Tyres proved crucial at a rain-drenched European Grand Prix. A couple of drivers gambled with early tyre changes some regretted their gambles others didn t.
The rain started to come down on the formation lap. Starting at the back of the grid was Markus Winkelhock, making his Formula 1 debut for Spyker. With nothing to lose, he ducked into the pits and swapped his tyres to wet weather ones. His gamble paid off the heavens opened and despite starting from the pits, he found himself leading his home Grand Prix by a significant margin. Unfortunately, he was unable to complete the race, retiring with a mechanical failure on lap 15.
“Starting on wet tyres was a really fantastic decision and that’s the reason why I was leading my first Formula One race,” Winkelhock explained “To lead a Formula One race is something nobody can take away from you – you have it for your whole life. I am really happy about it – I was leading my home Grand Prix. Unfortunately then we had a hydraulic problem and I had to stop. The target for me was to finish, but I know that not getting there was not down to me, so I am really pleased with what I achieved.”
Anthony Davidson wasn t so positive about his tyre choice. The Super Aguri driver finished one lap down in 15th place after choosing the wrong tyre compound as the rain started.
“It was a tough day with the weather causing havoc for all of the teams out there,” Davidson remarked. “It was difficult to know what tyre to be on at what time, but in the dry running our car seemed to have the pace over the Honda and I had a nice fight with Rubens for P12/P11 at the time.
“That was good fun and the best part of the race for me and I just had to wait to see how it would unfold from there for the last stint. We then got caught out in the rain at the end and probably made the wrong tyre choice at the time – and that was key to the race really. It was a good sign that we had the speed, but overall it was a disappointing day as we could not capitalize on the mixed fortunes of the other runners.”
Heikki Kovalainen has no regrets about his tyre gamble towards the end of the race. Rain was predicted with 10 laps of the race to go, but it had yet to fall on-track. Renault decided to bring the young Finn in early and switch him to intermediate tyres on the reasoning that if it poured again, instead of finishing fifth, Kovalainen has a chance of a podium, or even a win.
However, the rain took some time to arrive and Kovalainen struggled on his new tyre choice, losing several positions in the process. Eventually, Kovalainen finished eighth however he has no regrets about the team s choice of tyre.
“There is not too much to say about this afternoon, to be honest,” Kovalianen said. “We took some gambles, especially with the wet tyres during my final stop, and they didn’t pay off. I had to look after my wet tyres on a dry track until the rain came, and it just took too much out of them to be an advantage.
“But from the position we were in, with one stop still to make, it was a gamble worth taking. This hasn’t been a good day for the team, but we managed to score one point at least. There is an important test coming up this week, the last before the summer break, and it will be important to get some good answers there, to help us find the right track again in Hungary and Turkey.”