Brought to you by TheJudge13 ‘on track correspondent’: James Parker
Vettel Takes His First Win In Germany
Under beautiful sunny skies, deep in the Eiffel Mountains, Sebastian Vettel claimed both a first home victory and first win in the month of July with a supreme drive. In doing so he extended his lead at the top of the championship to 34 points. Second place was the Lotus of Kimi Raikkonen who claimed his 5th podium of the season. But the surprise of the day was 3rd place man Grosjean who scored his first points since his podium at Bahrain some 4 races ago.
All of the talk pre-race was surrounding the tyres and how they would react in the increased heat. Estimates suggested 8-10 laps before the soft compounds would give up. A 2 stop strategy was considered the one to be on with 3 stop strategy around 5 seconds slower, depending on tyre wear of course.
Off the start, both RedBull’s had lightning getaways to jump pole sitter Hamilton going into turn 1 – Vettel taking the initiative ahead of Webber. Both Raikkonen and Grosjen held station in 4th an 5th whilst Massa leapfrogged Ricciardo to go 6th. The other strong starter was the McLaren of Perez who jumped Hulkenberg to go 10th, before going one better on lap 2 by taking his teammate Button into turn 1.
As things started to Felipe Massa caused some excitement. Starting lap 4 and heading into turn 1, the Massa lost control in the braking phase and speared off the track – the anti-stall did not kick in and the Brazilians afternoon ended there.
The first round of pitstops were to be a frantic affair. Both Di Resta and Vergne pitted as early as lap 5, with the Force India man coming in first. Upon release, the Scotsman appeared to be released into the path of Vergne as he looked to enter his pitbox. It looked a lot like an unsafe release and was announced as being investigated post-race by the stewards.
3rd place man Hamilton was the first front runner to blink attempting an undercut on lap 7 and bolted on a set of the mediums. Vettel however covered the move and pitted one lap later to retain the lead – also on the mediums.
Controversy was to come with Vettel’s teammate however. Webber pitted on lap 9, but his crew had difficulties securing the right rear wheel and the Red Bull man left his pitbox with only 3 wheels secured on his wagon. The rogue tyre however was spat off the car and barrelled down the pitlane hitting a cameraman who had his back turned to the danger – medics were quick to attend the scene (the injuries have been confirmed as a broken shoulder and cracked ribs).
Webber was wheeled back by his pit crew and sent back out – albeit over a lap down now.
This left the Lotus pair upfront in P1 and P2. Raikkonen took the decision to pit on lap 10 for the medium compound and that released Grosjean who was running longer. The Finn rejoined just behind Hamilton once again who himself was embroiled in a battle with his team-mate Rosberg, who was running longer having started on mediums.
All three squabbled for 3 laps. But on lap 14 both Hamilton and Raikkonen managed to take Rosberg, the latter succumbing to a very forceful move by Raikkonen into the final chicane.
Grosjean having run longer on his first stint was flying in clean air. Pitting on lap 14 he emerged infront of both Hamilton and his teammate maximising the time the pair lost squabbling between themselves. A slightly incensed Raikkonen was getting ever frustrated by a slow Hamilton who was struggling on his fresh mediums. He finally found a way past into the final chicane on lap 18.
The race was settling into a rhythm before a rather strange incident occurred on lap 24. The engine of the Marussia of Jules Bianchi blew going into the final chicane, setting off a small oil fire as it ground to a halt. But just as the Frenchman got out of his car, it rolled back across the race track before being stopped by an advertising board on the opposite side of the track. The runaway Marussia brought out a safety car.
This was the trigger that was needed for the front runners to make their second stops, with Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen and Alonso pitting from the top 4 – all maintained their positions. The big loser was Hamilton, having pitted on lap 23 directly before the safety car he also lost out to both Hulkenberg and Button who had pitted on lap 18 and 22 respecitvely – dropping him down to 7th.
The safety car peeled in on lap 29 and we were back racing once again. Webber who was allowed to rejoin the back of the pack during the safety car period was starting to make some inroads, having passed both Caterhams and the Marussia of Chilton.
