Sebastian Vettel wins on home soil to stretch championship lead
This time there were no exploding tyres at 180mph, no boycott threats from angry drivers. The cheers for Sebastian Vettel were not laced with irony as they had been at Silverstone the previous week when his Red Bull ground to a halt while in the lead. This time they were heartfelt and sustained as the brilliant 26-year-old German claimed his first win on home soil to extend his lead in the Formula One drivers’ championship to 34 points and lay down an ominous marker to his rivals.
Vettel effectively led the German Grand Prix on Sunday from start to finish, having passed the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton going into the very first corner. But to say that the race lacked drama or was in any way a procession from that point on would be grossly misleading.
Hamilton’s chances of a win were thrown into jeopardy at the very first corner. The Mercedes man got a decent start but Sebastian Vettel got an even better one. And while Hamilton tried to squeeze Vettel into Turn One he lost momentum allowing Mark Webber to come round the outside.
The net result was that Hamilton found himself in third by the second corner, Vettel just managing to stay ahead of Red Bull teammate Webber. With the majority of the field having started on the option tyres, the rush to the pits began in earnest from as early as the end of lap 4. The dangers of the pit lane were demonstrated when Paul di Resta’ release came to the attention of the stewards, the Force India driver nearly collecting a Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso. But that danger was nothing compared to the drama four laps later, when Mark Webber blasted away from his garage without his right-rear tyre attached. The wheel bounded down the pit lane, past the Mercedes and McLaren garage and straight into the back of television cameraman, knocking him flying.
Medical crews were quickly on the scene and the unfortunate cameraman was thankfully sitting up soon afterwards. A press release named the cameraman as Paul Allen with early reports suggesting he had been transferred to hospital after suffering a cut head and a sore shoulder.
Back on the track, Romain Grosjean’s complaint that he was quicker than teammate Kimi Raikkonen given the Frenchman’s pace. Meanwhile, Mercedes also had to get the message across to Nico Rosberg, having started on the harder tyre, not to hold teammate Hamilton much longer.
But although Vettel immediately seized the race lead from polesitter Lewis Hamilton at the start – whose hopes of a maiden Mercedes win soon plummeted again as he finished fifth – Vettel’s route to his 30th career victory and fourth of the season was anything but straightforward as Lotus’s season finally reignited in spectacular style.
Although it was initially Romain Grosjean, without a point since Bahrain, who impressively hauled in the World Champion, it was team leader and championship contender Kimi Raikkonen who rolled the strategy dice in the closing stages after a mid-race safety car had bunched up the field.
After taking over the lead via a longer second stint, when Raikkonen did pit he took on the faster soft tyres and set about catching the leading pair back in over the closing ten laps.
But although Lotus effectively instructed Grosjean to let their senior driver through five laps later, by the time Raikkonen was up to the back of Vettel he had run out of superior tyre life, and crucially time, to deny the World Champion his maiden win in Germany.