3 August 2003
German GP 2003 - Montoya blazes trail to victory.
The temperatures at Hockenheim frequently touched Malaysian proportions but, if anything was hotter on race day, it was surely Juan Montoya, who scorched away from what remained of the field and burnt his name firmly into the championship reckoning.
If anyone thought that Silverstone two weeks ago had perhaps provided the highlight of the season, the German Grand Prix tried hard to disagree, with drama packed into either end of the 67-lap event. The middle may have been a little quiet, as teams adjusted their strategies to cater for the unforeseen circumstances of the opening lap, but it hotted up again in the closing stages with a three-car scrap for the honour of being 'best of the rest' behind the runaway leader.
No-one expected to pose too much of a threat to a Williams-BMW team which had dominated practice and qualifying, but any thoughts of a blue-and-white one-two were dashed before the first corner had even been reached.
While Montoya made a quick getaway from the clean side of the grid to slot in ahead of team-mate Ralf Schumacher, while, behind them, third-place starter Rubens Barrichello made a tardy start and instantly came under threat from Kimi Raikkonen.
Schumacher, perhaps unaware that there was little threat to his position from behind moved left to defend the spot, only to find that, by not going forward and pulling away, he was leaving Barrichello in an awkward situation. The Brazilian's start had been poor enough to give Raikkonen a glimpse of third heading into turn one, and the Finn thrust his McLaren to the left of the Ferrari, with two wheels almost on the grass verge. Barrichello, though, was rapidly running out of road and, as Schumacher put the final pinch on him, clipped the rear of the McLaren.
This served to pitch Raikkonen across the Ferrari's bows, his nosecone puncturing Schumacher's left sidepod before being sent down the road and into heavy contact with the Nordkurve tyre barrier. With one wheel hanging off the battered chassis, Raikkonen was given a bumpy ride once initial contact with the barrier had been established, and it was with relief that his team learnt that he was not badly hurt.
Barrichello, meanwhile, slithered to a halt without too much further contact, and Schumacher limped back to the pits having been passed by the remains of the field. However, there was still more excitement for the turn one crowd as, in their haste to avoid the melee, several midfield runners also made contact. Ralph Firman was the main perpetrator, unsighted until the last minute, where upon his ran into the back of Heinz-Harald Frentzen's Sauber, ending the German's race once he had made it back to the pits without his rear wing.
To the right of that impact, Justin Wilson learnt the penalty of qualifying down the grid - ironically given his previous employment by Minardi - as he jinked right to avoid the Firman incident only to find Jacques Villeneuve opting for the same route. Jaguar tipped BAR into a spin, but appeared to have got away with the impact until the hapless Firman arrived and collected his fellow Briton.
While the Jordan was finally rendered hors de combat, Wilson made it back to the pits, where his crew endeavoured to change the entire front suspension unit in order to give him valuable track time in his new mount. Their work was to be in vain, however, as the car retired just a handful of laps later with gearbox gremlins.
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