Sebastian Vettel broke his ‘July jinx’ as he powered to victory in the German Grand Prix at Nurburgring and in doing so added the winner’s trophy for his home race to his collection which now amounts to thirty big ones.
Much was made of the apparent ‘curse’ that had ‘haunted’ the world champion, but he tore those superstition to threads by taking the lead from the start and thereafter controlling the race to a certain degree, until the very end where a late charge by the Lotus duo, particularly Kimi Raikkonen, made the Red Bull driver sweat all the way to the finish line.
In the end Vettel did enough, but it was ever so close, and he knew it as he celebrated over the radio on his slow down lap after taking the chequered flag: “Yes, yes, yes and yes again! Thanks guys that was a tough race, they really gave me a run for my money.”
A bizarre incident shortly before the halfway mark brought out the Safety Car which invariably changed the complexion of the race. Jules Bianchi’s Marussia coasted to a halt, just before the chicane, after a major Cosworth engine blow-up, flames billowing from the car as the Frenchman parked it before jumping out. Then, by itself it rolled across the track. Mercifully no one collected it on its slow motion journey.
After several laps behind Bernd Maylander’s Safety Car, the field was unleashed, whereupon Lotus threw everything at the championship leader in the final phase of the race. First Romain Grosjean harried the leader, before ceding second place to Raikkonen, who had bolted on a set of the softer compound for his final ten lap stint – Vettel and Grosjean were on the harder Medium tyres at that stage.
Although Raikkonen was tearing into lead at about half a second per lap, it was nowhere near the expected difference of one second or more per tour of the Nurburgring, the Mediums proving more effective in the heat on race day. In the end the Iceman was probably one lap short of doing the business.
On the other hand Vettel played it superbly, keeping ahead of the Lotus driver by a smidgen over one second and preventing DRS activation until the very last lap. By then he had done enough – by a mere second that is!
“It’s unbelievable. I am very, very happy. Kimi was pushing very close in the end but I was pushing in every lap except from the ones with the Safety Car. I enjoyed today and I could feel Kimi coming and it was quite close with Romain too but we recovered. I am very happy the race ended after 60 laps and not 61 or 62 laps,” said Vettel as he savoured home victory, an ultra-special occasion for any driver.
Sporting a US marine style crew cut hairstyle, Raikkonen did manage a smile in the pre-podium room, as he congratulated his mate who had kept him at bay. Nevertheless, for Lotus it was a return to the kind of form that they enjoyed earlier in the season, when temperatures were higher and more favourable to the E21.
“My radio only worked in one part of the circuit and unfortunately today there was quite a lot to discuss,” revealed Raikkonen. “Not ideal. We did well but we didn’t have the speed. Maybe the race could have been a little longer. The result wasn’t ideal for us but we are getting back to where we should be.”
Credit to Grosjean for delivering the kind of performance which does justice to the faith Lotus, and particularly Eric Boullier, has shown in the Frenchman. He was quick, he was intelligent had a hearty go at Vettel, but when required played the team game, and a podium place was a just reward for a job well done.
Grosjean said afterwards, “It’s good, it is a good result for the team. I thought I had a good chance but Sebastian drove very well. The team took the decision to put us on different tyres and it worked out in the end. It’s good to be back on the podium.”
Ferrari took a gamble by opting to start their cars on the Medium compound. Although Fernando Alonso finished fourth, victory or at least a podium was clearly the objective. For some reason the Spaniard could not make his first set of tyres last the required length for a two stopper, which would have been their plan. Instead they were forced to stop three times, bolting on the Soft tyre for a late race burst which fell short.
Clearly they got their maths wrong, the gamble not reaping the dividends that they no doubt expected. Adding to their disappointment was Felipe Massa’s early retirement as he spun outunder braking, with just seven laps on the board.
Alonso reflected, “The race was not too bad. We did a good 60 laps overall, but obviously not good enough for the podium. Lotus [was] very good, it surprised us how long they did in the first stint on the Soft tyres. The strategy that we thought yesterday didn’t pay off so much. We lost a podium in the first 20 laps where we weren’t good enough.”
As much as the heat on the day helped Lotus, it did the opposite for Mercedes. Up until the race the Silver Arrows were the pick of the bunch, with Lewis Hamilton taking pole position and Nico Rosberg always at the sharp end of proceedings despite a strategy blunder by the team resulting in him starting from 11th on the grid.
Despite a reasonable start off the line, Hamilton struggled for grip as they darted into Turn 1 for the first time and before he knew it he was looking at the rear ends of the Red Bull pair. Thereafter it was a slide downhill to 11th place at one stage before he mounted a strong recovery to finish fifth.
Hamilton was not happy, “I have nothing positive to say about these tyres. I don’t understand why we struggle so much on them. But the team is working hard and we need to keep pushing.”
