Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
The Grand Prix at Hockenheim was a TV directors’ dream, upside down cars, out of position drivers charging through the pack, endless melees down through the field and cars bursting into flames. Yet the unyielding dominance of the Mercedes platform continued to weigh oppressively on the entire field, as the ban on FRIC had no apparent effect on the running, save for some visible sparks from underneath Ricciardo’s car under heavy braking during his duel with Alonso.
AS the race started, all eyes were on the back of the grid to see if Hamilton could make another of his lightning charges though the field yet he would be denied this opportunity as Massa yet again managed to find a way to spectacularly exit the race, this time at Turn 1. AS he leaned across the apex he was unaware that Magnussen had come alongside to climb the inside line and the subsequent collision sent him rolling over – showering sparks from his roll hoop in endless replay. The incident caused the deployment of the Safety Car, and sent both Magnussen and Ricciardo tumbling down the field.
At the restart it was sheer madness for lap after glorious lap as the faster drivers delicately tried to tiptoe through the field without compromising their overall race. Eventually it settled coming into the first set of stops with Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso having made their way to the sharp end of the field along with Bottas, who after a fairly slow start had managed his pace well. Shuffling through had minimal effect on the order – aside from providing some interesting viewing – as runners on new tyres began to provide real entertainment overtaking those on older rubber.
With the laps ticking by it became clear that Raikkonen was in trouble and that Ricciardo had no chance of catching Vettel. As Hamilton caught up to Ricciardo and Raikkonen his increasing desperation led to him locking up and sliding into the hairpin resulting in an epic 3 wide going into the hairpin. The Finn was the loser in this as contact with Hamilton led to him losing a chunk of his wing. This process would be repeated with Vettel and Alonso minus the lock up, and again the answer would be Kimi donating his bodywork to the greater glory of Alonso.
The hairpin would also be the scene of Hamilton’s undoing as deeper into the race he would read Button’s mistake in running deep as an invitation, one that was cruelly rebuffed as Button, unaware of his presence, turned in and sheared off his endplate and a big chunk of his element as well. This changed Hamilton’s strategy and as the repercussions of this cascaded down the order, he found himself behind the 8 ball when Sutil spun his car onto the start/finish and stalled it. Anticipating a safety car he made his last stop for options before he’d used up the previous set. When the safety car didn’t come, he was stuck running 16 laps on the super softs, leaving him with the pace to catch Bottas but not the tyres to get past him, consigning him to third.
Slightly further down, it was Ricciardo and Vettel having effectively traded places due to the Massa shunt, so it was Ricciardo who got to have the epic multi-lap battle with Alonso that wasn’t truly settled till Alonso crossed the line P5 just tenths ahead of Ricciardo. The FIA seemed to have learned their lesson as we heard not a peep of radio traffic from either driver and the duel was only marred by the TV director’s switch to Hamilton ineffectively trying to overtake Bottas near the end of the race.
Aside from Massa, Grosjean Sutil and Kvyat all retired from the race with mechanical issues, Kvyat most impressively as his car was thoroughly aflame as it rolled to a stop. It put the stop to another stonking drive by the youngster and he took his frustration out on the Armco as he walked away from his blazing car.
Grey Skies and cool temps washed across the Hockenheim ring as the pre-race madness descended full force. New Brakes and Gearbox for Hamilton meant starting from 20th and it was apparent that his knees still hurt as footage of him climbing in and out of the cockpit was broadcast. True race fans were salivating at the prospect of rain and Massa was already being warned to lift and coast for fuel during the warm-up laps. Super Max sounded as if he was going to have a go at out dragging Lewis at the start, though he was willing to concede that over the lap it was hopeless. It was NBC’s turn to find Patrick Dempsey, though no mention of the passing of James Garner made the interview. As the clock ticked down to 4 minutes, the face of the drivers began to change, all frivolity stricken as the made their last minute preparations prior to climbing into the car and kicking it off for real.
With air temperatures of 26◦C and a track temperature of 33◦C, it was a completely different track to yesterday’s qualifying. When the lights went out it was an epic start for Kevin Magnussen as he made it almost up to Bottas, which set the stage for Massa to make contact with him as he cut back for the apex to take P3 behind Bottas. Once their tyres made contact Felipe was sent rolling across the runoff area, with a spectacular shower of sparks accompanying the off. Massa was entirely unhurt, and the stewards quickly ruled it a racing incident, which was not at all how Massa viewed it.
