Fernando Alonso appeared second best to Kimi Raikkonen
for 58 of the 59 laps of the European Grand Prix, but scooped his fourth win of the season when the Finn's right front wheel let go in spectacular style on the final lap.
Raikkonen had led from the start, jumping pole man Nick Heidfeld
into turn one and, apart from the pit-stops and an uncharacteristic off mid-race, wasn't headed until a flat-spotted tyre eventually led to suspension failure under braking for the first corner on lap 59.
Alonso had been closing inexorably on the McLaren
as the problem got worse, and the final lap would have been all about defence for Raikkonen, but the need to get past the Finn was removed by his dramatic exit. Alonso thus inherited the victory, holding a comfortable advantage over Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello, who completed the podium.
David Coulthard took fourth for Red Bull, despite incurring a drive-thru' penalty for pit-lane speeding, while Michael Schumacher claimed fifth, despite running off the road in the latter stages. Giancarlo Fisichella, in sixth and closing on the Ferrari, had had to start from the pit-lane, and Juan Montoya had been the airborne victim of the traditional first corner shunt, before continuing to take seventh. Jarno Trulli, in eighth, was also penalised after his mechanics were late leaving the grid.
It was that sort of afternoon....
Despite suspicions that he may have been running heavier than either Williams
in qualifying, Raikkonen managed to get the drop on poleman Heidfeld to lead into turn one, the pair among those to escape the traditional pile-up at the tight right-hander. Heidfeld's Williams
team-mate, Mark Webber, however, proved central to it all.
The Australian, hampered slightly by his starting spot being directly over the finish line painted on to the road, made another slightly tardy getaway, and found himself swamped by rivals as he headed, centre road, into the corner. Webber later admitted that he had locked up while trying desperately to defend his position, but found that the FW27 didn't want to stop in time to make the turn, and collected Juan Montoya, who was taking what he expected to be the wide line.
While the Colombian was sent momentarily up onto two wheels, Webber continued to skate into the gravel trap. Remarkably, the Williams
would prove to be the only casualty of the skirmish, despite JPM making a heavy landing, and the unsighted Ralf Schumacher making heavy contact with the rear of Barrichello's Ferrari, breaking the nose of his Toyota. Several others were delayed, including Michael Schumacher, whose notorious luck appears to have deserted him in 2005, and Takuma Sato, who required cosmetic surgery on the front of his BAR, possibly after tagging team-mate Jenson Button.
The Briton, meanwhile, briefly found himself elevated into the points, holding a tenuous eighth while, ahead of him, David Coulthard
rose to the heady heights of fourth, despite having started on the outside of row six. Raikkonen, meanwhile, held sway at the front, with Heidfeld and Trulli lining up behind him. Championship leader Alonso was further back, behind the mercurial Coulthard, his chances of taking the fight to the leader looking slim.
Raikkonen continued to stretch away out front, the McLaren
continuing its recent run of form while Heidfeld, Trulli, Coulthard and Alonso all ran at comfortable intervals. The Italian, however, was under investigation from the stewards, his mechanics having not cleared the grid with the required 15 seconds in hand, and would soon be called in for his drive-thru'.