- October 26 down the years
Schumacher disgraces himselfWhat happened on this day in Formula One history?
Jacques Villeneuve won the 1997 title at the final race of the season in Jerez, despite Michael Schumacher's best efforts to take him out. On lap 48 Villeneuve dived up the inside of his title rival, only for Schumacher to turn in on the Williams and make significant contact. Schumacher came off worse and beached his car in the gravel as Villeneuve carried on to take the championship with a third place finish. "Either he had his eyes shut or his hands must have slipped on the steering wheel," raged Villeneuve after the race. "When I took him on the curve I knew I had only a 50% chance because there was a chance Michael would try to take me out." Schumacher said he had no choice but to hit Villeneuve: "Jacques braked so late that he would have gone off if I hadn't turned into him. Neither of us would have made the corner braking so late." After the race the FIA agreed with Villeneuve and threw the book at Schumacher, stripping him of all his championship points.
One of the most dramatic season finales of all time saw McLaren's Alain Prost take the title ahead of Williams' Nigel Mansell and Nelson Piquet at the Australian Grand Prix. Piquet spun early on and a few laps later Prost suffered a puncture and had to return to the pits for a new set of tyres. Piquet quickly recovered and passed Mansell for second, while Prost dragged his less-competitive McLaren back into contention. Mansell was set for the title, and could even lose a place to Prost if necessary, but disaster struck when his left-rear tyre exploded at 180mph and a shower of sparks flew from the back of his squirming Williams. BBC commentator Murray Walker could not believe his eyes: "And look at that! Out, and… and colossally… that's Mansell! That is Nigel Mansell! And the car, absolutely shattered… he's fighting for control… you can see what happened… that's Mansell out of the race. Now, this could change and will change the world championship." Indeed it did change the world championship. Williams brought Piquet in for a precautionary pit stop, fearing that a similar tyre failure was likely and Prost went on to take the victory and the title. Reflecting on his race in 2007, Mansell said: "It was a simply awful experience, even thinking about it 21 years later."
British F1 driver Ian Ashley was born in Wuppertal, Germany. He made his name in F5000 before chopping and changing between uncompetitive F1 teams in the 1970s and never realising his true potential. His debut came in the uncompetitive Token at the Nurburgring in 1974 after several drivers had failed to qualify it earlier that year. He finished a creditable 14th but it could have been higher if the wheels had not been porous and caused a slow puncture. His sponsors bought a Brabham for him to race towards the end of the season, but he later admitted it was a mistake: "We got it from Bernie Ecclestone, and it came with four different shock absorbers! It was just a bitser, a diabolical piece of machinery as it was." A couple of races for Frank Williams and BRM followed over the next two years before he signed for Hesketh in 1977. After qualifying for the US Grand Prix, an achievement in itself, his F1 career came to an end with a horrific accident during practice for the Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport. The car flipped and on impact with the ground the gearlever shattered his wrist and his ankles were crushed up to his knees. He went on to race in Champ Cars in the late 1980s before one last foray in the British Touring Car Championship in 1993.
One-time Formula One driver and close friend of Frank Williams and Piers Courage, Briton Jonathan Williams was born in Cairo. He raced extensively in lower series and was a Ferrari F2 driver in 1967. He eventually got his chance in F1 at the Italian Grand Prix after several Ferrari drivers were killed in the same season and he finished eighth after starting 16th.