Hamilton beats Alonso & Webber in Germany
24 July, 2011
Jul.24 (PVM) Lewis Hamilton upset the form book to take victory in a sensational German Grand Prix where he ultimately outwitted both Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber to claim a famous victory at the Nurburgring, while runaway championship leader Sebastian Vettel suffered his first meaningful setback of the season.
No one, least of all Hamilton himself, would have predicted victory for McLaren after Friday practice sessions at the ‘Ring. A day later the 2008 world champion was pleasantly surprised when the MP4-26 came good, upon which Hamilton claimed a front row slot on the grid and when the flag dropped out dragged Webber and the rest in to turn one.
Thereafter developed an intriguing battle featuring the four leading lights of modern Formula 1: Hamilton versus Webber versus Alonso versus Vettel. Ironically, and for the first time in a very long time it was reigning world champion who succumbed first to the pressure. A spin early on rendered him out of contention for a podium spot as he spent the rest of the race playing catch up and in a private battle with Felipe Massa – more of that later…
Hence we were treated to Hamilton, Webber and Alonso in tight conflict – the trio always within striking distance and pulling away from the rest. The German Grand Prix – 2011 edition – was their show and each spent a stint in the lead, Webber enjoying the privilege for the first time this year.
Hamilton lost the early initiative when Webber took command after the first stops, with Alonso constantly lurking and getting into some memorable tussles with his nemesis – Hamilton.
Just after mid distance Hamilton began to assert control with a car that was a tad kinder to its tyres than the duo in pursuit. By the time the McLaren came in for a final and only set of Pirelli mediums -late in the race but earlier than most – it was game, set and match to the Englishman.
Behind him it was the bull versus the bullfighter, the latter getting the edge with a handful of laps to go – Alonso second, Webber third. Six Germans in the field, including the runaway championship leader, but none on their home podium. Who would have guessed?
For Hamilton it was a remarkable turnaround from deep down in the doldrums on Friday to top of the podium on Sunday. Delighted he blared into his radio after crossing the line: “Great job guys, great job, that was amazing. If we keep pushing, this is the kind of result we can get. Thanks for pushing, guys.”
From a ‘keeping the title alive’ perspective, it was hardly a huge dent: sure Vettel’s run of 11 successive podium finishes ended but the 24-year-old saw his overall lead trimmed by just three points over team mate Webber to 77 with nine races left
Pole sitter Webber, who finally led a lap for the first time this year, had watched Vettel win six of the previous nine races while finishing in the top two each time.
Further drama ensued when Webber, who was only the third man since 1995 to win here from pole two years ago, edged ahead of Hamilton only for the pumped-up Briton to immediately retake the lead with a courageous move down the straight.
Despite rain in the air, the teams began on dry tyres and by the time they first pitted the risk of a traditional downpour in the Eifel mountains looked to have receded.
Red Bull performed their usual heroics in the pits to get Webber back out in front of Hamilton but by the second round of pit stops Alonso found himself ahead before an outrageous pass by the McLaren sent the Briton clear.
A third pit stop had Hamilton just coming out in front and he surged towards the chequered flag for his 16th career win.
Alonso then stopped his car on track after running out of fuel on the slowing down lap and hitched a lift on Webber’s Red Bull back to the pits.
Vettel, starting off the front row for the first time this year, slipped behind Ferrari’s resurgent Felipe Massa only to retake fourth late on when both pitted at the same time in dramatic fashion and Ferrari reacted more slowly. In truth the German made a host of glaring, if uncharacteristic, errors that ultimately cost him a podium finish.
Vettel reflected on his race, “It felt good to get out ahead [of the final pit stop] of Felipe, it was nice to see the Ferrari still stationary. I think both of us were right at the limit at the end of the race. I think fourth was probably our maximum today, which is not satisfying. We need to work harder on our car to get back on to the podium, and maybe on to the top step again. We have to accept that today other people were quicker than us, and surely I’m not happy, I’m not satisfied. I didn’t feel too good all weekend, I never got to the pace Mark [Webber] had in his car.”
For Massa fifth will be a disappointment when he fought hard all afternoon to keep the position only to lose it within sight of the flag. Nevertheless the Brazilian will be bouyed that he was able to mis it with Vettel late on and Nico Rosberg earlier in the race.
Force India and Adrian Sutil scored their biggest result of the season with the German finishing a solid sixth, ahead of both the works powered Mercedes GP duo. Paul Di Resta finished 13th, recovering from a time consuming first lap incident that had the Scot on the back foot throughout the race.
Lower down the field, McLaren’s Jenson Button retired with a hydraulics problem when in sixth place, he said after he parked his car: “My start was pretty bad, I lost a few places on the first lap, that was tough to get over. Petrov was difficult to pass – moving when we’re not supposed to move, in the braking zone. It’s a pity to be out with a hydraulics problem but that can affect the gears and power steering so we had no choice.”
In truth Button never found the sweet spot in the MP4-26 around the ‘Ring as his team mate did to such good effect.
Michael Schumacher’s miserable time continued as he spun on a corner under no pressure to leave many of his fans disappointed although he recovered to finish eighth.
Nick Heidfeld had a spectacular high speed crash in the Renault after touching wheels on lap 11 with Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi, who had started from the back of the grid after being banished for a fuel irregularity. Heidfeld was pushed half onto the grass as the two went side by side into Turn 10, there was some contact and the Renault launched into the air and landed in the gravel.
Thus after a thrilling race, in the German ‘summer’, Vettel leaves for next week’s race in Hungary with 216 points, Webber 139, Hamilton 134 and double world champion Alonso 130.
Sunday, 24 July – Race Result
|2||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||60||+3.9 secs||4||18|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||60||+9.7 secs||1||15|
|4||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||60||+47.9 secs||3||12|
|5||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||60||+52.2 secs||5||10|
|6||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||60||+86.2 secs||8||8|
|7||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||59||+1 Lap||6||6|
|8||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||59||+1 Lap||10||4|
|9||16||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||59||+1 Lap||17||2|
|10||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||59||+1 Lap||9||1|
|11||17||Sergio Perez||Sauber||59||+1 Lap||15|
|12||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||59||+1 Lap||16|
|13||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||59||+1 Lap||12|
|14||12||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||59||+1 Lap||13|
|15||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||59||+1 Lap||24|
|16||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Lotus||58||+2 Laps||18|
|17||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||57||+3 Laps||19|
|18||25||Jerome d’Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||57||+3 Laps||21|
|19||22||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT||57||+3 Laps||22|
|20||21||Karun Chandhok||Lotus||56||+4 Laps||20|
|Ret||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT||37||+23 Laps||23|
|Ret||4||Jenson Button||McLaren||35||+25 Laps||7|
|Ret||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams||16||+44 Laps||14|
|Ret||9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||9||+51 Laps||11|
Note – Liuzzi qualified 23rd, but received a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change. He was then promoted back to 23rd after Buemi was excluded from qualifying due to a fuel irregularity.