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German Grand Prix-Vettel Wins But Finds Rivals Drawing Closer

Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull prior to winning the German Grand Prix.

After crossing the finish line yesterday, just over a second ahead of Kimi Räikkönen, Sebastian Vettel observed “that was tough” while thanking his team over the radio.  Sebastian led from second on the grid and survived everything the Lotus team had in terms of strategic curve balls to score his; first win at home in Germany, 30th Formula One victory and stretch his World Drivers Championship lead to 34 points from Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

Alonso did well to struggle to a fourth place finish, from eighth on the grid, thanks to a strategic decision to qualify on the harder prime tyre. Fernando and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali recognise Ferrari have much to do to give their car a race winning edge, if they are to challenge for the championship.

Kimi and teammate Romain Grosjean put in a great effort for Team Lotus to finish second and third. Towards the end Grosjean pitted from second forcing the leading Vettel to do the same one lap latter, a move that allowed Räikkönen to lead. Kimi had sufficient life in his tyres to make it to the end, but the Lotus team eventually elected to make pit stop for faster rubber a couple of laps too late, handing the lead back to Vettel which he just held to the end.

Raikkonen stopped for tires two laps too early which didn’t do him any favors in the closing laps.

As Lotus appear to bloom when the weather gets really hot, so Mercedes Benz wilt. Starting from pole for the second consecutive week Lewis Hamilton could not get the life of the new Kevlar belted Pirelli tyres that all the teams were using, to last as well as the rest of the field, despite telling his engineer, “I am pushing man”. The scale of the Mercedes Benz struggle was demonstrated by the fact that Lewis only finished fifth after passing former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button in the closing laps of the race.

McLaren’s team principle Martin Whitmarsh was relieved to see not only Jenson Button finish sixth but also Mexican team mate Sergio Perez bring his car home eighth and in the points from thirteenth on the grid. The McLaren’s sandwiching the Red Bull of Mark Webber who qualified third, but lost a rear wheel after a pit stop during which he dropped to dead last. The errant wheel hit TV cameraman Paul Allen who was hospitalized with several broken bones and concussion.

Mr. Allen is expected to be released from hospital tomorrow at the time of writing, while Mark recovered to a seventh place finish thanks to a safety car period which bunched up the field mid race, Red Bull were fined US$ 30,000 for releasing Marks car without the wheel securely attached.

Ferrari’s President, De Montezemolo, and Stefano Domenicalli confer over Ferrari’s plight.

Hamilton’s team-mate Nico Rosberg was let down by inexplicably poor qualifying management. Being advised not to go out for a second run in the second qualifying session (Q2), meant Nico dropped out of the top ten and was therefore not invited to take part in the third qualifying session (Q3). Starting eleventh, last weeks British Grand Prix winner, Rosberg salvaged a disappointing ninth place finish in his home Grand Prix.

Finishing tenth, for the second week running, was Nico Hülkenerg who started his Sauber Ferrari from the same place on the grid. Noticeably absent from the top ten were the Force India’s of Paul di Resta who finished 11th and Adrian Sutil who finished thirteenth having qualified, a poor by their standards, twelfth and fifteenth respectively. Force India are still ten points ahead of McLaren in the Constructors Championship despite failing to score any points.

The meat in the Force India sandwich was Daniel Ricciardo who impressed with another sixth fastest qualifying time, ten spots ahead of Torro Rosso team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne. Daniel could not make the harder tyres work to his advantage in the race and frustratingly slipped down to a twelfth place finish. Vergne was called in to retire, for the second week running, with a hydraulic issue after a “weekend to forget’.

Valtteri Bottas qualified sixteenth for Williams one spot ahead of his team mate Pastor Maldonado, but it was Maldonado who looked to be on for a points finish, until a botched pit stop dropped him to 15th, behind the Sauber Ferrari driven by Esteban Gutiérrez. Bottas finished 16th behind his team mate.

Caterham’s Charles Pic qualified fastest of the tailenders in nineteenth, a puncture late in the race forced a pit stop that dropped Pic to the back of the field from whence he recovered to finish seventeenth, ahead of his team mate Giedo van der Garde.

Jules Bianchi split the Caterham’s in qualifying, but at mid distance, the Cosworth motor in his Marussia “let go” and he was forced to abandon his car which, caught fire on an upward slope at the side of the track. With the fire extinguished a short while later the unmanned Marussia proceeded to roll back down the slope and clear across the track to what turned out to be a far safer trackside position.

With the unmanned Marrusia on the loose the safety car was deployed and most teams took the opportunity to make unscheduled pit stops. Pic’s team-mate Max Chilton qualified last and finished last of the runners in nineteenth. Felipe Massa started seventh ahead of his team-mate Alonso, but spun out of the race on lap 3 to record his first retirement from the German Grand Prix, in eleven starts, with a stalled motor and stuck in 5th gear.

Formula One now takes a three week break before the Hungarian Grand Prix during which Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes will be working feverishly to develop their cars into race winners that can offer Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel a credible championship challenge. A young driver test at Silverstone next week will give all the teams, except Mercedes Benz, the opportunity try new idea’s for the remainder of the season.

Join me again in two weeks for a report on the Silverstone tests.

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