THE Nurburgring ring rarely disappoints where excitement and controversy are concerned and Sunday was no exception.

While Mercedes Benz were winning the engine war against BMW on their home track a war of words erupted between David Coulthard and Juan Pablo Montoya, after the Colombian had put paid to both men's chances of featuring strongly in the European Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen's third place finish behind the Ferraris of Rubens Barrichello and Michael Schumacher — yes they finished in that order — not only meant that the Finn had broken his unenviable record of four straight retirements.

It was also tangible evidence that McLaren had upstaged the BMW Williams team once more, with Ralf Schumacher trailing in fourth place, 20 seconds behind a podium finish.

Most of the talk after another Ferrari dominated afternoon centred around the fact that Barrichello was allowed to take the chequered flag ahead of his more illustrious team-mate.

But from a McLaren point of view, although Raikkonen was able to celebrate his change in fortune, Coulthard was less than happy after his spat with Montoya on lap 28.

The Colombian had started the day where he had done the previous two races - in pole position. But on each occasion he has failed to lead at the end of the first lap and has ended up back in the pit-lane long before the conclusion of each encounter.

A sensational opening lap saw the start of the Ferrari domination, with Williams trailing. Indeed, Michael Schumacher could even afford a spin before both Ferraris emerged from their first pit-stops still in front of their rivals.

Coulthard, in fifth, was swarming all over the back of Montoya by lap 27. And at the end of the start finish straight three miles later, the Scot's attempted overtaking manoeuvre around the outside at the newly formed first corner met with the sort of disaster that everybody had anticipated at the start.

Montoya clipped the inside kerb and lost his back end, his car's pirouette halted by Coulthard's front right wheel, the MP4-17's steering broken on impact. The Williams had suffered a broken left-rear suspension resulting in the first two retirees of the day.

"Congratulations," had been Coulthard's sarcastic offering to his rival back in the paddock, before Montoya's explanation of, "I spun" was met with, "You think I don't know that — you hit me."

Once he had calmed down, Coulthard continued. "I knew it was a risk to try and go around the outside. But if I weren't prepared to go around the outside then I wouldn't be a racing driver.

The weekend was encouraging for us as we were only 6/10ths of a second off pole, which is an improvement. Also we were stronger than Williams in the race and if had gone past Montoya I would have caught Ralf."

The promising thing for McLaren is that they appear to have got to grips with the Michelin tyre and are finding out more about them and how to prepare them. With Williams on the back foot, the timing could not be better.