held in Malaysia where Michael Schumacher claimed Ferrari's 150th pole position. The race is remembered for a first-lap collision, between the Williams of Juan Pablo Montoya and Schumacher's Ferrari. The stewards ruled that Montoya was at fault and handed down a drive-through penalty, which was thought by many, including Schumacher, to be overly harsh. The race was won by Michael's brother Ralf Schumacher, with Montoya second and Michael third.
Jackie Stewart announced the signing of fellow Scot Andrew Kirkaldy. "It is a great opportunity for Andrew," said Stewart. "We would not have taken Andrew on if I did not believe he has a great future. He is one of the real budding young talents. Hopefully, he is going to be waving the St Andrew's Cross around the world for many years, and people will be waving it for him." Kirkaldy did get a test drive with McLaren but never broke into F1.
Racing driver Fred Gamble was born in Pittsburgh - he competed in just one grand prix in Italy in 1960. After retiring from racing he went on to work for tyre manufacturer Goodyear.
Gottleib Daimler was born in Schorndorf, Germany. He was a pioneer of internal-combustion engines and automobile development. He invented the first high-speed petrol engine and the first four-wheel automobile.