Alonso wins chaotic European GP

McLaren's Fernando Alonso closed to within two points of the world championship lead by beating Felipe Massa to victory in a chaotic, rain-interrupted, European Grand Prix

Alonso wins chaotic European GP

Massa had emerged at the front of the field once the race settled down following a downpour and consequent red flag in the opening moments, and the Ferrari pulled away from Alonso in the middle stages.

But when the rain returned in the final laps, Alonso closed in on Massa and snatched the lead with an extremely bold move around the outside of Turn 5 with just five laps to go.

With McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton finishing outside the points after an incident-filled race, Alonso's first victory since Monaco is an enormous boost to his title hopes.

But Kimi Raikkonen's championship prospects were dented when he retired from third place with a mechanical problem.

The race will be best remembered for its bizarre original start.

Light rain began on the formation lap, and the precipitation quickly became an enormous downpour.

The whole field headed for the pitlane at the end of the opening lap, but race leader Kimi Raikkonen misjudged the pit entrance, slid back on to the track and had to complete another lap on dry tyres on an increasingly saturated track.

He was passed by Spyker's new driver Markus Winkelhock - who had started from the pitlane on intermediates and found himself leading the race by 20 seconds as the rest of the pack changed tyres.

But the red flag soon came out as the rain caused increasing chaos, especially as standing water built up at Turn 1.

Jenson Button was the first to aquaplane off the road, and he was soon followed by Lewis Hamilton, who had jumped from 10th to fourth at the start, only to pick up a puncture when Nick Heidfeld tagged BMW teammate Robert Kubica and sent the Pole spinning into Hamilton's McLaren.

He pitted and rejoined on intermediates, only to go straight off the road on the standing water.

Both Toro Rossos and Adrian Sutil also went off at Turn 1, with Vitantonio Liuzzi narrowly missing the safety car as he rotated, and then lightly tagging a recovery vehicle.

Hamilton had kept the engine running, and was lifted out of the gravel and allowed to take the restart from 17th and last. He was a lap down, but under the 2007 regulations, he was allowed to unlap himself under the safety car laps that were run as the race restarted after a 20 minute halt.

The only driver able to complete a lap at racing speed, Hamilton decided it was worth gambling on an early switch to dry tyres before the restart. But the track was still too damp, and Hamilton went off the road on his out-lap, then proceeded to lose 12 seconds per lap to the leaders until a sufficiently dry line emerged.

Massa had passed Alonso at the original start, then benefited from Raikkonen's pit entry mistake to move into second behind Winkelhock. The Spyker quickly tumbled down the field at the restart, having stayed on extreme wet tyres in case more rain appeared, and then retired with an engine failure.

Raikkonen took the restart in seventh, but gained four places by pitting a lap sooner than most for dry tyres. He then rapidly closed in on Alonso, who was unable to match Massa's pace in dry conditions, only to retire on lap 34 when his Ferrari started cutting out.

Alonso fell as much as eight seconds behind Massa, who looked certain of victory until the clouds darkened again in the last 10 laps.

The entire field had to pit yet again to go back on to intermediates, and Alonso proved substantially faster than Massa on the wet track.

He was soon all over the Ferrari, and although Massa managed to resist him for two laps, the McLaren swept around on the outside of Turn 5 - with a touch of wheel-banging - on lap 55, then proceeded to pull away and claim an extremely important victory.

The final podium position went to Red Bull's Mark Webber - his first podium finish since Monaco 2005. He had risen to third during the early chaos, then regained the place when Raikkonen retired.

Williams' Alex Wurz put the Australian under enormous pressure in the final laps and came within 0.2 seconds of stealing third position, but had to settle for fourth.

David Coulthard completed an excellent race for Red Bull by taking fifth ahead of the BMWs, who had recovered from their early tangle to pressure Coulthard for much of the distance.

But the Scot pulled away in the wet, while Heidfeld got back ahead of Kubica in the final laps to take sixth. The German is under investigation by the stewards after a mid-race tangle with Ralf Schumacher that left the Toyota in the gravel at the last corner.

Heikki Kovalainen had challenged Webber for third in the middle stint, but tumbled to eighth when Renault gambled on a premature switch to intermediates as the rain approached at the end of the race.

Hamilton stayed on dry tyres as long as he could in the final shower in the hope of gaining a point, but eventually had to pit and settle for ninth, ending his run of podium finishes.

PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS The European Grand Prix The Nurburgring, Germamy; 60 laps; 308.863km; Weather: Wet, then dry. Classified: Pos Driver Team Time 1. Alonso McLaren-Mercedes (B) 2h06:26.358 2. Massa Ferrari (B) + 8.155 3. Webber Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1:05.674 4. Wurz Williams-Toyota (B) + 1:05.937 5. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault (B) + 1:13.656 6. Heidfeld BMW Sauber (B) + 1:20.298 7. Kubica BMW Sauber (B) + 1:22.415 8. Kovalainen Renault (B) + 1 lap 9. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes (B) + 1 lap 10. Fisichella Renault (B) + 1 lap 11. Barrichello Honda (B) + 1 lap 12. Davidson Super Aguri-Honda (B) + 1 lap 13. Trulli Toyota (B) + 1 lap Fastest lap: Massa, 1:32.853 Not classified/retirements: Driver Team On lap Raikkonen Ferrari (B) 36 Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 20 R.Schumacher Toyota (B) 19 Winkelhock Spyker-Ferrari (B) 15 Button Honda (B) 3 Sutil Spyker-Ferrari (B) 3 Rosberg Williams-Toyota (B) 3 Speed Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 3 Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Ferrari (B) 3 World Championship standings, round 10: Drivers: Constructors:  1. Hamilton 70 1. McLaren-Mercedes 138 2. Alonso 68 2. Ferrari 111 3. Massa 59 3. BMW Sauber 61 4. Raikkonen 52 4. Renault 32 5. Heidfeld 36 5. Williams-Toyota 18 6. Kubica 24 6. Red Bull-Renault 16 7. Fisichella 17 7. Toyota 9 8. Kovalainen 15 8. Super Aguri-Honda 4 9. Wurz 13 9. Honda 1 10. Webber 8 11. Coulthard 8 12. Trulli 7 13. Rosberg 5 14. Sato 4 15. R.Schumacher 2 16. Vettel 1 17. Button 1 All timing unofficial 
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