Fernando Alonso took his third victory of the season and extended his Formula 1 world championship lead by fending off a charging Sebastian Vettel and a resurgent Jenson Button in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
In a close race where Alonso never managed to have a huge gap to the chasing pack whilst leading in his Ferrari, Alonso will have taken pleasure in the fact that he was able to keep his challengers at bay even though they appeared to have quicker cars. He was no doubt helped in his cause by Vettel and Button battling for second in the closing laps; as the Red Bull driver just did enough to take second position with a controversial move on the penultimate lap. The result stretches Alonso’s championship cushion to 34 points, as his closest challenger Mark Webber struggled with his tyres and could only finish eighth.
The race had a striking resemblance to the previous Grand Prix in Britain, Alonso spent the majority of the race leading whilst being under increasingly intense pressure. The Ferrari established a slight cushion over Vettel’s Red Bull in the opening stint on soft tyres, but the Ferrari seemed to now be able to work it’s medium Pirellis after the first pit-stops which allowed Vettel to close in.
After a first stint charge that would see him up to third, Button was also suddenly in the fight for the win as he pumped in impressive lap times in the redeveloped McLaren. The Briton had overtook Michael Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg earlier in the race and then proceeded to close in on Vettel and Alonso. His cause was helped by his team-mate Lewis Hamilton attempting to unlap himself after he’d had to stop due to an early puncture. Hamilton who was celebrating his 100th Grand Prix this weekend had a nightmare day and was the only retirement of the race.
Stopping a lap earlier than Vettel at the final stops then allowed Button to move narrowly into second place and start the charge to chase Alonso down. Before he did he had to resist Vettel’s desperate attempt to get back past at the hairpin. A lap later Button flat spotted his right front tyre, this may have impeded him later in the race.
After a determined charge where he never could quite get close enough to make a pass on Alonso. Button’s car started to slow and the Red Bull of Vettel was on him.The Red Bull went down the outside into the hairpin with a lap to go and used the run-off area on the exit to complete a pass then did not impress Button, although the Briton still claimed his first podium since April’s Chinese GP. The stewards are still investigating the move.
Kimi Raikkonen took an ultimately lonely fourth for Lotus as a tyre strategy call to go on the soft tyres in the second stint may have caused him a chance at a better finish. The Saubers were the surprise of the race, showing great race pace and low tyre degradation. Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez coming through to fifth and sixth from their lower than usual grid slots.
Perez managed to hold on to sixth despite late pressure from Schumacher’s Mercedes, which was running a three-stop strategy and charging back on fresh soft tyres.
Red Bull’s Mark Webber never threatened the front runners and took eighth, just ahead of Nico Hulkenberg. The Force India driver who started an impressive fourth fell down the order as the race progressed. His team-mate Paul di Resta ended up behind Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes in 11th. Rosberg much like his team-mate Schumacher also pitted three times and managed to make up ground to claim a point from his lowly grid position.
There were several drivers who’s race was ruined by a first lap collision that left debris strewn on the track but oddly did not draw movement from the stewards. Hamilton being the biggest victim as he picked up a puncture that would contribute to his eventual retirement from the race. Other drivers affected by the early incidents were Felipe Massa, Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean. All three kept going and finished 13th, 17th and 18th respectively. Pastor Maldonado had a day to forget as he struggled with high tyre wear to finish 15th.
The big winner of the day though was Alonso and Ferrari. Having started the season with a car that was more of a asthmatic donkey than a prancing horse; it’s increasingly looking like the 2012 championship is the Spaniard’s to lose.
PROVISIONAL RACE RESULTS
Pos Driver Team Time
1. Alonso Ferrari 1h31:05.862
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 3.732
3. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 6.949
4. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 16.409
5. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 21.925
6. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 27.896
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 28.960
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 46.900
9. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 48.162
10. Rosberg Mercedes + 48.889
11. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 59.227
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:11.428
13. Massa Ferrari + 1:16.829
14. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:16.965
15. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1 lap
16. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
17. Senna Williams-Renault + 1 lap
18. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 1 lap
19. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 2 laps
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
22. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 3 laps
23. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
Fastest lap: Schumacher, 1:18.275
Driver Team On lap
Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 58