It was the mid race point at which the Lotus pair in 2nd and 3rd were starting to look very punchy – closing the lead by Vettel down to 1 second by lap 35, all three cars were looking strong.
The 3rd stops came around lap 41 with Grosjean diving in first from 2nd – on to the mediums. Vettel then immediately reacted by covering the Frenchman on lap 42 and both retained their positions. Both drivers found themselves behind the out-of-position Hamilton who stopped Vettel’s progress for almost a lap and allowed Grosjean to get ever closer.
Lap 45 was crucial for Vettel though. He finally found his way past the Mercedes driver at the turn 3 loop releasing him into clean air however Grosjean responded and by the final chicane had also passed Hamilton. Hamilton at that point decided to come in for the medium tyre for his 3rd and final stop – his day developing into a frustrating one having started pole.
Raikkonen up front was running longer on his second stint, perhaps creating a situation in which he could bolt on a set of the softer compounds for his final run. On lap 50 he came in, with Alonso following and both, for the final 10 laps, did exactly that – looking to maximise fresh soft rubber and low fuel.
Button, who was racing magnificently, leapt up the inside of his team-mate Perez for 5th into turn 1 on lap 51, the Mexican struggling to keep his tyres in the optimum window having run quite a long second stint.
Lap 55 signified Lotus’ intentions however. With Raikkonen pushing Grosjean hard, and on the softer compound tyres, the team took the decision to initiate the switch into the final chicane – releasing the Finn to chase down race leader Vettel. Alonso incidentally was catching all 3 ahead of him.
With 3 laps to go the gap was down to 1.5 seconds and Vettel was being pushed hard by Raikkonen, whilst Alonso had attached himself to the back of Grosjean. Hamilton at least was having something to cheer about, passing a struggling Button on the final lap into turn 1 for 5th, a high point after a difficult afternoon for the pole sitter.
Upfront though, Vettel managed to hold on to take the 30th victory of his career, holding off a hard charging Raikkonen. Grosjean held off Alonso to take his second podium of the season and topped off a brilliant afternoon for the Lotus team – Kimi’s title hopes perhaps ignited once again.
Hamilton was 5th, 27 seconds behind the race winner, signifying Mercedes have not totally got their head around the problem surrounding rear tyre wear in hot conditions. 6th was a strong and consistent Button, whilst Webber managed to pass Perez for 7th in the dying laps to top off yet another fighting drive. 9th was a rather subdued Nico Rosberg whilst Nico Hulkenberg claimed his second consecutive 10th place finish for Sauber.
Driver of the day: Grosjean for a magnificent drive – reminding us just in time of the potential he has in Formula 1 but consistency is needed.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery said: “This had all the ingredients for a brilliantly strategic race from the beginning, with some drivers starting on the medium tyre in order to go longer in the first stint than the cars on the soft tyre. For many teams, this was almost a qualifying tyre – which gave the tactics an interesting edge.
There were different strategies in play, which meant that the finish was extremely close. Overall performance and durability of our tyres were in line with our expectations while thermal degradation was perhaps a little higher than expected today, due to the high track temperatures, but wear was as we predicted.
It would certainly have been possible to complete the race with two pit stops, as many of the competitors showed. However, the safety car slightly altered things.
Last but certainly not least I would like to thank our staff at the factory in Izmit in Turkey who have worked tirelessly after Silverstone to produce the required amount of new rear tyres, and our logistics team who made sure that the tyres were here on Tuesday. It was a big team effort, for which I would like to thank everyone.”
Fastest times of the day by compound
|First||ALO – 1.33.468||HAM – 1.34.156||N/A||N/A|
|Second||RAI – 1.33.767||VET – 1.34.164||N/A||N/A|
|Third||BOT – 1.33.972||GRO – 1.34.576||N/A||N/A|
Longest stint of the race
|Soft||13 laps||(BUT, GRO )|
|Medium||36 laps||(DIR, PER )|
|11||di Resta||Force India||12||+53.700|
|18||van der Garde||Caterham||21||+1 lap|