The 1997 European Grand Prix in Jerez can be considered a defining race in one of Michael Schumacher’s big rivalries – but not the one you think. If this was the last futile act in Schumacher’s fight against Jacques Villeneuve, the race also gave birth to the man he would later call “the best opponent I have had”.
Mika Hakkinen was at risk of disappearing into “almost man” F1 territory towards the end of the 1997 season. Seven years after his titanic fight with Schumacher at the Macau Grand Prix, the Finn had had a solid grand prix career as a regular of the podium for McLaren.
But he had appreciated nothing more than the success of Schumacher, who arrived at Jerez aiming for a third world title and a first with Ferrari, his own dryness going back to the victory of Jody Scheckter in 1979.