29 July 2001
Jungle Boy swings in.
Antonio Pizzonia was lord of all he surveyed at Hockenheim, as he took a commanding first victory in the FIA F3000 series.
The Brazilian made light of the fact that he was only starting sixth on the grid - and the fact that F3000 is not supposed to provide much in the way overtaking - by taking advantage of a melee at the start to move into second spot by the end of the first lap. Once ahead of championship leader Justin Wilson two laps later, the Amazonian pulled serenely away to finally turn to domination he showed in the junior formulae into F3000 success.
Wilson went on to take second place - and another podium finish in an increasingly impressive campaign - ahead of pole-sitter, and Pizzonia's Petrobras team-mate, Ricardo Sperafico. The Briton's day was enhanced by poor results for both his championship challengers, as Sebastien Bourdais, Tomas Enge and Bas Leinders completed the top six.
Wilson's rivals were reduced in number as early as the end of the opening lap, as Mark Webber discovered that what he thought was merely a broken front wing was actually much worse. The skirmish approaching the first corner saw the Australian rudely chopped by Britain's Darren Manning, causing him to swerve perilously close to the pit wall, and his line into the turn was sufficiently compromised that contact was inevitable. Dropping places all the way around the 4.2mile Hockenheim lap, Webber was eventually forced to call it a day in pit-lane.
All this took place behind the front three, which quickly became a four as Pizzonia made a lightning start to avoid the scramble for places.
Sperafico made full use of his pole to lead away as the lights went out, but quickly found each mirror full of red Nordic car as both Wilson, from second, and Enge made perfect getaways. First the Czech, then his British team-mate, took turns to pressure the inexperienced Brazilian, before Wilson finally found a way past as the field re-entered the Stadium section.
By the time they crossed the line again, Pizzonia had disposed of both Enge and his team-mate, and was running an increasingly close second to Wilson. The return section was then the scene for another passing move, as the young Brazilian got a run on the championship leader and, having had one effort rebuffed, promptly dived through into the Senna chicane. From that point on, Wilson and the rest would have but a distant view of a fleeing Jungle Boy.
With Pizzonia making good his escape, Wilson came under renewed pressure from Sperafico and Enge who, in turn, were enjoying what would become a lasting battle for the final podium place. The Czech managed to pass his adversary entering Senna for the fourth time, but almost lost all he had gained when he out-braked himself at the same place next time around. His run across the chicane did not gain anything, but neither did it allow Sperafico to capitalise on the mistake,and Enge continued to lead the pursuit of Wilson.
Further back, the fancied runners were already dropping away, with Manning paying for his first lap move by out-braking himself at Clark and spinning into retirement whilst trying to pass Tomas Scheckter on lap two. Already out by this stage, Webber apart, were fourth place starter Andrea Piccini, who lost it at the Ost Kurve first time around, and Fabrizio Gollin, who also sustained damage on lap one.
Of those still running after the frantic opening, another would soon be making an unscheduled pit call of his own, courtesy of a minor indiscretion. Patrick Friesacher stalled at the start of the formation lap - no doubt as the result of the delayed start while Hockenheim's electrics were fixed - and then trying to regain his place on the grid after the field had passed him. The Austrian looked likely to be joined in the penalty box by one-off returnee Scheckter but the South African retired at about the time he was to be called in.
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