Alonso Stays In Front To Win German Grand Prix

Never dominating but usually in control, Fernando Alonso became the first driver to take three victories in 2012 with a strong drive at Hockenheim. It is his third successive podium finish and his second consecutive win at the Hockenheim venue, having won when the venue last hosted the German GP in 2010. The 25 points for the victory increases his championship lead over Mark Webber to 34 points, which means Alonso will still hold the lead after the Hungarian Grand Prix whatever happens in Budapest.

The winning driver said after the race that Ferrari may not have had the quickest car, but that tyre management and correct calls by the team were key:

“It was tough, definitely. It was not an easy race, maybe we were not the quickest in the dry,” said Alonso. “But we were quite competitive, enough to keep the lead. There were also some good calls by the team in terms of strategy. When Jenson pitted we had to react.

“After that I knew it was a long race, 27 laps to the end with Jenson putting on a lot of pressure. The car was feeling good on traction and top speed so it was enough to keep the lead into Turn 6. After that you can’t pass so it was about controlling the tyres.”

It was a close finish to the race with Alonso taking the victory by less than four seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel, and he is sure that next weekend in Hungary will be equally close:

“It’s going to be tight. It’s a short circuit and as we saw this year, in two or three tenths there are eight or nine cars. So we need to make a perfect preparation and a perfect qualifying, because you can be out of the top 10 if you miss a couple of tenths. We need to maximise what we have in Hungary and hopefully bring some new parts.”

Vettel finished second but was later demoted to fifth for an illegal pass on Button

Sebastian Vettel took a late second place, passing Jenson Button two laps before the finish. The German felt that being unable to pass cars easily hampered his race and otherwise could have possibly won:

“Overall the pace was there but it was extremely difficult,” said Vettel. “When we were close to Fernando and to Jenson we lost a lot and it was hard to stay close to try something under braking. That seemed to be the problem.

“I’m not entirely happy, because I think we could have been a bit better if we were in clean air for most of the race.”

Button had reason to be smiling with a podium

Standing on the final podium place was Jenson Button, putting in a feisty drive from sixth and putting heavy pressure on Alonso for a number of laps before falling victim to Vettel in the closing laps. His second pit-stop sets a new record in F1 for the quickest ever stop, with McLaren taking just 2.4 seconds to do their rapid work. The team have put in a lot of work to rectify the lacklustre and mistake-ridden stops which blighted their races earlier in the season.

On the race track,  Valencia and Silverstone saw the Woking-based squad having anonymous race pace, finishing the lower points-paying places, but Jenson is adamant that the team are now the quickest in dry conditions:

“I am happy that we have done a good job and we have good pace, there is no one quicker than us at the moment and we can fight for the win in the next few races,” said Button.

“I have had some difficult races earlier in the year but the last two I have felt confident in myself and the team, but we weren’t quick enough so to come here and fight at the front for the victory was a very special feeling,” he added.

“They [Ferrari] did look impressive but I wouldn’t say they were quicker than us, over a stint they were unbelievably similar.

“They were looking after their tyres at the start of stints when I had to push and at the end of the stint he was quicker than me so it evened itself out.”

The incident between Button and Vettel which saw Vettel penalised

The pass by Vettel on Button was a controversial one as the German passed the Englishman using the run-off area at the hairpin: Button would not discuss it, saying only that it was clear what he felt from the television pictures:

“There’s nothing to say really,” Button said after the race. “The TV camera says it all. I’d rather talk about the race.”

Vettel argued that he went off-track due to going wide and that he gave button room so that he would not be penalised:

“It was a difficult one, I didn’t know if he was on the inside or not,” Vettel said. “The last thing you want is contact. I can’t see him from the side of the car so I tried to give enough room and went wide. We were all struggling with our tyres and I think that was the case for Jenson and that’s why I passed him.”

He added: “I was thinking he was still there and I didn’t want to close [the door] too early. I wanted to leave some space. The last thing you want at the end is to crash. So I decided to go off the circuit to make it safe. He had no traction but even on the slippery paint I was able to pass.”

The race stewards looked into the incident and found Vettel in breach of sporting regulations, handing a 20-second penalty to the Red Bull driver, which means 20 seconds are added to his race time, dropping him from second to fifth position:

Car 1 left the track and gained an advantage when he rejoined. Breach of article 20.2 of the FIA Formula 1 sporting regulations,” said the stewards.

“Drive-through penalty, imposed after the race in accordance with article 16.3 (20 seconds added to the elapsed race time.”

A double-points finish for the Swiss team

Sauber had good drives from both men, with Kobayashi and Perez finishing fifth and sixth respectively. Kobayashi stated that but for a poor display in qualifying, he could have finished higher up the order:

“I am very happy for the team that we have managed to get a good result again. We have been unlucky in the two most recent races, and also had a bad qualifying yesterday,” said Kobayashi.

