Sunday, July 22, 2007
Although light rain began to fall during the formation lap, the start was relatively clean, marred only by a collision between the two BMW Sauber drivers. As the rain began to fall more heavily, the pit lane filled up with crews from every team expecting all the drivers to change to intermediate tyres at the end of the first lap. However Kimi Räikkönen, who had started in pole position and was leading the race, skidded across the pit-lane entrance and back out onto the track, forcing him to drive another lap in increasingly wet conditions.
Having opted to start the race from the pits on intermediate tyres Marcus Winkelhock, a rookie Spyker–Ferrari driver on his first ever Formula One race, quickly rose to become race leader despite having started the race in last position.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton, who had suffered a crash in the third qualifying session and started 10th on his repaired car, had a perfect start, gaining six places, but made contact with one of the BMWs on the first lap and punctured his left rear tyre.
Within several laps the track quickly became flooded, and on lap three Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton, Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg, Scott Speed, Anthony Davidson, and Antonio Liuzzi all aquaplaned off into the gravel trap at the same place – Liuzzi making contact with the tractor attempting to recover the other cars. The safety car was deployed for several laps but the increasingly dangerous conditions forced race officials to red-flag the race, bringing it to a complete stop until the rain cleared up, and drivers once again gathered on the starting grid for a restart. Despite needing to have his car lifted out of the gravel trap by a crane, Hamilton managed to keep his engine running, and in accordance with the rules regarding being moved from a dangerous position, was allowed to rejoin the restarting grid in last place, albeit a lap down on all the other drivers.
After about half an hour of stoppage, Winkelhock then led the pack off in a flying start behind the safety car. He was quickly overtaken by almost every car, before retiring due to mechanical problems.
For most of the race Felipe Massa led, pursued by world champion Fernando Alonso. Hamilton was the fastest driver on the track, but even at three seconds a lap faster than the other back-markers it took him a long time to catch the pack.
Rain was predicted to recommence approximately 20 minutes before the end of the race. Renault took a gamble by bringing Heikki Kovalainen in first for a tyre change, but they were too early, and he quickly dropped back from fifth position. Several laps later, there was a rush into the pits, with nobody wanting additional risks on the wet track. The “extreme wet” tyres reduced the pace of Massa’s Ferrari and allowed Alonso to come closer and push hard on his rival.
After two laps of constant pressure and overtaking attempts, Alonso passed Massa, and held him off until the finish. The aggressive attack style chosen by Spaniard caused a slight contact between their cars.
Kimi Raikkonen had been close behind Alonso, but his car suffered a breakdown and he had to park it alongside the track.
Mark Webber drove his Red Bull-Renault to the third place. His teammate David Coulthard also made a nice race finishing 5th from his 20th place on the starting grid. This became the most successful result for Red Bull in this season.
For the first time from his debut Lewis Hamilton finished outside the points. His consistently quick pace throughout the race raised him up to tenth place, and in a final gamble he attempted to stay out on dry tyres during the second downpour. This raised him into the points temporarily, but after several slow laps he was forced to pit, and dropped back to tenth. In the dying laps he came within several seconds of Giancarlo Fisichella and Heikki Kovalainen, but although he managed to pass Fisichella, Kovalaninen remained out of reach, and Hamilton had to settle for ninth place. He remains leader of the drivers’ championship, but now only 2 points ahead of Alonso.
This was the first wet race since the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.