Heatwave Hits Cars and Crowd

Sweltering record temperatures up to 34 degrees Celsius, causing spectators to faint and tyres to blister, have added more uncertainty to the outcome of Sunday's European Grand Prix in the Eifel mountains

Heatwave Hits Cars and Crowd

Instead of the usual mix of weather conditions ranging from high winds to cold rain, the Nurburgring in the hilly terrain on Germany's western border is now boiling under hot sunshine.

At least 10 spectators were treated for heat exhaustion during Saturday's qualifying session, some of whom fainted and were carried away on Red Cross stretchers. The track surface temperature was nearly 50 degrees during the afternoon.

Some teams played down the impact of the heat on their cars or tyres, observing that temperatures at Grands Prix in Malaysia and Bahrain were even higher. But others blamed the hot air for below-par performances in the qualifying session.

"I think it got up to 47 degrees which can affect the car's balance," said Scot David Coulthard, whose Red Bull Racing car took a disappointing 12th place on the grid.

"The track temperature was very high, I think it was close to 50 degrees," said Narain Karthikeyan of India, whose Jordan qualified 19th in the 20-car field. "Therefore my car was quite difficult to drive."

But Ferrari's Michael Schumacher said he was not bothered by the temperatures that broke existing May records for the region. "It's not too high, it's not a problem," he said.

Nick Heidfeld, who took the first pole position of his career for Williams on Saturday, went a step further. "The heat's not a problem for us - if anything, it seemed to work to our advantage today," he said.

Not Expected

Mario Theissen, motorsport director for BMW, said the heat was affecting the teams but they had all experienced similar conditions already this season. "We should be able to deal with it but it's not what we expected here," he said of his Williams team.

Pierre Dupasquier, Michelin's motorsport director, said it was not the heat that might cause trouble for some teams but poor tyre selection.

"The heat is not a problem but if you screw up with your tyre selection, then you have a problem," he said. "If your tyre is too soft it will blister. If it's too hard, the performance won't be there and you'll be too slow."

Dupasquier said unpredictable weather conditions at races such as Nurburgring, where temperatures can vary between five and 30 degrees, and Spa in Belgium are a challenge every year compared to circuits near oceans with more moderate climates.

"Two weeks ago they were predicting the weather here would be stormy and rainy," he said. "They got that wrong."

Many spectators at Germany's biggest sporting event, where some 110,000 are expected on Sunday, were ready for the heat.

"Most people seem to be taking the right precautions and drinking enough," said Thomas Wendel of the local Red Cross.

Klaus Ballack, a Berlin pensioner sitting in the grandstand with dozens of people wearing shorts or swim suits, said he felt like he had spent the afternoon at the beach.

"It's pretty hot and I saw them cart off a teenage girl who passed out, but most people are still in good spirits," he said.

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