German Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Sebastian Vettel victories are often categorized as the boring affairs, where the German claims a comfortable lights to flag win. However, his 30th career victory was a hard fought tussle as Sebastian faced relentless pressure from the fast charging Lotus duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean throughout the race. Nevertheless, an exuberant Sebastian has finally broken his record of never having won on home soil. In addition, he has now also broken his duct of having never won a Grand Prix in the month of July. A fantastic day for Germany and a near perfect day for a resurgent Lotus team.
The German managed to lead into turn one, fending off a fast charging Mark Webber who attempted to aggressively take the lead following a sublime start. Meanwhile, Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen battled their way into contention. Grosjean managed to close Vettel’s lead before a safety car for Jules Bianchi’s stricken Marussia brought Kimi Raikkonen into contention.
As the race entered the final stages, it looked as though Kimi was planning on completing a 36 lap final stint, without making his third stop. However, with just ten laps remaining, Lotus switched strategy and placed option compound tyres on the Finn’s car. This prompted a late charge from the former World Champion, dispatching Grosjean before hunting down Sebastian in what was a thrilling conclusion to the race. Vettel just managed to keep Raikkonen at bay to take a timely maiden home victory, following last weekend’s disappointment at Silverstone.
Following the race Sebastian stated; “It was a tough race; it was one of the toughest for a long time. I’m happy the race wasn’t two or three laps longer, as Kimi was a bit quicker towards the end. I’m very happy that it worked out and it’s very special. The team worked really hard to give me the chance to win this weekend and we got it.” He now extends his lead to 34 points at the top of the championship, with no indication of falling behind the chasing pack anytime soon. The new tyres appear to suit Red Bull, while leaving rivals Mercedes with huge concerns.
With Lewis Hamilton on pole and Nico Rosberg setting his sights on a top four finish, the German team looked set to take the fight to Red Bull. However, the German squad suffered a horrendous downturn in form following a promising few weeks. Lewis Hamilton struggled throughout the race with high levels of rear tyre degradation, reminiscent of the early issues faced in Bahrain and Spain. Lewis had to battle hard to salvage a disappointing P5 – The Brit still waits for his first win in a silver arrow.
A frustrated Lewis was trying to focus on the positive aspects of a troublesome German Grand Prix saying; “We’ll keep working on it and the positive from today is that we were able to recover to fifth place with a good strategy and great pit stops, and we’re still second in the Constructors’ table. Hopefully we’ll have a better chance at the next race but, for now, there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
With Nico Rosberg finishing in P9, it was not the homecoming which Mercedes-Benz were hoping for. It will undoubtedly be a concern to them that Pirelli’s new tyres seem to have a negative effect on their car. With a switch to the 2012 construction imminent, they need to re-evaluate their current situation. Considering the degradation nightmares they faced last season, the team need to identify the root cause of the issues before Red Bull take another giant step towards a fourth consecutive constructors title.
Meanwhile, a team who seem to be relishing the change in tyres are Lotus. While they initially protested a mid-season construction change, the Kevlar tyres worked in their favor in Germany. Another factor to note was the unseasonably high track temperatures which were present during Qualifying and the Race. Both Romain Grosjean and Kimi Raikkonen looked favorites to take the win at various points, yet the Frenchman was unable to hold onto P2 as the team identified their championship aspirations, asking Romain to allow Kimi through. Perhaps a slightly controversial, yet sensible call from the pit-wall.

Romain Grosjean appears to be Formula One’s Mr.Inconsistant. The Frenchman has frequently demonstrated his ability to challenge for victories with strong Sunday performances. However, these displays are far too infrequent and are overshadowed by the lackluster events where he is condemned to midfield obscurity. Hopefully, this performance will springboard Grosjean’s season, giving him a much needed boost in confidence. Following the race, he stated; “After some difficult races, everything went right today and it was pretty special when I was leading the race and returning to the podium is naturally a good thing. My car felt great on the first stint with the soft tyres and it’s clear that the summer weather really suits us. Hopefully we’ll have a long summer now in Europe! Letting Kimi past at the end of the race was the sensible thing to do as we were on different strategies and he had more of a chance of going for the win than I did at that point. We didn’t know which tyre would be the best at the end of the race, so we didn’t put all our eggs in one basket.”  
Unfortunately, it was yet more disappointment for Williams this weekend. A dismal qualifying led to what was a promising race which ended in disaster. On an excellent strategy, abetted by a timely safety car, Pastor Maldonado was on course for the team’s first point of the season. However, a wheel gun issue robbed the team of their glory. The gremlin first appeared when Valtteri Bottas made his first stop and the right front wheel did not connect to the nut. It took several attempts before the thread lined up. Consequently, the team knew the problem may arise during Pastor’s final stop yet they had no option but to pit the Venezuelan and take a gamble. Regrettably, it did not pay off. Maldonado stated; “It was a good race for us today as we put everything together and we were on for some points. It’s disappointing to finish where we did today after the problem with the pitstops but we have to look at the positives and move forward from this.”
This was not the only pitstop calamity of the day as Mark Webber’s race suffered a major setback during the first stop. The rear right had not been threaded yet the light system failed to interpret this issue and signaled for Webber to leave his box, which he did. The tyre soon detached and was launched up the pitlane before it struck an FOM cameraman on the back. The frightening accident left Paul Allen with a broken collarbone and  a cracked rib – He was fortunate to survive the hair-raising incident. 
Mark Webber eventually emerged from the pitlane a full lap down, however, he was one of the beneficiaries of the safety car and managed to unlap himself before recovering to P7. The Aussie reflected; “I knew we had lost the tyre in the pit stop of course, but not that someone got hit by it. That’s bad and I hope he is okay, that’s the main thing. Today was a bit of a nightmare and you want to wake up tomorrow and have another go at it. We had an excellent start and were in a great position leading up to the first stop with Seb, but we lost all of that. We lost a lot of points today and a chance to challenge for the win, but there’s no rewind button now.” Mark’s blistering pace was evident during the race, but his shot at another Nurburgring triumph was harshly snatched from his grasp.
It was jubilation on the other side of the Red Bull garage however, as Sebastian finally won his home race. His championship lead is looking very healthy now and it will take a spectacular effort to overhaul his advantage. However, I remember saying the same thing about a certain Fernando Alonso at a similar stage during last season and look at how that one turned out…    

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