Fantastic Alonso takes third win of the season at Hockenheim
By Berthold Bouman
A dry and sunny Hockenheimring today hosted round ten of the FIA Formula One World Championship, the German Grand Prix. Red Bull was lucky to escape penalties, they had been under investigation by the FIA Stewards as Technical Delegate Jo Bauer suspected the Austrian team used illegal engine mappings, but one hour before the start they were cleared to race.
Because it had rained during qualifying, all drivers were allowed to start on the tyre of their choice: the medium or soft Pirellis; the majority opted to start on the soft tyres. All drivers had a clear start, but the first lap was a battle between Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, who diced for second position, a battle won by Vettel.
Felipe Massa, Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna emerged from the first lap with damage, they had to visit the pits for repairs. Next was Lewis Hamilton who reported he had a flat tyre, and the Briton had to limp back to the pits for a new set of Pirellis. “That’s it guys, we should retire,” he reported over the radio, but he was nevertheless sent out again by his team.
Meanwhile, Alonso and Vettel were getting away from third place man Schumacher, who was followed by his compatriot Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India. Jenson Button was right behind the German and not much later took over his fourth position. Next driver to worry about for Hulkenberg was Pastor Maldonado, who also came closer to the Force India. Webber was seventh, Kimi Raikkonen eighth, Paul di Resta ninth and Sergio Perez tenth.
Button finally seemed to have found some speed in his McLaren this weekend and he soon was chasing Schumacher for third place, and not much later took third place from the seven-times World Champion.
It looked like the soft tyres were the fastest tyres, and the early stoppers, Webber, di Resta and Rosberg, continued on the soft compound. Remarkable at that stage of the race was the 11th place of Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov, while his team colleague Heikki Kovalainen was 13th.
Schumacher also continued on the softs after he had pitted, but Maldonado was the only one in the top ten to pit and continue on the mediums. Despite a short off-track excursion, Alonso increased the gap to Vettel while at the same time Button was getting closer to the latter.
After his excursion Alonso decided to pit and rejoined the race in third place and Vettel was then leading the German Grand Prix. Button also pitted, but the big question was now: could Vettel keep his first place after his pit stop? Vettel came in for his stop, but could not keep the lead and rejoined in second place after overtaking Kamui Kobayahi in the Sauber, who was at the time the only driver who had not pitted yet.
Button was told by his team his strategy was still okay, and he was ‘now racing for the win’. Raikkonen was now behind the McLaren in fourth place, Schumacher was fifth and Hulkenberg sixth. Hamilton in the second McLaren was in 18th place, and his team told him they wanted to make this race a one-stopper, but with still 40 laps to go, he had to be very careful not to damage his tyres.
The top three were all on the medium tyres, Alonso was losing ground to Vettel now, and the German came closer and closer, the same applied to Button, who in his turn came closer to Vettel. Alonso sensed the danger and upped his pace a bit, just enough to create a one-second gap.
Hamilton was in trouble as he ran wide several times, and now was about to be lapped by his team colleague Button, and not surprisingly he was advised by his team to let him past. But Hamilton was on a rampage, and overtook Vettel in an attempt to unlap himself, which was certainly not appreciated by the young German who was frantically waving his hand.
Hamilton still wasn’t happy and then set his sights on Alonso, who first put up a fight and later used Hamilton as a buffer between him and second place man Vettel. By now it was time for the second round of pit stops, Button was first, Webber followed as did Alonso and Vettel one lap later.
A perfect pit stop by Ferrari as Alonso emerged from the pit lane ahead of Vettel, and Vettel even lost his second place to Button who had pitted one lap earlier and had already warmed up his new tyres. Next target for Button was of course Alonso, and only six tenths of a second separated the pair with 18 laps still to go. Behind the two was Vettel who was struggling and ran wide again, it seemed it wasn’t his day after all.
With 15 laps to go, the order was: Alonso, Button, Vettel, Raikkonen, Schumacher and Kobayashi was sixth. Vettel had another two off-track excursions and the question then was whether he could finish the race on this set of medium Pirellis, or would it perhaps be better to pit for the faster soft tyres?
Schumacher proved the softs were faster as he clocked the fastest race lap after his last stop, but Vettel stayed out and continued on the mediums. Button was saving his tyres, but at the same time did not lose any ground to Alonso, so he obviously was planning a last-lap move on the Spaniard.
Surprisingly, Hamilton was the first driver to retire from the German Grand Prix, and with nine laps to go he parked his car in the McLaren garage. Button was told by his team ‘we can win the race’ with six laps to go, and it was now time for him to execute his plan. But Vettel now came closer to Button, could he pose a threat to the Briton?
Just three laps to go and Vettel was now closing in to make his final move on Button, while Alonso was getting away of the numbers two and three. Vettel used his DRS at the run-down to the Spitzkehre, and easily overtook the McLaren, Button tried to take back his place, but to no avail.
Alonso was just one lap away from his third win of the season, and it was indeed Alonso who crossed the finish line first, followed by Vettel and Button. Vettel was happy with his second place, but unfortunately for him, the FIA Stewards are investigating his overtaking manoeuvre on Button, as he clearly overtook the McLaren with all four wheels of his Red Bull car off the circuit, and that is no longer allowed under the revised overtaking regulations. He actually should have handed second place back to Button.
Raikkonen was fourth, Kobayashi fifth, and his team colleague Perez sixth, the best Sauber performance of the season. Schumacher was seventh, Webber eighth, and Germans Hulkenberg and Rosberg ninth and tenth.
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