Juan Pablo Montoya took his second victory this season from his first pole position of 2003 at the German Grand Prix, avoiding a first corner incident that took out three of the championship contenders. Montoya led from start to finish, setting a...
Juan Pablo Montoya took his second victory this season from his first pole position of 2003 at the German Grand Prix, avoiding a first corner incident that took out three of the championship contenders. Montoya led from start to finish, setting a blistering pace that saw him cross the line a full minute ahead of McLaren's David Coulthard and Renault's Jarno Trulli.Ferraris had a slow start, which caused a bit of a concertina effect. Montoya shot off into the lead but Ralf Schumacher moved across the track, squeezing Rubens Barrichello who had Kimi Raikkonen's McLaren alongside him. The Ferrari and McLaren collided and Raikkonen spun, hitting Ralf's Williams before crashing heavily into the tyre wall at the first corner.
Trying to avoid the wreckage, the rest of the field slowed; Ralph Firman's Jordan shunted Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Sauber, and Justin Wilson's Jaguar debut was scuppered. He had contact with first the BAR of Jacques Villeneuve, who spun, and then got walloped by Firman, who was seemingly on a crashing mission.
Raikkonen, thankfully, appeared okay and was taken to the medical centre for precautionary checks. The McLaren was a wreck but Kimi only suffered a bruised leg and sore neck from the huge impact with the tyre wall. So the first corner caused five retirees; Raikkonen, Barrichello, Ralf, Frentzen and Firman.
Ralf's Williams sustained too much damage for him to continue, as did the Ferrari, Sauber and Jordan. The safety car was deployed and Wilson dived into the pits. The left front suspension was changed and he rejoined the race but only for a few laps before finally retiring.
"It's just one of those situations," said Wilson. "I slowed right down to avoid the confusion and just tapped Jacques Villeneuve. Then Firman came round much faster and hit me."
Ralf was equally disappointed: "Certainly it's very disappointing but that's the way racing happens sometimes. I was trying to defend my position but I haven't seen a replay to see what happened."
The rest of the race passed in a less chaotic manner. Once the safety car went in, it was Montoya leading from the Renault pair of Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso. Michael Schumacher also escaped the first corner mayhem and was fourth, followed by the other Jaguar of Mark Webber who benefited very well, as did David Coulthard, up to sixth.
Coulthard dispatched Webber fairly swiftly and there was a fair bit of action going on in the midfield. BAR's Jenson Button took the remaining Sauber of Nick Heidfeld and Jos Verstappen hurled his Minardi past the Jordan of Giancarlo Fisichella who was having problems. The Italian went in for a long pit stop with a gearbox gremlin and managed to rejoin the race but evetually retired with electronic problems in the final few laps.
The regular pit stops started early, Trulli the first in on lap fourteen. Montoya was having a race all on his own and really hammering it down the track. The Toyota due of Olivier Panis and Cristiano da Matta were hassling Webber; Panis got past but then dived into the pits and da Matta took the Jaguar at the hairpin.
Montoya pitted and Michael followed him in, leaving Alonso in the lead until he too had his first pit stop. Things progressed fairly sedately until the second round of stops then it all got a bit heated. Michael, Coulthard and the Renault's all had long fuel stops, evidently fueling to the end. After the shakedown it was Montoya from Trulli, Alonso and Michael.
Da Matta got passed Villeneuve, in what was a bit of a wobbly moment and Verstappen charged off onto the grass to retire. Michael was closing on Alonso but not really threatening -- then the Spaniard made a mistake and ran really wide over the grass. Michael shot past and homed in on Trulli. Coulthard missed his chance to take Alonso but jumped him in the pit stops for fourth.
The Scot then started closing on Michael, who was harassing Trulli. Montoya took his third stop but was so far ahead he retained the lead. Trulli's tyres were wearing, looking blistered and he was evidently struggling. Michael had a go round the outside of the hairpin but couldn't quite make it work. But Trulli made a slight mistake and the Ferrari got him at the next corner. The crowd went bonkers then Coulthard tried his luck as well. The McLaren and Renault went side by side then Trulli went wide and Coulthard belted past.
Michael was looking good for second but then fate played a hand; the Ferrari punctured a tyre and all his hard work went to waste as cars streamed past the ailing scarlet machine. Michael managed to get it back to the pits but was relegated to seventh -- all in the last couple of laps. Webber ended his race in a gravel trap in an unseen incident on the final lap.
An absolutely storming drive by Montoya; he was in a class of his own, lapping all but the second, third and fourth finishers. A stunning display of speed and control, he simply never put a tyre wrong, the only person he was racing was himself. Coulthard had a very good race indeed and deserved his second place.
Renault should have done better, it could have had both Trulli and Alonso on the podium but maybe the wrong tyre choice, and Alonso's mistake, wasted the chance. However, Trulli drove a fine race despite having been not very well all weekend, to finish third. A mention to Minardi's Nicolas Kiesa, who finished his first F1 race -- he may have been last but at least he finished. Toyota did well, both Panis and da Matta in the points and Button again managed to find a point for BAR.
Hockenheim has blown the championship wide open again. Montoya is now second, only six points behind Michael and Raikkonen just three points behind the Colombian. What was a two-horse race, as it were, is now a three, and even Ralf, nine behind Raikkonen and Barrichello, four behind Ralf, cannot be counted out.
There have been seven different winners this year, a far more entertaining result than F1 has seen for some time. Coulthard's second place today improved his standing to seventh but his title hopes are still tenuous to say the least. Alonso slips down to sixth but it could have been better if not for that silly mistake.
As for the Constructors', Williams is hunting Ferrari down; only two points separate them now. McLaren is hanging in there but the team will need a few exemplary results to keep in touch. Hockenheim was a crucial race and it really shook things up a bit -- this championship looks like it will go all the way to the end. Final top eight classification: Montoya, Coulthard, Trulli, Alonso, Panis, da Matta, M. Schumacher, Button.