- August 26 down the years
Villeneuve performs three-wheel stuntWhat happened on this day in Formula One history?
Gilles Villeneuve cemented his cult-hero status at the Dutch Grand Prix when he refused to retire with a puncture, and instead drove a lap of the circuit on three wheels with sparks flying from the rear of his Ferrari. Villeneuve had been leading the race after a brave move on Alan Jones at Tarzan corner and looked set for victory until a spin on lap 47 dropped him to second. Villeneuve rejoined but two laps later he spun again, this time the rear-left tyre exploded and left the Ferrari strewn across the middle of the track. However, he didn't give up and raced back to the pits on three wheels, pulling wheelies along the way and making good time. When he returned to the pits, however, the suspension was too badly damaged to carry on and he was forced to retire. Jones went on to win the race ahead of Villeneuve's team-mate Jody Scheckter.
After three attempts the Belgian Grand Prix finally got underway with Ayrton Senna leading from lights to flag. At the first attempt Aguri Suzuki's Larousse started a chain reaction crash into the first corner that, via Nelson Piquet, shunted Nigel Mansell into the barrier. As everyone tried to avoid the accident the two Lotuses collided and then further around the first lap Satoru Nakajima parked his Tyrrell on a kerb. The red flags came out and the grid reformed. At the second start Paolo Barilla had a huge accident at Eau Rouge, leaving bits of his Minardi scattered across the track. Again the race director put out the red flag. Finally on the third attempt everybody got away without incident and Senna, as he had on the previous two occasions, sped off into the lead. His closest competitor was the Ferrari of Alain Prost who finished 3.5 seconds behind.
One of the most iconic F1 sponsorship deals came to an end when the Philip Morris tobacco company announced it would not renew its sponsorship of McLaren in 1997. Philip Morris' European president said: "During our 23 years of sponsorship, the Marlboro McLaren team has had unprecedented success, winning nine drivers' world championships, seven wolrd constructors' championships and 96 grands prix. We are very proud of that record."
Alain Prost won the Dutch Grand Prix to close within half a point of championship leader Niki Lauda. Nelson Piquet had taken an early lead but falling oil pressure forced him to retire early on, handing the lead to Prost. Meanwhile, Lauda picked his way through the field from sixth on the grid to finish 10 seconds off the pace of his McLaren team-mate. Lauda managed to maintain his half point lead for the remaining three races to take his third title.
Lewis Hamilton's title bid took the first of two major blows as a result of a tyre failure. He had been running in a comfortable third position at the Turkish Grand Prix, ahead of title rival and McLaren team-mate Fernando Alonso, when his front left tyre failed at high speed. He dropped back to fifth, missing out on two points - the exact same margin he lost the championship by to Kimi Raikkonen. His second tyre failure, which stopped him taking the title on that day, came at the Chinese Grand Prix when he ran wide on the pit lane entrance with a balding intermediate. Felipe Massa went on to win the Turkish Grand Prix, ahead of Raikkonen and Alonso.