Sunday 22 July 2007

Wet race at Nürburgring

Finally! The race I've been waiting for all season. The one where it rained. Although it would seem that there can be such a thing as too much rain.

The problem with F1 today is that (like a lot of sport) there are three levels... the really good, the truly awful and those who are in between. The gulf between them is pretty often insurmountable. Sometimes the races get a bit dull when the only people who do any overtaking are in the middle of the pack, and the only way the lead changes is by leap-frogging in the pit-stops or by accident. This is why I love races where it rains! It makes everything so much more unpredictable. So, I was delighted in the build up to the race when rain was forecast... imminently.

All the cars on the grid were sitting there with dry tyres on... the only car not on the grid was Spyker's Winkelhock, who was starting from the pit. It turned out that his car had wet tyres on... an unexpected advantage for the oragne team! It started raining on the first lap... by the second lap the track had turned into a river... all the driver were diving for the pits and for wet tyres - Raikonnen made for the pit, and then did a swift exit - it looked like he missed but Rich and I maintain that they were ready for Massa and told him to go round again.

There is a mass exit at turn one as cars autoplane off the track... on after each other, almost in synchronised formation! Six cars go off all in all, it turns out that Hamilton keeps the engine going and gets lifted back onto the track under the "unsafe position" rule. I thought it was dubious a few years back when Shumacher used it... and this time I thought it was even more dubious, but rules are rules. Unsurprisingly this mass exodous from the track leads to the deployment of the safety car (which almost is hit by an auto-planing car itself). Winkelhock in the Spyker leads the race (to the audible disbelief of the commentary team). The torrential rain persists, and even less suprinsingly the race is red flagged after one lap behind the safety car. The pack lines up for a restart behind the safety car, and ITV take the chance to fit in as many advert breaks as possible whilst nothing much is happening.

In one of the advert breaks there was a very funny car advert by Mercedes featuring Hamilton, Alonso and Raikonnen... I found it on YouTube and it is totally worth watching for pure comedy value!

Twenty minutes after it stopped the race restarts (amongst not a little confusion). Hamilton who was a lap down after his spin off is allowed to overtake the pack under the safety car and un-lap himself. He might have made the points but before the end of the lap with the safety car he pits and goes for dry tyres... maybe a bit early it turns out.

The race starts again and the whole pack (well, most of them) pass Winkelhock. In the end his car conks out on lap 22. When interviewed he is delighted to have led his first Grand Prix, in his own country as well.

Despite the threat of further rain it doesn't really happen again... a bit of light rain about half a dozen laps before the end... but the race is pretty much done. Just before the end of the race Alonso passes Massa (which has been threatening for several laps) and wins the Grand Prix. What an exciting race it was with all that rain!