After the sort behind the safety car Vettel, Alonso and Hulkenberg ran third, fourth and fifth as Magnussen and Ricciardo were effectively relegated to the midfield. The safety car came in quickly and the next ten laps saw massive movement through the field. Hamilton rapidly caught up to Ricciardo in 13th and then spent the next several laps looking for a way around. Up at the front, Bottas was slowly losing ground to Rosberg, but not at the usual rate.
Lap 7 saw incidental contact as Ricciardo and Hamilton both got past Sutil, with Kvyat, having worked hard to set up Perez, got just a bit eager and made contact just as he got past. This resulted in a spin and a frustrated Kvyat set out immediately to climb that mountain all over again.
Ricciardo and Hamilton continued their progress through the field taking Vergne on lap 10 as Bottas, up front, began to lose significant time to Rosberg. Ricciardo managed a neat overtake on Raikkonen but Hamilton got caught behind him, as all three began to be stalled by Perez. Coming into the hairpin Hamilton saw his moment and pulled alongside Raikkonen. Diving deep into the turn he locked his brakes and slid through the apex as all three drivers went through, Hamilton claiming Kimi’s endplate as a souvenir and both positions whilst narrowly avoiding Perez’ gearbox. Having cleared his biggest obstacle Hamilton passed Perez without incident and continued his ascent to the sharp end of the field
Alonso kicked off the first round of pit stops, aiming for the undercut on Vettel, a strategic move that failed when Vettel emerged from the pits two laps later in front of Alonso and behind Raikkonen. In an unwelcome bit of déjà vu, Alonso recreated Hamilton’s overtake going three wide into the hairpin once again minus the lockup, and once again it was Kimi paying the price with even more bodywork as Alonso passed both Vettel and his teammate. Rosberg boxed lap 16 for the softs and was covered by Bottas as the race began to settle in anticipation of the next stops for those who started on softs.
Hamilton, looking good on strategy, was told to let Bottas pass without fussing and he dutifully did so after being assured he was good on fuel. Raikkonen was in on lap 21 and Hamilton was slowly rolling back downhill to Vettel.
Alonso was catching Vettel more quickly however, and as the track limits quivered in anticipation there was not much fuss as Alonso circulated behind Vettel and Hamilton pitted bringing his first stint to an end on lap 26. Lewis emerged P8 behind Ricciardo and as he began to line up the Red Bull for the second time, Grosjean hit terminal mechanical trouble and rolled off track, momentarily bringing out the yellows as the Frenchman’s year of woe continued.
Clear of the yellows, Hamilton executed a forceful overtake on lap 30 for 7th. Thus encouraged he quickly caught Button and once again, into the hairpin it seems Button left the door open for slightly too long as he missed his braking and went deep. Hamilton, mistaking this for an invitation and thinking Button to be on a different strategy, stuck his nose up the inside and received a rude surprise as Button turned in, shearing off a good chunk of his endplate and damaging the front elements of his wing. Button took great pains post-race to blame Hamilton for the incident, and Lewis dutifully owned it but the fact of the matter is if he hadn’t gone wide, it never would have happened. But the stewards didn’t investigate and both men carried on, with Hamilton finishing what he started one lap later.
Meanwhile, Perez was getting angry messages about fuel saving from his engineer, being given his last warning to lift and coast as Mercedes strategists worked through the ramifications of Lewis’ incident. Though his times were good without the downforce the tyres weren’t going to last and as he passed Hulkenberg you could hear the calculators all the way from Brackley.
Again Alonso led the way trying to achieve with pit strategy what was proving to be more difficult on track, namely passing Vettel. Ahead, both Rosberg and Bottas were having a serene time of it though Rosberg was struggling with the harder tyre graining; Bottas was making no real headway. Further back first Hamilton and then Alonso turned fast laps, but all to no avail as Vettel managed to pit and get back out in front of Alonso. But only briefly as the cold tyres proved costly to Vettel and Alonso lined him up and despatched him mercilessly a few corners later. Alonso continued to make best use of his tyres, passing Hulkenberg on lap 39 with Vettel also taking advantage and whipping past the Force India. Hamilton began to make increasingly urgent calls about his front left and Mercedes gave into the inevitable and began working out an alternate strategy for him.
