The 1997 Formula One season would go right down to the wire and would play out in one of the most epic and memorable clashes within the series' history. It was supposed to be another rebuilding year for Ferrari. However, John Barnard's final collaboration with the famed Maranello stable would prove a fierce competitor and would nearly provide Scuderia Ferrari its first World Champion in nearly two decades.
Barnard's approach heading into the 1997 Formula One season would be to design a car with simplicity and balance as its cornerstones. The raised noses were becoming all the rage within the sport as it was realized airflow through a car was nearly as important as anything else. However, there were still some teams and factories that were slow in acting upon this design feature. Ferrari was one of them.
Barnard would incorporate a highly-raised nose in the '96 design, the F310, but it would prove temperamental and difficult to get hooked up. Still, with Michael Schumacher behind the wheel, Ferrari would prove more competitive than many expected. This raised the expectations for the following season. Jean Todt would be at the helm of the program and he would have Ross Brawn and Rory Byrne taking on their positions within the team. Barnard was on his way out but was still intent on providing Brawn and Byrne a car they could use. Barnard's concept would be the F310B.
Trimmed and much more neatly packaged than its predecessor, the F310B certainly looked competitive when it was launched. Then, when Schumacher absolutely dominated the Monaco Grand Prix, just the fifth round of the World Championship, it appeared abundantly clear Ferrari would be reach its expectations. This victory would then be followed by two more out of the next three races. It was the mid-point of the season and Schumacher and Ferrari suddenly was leading the championship.
Throughout a season Formula One teams make improvements to their cars so to provide their drivers with the most competitive car possible. Now, with Schumacher leading the championship, Ferrari would work hard to provide their driver with the car that could succeed in the final push toward the crown.
Barnard had left Brawn and Byrne with a car that was easy to drive and reliable. Aided by an evolution of Ferrari's first V10 engine, the Tipo 046/2, the F310B was proving to have the power and reliability to stay with the Williams. In fact, the Williams appeared to be slipping from its throne. It was Ferrari's opportunity. Some minor tweaks and it was likely Schumacher would reign supreme again.By Jeremy McMullen
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