The Nürburgring race this year was phenomenal by recent Formula 1 standards. It is probably the most impressive race I can remember in the 21st century to date. At times it was reminiscent of the battles between Hakkinen and Schumacher in the late 1990s or Prost and Senna about a decade earlier. It goes a long way to show how the weather can highlight some of the less obvious abilities of the drivers and design decisions, how tyre strategies can make or break a team’s race and how different cars’ aerodynamics work for and against the driver under different tyres.
The intermittent rain was perhaps the main reason for which the race developed as bizarrely as it did: Raikonnen retired early, Hamilton managed an impressive climb from P17 to P10 and of course the amazing duel between Alonso (who eventually got a much needed and clear win) and Felippe Massa (2nd) who couldn’t fight the McLaren assault in wet conditions, despite having a faster car overall; Alonso’s impressive overtaking of Massa in the last laps was sensational as the cars touched twice; tensions obviously ran high and the race was followed by a bitter exchange of words between Alonso and Massa, although Alonso apologised for his remarks to Massa during the press conference. The changing weather conditions were also contributing factors to Mark Webber’s first podium (3rd place) with Red Bull. Alonso’s win is a return to form for both the driver, McLaren and — arguably — the championship. Renault continued its mediocre overall performance despite Kovalainen’s demonstration of his talent and continuing development — he would have finished fifth if it weren’t for a tyre puncture. Fisichella again proved that he’s an excellent driver under rain, but a mediocre driver overall, not managing to finish within the points.
While there is no doubt that Formula 1 regulations and the importance of strategy and engineering have reduced the sport to an engineering research and demonstration contest and relatively boring, uninviting races, the 2007 season continues to impress with four excellent drivers and their McLarens and Ferraris as well as the four top teams constantly improving their cars and engines. If Europe GP is any indication, things are getting better indeed. It’s only a shame that those driver and car combinations were missing in the 5 years of total Michael Schumacher domination.