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F1 World Championship Round Six- Nurburgring

For those of us in the UK, one of the unfortunate side effects of F1's move to ITV, along with fortnightly doses of ITV football refugee and grade A halfwit Jim Rosenthal has been the introduction of advertising breaks into the middle of the races.

Sure enough, in the last few months we have seen the introduction of F1 targetted advertising. First we had Ron Dennis making a play on his reputation for dull efficiency by making a surreally dull advert for, uhm, mobile phones while talking about refusing to compromise and playing a lot of golf. Now, in a burst of inspired ridiculousness we have M.Schumacher in full blown teutonic mode telling us how he demands performance, efficiency and the latest technology, and thus uses L'Oreal shampoo, because, as Herr Schumacher opines, he's worth it.

Germany is an important race for most of the major teams for one reason or another. For Ferrari it is their man's home GP. It is also the home GP of BMW and Mercedes, leaving Williams and McLaren anxious to impress, while Jaguar would like to shift a few more of its' luxury sports cars over there, and Jordan's lead driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen was on home turf too.

Surprisingly enough, it was the forgotten German newcomer, Nick Heidfeld in the Prost who impressed most in qualifying, somehow getting the evil handling thing up into thirteenth on the grid, only to be disqualified when his car was found to be two kilos underweight. Quite why he couldn't just be moved to the back of the grid or allowed to start his home GP in the pitlane is unclear, but as we know, rules are rules unless you happen to be in a Ferrari.

In the half dry conditions, it was David Coulthard who put the right run in at the right moment, and dislodged Mr Schumacher who had looked a shoe-in for pole all weekend. Elsewhere, the grid was much as normal, save that the Saubers were desperately slow and last year's pole man, Frentzen was in an uncharacteristically poor tenth place. Marc Gene had also got his Minardi that bit closer to teh rest of the pack than he normally can, suggesting that on a track where outright power isn't quite so important, the new titanium gearboxed Minardi really isn't a bad piece of kit at all.

The race started dry, with ominous clouds hanging over the Eiffel mountains, so all seemed to be set for a repeat of the previous years' wet/dry race. Two drivers who wouldn't hang around long enough for things to get wet were Frentzen and Trulli in the Jordans. Trulli exited at the first corner after coming together with Fisichella's Benetton, while Frentzen's sister car went just three laps before the engine let go spectacularly.

Things went better off the start for Hakkinen who leapfrogged the front row to take the lead, only to hand it over to Schumacher the moment the track began to get damp. Coulthard started from pole but achieved little in the race, finishing a distant and lapped third, despite usually being rather happy in the wet. Thus for the twnth race running, the pole man was not the winner.

Once things got wet it was plain sailing for regenmeister Schumacher, who had always looked more at home in such conditions than Hakkinen, who finished ten seconds behind in second, watching his championship chances slip still further away. A few hairy slides aside he never really looked like he would be headed.

Behind the usual lead four, it was, frankly, carnage. Diniz and Gene were the first to fly off the road, but they did so harmlessly and were able to rejoin the track, if not, ultimately to finish the race. Less harmlessly, Irvine spun while trying to pass Verstappen, and took Ralf Schumacher's Williams with him, deleting one Williams and one Jaguar from the proceedings. Verstappen flew off the road in sympathy just half a lap later, ending what had been a good race up to then for all three drivers. Zonta beached his BAR and Salo joined in the fun, parking his Sauber in the gravel just after half distance. Then sure enough, towards the end of the racem the battle for seventh position, between Button, Herbert and Wurz, whose seats are all under threat for next year, and in the case of Wurz, this year, all eliminated themselves within a lap. Wurz took Herbert off the road at the Coca-Cola hairpin while trying to pass and scratched Jaguar number two and Benetton number one from the proceedings, while Button, who had just slipped behind Wurz, disappeared half a lap later when his electrics got flooded out.

All this left Fisichella and De La Rosa, who had been impressive all weekend, to scramble round to pick up the final points. Oddly, for a wet race, the order had been much the same as ever, no drivers seemed to benefit greatly from the conditions, and established rain experts such as Barrichello and Alesi even seemed to do worse than usual. Only the Arrows boys seemed to have been helped by the weather, and they had been threatening to do really well all season.

For Schumacher, Germany had worked out all too well, but for the majority of the other German interest in the race, it had been disastrous. Still, thanks to the FIA's current desire to let certain countries have as many races as they like, Germany will be treated to another GP in July at the rather dull, but incredibly fast Hockenheimring.

The next race will be at Monaco, where again handling and driver skill will be at rather more of a premium than outright horsepower. The Jordans, in particular, may well be worth keeping an eye on, as will Ralf Schumacher in the Williams.

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