Last year Johnny Herbert won the European GP after a magnificent day at the Nurburgring. This year wasn't so kind to Johnny, but the soaking wet afternoon was not without its highlights. And despite being punted off in the closing laps, he was...
Last year Johnny Herbert won the European GP after a magnificent day at the Nurburgring. This year wasn't so kind to Johnny, but the soaking wet afternoon was not without its highlights. And despite being punted off in the closing laps, he was in bouyant mood after a more enjoyable race than he's had so far this year.
Once again, Eddie did not make a great start, but those around him were also bogged down and he came out of the first corner shuffle still in eighth place. Johnny had less luck, and found himself bundled down to 18th.
Eddie was passed by Pedro de la Rosa and then found himself behind the Williams of Ralf Schumacher. At around the lap 10 mark, the rain came. It was just a few spots at first, similar to many showers which had swept across the Nurburgring during the weekend. But this one built steadily, and lap times tumbled as the cars began to slither around. Eddie passed Ralf on lap 12 and got back to eighth place.
On the same lap, Johnny made a crucial decision. Mindful of how he won last year's race, he was the first driver to duck into the pits for wet tyres, although even he had hesitated and postponed the stop by a lap. Three more cars came in on the following lap, four more on the next - including Eddie - but it wasn't until lap 17 that Jenson Button, the last man out on dry tyres, decided to come in.
With the chaos of the stops over, the true picture emerged. Eddie had gained two spots and was up to sixth, while Johnny had leaped up to ninth - and was right behind the Ferrari of Rubens Barrichello! And he was 23secs behind leader Michael Schumacher when previously the gap had been 38secs. Once again, his magic touch with the stops had paid dividends.
"It was his decision," said team manager Dave Stubbs. "He was going to come in, and then he got round to the pit entry and thought it wasn't quite as wet, and when he got past the pit he said, 'I should have come in!' But I don't think it would have made much difference."
Eddie lost a spot when Rubens forced his way past, and at the start of lap 30 found himself battling wheel-to-wheel with the Arrows of Jos Verstappen into the first corner. Neither man wanted to give way, and after a gentle touch Eddie looped into a lazy spin. Right behind him Ralf Schumacher touched his brakes and spun in sympathy, and bashed his rear wing off on the back of the Jaguar. As the German limped away, Eddie set off again, and his rearward facing camera captured what happened next - barely 200 metres later the damaged wing of the R1 flew off and went fluttering over a footbridge! Eddie didn't realise, so when he turned in at the next corner the car went spinning off into a gravel trap. "Initially when I looked in the mirrors I thought the car looked fine," said Eddie. "But obviously the rear wing was missing. I tried to carry on to bring it back to the pits but I lost the back end and ended up in the gravel. With track conditions the way they were a points finish was there for the taking for sure."
Jaguar hopes now lay with Johnny, but after a second stop on 41 he found the car less comfortable on its fresh tyres, and lost a bit of pace. "Johnny wasn't happy with the second set of wet tyres," said Gary Anderson. "We think it’s because they were new - next time we'll have to try a scrubbed set."
Nevertheless, he got up to seventh and spent the last part of the race embroiled in a fight with Jenson Button and Alex Wurz, until the Austrian tried a very optimistic move into the last turn with six laps to go. Both cars went spinning, and Johnny was not able to get going again. “He knows now you can’t do that!” said Johnny.
Despite the double retirement, the team could at least draw comfort from the fact that both cars had been in the thick of the action, and yet again, there were no mechanical problems on race day.
"The cars started with a dry set-up," said Gary, "with just a bit more wing. We got the pit stop call right, and it would have been nice to see them benefit by finishing."