2014 German Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Germany Celebrates Again

Much like Lewis Hamilton at Silverstone, Nico Rosberg capitalised on home advantage and took victory in Hockenheim, in an admittedly quiet drive. However, while Rosberg lead every lap and received about as much air time as he did when he was a spectator at the 2003 German Grand Prix, it was an all-action race behind him. Lewis Hamilton’s recovery drive was filled with sublime overtakes, misjudgements and a number of strategic highs and lows. Ultimately, the Brit could have finished in P2, but for another incredible drive from Valtteri Bottas, as the Finn absorbed monumental pressure in the closing stages as Hamilton loomed large in the mirrors. Meanwhile, Felipe Massa’s day once again ended on the first lap, as a frightening accident at turn one curtailed his progress.

Germany Triumphs Again

As a German sportsman, it is difficult to top the success of recent weeks, yet Nico Rosberg certainly delivered a performance that even the Football team would be proud of. When you follow in the footsteps of Michael Schumacher at Hockenheim, winning is somewhat of an expectation, so while the raw emotion of the crowd was far more concealed than it was for the British contingent two weeks ago, Nico was just as happy with his performance as Lewis was at Silverstone.
It was the definition of a lights to flag victory – we hardly caught a glimpse of Rosberg all afternoon. He controlled the pace, nailed the strategy and made the most of Hamilton’s P20 starting position. His restart following the first lap collision was just as sublime and set the precedent for the rest of the race. What was surprising was the manner in which he was able to pull away from Valtteri Bottas. While the Finn’s performance was once again stunning, I personally expected Bottas to hold onto Rosberg’s coat-tails – particularly following his confident approach to the race. Williams didn’t have the pace which they demonstrated in Austria and this meant that Rosberg’s Sunday was far simpler than his Saturday.

Hamilton’s Recovery

Damage limitation was the order of the day for Lewis and in obtaining P3, damage limitation was effectively secured. The Brit was certainly not afraid to go bold in terms of manoeuvres, and a double overtake on Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo into the turn six hairpin highlighted this. Taking the inside line, the Brit was totally out of control on the entry to the corner, with both front brakes locked. However, he made the move stick and full credit to him for the bravery that such a move required.
Another close shave came at the same corner later in the race, when Jenson Button took a wide entry into the corner, with the aim of taking a late apex. Lewis read this as another “gift” from Jenson to go along with that of Silverstone, yet the McLaren man had other ideas and certainly did not expect the Brit to be alongside him at the apex. The subsequent contact left Lewis without the front left cascade winglet, which compounded tyre wear issues towards the end of the stint – this was perhaps the difference between P2 and P3 in the end for Lewis.
The Brit has accepted that the contact was his fault, however, I would argue that the incident was not 100% instigated by Lewis. In going wide and leaving the door open, Button was almost inviting Hamilton to take the position, and such a conclusion could feasibly be established from this extreme line. After going deep into the corner, Button perhaps should have checked his mirrors. Regardless, this would only compensate for a small portion of the blame, but both men could have made measures to avoid the rather clumsy collision. Following a similar incident with Sutil earlier in the race (albeit avoiding contact on this occasion), Hamilton perhaps should have learnt that a late move at the hairpin was not a safe option.
Sutil’s influence on Hamilton’s race is perhaps greater than is first perceived. While the theory that I am about to present to you contains a number of if’s, but’s and maybe’s, it could have led to a Hamilton victory. Adrian Sutil’s race ended when the German spun at the last corner and failed to recover after a technical problem with the car. His Sauber was stranded on the circuit, albeit off of the racing line. Surprisingly, Race Control covered the incident under double waved yellow’s, which totally shocked the majority of onlookers, including myself. Marshals had to take to the track and under race conditions, push the car away. If another driver suffered a similar spin, the consequences are unthinkable. For a group of people who delayed the race for an hour at Silverstone in order to repair a part of the barrier where the chances of another car colliding were somewhere between slim and none, they were willing for marshals to run onto the track under race conditions – Continuity? Not much.
Regardless, if the safety car had been deployed, (which it categorically should have in my opinion), Hamilton could have won the race. In P3 at the time, Rosberg’s lead would have been decimated. While passing Bottas would have been easier said than done considering the remarkable straight line speed of the Williams, Hamilton’s tyres would have been in better condition due to the slower laps. With both Rosberg and Bottas on the soft compound in the final stint and Hamilton on the super-soft, he would also have had a grip advantage. It could have potentially been a three-way fight for the win. I’m not saying that Hamilton would have won, (although some Hamilton fans might), but there would have been a chance.

Magnussen Meets Massa

Felipe Massa must be wondering when his luck will finally turn around. Once again, he was caught out in an opening lap incident, this time at turn one, in dramatic fashion. The Brazilian turned into the corner, unaware that Kevin Magnussen’s excellent start had put him at the apex, alongside the Williams. Evidently, Felipe was watching his teammate and not the McLaren, and the inevitable contact sent Massa into a terrifying barrel-roll on the exit of turn one. Fortunately, he emerged unscathed and the current safety measures of modern Formula One were evident once again.
However, Felipe was not the only unfortunate party as a result of the accident. Magnussen’s race was ruined when he was forced to opt for a contra strategy as a result of his early pit-stop. Meanwhile, Daniel Ricciardo joined Lewis Hamilton on a recovery drive as he was caught on the outside of turn one and forced wide by the accident. This compromised his entire race, but some excellent race craft saw him rise to a commendable P6. This drive included a simply stunning battle against Fernando Alonso, which was just as enjoyable as the battle shared between Vettel and Alonso two weeks ago. The Aussie fought valiantly to retain P5, yet Fernando’s newer tyres proved pivotal. The battle went down to the wire yet a photo finish showed Alonso just ahead. Another P5 for the Spaniard who never gives up.

Kvyat’s Tough Afternoon

I think they call it character building! The Russian has been impressive all season, but one particular incident today was far less clinical and reminded us that he is only 20. Daniil’s lack of experience was evident in the early stages when attempted to pass Sergio Perez in turn eight. When attempting to take P8 on the outside line, he pinched Sergio towards the apex – a move which would only work if Checo could make his car vanish into thin air. The exuberance of youth getting the better of the young Russian.
However, his youth certainly played into his hands later on when he needed to evacuate his car in a hurry, after what appeared to be an aggressive oil fire began to consume his Toro Rosso. It was a terrifying sight, reminiscent of Jules Bianchi’s fire in the same event last season. Fortunately on this occasion, the car did not proceed to roll backwards down the track. Hopefully he never has to experience a similar ordeal throughout the rest of his career.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day
Valtteri Bottas
Ok, so I initially thought that the Finn would mount more of a challenge to Nico Rosberg, but perhaps I overestimated the strength of the Williams in race trim. However, to split the Mercedes, regardless of the circumstances takes a sublime effort in 2014. On worn tyres, his defence of P2 in the closing stages was remarkable considering his lack of experience. I’m beginning to understand the hype surrounding young Bottas.

Race Result
1 Nico Rosberg Mercedes

2 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Mercedes
3 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
4 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull-Renault
5 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
6 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull-Renault
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes
8 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes
9 Kevin Magnussen McLaren-Mercedes
10 Sergio Perez Force India-Mercedes
11 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
12 Pastor Maldonado Lotus-Renault
13 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso-Renault
14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari
15 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Ferrari
16 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham-Renault
17 Max Chilton Marussia-Ferrari
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham-Renault
Felipe Massa Williams-Mercedes
Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso-Renault
Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault
Adrian Sutil Sauber-Ferrari

      

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