Sebastian Vettel put to bed two ‘curses’ in his career this afternoon with a finely-judged victory at the German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in the Eifel Mountains.
The reigning World Champion had yet to win his home race as he accelerated away from the grid and into an early lead, swamping the slow-starting Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton while Mark Webber forced his way around the outside at the first corner.
As the leading trio made a break for it at the head of the pack, Felipe Massa was bewildered to find himself heading onto his 3rd lap with only 5th gear at his disposal; the Ferrari driver was left in a spin as he skated off the road at turn one and stalled the Scuderia. This was his first retirement in 14 Grand Prix’ in Germany.
The Safety Car made an early appearance after Jules Bianchi’s Marussia roasted itself on the climb up the hill toward the final chicane. The Frenchman jumped clear of his flaming machine as the onboard fire extinguishers took effect and recovery crews rushed toward the stricken vehicle. They were foiled however as the Marussia started to roll down the hill and crossed the track, mercifully avoiding a collision with passing cars until it was plucked from danger by other marshals.
Vettel rejoined comfortably in the aggregate lead after his first stop under the Safety Car, but luck was not on the side of team-mate Webber as he made his move for fresh tyres; the Australian was left high and dry and on just 3 wheels after his right rear Pirelli was not attached properly. Miscommunication between his pitcrew resulted in the RB9 accelerating away as the errant tyre bounced through the assembled pitcrews of other teams before striking FOM cameraman Paul Allen. The Briton had been filming Grosjean’s release from his pitbox when the wheel hit him, and he was swiftly ushered to the circuit medical centre before being airlifted to Koblenz hospital for ‘observation’. He is understood to have suffered a broken shoulder and cracked ribs, but is not in any danger.
Webber made up ground as he was allowed to pass the Safety Car before it left the circuit on lap 30 and racing re-commenced. Vettel had his hands full with the Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean who had exploited the tyre efficiency of their svelte E21’s to cause the Red Bull some serious hassle. Grosjean was emerging from obscurity after failing to score points since Bahrain in April as he made his bid for the lead, but the Frenchman couldn’t quite get close enough to pass. Raikkonen stayed out longer than both his rivals and only pitted with 10 laps to go for the faster, softer compound Pirelli tyre in a trend started by Jenson Button who was running 5th for McLaren after a dogged performance.
The Finn rejoined the track and put his foot down, but took a bit too long negotiating team-mate Grosjean and gave Vettel some much-needed breathing space as he continued onwards on his worn medium compound Pirelli’s. Despite a determined attack, the German held on and scored an emotional victory in front of his home fans. Grosjean secured a much-needed 3rd place, ahead of the indomitable Fernando Alonso who dragged his F138 into a potentially vital 4th place. Lewis Hamilton passed Button with just a single lap left on the board as his former McLaren team-mate was baulked by traffic, while Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg made last-gasp moves for 7th and 9th places respectively. Sergio Perez was 8th, and Nico Hulkenberg claimed a welcome 10th for Sauber.
“I’m happy the race wasn’t two or three laps longer, as Kimi was a bit quicker towards the end. I’m very happy that it worked out and it’s very special. The team worked really hard to give me the chance to win this weekend and we got it. First of all you have to remember that it’s a privilege to have the opportunity to race in your home country; we have around 20 races, but there are obviously more than 20 countries, so it’s special to race at home and get so much support. I had a good start and then just focused on every single lap during the race. You don’t really think about where you are while you are racing, you can’t allow your mind to drift, but when the flag came out and the race was over I really let myself enjoy the parade lap and saw a lot of people in the grandstands cheering and waving flags. These pictures will remain in my head for a long, long time.” Sebastian Vettel
“Maybe some more laps would have helped us, but the race is only 60 laps so you have to do your best with that. After my first stop I was stuck behind a Mercedes for a while, but once I was past the car was pretty good. After the safety car three of us were able to pull away, but we were too close on speed to change the order. It was a good day for the team. Of course, we wanted to win; we couldn’t, but we did score the most points here.” Kimi Raikkonen
“My car felt great on the first stint with the soft tyres and it’s clear that the summer weather really suits us. Hopefully we’ll have a long summer now in Europe! Letting Kimi past at the end of the race was the sensible thing to do as we were on different strategies and he had more of a chance of going for the win than I did at that point. We didn’t know which tyre would be the best at the end of the race, so we didn’t put all our eggs in one basket.” Romain Grosjean
“I didn’t have a great start and the Red Bulls were much quicker off the line, dropping me back to third. We really struggled with the second set of tyres which then compromised the rest of my race. It’s a real shame as the team are working so hard and doing such a good job. We’ve clearly got a good car but for some reason, it doesn’t work in these hot conditions.” Lewis Hamilton
“There are a lot of positives to take away from this weekend; our pace was reasonably good; it’s nice to be racing cars closer to the front, such as the Mercedes; our lap times compared to the four cars at the front weren’t too bad either; and today’s points are badly needed right now. Unfortunately, the two Caterhams fighting in front of me in the closing laps probably cost me fifth place. When you’re fighting for position, you expect the backmarkers to move over, even if they’re fighting for position themselves. It’s a shame – those points could be so important for us later in the season. The safety car also didn’t help our strategy – but we were a lot stronger this weekend than we’ve been for the past few races.” Jenson Button
“There were times in the race when the car was working well, but I really struggled with the first set of mediums and was not happy with the balance. Things improved quite a bit for the final stint, but by then we were out of position. It’s a bit gutting to miss out on points so we need to unleash our potential and get back to our usual form in Hungary.” Paul Di Resta
“Even if we were hoping to finish on the podium, finishing less than eight seconds off Vettel after starting eighth is an encouraging result. The team is doing its utmost to make the car more competitive and after tackling a few races without being too sure about our updates, today we can claim to have cleared up many of our doubts and to have understood which are the areas we must concentrate on to move the development forward.” Fernando Alonso
“At the start of lap four, when I was on the straight, at the moment when I braked, the rear wheels locked up and I couldn’t stop the car from spinning. When the car came to a stop, it was stuck in fifth gear and I couldn’t stop the engine from stalling. It’s very odd that it got stuck like that, even if so far, the team has not seen anything unusual.” Felipe Massa
“I knew we had lost the tyre in the pit stop of course, but not that someone got hit by it. That’s bad and I hope he is okay, that’s the main thing. Today was a bit of a nightmare and you want to wake up tomorrow and have another go at it. We had an excellent start and were in a great position leading up to the first stop with Seb, but we lost all of that. We lost a lot of points today and a chance to challenge for the win, but there’s no rewind button now.” Mark Webber
CLASSIFICATION – GERMAN GRAND PRIX
|11||Di Resta||GBR||Force India|
|18||Van Der Garde||NED||Caterham|