Alonso wins chaotic Nurburgring race

2007 European Grand Prix review

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Mark Webber, podium, Nurburging, 2007Fernando Alonso finished first after a frantic race at the Nurburgring – but he may yet face a penalty appeal after narrowly avoiding a collision in the pit lane.

He produced a scintillating pass to seize the lead from Felipe Massa with four laps remaining.

The race began and ended with rain falling – a heavy cloudburst forcing the race to be stopped early on, and allowing Markus Winkelhock to lead his first ever race.

But championship leader Lewis Hamilton failed to score after enduring a race in which his fortunes changed at every turn.

Before the start it was an open secret that Fernando Alonso was fuelled lighter than the Ferraris he was sandwiched by, and that the start line dash into the perilously tight first corner would be crucial.

That was equally true for team mate Lewis Hamilton, starting back in tenth place after his massive crash in qualifying.

As the cars sat on the grid ready for the formation lap messages began to filter in that rain was imminent – even if the clouds didn’t seem to threaten it.

It quickly transpired that those clouds were fat with rain. It sprinkled on the cars as they rolled around to the start of the grid – causing Spyker to pit Markus Winkelhock for wet weather tyres. It would shortly prove to be an inspired decision.

Kimi Raikkonen made a rapid, clean getaway and Felipe Massa nosed ahead of Alonso at the first corner.

European Grand Prix, Nurburgring, start, 2007Lewis Hamilton made a very strong start, picking off a string of cars at the first corner and reaching the BMWs by the second bend. But on the damp track Nick Heidfeld swiped team mate Robert Kubica, and Hamilton picked up a left-rear puncture in the melee.

But Hamilton was about to get a get out of jail free card – the rain began to pour down, forcing everyone into the pits for wet weather rubber.

Almost everyone – Raikkonen understeered straight on at the pit lane entry, and had to do another lap while the rest of the field (except Winkelhock) piled in to the pits.

The rain came down so heavily that the field had almost caught Raikkonen by the end of the second lap – and Winkelhock had shot off into a 20 second lead!

But now the track surface was nearly flooded in parts and car after car sailed into the barriers at the first corner. First among them was Jenson Button, who had been running fourth, then Lewis Hamilton, Adrian Sutil and Nico Rosberg.

Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Nurburgring, 2007Race control sent the safety car out to control the race but it didn’t look up to the job. Bernd Maylander had to pull it out of the way as he spotted Scott Speed flying towards him backwards. Frighteningly, Speed stopped just short of a JCB that had been sent out to recover one of the cars.

Button had hit the wall fairly hard to the digger proceeded to Hamilton, the next car to have crashed, craned him out of the barrier and set him on his way again.

With the cars taking nearly four minutes to complete a lap behind the safety car and a quarter of the field parked at the first corner, the race was understandably stopped.

This caused a lot of confusion among the teams, who hadn’t seen a race stoppage in six years. It was 20 minutes before the race resumed, by which time the sun was out and steam rising from the circuit showed it was drying very quickly.

Markus Winkelhock, Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Nurburgring, 2007The cars were sent off to restart the race behind the safety car with Winkelhock up front, with the top ten behind him composed of Massa, Alonso, Mark Webber, David Coulthard (up from 20th), Heikki Kovalainen, Raikkonen, Alexander Wurz, Rubens Barrichello and Giancarlo Fisichella.

The remaining runners were Robert Kubica, Ralf Schumacher, Takuma Sato, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld, Anthony Davidson and, last, Hamilton.

But luckily for Hamilton, under the 2007 safety car rules, he was able to get his lap back. He trundle past his rivals and the safety car and set off on a rapid lap of the circuit to catch the field again.

McLaren chose the opportunity to top his car up with fuel – but Hamilton made the critical decision to switch onto dry weather rubber. That proved disastrous, as he slithered off at the Dunlop hairpin and was lapped by everyone all over again.

Winkelhock only led a few laps of the race when it resumed before Massa and Alonso boomed past him at the first corner, followed by the two Red Bulls, Coulthard also nipping past Webber.

Raikkonen tried to make headway quickly and passed Kovalainen at the first turn – only for the Renault driver to fight back and re-pass the Ferrari at the following turn.

By lap ten Hamilton had set the fastest time in the final sector of the lap, but was two seconds slower than the field at the first sector where the track was wetter. Sensing the opportunity to profit, Ferrari pitted Raikkonen and switched him to dry tyres with perfect timing.

Everyother driver bar Hamilton (already on dry tyres), Coulthard (who briefly led) and Heidfeld pitted the next time around. But Raikkonen’s earlier stop vaulted him up to third behind Massa and Alonso.

Once all the drivers had switched to dry tyres the damage to Hamilton’s race was clear – he lay 16th, 85.5s behind Massa – or to put it another way, 10 seconds away from being lapped again.

The rain had produced a mixed-up order and 1.6 seconds now covered a five-car battle for fifth involving Coulthard, Kubica, Schumacher, Heidfeld and Fisichella. Something had to give and sure enough Schumacher ran wide at the chicane, Heidfeld dived down the inside at the Coca-Cola Kurve, and punted Schumacher out of the race.

