Before today’s race, Mark Webber was the star of the show. Despite being a top driver for several years, he has never quite managed to win a race yet. Nor, until yesterday, had he managed a pole position. A personable chap, and the head of the unofficial drivers’ union, he appears to be popular with the other grid regulars. Despite the presence of the two Brits near the front of the grid, there was an almost tangible desire to see him win the race.
As much as Silverstone last time, the Nurburgring is drenched in Grand Prix history, and the BBC used its substantial archive to showcase a retrospective of the track, incorporating the Fangio footage alongside some clips of Nazi parades at the track, all underscored with some Wagner. When it comes to avoiding clichés, we should probably be happy that they didn’t have David Coulthard in lederhosen.
We had the mandatory reference to the “original Nurburgring” which, I must admit, does sound amazing. It was originally a fourteen mile circuit around the mountains of the Eifel Forest which would be a horrendous challenge for the driver, but probably a bigger challenge for the broadcasters.
If you consider how many cameras are studded around the average Grand Prix circuit, it would probably take every lens in Germany to adequately cover fourteen miles. That’s why we keep seeing the same clip of Fangio going round the same corner – they only had one camera back in the fifties.
This is the ancestral home of German Formula One, it now fights Hockenheim for supremacy and has just started an arrangement whereby they will alternate the venue for the German Grand Prix.
Before the race, we had a tetchy interview with Michael Schumacher, with Jake gracelessly bringing up an old incident where Schumacher and David Coulthard had collided on the track and almost come to blows in the pits. We also had Martin Brundle, whose grid walk was most notable for his threat, thankfully unfulfilled, of showing us the drivers’ trackside toilets.
Finally, there was a young German boy band fellow knocking out the German National Anthem like it was a love song – it was like when they get Mariah Carey to do The Star Spangled Banner. Embarrassing and demeaning to everyone involve, but also a little creepy to hear “Deutschland, Deutschland. Uber alles,” rendered with such affectation.
As usual, the start of the race was where the action was. With a hairpin turn at the end of the start straight, it was always likely to produce a bottleneck. Lewis Hamilton made use of his KERS system to pull from fifth on the grid to be first going into the corner. Unfortunately for him, he hit the corner way too fast, overshot, recovered poorly, and emerged from the situation in last place, and with a puncture. After such pre-race optimism, his race was over before the end of the first lap.
Alongside Jenson Button at the entrance to turn one, Webber defended his pole position from the threat of the advancing Rubens Barrichello with a lunge to the right which, in the view of the stewards, was dangerous. Not only that, but it was also unsuccessful so Barrichello had already led Webber for the first few laps of the race, when Webber was given a drive-through penalty.
Unfortunately for Barrichello, this advantage was outweighed by getting stuck behind Felipe Massa after his pit stop. The Red Bull team got the tactics right and Webber worked his way beck to first place, eventually taking his first Grand Prix victory, with Vettel second.
The two drivers who failed to finish this race could, for very different reasons, be coming to the end of their F1 careers.
Despite a good result for one Ferrari driver, with Felipe Massa finishing third – only their second podium of the season – Kimi Raikkonen failed to finish. What’s more, he has continued to display his complete disregard for his employers by announcing he will compete at the Rally of Finland at the end of July.
After the Hungarian Grand Prix on the 26th July, there is a four week break until the exciting street circuit in Valencia hosts the European Grand Prix, so it's to be expected that the drivers will take a small mid-season break. However, I'm not sure Ferrari will be overjoyed to hear Raikkonen is spending his free time screeching around the icy forests of Finland.
It's really quite extraordinary that there is no contractual clause preventing him from doing it. I seem to recall Michael Schumacher had it written into his Ferrari contract that he would be allowed to play football during the winter break. Surely Kimi doesn't have a "rallying clause" in his contract?
The other non-finisher was Torro Rosso’s Sebastian Bourdais. He had qualified slowest, a full second down even on the hapless Timo Glock. Even before qualifying, there was dark talk of him being elbowed aside should he fail to impress this weekend. If that talk is true then we might have seen the Frenchman in his last Grand Prix.
Before the race, the BBC very deliberately interviewed Torro Rosso’s test driver Jaime Alguersuari. By the time we decamp to Budapest, he might be on the grid.