Paddock Postcard from Hockenheim 20 Jul 2008
The German fans are among the most enthusiastic in the world, and they love a good race. They got one in Saturdays GP2 encounter. Series leader Giorgio Pantano was heading for an easy win over, until the Heavens opened in the closing stages. The Italian lost his rhythm in his Racing Engineering machine, allowing ART driver Romain Grosjean to move ahead to take a dramatic victory. Behind them there was mayhem.
Alvaro Parente kept his nerve ahead of the chasing pack to claim the final podium place. But for a long while it had been the subject of a fierce scrap between Sebastian Buemi, Lucas di Grassi and Bruno Senna, and Karun Chandhok and Javier Villa battled in their wake. Then down came the rain. Villa seemed to have done enough after Buemi fell off track, but then went off himself on his slick tyres on the final lap. Senna had changed to wets but was still sliding all over the circuit as he fought to fend off Andreas Zuber, who had messed up his start, fought back, and then slid into Villas car. Finally, Parente managed to re-pass Senna right at the end to head the Brazilian, di Grassi, Pastor Maldonado, Andy Soucek and Chandhok across the line in nose-to-tail order.
Pantano was unhappy to lose a win that seemed to be in the bag, but with fastest lap he was able to extend his lead to 61 points ahead of Senna on 44, while Grosjean moves up to 33 points, ahead of di Grassi on 28 and Buemi and Parente on 25.
Another on-track highlight was the BMW ProCar exhibition race, in which the likes of Niki Lauda, Marc Surer, Dieter Quester, Jochen Neerpasch and Christian Danner demonstrated the elegant Munich two-seater sportscars which once thrilled F1 crowds in the late Seventies and early Eighties in their own separate racing championship. Lauda loved it.
"It was such a hoot. We were allowed to drive how we wanted, we didn't have to hold back on the pace. Actually, we should have been chasing Jochen Neerpasch in the M1 Art Car, but he didn't get off to a proper start. And that gave me a clear run ahead. I'm going to have to seriously reconsider whether my career really is over! It was great fun."
Meanwhile, BMW Sauber test driver Christian Klien said: "I've always wanted to race against Niki Lauda. "It's amazing the handling these cars already had back in the Eighties. Even today they feel quite advanced. And as for the sound, it's out of this world. You're sitting right in front of the engine, and at 10,000 revs it's awesome. You really get a sense of the car's sheer grunt."