Sebastian Vettel Narrowly Beats Kimi Räikkönen For First German GP Win
From Red Bull Racing’s Twitter page
For the first time in his career, Sebastian Vettel won the German Grand Prix, making it the Formula 1 World Champion’s first number one finish in his home country. In the closing laps of the race, Kimi Räikkönen gave Vettel a run for his money, closing the two-second gap between he and the race leader to use DRS, but the Finn simply wasn’t able to overtake Vettel, despite running on the faster soft tires. Räikkönen’s Lotus teammate Romain Grosjean was able to stave off Fernando Alonso to take third, making the podium an exact duplicate of the GP in Bahrain.
Because the British and German Grands Prix are scheduled so closely, the tire blowouts that disabled numerous drivers last weekend were still very fresh in everybody’s mind. Pirelli quickly manufactured a tire with a Kevlar belt, rather than steel, and stressed that due to their asymmetrical design, the right and left rears could not be switched for any reason. Supposedly, using the wrong tire was one of the major causes of the failures last week. The result: thankfully, no tire explosions at the Nürburgring. Going forward, Pirelli will be supplying symmetrical tires to the teams to prevent any further issues.
For the sixth time this season, Mercedes earned pole position; this time, it was Lewis Hamilton’s turn, as it was last week. Race statisticians pointed out that this was the first Mercedes pole since Juan Manuel Fangio won the leading position in 1954. Hamilton shared the front row with Vettel, with Mark Webber right behind Hamilton. This is important, because Webber turned in an incredible start that allowed the two Red Bulls to quickly dispatch the Mercedes. For a little while, the rivalrous teammates shared the front positions, before Webber ran into his usual spot of bad luck.
Not before Felipe Massa got his shot first, though. The Ferrari driver spun his car on Lap 4, and the gearbox refused to engage any gear but fifth, and he was forced to retire after he was unable to get the car going in such a high gear. Drivers began changing out tires almost immediately, and it was during Lap 8 that Mark Webber attempted to do the same. The right rear tire just wouldn’t attach, however, and he was mistakenly released before the tire could be properly fitted. He wobbled just out of the Red Bull paddock, at which point his tire flew off, leaving the Lotus pit team to scramble out of harm’s way. The same couldn’t be said for an unfortunate cameraman, Paul Allen, who was struck by the rubber but left the pits on his own accord. He was rushed to Koblenz Hospital, and he appears to have suffered from a broken collarbone, broken ribs, and a concussion. The Red Bull team was later fined £30,000.
The incident left the Red Bull crew to push Webber back to the garage entrance, where he was fitted with new tires and sent on his way. He was lapped by Vettel, and struggled to make a comeback for the rest of the race. His recovery was aided by a half dozen laps under safety car following a fire in Jules Bianchi’s Marussia. Right before a truck was to pick up the downed car, the Marussia began rolling backward onto the track, forcing other racers to dodge the runaway MR02. The Mercedes safety car was deployed, and disappeared at Lap 30. Jean-Éric Vergne retired under the relaxed conditions after succumbing to a hydraulics issue.
By Lap 34, the front runners were established. Vettel led Grosjean and Räikkönen, with the gap between first and second incredibly tight. As Grosjean fell behind Vettel, he pitted to change onto his last set of tires to give himself one more shot at the race leader; the following lap, Vettel did the same. Räikkönen enjoyed leading for a few laps, but was unsure whether his mediums could last the rest of the race. He pitted on Lap 50 to change onto the faster but more fragile soft tires, and turned hot lap after hot lap to catch up to Vettel and Grosjean.
Further toward the back, Webber had staged a dramatic comeback, and was in the top 10 by Lap 51. He continued picking off lesser drivers and their lesser cars, and would eventually finish in seventh place, a phenomenal achievement considering his earlier setback.
Meanwhile, Räikkönen was gaining on Vettel and Grosjean, and Lotus believed that the Finn had a better shot at taking the leader out than Grosjean did. Team orders forced Räikkönen ahead, and the finale was thrilling, to say the least. The Lotus finally got within the 1-second DRS trigger during the last lap, but it wasn’t enough to stop Vettel from crossing the finish line in the commanding position. He was just one second in front of Räikkönen, and Grosjean finished quickly behind his teammate. Considering Räikkönen’s pace, he would have caught up to the reining champion if the race had been just a little longer. Vettel admitted as much, saying “I am happy the race is 60 laps and not 61 or 62.”
The strong finish keeps Vettel and Red Bull firmly in first place. Fernando Alonso’s fourth place finish puts him dangerously close to losing his second place position in the Drivers’ Standings to Räikkönen. The next race will be held in Hungary on July 28.