Kovalainen’s strong drive continued with a strong pass on Wurz for fifth on lap 19. But Kovalainen proved to be more lightly fuelled than many of his rivals, pitting eight laps later.

His team mate Fisichella pitted six laps later and came back out 13th, 2.8s ahead of Hamilton. The Mclaren driver crowded the Renault at every turn, finally passing him around the outside of the fast kink before the chicane with at least two wheels off the track. Spectacular though the pass was, it delayed him by almost three seconds.

On the 35th lap Raikkonen’s Ferrari slowed dramatically at the first turn and began cutting out intermittently. He managed to limp back to the pits – crawling to a halt just within sight of the Ferrari garage. His Nurburgring curse had struck again.

He joined Winkelhock, whose car had stopped on the 15th lap with hydraulic failure, and Sato, whose Super Aguri gave up on lap 21.

Massa kept his advantage over Alonso in the final round of pit stops but the Spaniard kept the Ferrari in his sights.

Mark Webber, Alexander Wurz, Nurburgring, 2007Hamilton took tenth off Barrichello on the 42nd lap but this extra delay brought Massa within range to lap him. A blue flag was waved at Hamilton on lap 46, and he let the Ferrari by.

With ten laps remaining Renault took an unusual gamble – pitting Kovalainen from fifth to put him on intermediate tyres. The team expected more rain and sure enough it began to fall two laps later. By lap 54 everyone was in the pits again except Hamilton, who having switched to dry rubber too soon before, was now taking too long to switch back.

In the crowded pitlane McLaren sent Alonso out straight into the path of Fisichella’s Renault, passing dangerously close to the Honda pit crew. But if the team were to get a penalty, it would have to come after the race had finished.

Out on the track Alonso was decisively quicker than Massa and tried to pass the Ferrari at every corner. Finally on lap 56 he got on the outside of Massa at the Valvoline Kurve, seizing the inside for the following corner and toughing it out even as the two banged wheels. Massa remonstrated with Alonso about it after the race – but Alonso’s move looked clean.

As the final lap began Hamilton finally looked within range of scoring a point. He took Fisichella in a masterful move on the outside of the same corner where Alonso passed Massa, and set off after eighth placed Kovalainen.

Alonso had an eight second lead by the end of the race – which suggested that he just might fear a retroactive penalty for the pit lane misdemeanour. Webber held off Wurz by 0.2s to take third, with Coulthard making it a double points finish for Red Bull in fifth.

Heidfeld finished sixth after making six separate pit stops, somehow ahead of Kubica who’d made four.

Felipe Massa, Fernando Alonso, Nurburgring, 2007, 2And the final point? That went to Kovalainen, who crossed the line 1.5s clear of Hamilton. Fisichella was outside the points, as were Barrichello, Davidson and Trulli.

Pending appeals, Alonso is now two points behind Hamilton – and McLaren have added another two points to their advantage over Ferrari.

Race rating

What more could you ask for? It would be nice if it didn’t take rain to create an exciting race, but I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. Hamilton and Alonso both made brilliant passes – it would be a terrible shame if Alonso’s win were taken from him.

Photo Credits: GEPA (Podium & Mark Webber)

Read the support race reports at Maximum Motorsport

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21 comments on Alonso wins chaotic Nurburgring race

  1. Number 38 said on 22nd July 2007, 16:38

    Say what you like, Massa and HIS Ferrari were the star of the show.
    Without the rain, on every lap he was pulling away from Alonso,
    BUT……the rain counts and Alonso won. Life is not fair.

  2. Number 38 said on 22nd July 2007, 16:43

    I have long proposed the blue flag be banned, it’s the most mis-understood and mis-used tool in all of F1 but today was the first time I saw a lodgical use of that rag. Flagging Hamilton with Massa about to lap him…..we all KNOW what Hamilton’s intent (or orders) were……delay Massa so Alonso could close the gap. For the first time ever Charie Whiting ‘got it right’.

  3. Number 38 said on 22nd July 2007, 16:47

    And while I’m at the keyboard…..surprise of surprises……Webber on the podium and BOTH Red Bulls in the points. That will never happen again, but I give credit when it is due. GOOD SHOW, BOYS!

  4. The blue flag for Hamilton was correct, but the timing was ridiculous … Massa was way behind him at that moment … He had to almost stop the car to let Massa pass … And I am saying this inspite of the fact that wished Massa the win at that stage of the race …

  5. Tommy B said on 22nd July 2007, 18:50

    Markus Winkelhock :D Has any other F1 driver start last and lead the race by lap 1? What a race though, best for a long time I was on the edge of my seat all the way through

  6. Ali AydoÄŸan said on 22nd July 2007, 18:59

    Massa seems to struggle more than the other top tree drivers when conditions are not perfect for himself. This is his weakest quality and indicates me that he does not have the potential to be a world champion yet, considering that he cannot start every race at pole position with the fastest car in a sunny sunday.

    He almost always talks about the traffic when he fails to lap a slower car. I am pretty sure he calls on the radio when he sees somebody 500m in front of him. He should first approach and show that he is faster than the car in front.
    The blue flag was correct but wasnt it too early?