“It’s crazy that I struggled that much to get past the Sauber. I felt I was having such a difficult time and I wanted to know if Nico wasn’t having a problem then it must be something with my driving or my setup. But it turned out it wasn’t,” added the winner of last year’s German GP at Hockenheim.
Rosberg who won with ease a week earlier at Silverstone, was never in contention for anything like a podium at his home race, and ninth place was his only reward.
McLaren won the German GP a year earlier (at Hockenheim) but this season have hardly shown race winning pace. This time around it was no different, although sixth for Jenson Button and eighth for Sergio Perez will no doubt have brought some satisfaction for the Woking outfit who had not scored points for two races in a row.
“We got everything out of the car that we could. The strategy was good. I was really hoping to get fifth, but the Caterhams destroyed the possibility. They’re racing for position, but when there are blue flags, there are blue flags! It’s a shame when it costs you so much. A pity but all in all, as a team we haven’t put a foot wrong. Sixth is probably a bit better than we expected,” admitted Button.
Mark Webber, looked strong all weekend long, and in the race looked set for a podium until disaster struck during his first pit stop. His crew struggled to fit the right rear, and he was released before it was fastened properly. It then went on its own journey down the pitlane, collecting a cameraman who suffered a broken shoulder and cracked ribs. He was taken to hospital and put under observation.
Webber’s crew reclaimed the errant wheel, bolted it onto the RB9 , and he was sent out again, albeit way behind the field. he did well to recover to finish seventh, but in truth a lot more was on offer for the Australian racing in his final German Grand Prix.
Nico Hulkenberg again delivered the kind of performance that has to see him seated in a top team in the near future. In the woefully under par Sauber he still managed to take on the likes of Hamilton, Alonso, Webber and run as high as fourth at one stage. A solitary point was his reward.
Out of the points were both the Force India cars who simply failed to find the sweet spot at Nurburgring, as did the Williams team who have yet to find the sweet spot at all this year.
Much was expected from Daniel Ricciardo who performed so well in qualifying for Toro Rosso, but a sixth place grid slot ended in 12th place for the Australian who spent the afternoon going backwards. It was also disappointment for (fellow Red Bull race seat candidate) Jean Eric Vergne who retired after 38 laps.
The result sees Vettel and Red Bull enhance their lead in the 2013 Formula 1 World Championship. In the drivers’ title race the German, with 157 points, leads Alonso by 34 points and Raikkonen by 41.
Red Bull, with 250 points, lead the constructors’ contest by 67 points from Mercedes, who are three points up on Ferrari.
Last word to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, who told BBC, “The most important thing today is that the cameraman who got struck by the tyre does not appear to have suffered serious injury. It’s a timely reminder that working in the pit lane is dangerous. Everyone reacted incredibly quickly and the most important thing is to hear that he seems to be fundamentally OK.” (GP247)
Subbed by AJN.
German Grand Prix, Result – Sunday, 7 July 2013
|1||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing-Renault||60||Winner||2||25|
|2||7||Kimi Räikkönen||Lotus-Renault||60||+1.0 secs||4||18|
|3||8||Romain Grosjean||Lotus-Renault||60||+5.8 secs||5||15|
|4||3||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||60||+7.7 secs||8||12|
|5||10||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||60||+26.9 secs||1||10|
|6||5||Jenson Button||McLaren-Mercedes||60||+27.9 secs||9||8|
|7||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing-Renault||60||+37.5 secs||3||6|
|8||6||Sergio Perez||McLaren-Mercedes||60||+38.3 secs||13||4|
|9||9||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||60||+46.8 secs||11||2|
|10||11||Nico Hulkenberg||Sauber-Ferrari||60||+49.8 secs||10||1|
|11||14||Paul di Resta||Force India-Mercedes||60||+53.7 secs||12|
|12||19||Daniel Ricciardo||STR-Ferrari||60||+56.9 secs||6|
|13||15||Adrian Sutil||Force India-Mercedes||60||+57.7 secs||15|
|14||12||Esteban Gutierrez||Sauber-Ferrari||60||+60.1 secs||14|
|15||16||Pastor Maldonado||Williams-Renault||60||+61.9 secs||18|
|16||17||Valtteri Bottas||Williams-Renault||59||+1 Lap||17|
|17||20||Charles Pic||Caterham-Renault||59||+1 Lap||22|
|18||21||Giedo van der Garde||Caterham-Renault||+1 Lap||20|
|19||23||Max Chilton||Marussia-Cosworth||+1 Lap||21|
|Ret||18||Jean-Eric Vergne||STR-Ferrari||+38 Laps||16|
|Ret||22||Jules Bianchi||Marussia-Cosworth||+39 Laps||19|
|Ret||4||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||+57 Laps||7|
Note – Pic qualified 19th, but takes five-place grid penalty for gearbox change.