Lap 4o saw Bottas box for the last time followed by Rosberg on the next lap. Vettel, meanwhile, was getting tired of the mixed messages from his engineer and asked them to pick either fuel saving or passing and stick with it. Ricciardo had caught Button and was lining him up but the overtake was proving difficult with the lack of top speed from the Renault engine. AS that battle rumbled on Hamilton was informed he would run two, 13 lap stints on the super softs to the end of the race and he came in lap 44 to start the first one. Immediately he was 2+ seconds a lap faster rolling up on Vettel in surreal fashion. As he closed the gap viewers were treated to replays of Riccardo’s super softs throwing large chunks of rubber all over the track as they began to give up their grip in epic fashion. Perez and Sutil danced carefully about but there was ultimately not much in it as the Sauber has proved to be not of the same caliber this year. After succumbing to the inevitable Vettel brought his car in on lap 46 and back out into 7th as Kvyat’s Toro Rosso erupted into flames. AS he rolled to a stop the entire cockpit was engulfed and it was hard to see for a moment through all the smoke and flames if he had emerged safely. He had, and took his frustrations out on the Armco as he stalked back to the garage, having been robbed of his race finish. Taking advantage of DRS being disabled, Ricciardo boxed and circulated back into 8th position as everyone was treated to the sad news that there was to be no rain before the conclusion of the race. Hamilton continued to rip the tarmac up in pursuit of Alonso now as Fernando was looking down the road towards Bottas. Vettel got the job done on Button through the hairpin and just as it was all looking rosy Sutil suffered a spin coming onto the start finish lap 50 and parked right in the middle of the track. This brought out the yellows, and possibly reacting to what seemed a certain safety car Mercedes brought Hamilton in for his last set of options 4 laps early.
Much to their eventual surprise, however, the FIA had a better idea and after several laps they sent 3 marshals scurrying across the track to push the stranded Sauber out of the way, clearing the yellows on lap 53. Bottas warned Williams his tyres were marginal to the end as Ricciardo relegated Hulkenberg to 8th. Again Hamilton hunted Alonso and there wasn’t much in it as the pace differential was staggering. Magnussen and Raikkonen both pitted on lap 55. Gutierrez took his lap back from Alonso and then, adding insult to injury Hamilton came past as if he was sitting still.
It was going to be Alonso gaining on Ricciardo that provided the dramatic impetus for the end of the race as neither man looked willing to yield, Alonso, though, was the cannier of the two and having found his way past after several laps of marvelous wheel to wheel back and forth action, never again gave the spot up. Ricciardo wasn’t done till the end however and it was only by mere tenths that Alonso claimed 5th.
Hamilton, though, having caught Bottas simply didn’t have the tyres to get past as the Williams straight-line speed proved too much of an obstacle. The status quo held and they finished in that order, Rosberg, Bottas and Hamilton taking the podium and Vettel, Alonso, Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Button, and an excellent recovery from Magnussen rounding out the top 10. So oddly, for such a drama filled race the end was rather lacking save the sparks from under Ricciardo’s now FRIC-less car as it scraped the ground under heavy braking trying to overtake Alonso. For all the elements of drama it possessed, the conclusion itself seemed anti-climactic and the wrinkles in Bernie’s forehead must have furrowed slightly more as his latest attempt to spice up the show failed abjectly and attendance proved to be less than satisfactory.
|4||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||1:24.606||43.8||3|
|6||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull||1:23.556||52.1||3|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Force India||1:24.489||63.7||2|
|9||Kevin Magnussen||McLaren||1:22.855||1 lap||3|
|10||Sergio Perez||Force India||1:22.803||1 lap||3|
|11||Kimi Raikkonen||Ferrari||1:24.042||1 lap||3|
|12||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus||1:24.215||1 lap||2|
|13||Jean-Eric Vergne||Toro Rosso||1:22.668||1 lap||3|
|14||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber||1:23.248||1 lap||3|
|15||Jules Bianchi||Marussia||1:24.540||1 lap||2|
|16||Kamui Kobayashi||Caterham||1:23.687||2 laps||3|
|17||Max Chilton||Marussia||1:25.142||2 laps||3|
|18||Marcus Ericsson||Caterham||1:29.768||2 laps||3|
|R||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso||RETIRED||2|
World Drivers Championship
World Constructors Championship