Alonso Snatches Victory
Fernando Alonso snatched victory from McLaren’s Kimi Raikonnen on the last lap of the European Grand Prix. The Renault driver was able to extend his championship lead to 32 points after the Finnish driver crashed out due to the suspension failure caused by the flatspotting of his front right tyre.
Williams’ Nick Heidfeld and Ferrari’s Rubens Barichello joined Alonso on the podium, followed by the Red Bull of David Coulthard, the Ferrari of Michael Schumacher, Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella and McLaren’s Juan Pablo Montoya. Jarno Trulli filled the last point scoring postion.
Following the race David Coulthard is reported to have called Formula 1’s tyre rules “dangerous.” “In one way the rules have been good for overtaking and entertainment, but there is no question that it is more dangerous,” he told The Times. “The FIA position is that the drivers make the decision, but they are asking us to throw away our races by coming in to change tyres,” he added.
However McLaren has refused to condemn the tyre rules, standing by its decision to advise Kimi Raikonnen to press for victory rather than change tyres. “It would be hypocritical of us, having benefited so convincingly in Monte Carlo due to other people’s tyre problems, to voice an opinion against the rules,” said team boss, Ron Dennis.
Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier has insisted that Kimi Raikkonen’s last-lap crash at the European Grand Prix was not a consequence of natural tyre wear, but a result of one incident during the Finn’s race towards almost certain victory.
Raikkonen took the lead at the start of the 59-lap event, only ceding the advantage during his two pit-stops and, for a brief moment, when he ran off the road and allowed the chasing Nick Heidfeld to take over at the front. That wasn’t the incident that precipitated Raikkonen’s dramatic last-lap exit, however, as the Finn also locked-up heavily when he realised that a lapping move on Sauber’s Jacques Villeneuve wasn’t going to come off as he had planned.
Jumping on the brakes carved a large flat-spot into the McLaren’s front right tyre and, as Dupasquier later explained, the problem was self-perpetuating. Eventually, the vibrations became so bad that the car’s suspension could take no further punishment, finally giving out under braking for turn one of the final tour.
“It was another gruelling weekend,” Dupasquier admitted, “It may have produced yet another Michelin F1 success, but also one or two talking points besides.
Michelin Motorsport Boss, Pierre Dupasquier added: “One has to feel sorry for Kimi Räikkönen. He flat-spotted his front-right tyre, which caused a serious vibration that clearly took its toll in the race’s closing stages. When he made his second scheduled stop on lap 43, we could see the problem very clearly, but the trouble is that it becomes very easy to lock your brakes repeatedly once a tyre has been flat-spotted and that just amplifies the problem. We have seen cars locking up on many occasions throughout the weekend it seems to happen quite a lot here, because one or two corners encourage drivers to turn in while braking.”