On this day in 1997, qualifying for the season-ending European Grand Prix at Jerez ended up being almost unbelievably close
For a sport that measures lap times to the thousandth of a second, you wouldn’t expect there to be many occasions where two cars set identical lap times. It does happen sometimes, but usually down in the midfield where it doesn’t really get noticed.
Imagine how crazy it would be if the top two on the grid set identical lap times. Now imagine how crazy it would be if it was the last round of the season and those two drivers were going head-to-head for the championship. Now imagine how crazy it would be if a third driver set the exact same lap time.
Well, stop imagining, because that’s exactly what happened in qualifying for the 1997 European GP, as Jacques Villeneuve, Michael Schumacher, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen all set a lap time of 1:21.072.
It wasn’t the result of any mistakes or glitches with the timing system either. The teams checked their own individual telemetry and discovered that they had indeed set exactly the same time.
Villeneuve was given pole because he’d set his lap first, but he dropped behind both Schumacher and Frentzen at the start of the race. He charged back through though, and when he went to pass Schumacher…well, you know what happened!