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On This Day

Sunday 22nd July 2007

14 years ago

After being declared fit to race after a crash in practice, Lewis Hamilton spun off in a torrential downpour at the European Grand Prix at Nürburgring, eventually coming home ninth - ending his run of nine successive podiums - behind race winner Alonso. It started a dry race with a chance of rain and clouds hanging overhead. At the start of the warm-up lap, the timing screens displayed the warning that the rain was going to begin falling in about 3 minutes. This did not concern the Ferraris who led into the first corner as a pair with Alonso trailing in third. Markus Winkelhock for Spyker was the only driver to pit after the warm up lap to change to the wet tyres, although this meant he had to start from the pits at the beginning of the race. It did pay off when all the other drivers were having to pit or spin off during the first lap. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, coming back from his 10th-place qualifying made a good start and was up to sixth at the first corner, but a collision between the two BMWs caused Hamilton to take avoiding action and the diffuser of Kubica's car caused a puncture in Hamilton's left-rear tyre causing him to fall back into the rest of the pack. This was only the beginning of the first lap chaos. The time it took for the rain to arrive and the sheer amount was heavily underestimated by everybody but Spyker, and so during the first lap it started to rain heavily and people had been caught out. David Coulthard skated across the gravel at turn five as everybody tried to drive around a slow Hamilton and there was a small impact between Rubens Barrichello and Nico Rosberg at the newly named Schumacher 'S' corner in the mid-field with Barrichello's Honda the worst affected. As Rosberg recovered, he was extremely lucky not to have been clipped by Ralf Schumacher who sped past but the luck did not last and the first lap chaos had not ended there as Adrian Sutil was also caught up with the recovering Rosberg towards the end of the lap at the back. Alexander Wurz also missed the final chicane after getting two wheels on the soggy grass. Somewhat amazingly, all of the drivers' cars had survived, and they returned to the pit lane at the end of lap one to change from grooved dry tyres to intermediates - though it would later show intermediate tyres were still the wrong tyres to be on. Debutant Markus Winkelhock took advantage of a gamble which meant he started on wet tyres and from the pit lane which gave him a surprising lead at his home Grand Prix after everyone in the field pitted for intermediates or stayed out on dries; the first time that a Spyker had led a Grand Prix. Everyone would have normally pitted at the end of lap one as it was raining heavily but an error from then-leader Kimi Räikkönen resulted in him slipping wide on the paint and he missed the pit entry completely which meant he had to do an extra lap on the dry tyres slipping him to a net seventh place. Others had stayed out in the hope that the rain would stop, such as Jarno Trulli but this lost him time. As the weather worsened, it turned out that full wet tyres were required, rather than intermediates. Being on the wrong tyres, almost every driver had to slow down to prevent sliding off the track. The sole exception was Markus Winkelhock of the Spyker Ferrari, who started the race on wets. The gamble he took against the weather paid off handsomely, and he managed to lead the race by 33 seconds ahead of Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, who had pitted at the end of lap one along with other drivers. By the start of lap three, the weather had become so bad that water was flowing round turn 1 and was nicknamed the 'turn 1 river'. Another big winner in the chaos was Jenson Button who moved up from a mid grid position to 4th despite coming in on the 1st lap to change tyres. However, he spun off into the wall at the start of the 3rd lap, quickly followed by Lewis Hamilton who locked up. Adrian Sutil had a huge spin into the same place as Button and Hamilton and just missed both of them as he hit the wall. Nico Rosberg and Scott Speed were the latest casualties of the turn 1 "river". Anthony Davidson then locked up at the "river" but stopped his car just before the gravel and was able to reverse out. The safety car crept out to slow down the race, then quickly sped off around the corner as Vitantonio Liuzzi came into the 1st corner backwards at 150 mph. The gravel trap slowed him and he gently tapped a recovery tractor. Amazingly, Hamilton had kept his engine running and was hoisted back on the circuit to continue a lap down. Not long after the safety car was deployed, race director Charlie Whiting decided the conditions were too dangerous to continue, and the race was red flagged. The race was the first to be red-flagged since the 2003 Brazilian Grand Prix, when a crash by Fernando Alonso halted the race. However, it was the first race to be red-flagged and restarted since the 2001 Belgian Grand Prix, when a crash by Luciano Burti stopped the race but was restarted after repairs to the wall. At about 2:20 p.m. local time the rain stopped and the drivers were pushed on to the starting grid, in the order that they were one lap before the red flag. Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg, Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi did not take the restart as they all aquaplaned off the track at turn one on lap three, causing the red flag. The race restarted under safety car conditions, after one and a half minutes (as agreed by the team bosses), any lapped cars are allowed to over take all the cars in front (including the safety car) and unlap themselves. The only lapped car was that of Lewis Hamilton, who proceeded around the track (much to the confusion of some other drivers). He then proceeded to pit and change to the dry tyres, a gamble which did not pay off due to the track still being too wet and Lewis subsequently skidded off the track for several laps. When the safety car returned to the pit, race leader Markus Winkelhock lost the lead very early on after another gamble which resulted in him keeping wet weather tyres on while everybody else was on the more suitable intermediate tyre in the hope further rain would fall. It would not and eventually he was forced into retirement after a hydraulic failure on lap 15. He had, however, already made his point and it was an impressive debut considering he had only driven the car for three days in total before the race. All of those days were also dry and so this was also Winkelhock's first experience of wet weather in a Formula One car. He was later joined by Takuma Sato and Ralf Schumacher, with the latter of which involved in a collision with Nick Heidfeld who continued. Pole position holder Kimi Räikkönen was also forced to retire due to mechanical problems while catching up to the leaders running third. From then onwards, it seemed it was normal service resumed and a normal dry race with the faster Ferrari of Massa leading Fernando Alonso and slowly pulling away. Mark Webber, whose reliability problems seemed to be behind him, was driving a strong race in third with Alexander Wurz chasing him hard. But on lap 52, the rain once again fell onto the track, albeit not so heavily but it caused all the drivers to dive into the pits for the intermediate tyres. Except for Lewis Hamilton who gambled that the rain would not be heavy enough to need intermediate tyres and that he would benefit from everyone else pitting. He managed to get up to a points position of eighth, before having to pit, dropping him back down to tenth. From then onwards, Fernando Alonso's McLaren came into its own and he passed Massa on lap 56 in dramatic fashion around the outside at turn five. They had made contact and he proceeded to win the race, taking McLaren's first win at the Nürburgring since 1998 and came on the 80th anniversary of the first Grand Prix at the Nürburgring, won by Rudolf Carraciola in a Mercedes. Massa trailed him by 8.1 seconds, clearly less comfortable in the wet/dry conditions. The final podium position was claimed by Mark Webber in the Red Bull, albeit over one minute behind the leader. Alexander Wurz, David Coulthard, Nick Heidfeld, Robert Kubica and Heikki Kovalainen, who had gambled on putting intermediate tyres on early and fell from fifth position to eighth, completed the points-paying places. The Red Bull Team was ecstatic to earn ten points and they moved past Toyota in the constructors championship into sixth. Lewis Hamilton elected to change onto dry tyres, while the safety car was deployed, which ultimately proved to be far too early as the track was still wet. The decision put Hamilton a lap down and he finished the race in ninth place, the first time he had finished outside the points-scoring positions. Alonso and Massa had a heated argument (in Italian) before the podium ceremony, over their collision in the final part of the race, that was shown live on TV coverage.

Felipe Massa leading Fernando Alonso at the 2007 European Grand Prix

Felipe Massa leading Fernando Alonso at the 2007 European Grand Prix