    Massa could not overtake Hamilton in Malaysia with a faster car, could not evertake Kubica for 15 laps in Silverstone, could not approach bacmarkers in Monaco and waited for blue flag, and finally today could not hold Alonso back in the rain.

    He still has too much to learn from Schumacher and Raikonnen…

    In addition, I would be really surprised if Hamilton tried to help Alonso to close the gap 2 more points on him,by slowing Massa down. Hamilton was just driving to reach one point and Massa again failed to catch somebody in front of him.

    Whatever, this was one of the most memorable races of recent years together with last years’ Hungary race.

  7. I loved it! Winklehock’s initial strategy was a masterstroke, even if it did prove a bit pointless in the end. But seeing a Spyker overtake its much-vaunted engine supplier so neatly was a treat, however short-lived.

    Rain always seems to improve F1 racing, and there is no doubt that it mixed things up a lot. It also brought out the best in Massa and Alonso, the worst in Hamilton’s strategic decision-making, and some great attempts at passing (some of which, unusually for F1, succeeded!)

    I very much agree with your rating for this race, Keith, and I can but hope that Hungary is more like this race than its usual state…

  8. Robert McKay said on 22nd July 2007, 20:54

    What are you talking about Number 38? Alonso was CLOSING on Massa in the dry. The gap had went from about 8 seconds down to 4.5 roughly. I’m not sure Alonso would have caught him and passed him without the rain, but he definitely was closing the gap.

    Oh and well done Heidfeld, 6 pit stops but still beating your teammate. And removing Ralf from the race, something I wouldn’t mind doing myself!

  9. Dan M said on 22nd July 2007, 21:04

    Too bad thats the end of Winlkechock…. He proved to be very patient in the rain and showed a lot of sportsmanship to let Massa and Alonso go by at the restart.

    Its nice to see a wet race every once in a while. Most all races are contested by the car design and not the drivers. The rain levels the playing field a bit and reminds us that the inexperienced drivers are just that….. inexperienced.

    I assume this is the turning point in the season and Alonso should be able to out score his teammate the rest of the year.

  10. GriMarian said on 22nd July 2007, 23:56

    Yes Tommy B, Jacque Villeneuve started his debut GP from pole and won it also.

  11. Ben Goldberg said on 23rd July 2007, 1:18

    Actually Robert McKay, Massa said, and I do believe him, that he was controlling the pace at that point. With 6 laps left, a 4.5 second lead was plenty. You always see drivers catch up to the leader when he has a lead like that.

    And also Ali AydoÄŸan, after the restart of the race, Massa built up a good lead on Alonso in less than ideal conditions with intermediate tires on. I don’t know what’s up with the vibrations Massa was feeling at the end, but it’s obvious that his second set of inters weren’t nearly as ideal as his first set. He built a good lead even before switching to dry tires when it was wet, with the very experienced Alonso right behind him, so I don’t see how that’s struggling in the wet conditions. I agree though, he did struggle with vibrations in his car, but again so did Mark Webber, and actually I’m sure everyone would struggle with those conditions.

  12. Ben Goldberg said on 23rd July 2007, 1:22

    Oh ya, I obviously don’t know how the rules work entirely, but what happened to the 2 hour race rule? Alonso finished the race in 2 hours and 6 minutes. Do they stop the clock during the red flag, because I thought it kept running.

  13. Number 38 said on 23rd July 2007, 6:50

    Ben Goldberg has brought up a point…..the 2 hour limit and the 2 hour 6 minute and 26 second race. Alonso passed Massa 4 laps from the end and if we back up the clock 6 minutes and 26 seconds, that’s 1 min 36.5 secs a lap……Massa MAY have been leading when the 2 hour limit ran out. Does anyone know why the race went the distance in violation of the time limit?

    Some of my friends above are critical of the blue flag being shown too soon but you’ve got to understand it wasn’t waved at Hamilton because Massa was close, it was waved to warn Hamilton …… NO FUNNY BUSINESS, NO SUGGESTIONS FROM MR. DENNIS, NO BLOCKING ….. to allow Alonso to to catch up. An additional complaint was Hamilton had to “Stop his car to let Massa pass”……..but he also let Alonso pass. That was fair, that was also the intent. It was an order from the FIA. Massa and Alonso were RACING, Hamilton was a moving roadblock who COULD have “interfered with the outcome of the race” (that’s FIA language). Again I say, I think the blue flag has no place in f1 but in this case…..in the end it was the clock or the rain that did Massa in, not the flag.

  14. The rain definitely helped Alonso, very hard to see him overtake Massa had it not rained. But it was one of those races I will remember for some time.

  15. Ben Goldberg said on 23rd July 2007, 7:28

    I know that Massa was leading when the two hour mark came up because I was thinking “Ok, end the race now, Massa has won!” This was when it was raining and he was barely holding on to his lead. Then I realized that they were going the distance and I knew there was no way Massa could hold him off. When I saw then collide, I was just hoping that Massa hadn’t bent his suspension.

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