Last year’s German Grand Prix took place at the Nurburgring and was won, but only just, by Red Bull Racing’s Sebastian Vettel.
The German missed out on pole position in qualifying by just over one tenth of a second and had to settle for the final spot on the front row, just behind Lewis Hamilton. Mark Webber was third, with Lotus drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean completing the top five.
Daniel Ricciardo impressed for Toro Rosso in sixth, with Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso seventh and eighth for Ferrari. Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg both opted to just complete sector times in the top 10 shoot-out to preserve their tyres.
Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg was eliminated in the second qualifying session after Mercedes banked on his time being good enough to see him progress to Q3. It wasn’t and he finished 11th, with Paul di Resta, Sergio Perez, Esteban Gutierrez, Adrian Sutil and Jean-Eric Vergne joining him in the drop-zone.
It was business as usual in Q1 with the struggling Williams team losing both drivers. Valtteri Bottas finished ahead of Pastor Maldonado, with Charles Pic in 19th and Jules Bianchi splitting the Caterham’s. Giedo van der Garde and Max Chilton completed the grid, but they were promoted one position due to a gearbox change penalty for Pic.
Conditions were warm and dry for the race on Sunday, with Hamilton losing out to Vettel and Webber at the first corner after strong starts for the two Red Bull drivers. Further back Massa made up a position, while the two Nicos each lost one.
The yellow flags prevented drivers from overtaking at turn one on lap three after an unusual spin for Massa, who had been running in sixth place. He locked his rear brakes and veered off track, before then stalling the car. He was forced to retire.
The first pit stops took place as early as lap five, with race leader Hamilton taking to the pit lane for new tyres on the following tour. Red Bull reacted and pitted Vettel on lap seven, while Webber stayed out until the end of lap eight.
It was a disastrous pit stop for the Aussie, as his right-rear wheel wasn’t fitted when he left his box. It came off and hurtled down the pit lane, unfortunately hitting a cameraman. Red Bull Racing was later fined €30,000 for the incident.
After setting some strong lap times, Grosjean pitted at the end of lap 13 and emerged in third place, behind Vettel and the yet-to-stop Button. Further back, his team-mate was a man on the move, displacing Rosberg (who was also running a long first stint) and Hamilton to move up to fourth.
Bianchi’s race came to a very dramatic end on lap 23 after his engine failed in spectacular style on the run to the sector three chicane. He pulled off to the left-hand side of the circuit and climbed out, but strangely his car rolled back down the hill and dangerously crossed the track.
The safety car was deployed immediately to clear the run-away car, with the race resuming on lap 29. Having pitted behind the safety car, Grosjean took to the pit lane for the third and final time on lap 40, with Vettel maintaining his lead when Red Bull reacted two laps later. Raikkonen moved on to the soft tyre for a short final stint on lap 49, re-joining in third.
The Finn easily passed his team-mate with five laps remaining after Grosjean was instructed to let him through by Lotus. The fight for first heated up in the closing stages with Raikkonen edging closer to Vettel, but the 2007 champion couldn’t find a way through and finished one second behind him at the chequered flag.
Vettel took his fourth win of the season but more crucially, he scored his maiden home victory, extending his lead in the championship. Raikkonen and Grosjean gave Lotus its second double-podium of the year.
Alonso finished fourth and Hamilton eventually dropped to fifth. Button advanced to sixth and was 10 seconds clear of the recovering Webber by the finish, with Perez, Rosberg and Hulkenberg rounding out the top 10.
Images courtesy of Octane Photographic