“The performance of our car, especially in the dry, is really strong. If we only had qualified better we could have achieved even more today.

“At the beginning of the race it was a bit difficult on the medium tyres, but our strategy was good. Considering where we came from, 18 points is an excellent result.”

Perez suffered a puncture during the race and said that it impacted on his race:

My strategy was a little bit compromised because I had to do my first pitstop a bit earlier than planned,” he said. “I felt something strange on the left hand side of the car – perhaps it was a puncture – but I don’t really know yet what it was. This obviously meant we had to extend the later stint and I ended up with quite old tyres.”

Hamilton did not have a happy outing at his milestone GP

Lewis Hamilton endured a tough afternoon, running over debris left from an early incident involving Felipe Massa which left him with a puncture. He later retired from the race to leave his 100th race on a bad note. The debris was littered all over the main straight and as the eighth car through, he bemoaned his luck in being the only driver to run over the scattered parts, damaging his car sufficiently to force retirement:

“My second-lap puncture was incredibly unfortunate: there was debris scattered across the full width of the track and I didn’t have any option other than to drive straight through it,” said Hamilton.

“What’s more frustrating is that, at the time, I was the eighth car through – so to be the one to get the puncture is just cruel luck.

“It was immediately clear that my car didn’t feel the same after the puncture. However, after a few laps, I was able to adapt my driving style, and the car had good pace during the middle stint. However, with the damage to the rear, I think we were lucky to get that far, to be honest.”

Despite his bad day, he said he did enjoy his time on-track and like Button, echoed the words of a car which can fight for victories, and took heart from the next race being so close:

“At least I was able to have some fun out on track – my pace was good enough to be able to match the leaders during the middle stint. And that’s encouraging for me, because we know our car’s been genuinely quick this weekend.

“We’ll put that pace in our pockets and take it to Hungary next weekend. I’m back in the car in five days’ time – and that’s the best possible news for me after a day like today.”

The Englishman was a lap down on Sebastian Vettel, and to Vettel’s surprise, Hamilton overtook him to unlap himself, a move which the reigning champion was not pleased with:

That was not nice of Lewis. I don’t see why he was racing us,” said Vettel. “If he wants to go fast he should drop back and find a gap. It was stupid as he was a lap down.”

He added: “If you want to go quick and you have no chance to win the race you should respect that and use common sense. I didn’t expect him to attack because I didn’t see the point, and then I was surprised when he was side by side.”

Alonso took another view, realising that a car between and Hamilton helped his chances for the race win:

I knew that if Lewis was close enough with the DRS and trying to overtake, I had no problem to leave the space,” said Alonso. “I knew he was not in the race. We didn’t want to risk anything. For me it was a good position to have Hamilton between me and Sebastian.

“Having Hamilton there it meant Sebastian was 2.5s behind approaching the pitstop, so I tried to keep Lewis there.”

Force India had a race of different drives, as Hulkenberg finished in the points ans Di Resta did not

After qualifying a career-best fourth, Nico Hulkenberg was disappointed to not remain as high in the race, but was still pleased to finish in the points:

We always knew it was going to be tough to hang on to fourth place because we did not look especially strong in the dry conditions on Saturday morning,” said Hulkenberg. “But when you’re in that position you hope for the best and actually the first part of the race was strong for me and I had some good battles.

“In terms of strategy, doing three stops was the way forward because a two-stop race was not possible with the way the tyres were degrading. So it’s good to come away with some points but I was certainly hoping for a bit more from my home race.”

Paul Di Resta had a mixture of good and bad times during the race:

“It was a bit mixed for me. I really struggled, certainly at the beginning. I was strong at the beginning and end of stints but not in the middle for some reason.

“We will go away from here certainly having to do a bit of work and aim to do better. Hopefully in Hungary we will be able to get on top of things a bit better.”

German GP Result

Pos Driver Team
1. Alonso Ferrari
2. Button McLaren-Mercedes
3. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault
4. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari
5. Vettel Red Bull-Renault * Penalty
6. Perez Sauber-Ferrari
7. Schumacher Mercedes
8. Webber Red Bull-Renault
9. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
10. Rosberg Mercedes
11. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari
13. Massa Ferrari
14. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15. Maldonado Williams-Renault
16. Petrov Caterham-Renault
17. Senna Williams-Renault
18. Grosjean Lotus-Renault
19. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth
21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth
22. Glock Marussia-Cosworth
23. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth

Not classified/retirements:
Driver        Team
Hamilton      McLaren-Mercedes

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