Nico Rosberg capped a perfect sporting week for Germany on Sunday afternoon by winning the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in front of his home fans, on Mercedes’ test track and with a squabbling field battling behind him providing an intriguing race.
Rosberg started superbly from pole and led after an early safety car caused when Felipe Massa swept across the bows of the fast-starting Kevin Magnussen at turn one; unfortunately for both men contact was made, tipping the Williams into a barrel roll while the McLaren escaped with a spin that nevertheless put Magnussen to the back of the field along with Lewis Hamilton, aiming to recover lost ground after his qualifying mishap yesterday.
It wasn’t plain sailing for Hamilton despite his huge car advantage, with determined rivals standing between him and team-mate Rosberg was was waltzing away at the front by half-distance. A spirited battle with Daniel Ricciardo was followed by contact with Jenson Button that damaged the Merc’s front wing, forcing a rethink for the 2008 world champion’s team and a conversion to a three stop strategy. The extra stop put Hamilton on the faster super-soft Pirelli tyres in the final fifteen laps of the race, enabling him to close up behind Valtteri Bottas for the runner-up spot. Despite some pressure from the Mercedes, Bottas resisted superbly to score his third successive podium and make himself a serious contender for future wins.
Elsewhere Ricciardo continued to provide much of the spectacle when he went into battle with Fernando Alonso over 5th place after both men’s respective final pit stops. Repeatedly using the DRS zone to gain an advantage didn’t help Alonso much initially with the Australian throwing some bold counter-attacks up the inside of the Ferrari towards turn five and six, before engaging in combat in the notoriously tricky stadium section of the circuit which eventually saw Alonso come out on top. While his on-track action may have been less noteworthy than his team-mate, Sebastian Vettel beat Ricciardo for the first time in several races y finishing 4th, surviving an early battle with Alonso and the second Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen to net 12 points on home turf.
In the minor points positions the main focus for much of the race was on Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren’s Jenson Button, who were vying for honours to decide which of the two closely-matched teams would come out on top. Button held early sway after a charging start that saw him move from 11th to 6th and close up on the slower Hulkenberg, but an early second call for tyres for the Briton in an attempt to make the full 67 lap distance with one fewer pitstop backfired in the final laps, seeing Button passed by Alonso, Ricciardo and then the recovering Hulkenberg before pitting on lap 64. Magnussen made it back to 9th after his first corner incident, while Sergio Perez collected the final point on offer.
Daniil Kvyat had looked a sure fire bet for points in the first half of the Grand Prix, but instead became a fire himself when his Toro Rosso barbecued itself with 23 laps to go. The Russian escaped unharmed, with the finger of blame for the blaze pointed at damage caused when his aggressive pass on Perez early in the race went wrong sending Kvyat spinning off the circuit. Romain Grosjean had been enjoying an improvement for Lotus before he lost power on lap 26, while Adrian Sutil became the final casualty after spinning and stalling his Sauber at the final corner 20 laps from home.
Rosberg’s victory means he now leads team-mate Hamilton by 14 points in the driver’s championship, while Williams have moved ahead of Ferrari into 3rd in the constructor’s title race courtesy of Bottas’ podium.
CLASSIFICATION – Race – German Grand Prix – 20th July 2014
|4||Vettel||DEU||Red Bull||12 Pts|
|6||Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull||8 Pts|
|7||Hulkenberg||DEU||Force India||6 Pts|
|10||Perez||MEX||Force India||1 Pt|