The teams arrived in the sweltering heat of the Nurburgring region just days after leaving Monaco, with a number of them setting up their cars in the Monegasque carpark before heading immediately to Germany. The sun was so extreme that only the South American drivers spent much time outside, baking themselves to a deep brown as they watched for the right line through the serpentine section of track after the front straight, while the Europeans searched in vain for some shade to hide in.
Without the pressure of the money men of Monaco most of the drivers got back to an increasing variety of practical jokes, most incorporating large quantities of water, without having to worry about hitting someone who would get upset, while the teams were able to concentrate on working on the cars without a number of non-team bodies getting in the way as they worked. With few distractions in the region, everyone just focused on their jobs, which after the excesses of the previous week was how most of them wanted it.
Gimmi Bruni was determined to get back on a winning footing, starting as he meant to go on by taking the top time in practice ahead of Heikki Kovalainen. It didn’t quite go to plan for the Italian in qualifying, however – he spun at the last corner on his second set of tyres and was unable to top the times.
Pantano was the man on pole, ahead of Nico Rosberg and Heikki Kovalainen, but a later decision that the latter pair, along with Alex Premat, had set their best times deleted after being judged to have set them with yellow flags on track for a spin by Olivier Pla. The move meant Bruni was given a reprieve, pushing him up to the front row along side his former Formula One rival. Rosberg was dropped down to eleventh on the grid, with Kovalainen lining up even further back in seventeenth position.
On the grid the next day the extreme temperatures in the area played havoc with the cars – a number of cars were unable to get off the line and had to be removed to the pitlane, and after a few false starts Pantano and Bruni led the field through the first corner and beyond.
Unfortunately for Adam Carroll, Borja Garcia appeared not to be wearing his glasses, having comprehensively misjudged the approach to turn one and clattering solidly into the sidepod of the Super Nova driver and blocking the corner completely. As a result five drivers were out on the first lap and a safety car was out on track immediately.
Kovalainen could hardly believe his luck – he managed to avoid the carnage and moved up ten spots to seventh by the end of the first lap, when he came in for his pitstop to give himself some breathing space around him.
Pantano was slow at the front of the pack and chewing through his tyres at a great rate, although his pursuers were unable to find a way by the Italian. After his pitstop he was behind Kovalainen, who had been set a strong pace further back and on his own, and when Bruni picked up a slow puncture after his stop any chance he had of a race win was gone – Kovalainen had won a tremendous race from seventeenth on the grid, going someway towards making up for the points he lost in Monaco, ahead of Pantano and Rosberg, who recovered from an early stall to claim a podium finish.
After the race Garcia was handed a one race ban for causing the turn one mayhem, with his Racing Engineering team declining to appeal the decision on the sound reason that it was entirely his fault.
Off track there was little to distract the drivers, although the usual signing session had been arranged, this time with Carroll, Rosberg and Mathias Lauda starring. In a sea of red hats being thrust in front of them someone picked up the promotional Bridgestone hat, which Rosberg promptly signed.
Carroll mentioned to the German that he’d been told not to hand out the hats, to which Rosberg shot back: “Oh, so it's like that now - you win one race in Monaco and now you can tell us all what we can and can't do, huh?” It was the first appearance of what was to become the regular Rosberg wit, and he sat back pleased with himself as Lauda laughed helplessly.
The next morning’s race two had been changed – with more time available to the series as a result of a change in the Formula One qualifying programme, the race was now able to run longer, and was the first GP2 race shown live on national television in Europe. It was a good introduction to the new fans – one journalist stated, in awe, that it was the best race he had ever seen in his life.
Bruni was able to easily pull away as the lights went out to lead the pack through turn one. Viso didn’t make it, having pulled a Garcia move on Lauda on the first lap, and with another four drivers taking themselves out next time around Neel Jani was now up to second, albeit a long way behind Bruni.
Bruni pulled out a huge lead, but when a problem with his gearbox stopped the Italian Jani took on the lead, the head of a snake compromised of Piquet, Rosberg, Clivio Piccione, Pantano and Carroll, all of whom were separated by just 1.5 seconds, all of them bucking as they looked for grip in a sea of opposite lock.
Jani had flatspotted his tyre, but was never going to concede the lead willingly – he drove cleanly but firmly to deny every attempt at a pass as those behind him overtook each other at almost every corner. It couldn’t last though, and Piccione barged by just before the Swiss driver retired with terminal suspension damage. Carroll and Piquet were the other drivers in the right place as the chequered flag dropped to round out the podium in the most incredible race of the series to date.