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Alonso says sorry after European Grand Prix chaos

Jul 22, 2007 - 6:00 PM By Ian Parkes Special to PA SportsTicker

NURBURG, Germany (Ticker) - Two-time reigning world champion Fernando Alonso apologized to Felipe Massa after an extraordinary European Grand Prix in which their cars touched.

Alonso and Massa were embroiled in a war of words on the way to the podium after a thrilling late duel at the Nurburgring on Sunday.

The defining moment of a race dominated by torrential rain at the start came on lap 55.

It was wheel-to-wheel racing between Alonso and Massa, with the Brazilian in his Ferrari and the Spaniard in his McLaren touching at one stage.

Alonso prevailed, taking the checkered flag for his 18th career victory and third this year for McLaren.

Alonso claimed Massa deliberately hit his car - a comment which prompted an angry response.

"It (the overtaking move) was so close," said the Spaniard, who trails teammate Lewis Hamilton by two points in the title race after the young Brit could finish only ninth.

"We touched each other two times, and I apologize to Massa because I was so stressed when I finished a race we nearly didn't finish," Alonso said. "I was not too happy at the end because we touched, but I've nothing against him.

"I realized on the podium that this is motor racing. If I said something to him, I apologize in front of everybody. I want to enjoy the win and forget everything."

Massa was fuming with Alonso.

"I was really surprised when he came to say I did that (hit his car) on purpose - I would never do something like that on purpose," Massa said. "If he was a little bit unhappy, it's not my problem. I just do my race and I follow the rules of the sport. But if he has apologized, then that's fine. He knows he was not right after the race."

The feud was a suitable aftermath to an incident-packed grand prix in which Hamilton's championship lead has been slashed.

The rain came on the first lap where Hamilton had moved into fourth place from 10th - his grid position following a 175 mph smash in qualifying on Saturday.

A collision between the BMW Saubers of Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica approaching the second corner led to Hamilton's McLaren being clipped and puncturing a tire.

The 22-year-old dropped back down the order and was the last to pit as the field changed to wet tires.

At one stage, seven drivers - Jenson Button, Adrian Sutil, Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Anthony Davidson, Scott Speed and Vitantonio Liuzzi - slid into the gravel at the first corner in the space of 30 seconds.

The race was halted after four laps.

When the race restarted, Hamilton was at the rear of the field after a crane had lifted him out of the gravel and back onto the track, and he was first to change to dry tires.

That was a mistake. He crawled around the circuit, going off on to the gravel at one point.

Despite a brave charge, and a number of retirements - including Kimi Raikkonen - he could do no better than ninth.

"It was a crazy race, a new experience for me," Hamilton said. "But it's just part of a steep learning curve."

Mark Webber completed the podium.

Hamilton said: "I hope this is my one bad weekend of the year. I still feel quite positive going into the next race (Hungary in two weeks), and I'm still leading the world championship, which I find quite amusing considering it was such a bad weekend.

"I came here with flu, had one of the biggest crashes I've ever had, got a puncture, the safety car came out, I went into the gravel and it started to rain again. But if I'm being honest, I had more fun today than I have had in the past. When you are still leading the championship it shows how hard everyone else is having to push to catch me up."

Despite being off the podium after his nine-race run, there was no trace of bitterness from Hamilton.

"You can't have perfect race weekends race after race," said the rookie. "I told you from day one that this was going to happen eventually, that it would be inevitable that I would not finish on the podium.

"So I was ready for it. You need to have these experiences, and this was all a big experience for me, and it's still not over. But I have learned 10 times as much today than in the last race."

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