Q&A with Spykers Markus Winkelhock 24 Jul 2007
Spykers Markus Winkelhock enjoyed one of the most extraordinary debuts in Formula One history at the European Grand Prix. After being called into the pits for wet tyres on the parade lap, Winkelhock was able to move swiftly up the ranks when the rain arrived, eventually finding himself running in P1.
Here the German driver reveals what it felt like to lead at the Nurburgring during his maiden race and discusses the reasons behind his subsequent retirement
Q: It probably hasnt sunk in yet, but how do you view the weekend?
Markus Winkelhock: It was a special day, my first F1 race, and in Germany. I was quite lucky that the team made a good decision to bring me in, and we immediately changed to wet tyres. It was a team decision - I saw some rain drops on my visor on the formation lap, but I really didnt think that it was going to rain that hard! It worked, and I overtook many cars.
Q: When you first went out you were at the back. When did you first start catching people and thinking, this could be good?
MW: Immediately when I went out of the pits I overtook the first cars, and I could see that I was much quicker with the rain tyres. Many cars went off, and it was really difficult conditions. There was so much water, it was not easy to hold the car on the track. I didnt want to take any risks, because for me it was the first time in an F1 car in rainy conditions. But I was really happy. I saw the pit board with P1 on, and I asked the team am I really in P1? They said yes you are, keep on pushing! Unfortunately, the safety car went out, but they would have caught me out anyway.
Q: Can you remember who you overtook?
MW: Everybody! I think I overtook four cars between the first corner and the second corner. Then when I overtook Kimi Raikkonen I thought that maybe I am now in P1! When the red flag came I knew Id lost my lead, but anyway, I led an F1 race.
Q: What advice did the team give you during the break?
MW: Just keep on pushing. No risk, no pressure, just go!
Q: What was it like at the restart?
MW: I didnt want to take any risks, because I knew that the Ferraris and McLarens would be quick, and they would pass me. And at that moment we had the heavy rain tyres on, and the others had intermediates on. The track was already too dry in many parts, so I really lost a lot of grip compared to the others.
Q: How hard was it to keep people behind?
MW: It was not easy. Like I said I have never driven in rainy conditions, and I didnt want to take any risks, I didnt want to miss the braking point at the first corner and end up in the gravel. That would be the most embarrassing situation for me! So I let them past. I was trying to fight a little bit, but I was losing out of the corners so much, and they overtook me just like that. I couldnt match their speed so we changed back to grooved tyres.
Q: What happened in the end?
MW: It was disappointing for sure, but it was not a mistake of the team. I think it was an electronic problem. Unfortunately, the target was to finish the race and see the chequered flag, but anyway I have to say thank you to the whole team. I had a really nice weekend with them, all the guys, the mechanics and engineers, were working really hard. I just enjoyed it, the whole weekend.