McLaren’s Fernando Alonso won a thrilling European Grand Prix after beating Felipe Massa in a chaotic, rain-interrupted and dramatic race at the Nurburgring.
It all started with a sudden heavy deluge, which flooded the track during the opening lap. Many cars simply struggled in the extreme wet conditions and aquaplaned right off the circuit! At the first corner alone, six cars went into the gravel trap and these include the two Toro Rossos (Scott Speed and Tonio Liuzzi), Jenson Button in the Honda, Spyker’s Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg in the Williams and Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren!
Luckily for Hamilton, he managed to keep his car off the tyre wall and got back on track. He was a lap down, but under the 2007 Formula One regulations, the championship leader was allowed to unlapped himself under the Safety Car laps that were run as the race restarted after a 20-minute halt.
Hamilton had earlier suffered a tyre puncture when he was involved in a silly BMW-Sauber crash involving the team-mates of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld on the run-down to the first corner…
With so many incidents on the track, the race was wisely red flagged on the fourth lap. Incredibly, Formula One rookie Markus Winkelhock – making his Grand Prix debut in the Spyker – was leading the field, thanks to the team’s great strategy call to place him on full wets after the parade lap.
The race restarted a short while later under the Safety Car. Immediately, Markus Winkelhock’s Spyker dropped backwards as the team took the gamble to fit extreme wet tyres in the hope of another sudden downpour. It didn’t and the race resumed with Massa leading ahead of Alonso.
Kimi Raikkonen had earlier led the original start to the race but when the heavens opened, the Finn tried to head into the pits but unfortunately understeered off! At the second restart, Kimi gained some extra places by pitting a lap sooner than the others for dry Bridgestone tyres (as the track was drying out). He then gained rapidly on the leading pair, only to retire on lap 34 when his Ferrari started cutting out…
As for Alonso, he was losing touch on Massa – as much as eight seconds – until the clouds darkened again in the last 10 laps… The entire field had to pit yet again to go back on to intermediates, and Alonso proved substantially faster than Massa on the wet track.
The Spaniard was all over the back of the Brazilian’s Ferrari, and although Massa managed to resist him for two laps, the McLaren swept around on the outside of Turn 5 – with a touch of wheel-banging – on lap 55, then proceeded to pull away and claim an extremely important race victory.
Later the Brazilian complained of a set of tyres that vibrated badly and he wasn’t pleased by the double world champion’s overtaking move. Still, he managed to finish the crazy race in second.
Finishing in third was Red Bull’s Mark Webber. The Australian drove a fantastic race in the mixed weather conditions to earn his first podium finish since Monaco 2005. He had risen to third during the early chaos, then regained the place when Raikkonen retired.
Alex Wurz was close behind in the Williams and came within 0.2 seconds of stealing third from Webber as the two cars crossed the finishing line. But in the end, Wurz settled with fourth.
David Coulthard completed a great weekend for Red Bull Racing with fifth ahead of the BMW-Sauber pair (Heidfeld and Kubica respectively), who had recovered from their early tangle in the original race start.
And finishing in the last remaining points position was Heikki Kovalainen. The Finn took a gamble to make a premature switch to intermediates as the rain approached at the end of the race. Heikki was originally in fifth but took the risk to change the tyres a bit too soon.
As for Lewis Hamilton, the world championship leader suffered a nightmare weekend with a non-points finish in ninth. Despite that, Hamilton drove a determined race and was unlucky to be caught-out in the wet/dry/wet conditions.
Fernando Alonso’s victory at the Nurburgring means he has reduce the points gap to team-mate Lewis Hamilton by two points as Formula One heads to Hungary in two weeks time.
European Grand Prix, 60 laps
1. ALONSO McLaren 2h06m26.388s
2. MASSA Ferrari +8.1s
3. WEBBER Red Bull +1m05.6s
4. WURZ Williams +1m05.9s
5. COULTHARD Red Bull +1m13.6s
6. HEIDFELD BMW +1m20.2s
7. KUBICA BMW +1m22.4s
8. KOVALAINEN Renault +1 lap
9. HAMILTON McLaren +1 lap
10. FISICHELLA Renault +1 lap
11. BARRICHELLO Honda +1 lap
12. DAVIDSON Super Aguri +1 lap
13. TRULLI Toyota +1 lap
R. RAIKKONEN Ferrari +26 laps
R. SATO Super Aguri +41 laps
R. SCHUMACHER Toyota +42 laps
R. WINKELHOCK Spyker +47 laps
R. BUTTON Honda +58 laps
R. SUTIL Spyker +58 laps
R. ROSBERG Williams +58 laps
R. SPEED Toro Rosso +58 laps
R. LIUZZI Toro Rosso +58 laps
Fastest lap: MASSA 1m32.853s (lap 34)