Hamilton takes victory in German thriller
Lewis Hamilton has taken his second win of the year and one of the most satisfying of his career in an electrifying Grand Prix at the Nürburgring overnight.
The Briton leapt from second off the line to take first place from polesitter Mark Webber, who suffered yet another of his pedestrian starts.
The battle for first was fought fiercely between Hamilton, Alonso and Webber, with the McLaren emerging as the car with the most consistent pace.
‘I just feel great. One of the best races I’ve ever done,’ said a joyful Hamilton after the race.
‘We never expected to come here this weekend and be so fast. [So] when you finally do hit the sweet spot, it just couldn’t feel any better.
‘This is a massive step forward, and I really hope that we as a team can keep this momentum going.’
Alonso and his Ferrari mechanics managed to complete one of the afternoon’s only successful undercuts to overtake Webber on strategy to take home P2.
‘It was probably the best race of the year, watching three people fight for the victory…’
-Fernando Alonso, BBC
‘I think it was nice to watch,’ commented a pleased Alonso on the battle with Webber.
‘A fantastic result for us again, and quite a good race.
‘It’s a good moment in the championship for us, next week we have another opportunity.’
Despite their effectiveness in the past, the uncharacteristically cold track temperature inhibited drivers from heating up their tyres fast enough to use the technique here.
Red Bull attempted to capitalise on the unfamiliar conditions by holding Webber out for two extra laps before the third and final stop, but his soft tyres began to lose pace which confirmed his spot on the final podium place.
‘We weren’t quick enough today,’ admitted a downcast Webber. ‘No matter how fast I drove these guys had another little bit more.’
‘Disappointed, of course, not to get a win, [but] mixed emotions with another good result.
‘We’ve got to keep our head down and press on.’
Fourth place was the best the championship leader could manage at his home Grand Prix, Vettel being forced into fourth by Alonso going into the second corner.
A difficult weekend for Vettel
He spent the first half of the race dramatically off the pace, the cause being pinned to a brake balance issue. The problem was corrected after his second pit stop, but his new found speed was wasted behind Felipe Massa who controlled the Red Bull’s pace.
They battled up to the final lap, when bother were forced to pit for the out of favour medium compound tyre. Ferrari had trouble with a wheel nut which gifted Vettel fourth place over the line, leaving Massa with ten points for fifth.
Adrian Sutil impressed with a solid sixth position, keeping the two Mercedes of Rosberg and Schumacher at bay.
Schumacher failed to produce the result he probably should have for what must be his hundredth entrance to the German Grand Prix, often running wide onto the dangerously wet white lines, losing his car once into run off are as a result.
Kobayashi improved his qualifying position by eight places to take home two points Sauber, making up six of those places withing the first six laps.
Renault had their only finisher in the tenth-place Vitaly Petrov, whose teammate – the seemingly ever-reliable Nick Heidfeld – was involved in a coming together with Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Buemi on lap eleven, and retired immediately in the gravel trap.
Weekend-long promises of rain failed to materialise, despite the exceptionally heavy conditions experienced by the support categories earlier in the day.
Similarly, drizzle threatened for much of the race but failed to make any impact on the race, despite a brief off-track excursion by Nico Rosberg on his reconnaissance lap.
Webber found himself losing a place from pole for the third time this season, with Hamilton getting away to an almost perfect start.
Forced into early retirement: Button
Schumacher found two place when the lights went out, while Button’s disappointing qualifying performance was compounded by his loss of two places.
Button would spend his afternoon largely out of contention despit aiming for fourth places. His drive would amount to nothing, however, as an hydraulics issue would see him reture by lap 36.
Webber and Alonso spent the first stint gaining on Hamilton in the lead, with the first leader arrangement of Hamilton, Webber Alonso being shuffled after the first stop to Webber, Hamilton Alonso.
The second set of stops saw that order switched again, with Alonso leading from Hamilton and Webber. That sequence would last hardly a corner, however, as Hamilton on a fresh set of soft tyres caught Alonso out on the exit of corner two from where he would lead the race to the finish.
The performance of the leading McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull cars were mostly equal for the majority of the race, with no team holding any clear advantage over another.
Ferrari kept their Silverstone momentum going by keeping up with Red Bull, while McLaren turned their fortunes around with a number of small updates to their car that amounted to a significant upturn in pace.
Sebastian Vettel, despite missing out on the podium, remains ahead of the championship race by 77 points over teammate Webber, with Hamilton a further five points behind. Nine rounds remain for the 2011 season.
Formula One travels to the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary next weekend, 31 July.