Paddock Postcard from the Nurburgring 24 Jul 2011
With the German Grand Prix alternating between the Nurburgring and Hockenheim, its been almost two years since the paddock last visited the Eifel mountains and everyone has been making the most of the change of scene.
As ever, the Nurburgings old Nordschleife layout provided an excellent backdrop to pre-race activities. One of the standout moments was Nico Rosberg piloting Juan Manuel Fangios 1954 Mercedes around the legendary track. Fangio took victory in the 54 German Grand Prix at the wheel of his W196, with a winning time of just over 3 hours 45 minutes.
From a modern perspective, the upright sitting position feels very strange, but the drive itself was great, said Rosberg. It must have been tremendous fun driving these cars back in the Fifties. Compared with our modern safety standards, though, it was much more dangerous then, racing on tracks like the Nordschleife.
Rosbergs Mercedes team mate Michael Schumacher was also in action at the Nordschleife, behind the wheel of a W196 Stromlinie or Streamliner. I was driving a piece of motor racing history, he said. What better way could there be to motivate ourselves for our second home race in a fortnight than to go for a drive in a proven winner?
Force Indias Adrian Sutil, meanwhile, took to the old-style Nurburgring in a much more up-to-date Gumpert Apollo road car. His drive, however, was interrupted prematurely by technical issues. I went out of the pits and something was broken at the rear of the car so I lost control at a very slow speed and I touched a barrier at about 10km/h and thats it, he explained, following some rather exaggerated reports of the accident.
Nothing really major was broken. I stopped the car there because it was not good to go back to the pits like that and I changed the car. There were a few more cars there, same ones and I had a good day, three great laps in this Gumpert Apollo, a very fast car, very amazing around this place and that was it.
Among the motor racing royalty present at the Nurburgring, it was great to see VW Motorsport Hans Stuck making a rare appearance at a Grand Prix, and multiple Le Mans victor Tom Kristensen was back as the driver steward.
On the track, Colonis Luca Filippi celebrated his 100th start in GP2 with a great victory in Saturdays feature race over Assax poleman Charles Pic after passing him during the pit stops. While the Frenchman fought back for a while, he was also under strong pressure from series leader Romain Grosjean, who completed the podium for DAMS.
The latters closest points challengers, Giedo van der Garde and Sam Bird, had tough days. As Jules Bianchi took fourth for ART, Van der Garde lost fifth to iSports Marcus Ericsson on the penultimate lap. Bird, meanwhile, achieved his late-race aim of eighth place, and thus pole for Sundays sprint race, after a fight with Carlins Alvaro Parente and Racing Engineerings Dani Clos. Parente was eventually penalised out of contention after incidents with returnee Adam Carroll of Super Nova, and Caterham Air Asias Luiz Razia. In Sundays encounter Grosjean made the most of an error from Bianchi on the penultimate lap to steal victory after a three-way battle that also included Filippi.
In GP3, meanwhile, MW Arden at first looked set for a 1-2 in Saturdays race as polesitter Mitch Evans took the lead at the start and team mate Lewis Williamson surged through from seventh to snatch runner-up slot from Marussia Manors Rio Haryanto further round that opening lap.
When Evans was given a drive-through penalty because his team hadnt put the wheels on his car within the regulation three minutes of the start, Williamson seemed home and dry until a slight drizzle then suddenly became a downpour. As drivers slithered and snaked around in their slicks, Haryanto moved in, chased by ARTs Valterri Bottas.
During the last five laps they had a pitch battle as Haryanto slipped ahead of Williamson only to be repassed as they traded the lead three times. Bottas at one stage also passed the Scot, but as Williamson set fastest lap as he battled back to second their fight was enough to let Haryanto get clear to take the win by 2.4s. By the flag Bottas had his hands full with team mate James Calado in the Racing Steps car. Haryantos team mate Adrian Quaife-Hobbs was fifth, with Carlins Conor Daly having his best outing of the year to score his maiden points in a strong sixth.
Sundays race saw Valtteri Bottas take his maiden GP3 victory, the ART driver coming from sixth on the opening lap to then lead throughout in wet conditions. Sims and Nigel Melker completed the podium.
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