On 11 May 1997, the unique setting of the Principality of Monaco was all set as the backdrop to a Grand Prix which was always fascinating. As always, the grandstands were sold out, but the spectators had to bring umbrellas due to the light, constant rain which had not let up since the early hours of the morning. In pole position was Heinz-Harald Frentzen in the Williams, with Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari alongside him. Behind them were Jacques Villeneuve in the other Williams and Giancarlo Fisichella, who had taken a great fourth place at the wheel of the Jordan. In the F310B, Scuderia Ferrari had a competitive car, even though in the first four races of the year they had not had a single win.
A few moments before the start, the two Williams decided to go out on dry tyres, while Schumacher and Ferrari opted for the wets. At the start, both Frentzen and Villeneuve spun their rear wheels, while Schumacher’s perfect choice of tyre saw him take the lead.
The conditions were treacherous and there were a lot of ‘offs’ and collisions. Schumacher was setting a pace no one could match, followed by Rubens Barrichello at the wheel of the Stewart, Fisichella, Olivier Panis, the previous year’s winner in the Ligier, Prost, and Eddie Irvine in the Ferrari in fifth, chased by Damon Hill. Fisichella had tyre problems and dropped back, while Irvine managed to overtake Panis, stretching his stint for the perfect overcut and was rewarded with third place.
In the closing stages, only ten cars were still on track. Among the retirements were the two WIlliams and the two McLarens, Mika Hakkinen and David Coulthard. Schumacher provided some drama for the crowd by going straight on at Sainte Devote, but he kept the lead. It was the last tense moment for the Scuderia. The race ended after the regulation two hours, with only 62 of the scheduled 78 laps completed and the Ferrari crew was able to celebrate wildly, as Schumacher and Irvine took the chequered flag in first and third, with Barrichello in between them.
There was a lot to celebrate: after sixteen years, Ferrari had once again won the Monaco Grand Prix, and did so with two drivers on the podium at the end of a race which they dominated from start to chequered flag. It was their first victory of the season and the perfect place to celebrate 50 years of partnership with SKF, who had worked with Ferrari since 1947.