24 July 2004
Hockenheim 2004: Pit error hands Liuzzi sixth win.
The results show that Vitantonio Liuzzi increased his points advantage by taking a sixth win of the season, from a sixth pole, at Hockenheim, but the reality was quite different and could have seen a second win of the year for Enrico Toccacelo had it not been for a touch of finger trouble in the pits.
Although Liuzzi secured another top spot in qualifying, the Italian admitted that the margin of three-tenths had been something of a fluke caused by a better second set of tyres which he was merely attempting to scrub in, and reckoned that title rival Toccacelo be a bigger threat in the race. His fears were well-founded for, at the lights, the BCN driver leapt ahead to control the field into the first corner.
Liuzzi managed to hold off the Tomas Enge to take second spot, and settled in for a patient pursuit of the leader - as chaos broke out behind them on lap one.
The mayhem started as early as the second corner of the revised circuit, with Raffaele Giammaria being tipped into a spin that caused the field to scatter into the thankfully broad run-off areas. An unsighted Mathias Lauda only narrowly avoided making head-on contact with the green-and-white AEZ car, but there was worse to come for the Durango off-shoot, as Giammaria's team-mate Ferdinando Monfardini, having gone side-by-side with the stranded Italian, then launched his car over his back wheel and into instant retirement.
Further up the road, another incident was taking place at the hairpin, with an ambitious move from Yannick Schroeder collecting Enge, who was taking a conservative wide line, and damaging both cars. While Schroeder managed to resume with just the loss of his front wing, Enge's miserable run of luck in Germany continued with rear suspension damage that forced him out.
The Czech joined the man who was due to start alongside him on row two, as Patrick Friesacher's improved form with Coloni had ended even before the race was underway, and the retirement count rose quickly as a result of the damage caused on lap one. Giammaria limped back to the pits, crossing the timing beam and being credited with one tour to his credit, while Schroeder lasted little longer, having been forced to miss the pit entrance as Can Artam made a move on the Durango car, the Frenchman skated off on the straight and was unable to rejoin.
The 18-car field was thus reduced to 13 as lap two was completed, and the shuffled order now saw Arden and BCN ruling the roost, with Toccacelo and Liuzzi being chased hard by team-mates Esteban Guerrieri and Robert Doornbos. The scuffles had allowed the likes of Jose-Maria Lopez, Alan van der Merwe and Ernesto Viso to make up valuable ground from the bottom half of the grid, all holding early point-scoring positions.
Former British F3 sparring partners, van der Merwe and Viso both saw their gains spoilt somewhat by separate incidents, in which the South African spun down to eighth and the Venezuelan lost his front wing, possibly as a result of what appeared to be the touch that spun Giammaria early on. In a repeat of his team-mate's efforts, Viso continued - and survived - an extra lap, with the appendage finally disappearing at turn one, in order to combine repairs with a legitimate tyre stop, and then turned in one of the of the drives of the race as he fought his way back up the order.
The pit-stops became the focal point of the race, as it appeared that Toccacelo might actually have the upper hand on Liuzzi on the track. The same could not be said for the battle in their wake, however, with Doornbos having got the better of Guerrieri on lap six, but now having to fend off the Argentine's every move.
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