Paddock Postcard from the Nurburgring 07 May 2006
From BMWs Pit Lane Park to the more curiously dressed German fans with their red, yellow and black Mohican haircuts, the Nurburgring is en fete for the Grand Prix of Europe.
Like the Italians and the British, the German fans really love their racing and have no qualms about wearing their allegiances on their sleeves. Usually they read Michael Schumacher. Nevertheless, BMWs initiative - a mini Formula One theme park - has been very well received by the attending public, and gives them a great taste of what is going on in the real pit lane.
On track there has been plenty of fun, too, a chunk of it coming from the irrepressible Andreas Niklaus (aka Niki) Lauda. Thirty years ago the Austrian icon nearly perished when his Ferrari crashed at Bergwerk corner on the old Nordschleife, which still lurks in the shadow of the so-called new Nurburgring. On Saturday he, Bernie Ecclestone and Arturo Merzario (who, together with Brett Lunger, Guy Edwards and Harald Ertl rescued Lauda from his blazing car) visited the corner. Typically, Lauda toasted the memory with a glass of beer, waggling a pigs ear in place of the organ that he lost in the inferno.
Saturday also saw McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton come of age with a crushing drive to his first GP2 victory for the ART team. Starting third on the grid he grabbed the lead as polesitter and series leader Nelson Piquet sat spinning his wheels, opened up a huge lead, lost it to team mate Alexander Premat after a drive-through penalty for speeding during his pit stop, and then set about decimating the unhappy Frenchman to win by nearly 20 seconds. Fellow Brit Adam Carroll drove beautifully for third place, but Piquets championship lead dwindled to only seven points after he crashed out due to tyre failure.
Hamilton went on to make it a double on Sunday morning, winning the weekend's second GP2 race. There was further anguish for Piquet, whose car stopped on the final lap while running seventh.