European GP 2007
JULY 23, 2007
Race Report - Fernando barges ahead
The European Grand Prix of 2007 was a quite extraordinary race. A rainstorm broke over the event after just one lap of action. A debutant - Markus Winkelhock - took a risk and found himself leading his first F1 race by half a minute - in a Spyker. Alas for the Dutch team conditions were so bad that the race had to be suspended. It was only then that the real race began.
Oh, and the rain came back later.
At the start Ferrari got to the first corner ahead, with Kimi Raikkonen ahead of Felipe Massa. Fernando Alonso was third. Behind them things were very complicated as Lewis Hamilton came bursting through from 10th to be sixth behind the leading three and the two BMWs. These two then collided, Heidfeld running into Robert Kubica at Turn 2. This caused some avoiding action behind and probably caused the next excitement, which was a puncture for Hamilton, who was fourth for a few metres.
And then it started to rain and as they streamed around the track it became worse and worse. It was clear that pit stops would be necessary. Raikkonen led almost everybody towards the pits but the pitlane was so slippery that he went wide and found himself unable to get back and had to do another lap.
Massa and Alonso were first into the pits and thus first out but no-one had planned on F1 debutant Winkelhock, who had gone into the pits after the parade lap and had started the race on wets. The gamble paid off and amid much laughter the Spyker emerged at the head of the field by about half a minute.
The rain storm increased in severity and on lap two cars started to fly off the track, down at Turn 1, having discovered a lake across the circuit. Button was followed by Hamilton. Then in came Adrian Sutil at higher speed followed by Scott Speed. Both missed Hamilton. Takuma Sato spun but stayed out of the gravel and then Nico Rosberg's already adventurous day was over. On the opening lap he had stuffed his Williams into the back of Rubens Barrichello's Honda, and then in turn been rear-ended by someone and then he ended up in the gravel.
The final man to join the party was Tonio Liuzzi, who had been rear-ended on the opening lap, had been up to 10th but then gone into the pits. As he accelerated out of the pits something broke and Tonio just missed colliding with the Safety Car and a crane.
It was time to stop the madness. The Safety Car slowed everyone but the conditions were so bad that the race was then neutralised. The rain stopped, the track was cleared up and the race restarted behind the safety car. Everyone who could run was allowed to, and after three more laps behind the safety car (in which Hamilton was allowed to unlap himself), the racing resumed on lap eight. Massa quickly asserted himself over Alonso, and then came another rash of pit stops for dry tyres, which moved Raikkonen back up to third. The Finn stopped later with a hydraulic problem, leaving Massa pulling away from Alonso. Then the rain came back with 10 laps to run, prompting another rash of stops. Massa and Alonso came in on lap 53. Later the Brazilian complained of a set of tyres that vibrated badly, and soon Alonso was right with him and as the pair slithered about the Spaniard grabbed the lead with four to go, the two cars touching as Fernando forced his way through.
Massa clung on to second, while behind them Mark Webber just managed to keep hold of the third place he had held for much of the race, as a similarly vibrating set of tyres on his Red Bull enabled Alex Wurz to mount a late challenge for Williams. They finished nose to tail.
Behind them, David Coulthard made it a good day for Red Bull with fifth, ahead of the duelling BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica which had been repaired after the first lap bingle. Heidfeld even had time to nerf Ralf Schumacher off the track as well.
The drive of the race, however, went to Lewis Hamilton. He had gone from tenth to fourth and then a puncture sent him to the tail of the field. He slid off the road in the lake at Turn 1 and was lucky to be rescued by a crane and a marshal who waved him back into action from what was a dangerous position. A lap behind now, he was allowed under the new rules to make up that lap behind the safety car, but a premature switch to dry tyres put him a lap down again. He then traded fastest laps with Massa while trying to get back on the lead lap. After a brilliant drive he got back into the points with eighth place on lap 53, but then he needed to pit for wets dropped him back
In the final laps he passed Giancarlo Fisichella (for the second time, having overtaken him earlier round the outside in Turn 12), but he just ran out of time to deprive Heikki Kovalainen of the final point even though he was at that stage lapping three seconds faster than the Renaults.
Behind Fisi, Rubens Barrichello brought the surviving Honda home 11th, having been given a hard time for much of the race by Anthony Davidson's Super Aguri, and Jarno Trulli brought his Toyota home 13th.
And then there were great moments on the podium as well as Michael Schumacher found himself in the uncomfortable position of having to award the Constructors' Trophy to McLaren's Ron Dennis. Has anyone ever seen Dennis so happy as at that moment? There were a thousand stories in that one moment.
And, at the end of it all, the World Championship is finely balanced with Hamilton just two points ahead of Alonso. Massa is now third with Raikkonen fourth. And action will recommence in two weeks in Budapest.