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German GP: Alonso Wins Three-Way Thriller

Sunday 22nd July 2012

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German GP: Alonso Wins Three-Way Thriller

German GP: Alonso Wins Three-Way Thriller

Fernando Alonso withstood intense pressure from Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button to take his third win of the season in Germany.

But it was red faces for the Red Bull team after the race. Having described Lewis Hamilton as "stupid" for holding him up during the grand prix, Vettel was handed a 20-second post-race penalty for an illegal pass on Jenson Button and he converted a certain 3rd place to 5th position. Raikkonen moved up to take his place.

Race Report
There was no sign of Saturday's rain as the cars lined up on the grid at Hockenheim with a number of penalties applied to the qualifying order from Saturday. The ambient temperature at the start was 21C with the track at 33C. This would rise as high as 36C by the middle of the race but fall to 30C by the end.

Seven Rows of Grid
1.Alonso, 2.Vettel, 3.Schumacher, 4.Hulkenberg, 5.Maldonado, 6.Button, 7.Hamilton, 8.Webber, 9.DiResta, 10.Raikkonen, 11.Ricciardo, 12.Kobayashi, 13.Massa, 14.Senna

StartIt was a frantic opening lap at Hockenheim, as the red lights went out Alonso was smoothly away, but Michael Schumacher was keen to challenge Sebastian Vettel for P2 through the opening turns. Lewis Hamilton got a lot of wheelspin away from the line and was as low as 10th at one stage.

Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna were both involved in accidents that necessitated a trip back to the pits while Felipe Massa spread a lot carbon fibre on the circuit by running into the back of Daniel Ricciardo and losing his front wing, though Ricciardo had no major problems as a result.

Positions at the end of Lap One
1.Alonso, 2.Vettel, 3.Schumacher, 4.Hulkenberg, 5.Button, 6.Maldonado, 7.Webber, 8.Hamilton, 9.Raikkonen, 10.DiResta, 11.Ricciardo, 12.Kobayashi, 13.Vergne, 14.Perez

Hamilton's place in the top ten didn't last long as he developed a left rear puncture on Lap 3. Worse than that, he got it at the beginning of the lap necessitating a very slow return to the pits and rejoining in P.24. Lewis seemed keen to retire the car soon after, but the fact that he could put in personal best lap times indicated that the car was sound and McLaren were obviously keen to gather data on the upgrades.

Sebastian Vettel made sure Fernando Alonso didn't bolt away at the front, but Michael Schumacher was dropping off the duo and by Lap 5 had lost 3.5 seconds to Vettel. Jenson Button showed that the McLaren upgrades had transformed his car and was past Nico Hulkenberg at the hairpin on Lap 8 and ahead of Schumacher and into third place on Lap 11.

Stars of the race were the two Sauber drivers, today both operating on two-stop strategies but stopping quite a long way apart. Perez (starting from P.17) was already into P9 and passing Paul Di Resta on Lap 9. Di Resta pitted first of anyone at the end of Lap 10 and started off a steady round of pit-stops for all but the very front runners.

The front three were all keeping an eye on each other to see when to stop and their lap times were similar. On Lap 16 the positions were: 1.Alonso 2.Vettel, 3.Button, 4.Perez, 5.Kobayashi, 6.Ricciardo - (all not stopped) 7.Schumacher, 8.Raikkonen, 9.Hulkenberg, 10.Maldonado, 11.Webber, 12.DiResta, 13.Rosberg.

Alonso was the first to blink, swapping his softs for a set off medium tyres at the end of Lap 18, Button came in on Lap 19 and Vettel in on Lap 20. For a few laps they had Kamui Kobayashi sandwiched between Vettel and Button, but the Japanese finally came in at the end of Lap 22, five laps after his team-mate.

Further back, Kimi Raikkonen (one of the earliest stoppers) made his way past Michael Schumacher on Lap 21 to take fifth place. That became fourth once Kobayashi had stopped.

Positions after everyone had stopped once on Lap 23: 1.Alonso, 2.Vettel, 3.Button, 4.Raikkonen, 5.Schumacher, 6.Hulkenberg, 7.Perez, 8.Webber, 9.DiResta, 10.Kobayashi, 11.Maldonado, 12.Rosberg.

At this point of the race both Saubers were locked in battle with Force Indias, but whereas Nico Hulkenberg was able to keep the ever-attentive Perez at bay, Kobayashi got past Paul DiResta on Lap 25 with an overtaking move - like so many at Hockenheim - that took more than one corner to play out.

At the front, Vettel started to chip away at Alonso's advantage. On Lap 23 the gap had been 2.1 seconds, on Lap 25 it was 1.6, on Lap 26 it was 1.3 and on Lap 27 it was 1.0. By Lap 30 it was 0.6. Meanwhile Jenson Button was reducing his own deficit to Vettel, resetting Fastest Lap to 1:20.727 in the process.

Alonso was keeping ahead of Vettel by reserving all his KERS energy for the speed onto the long straight and the defence into the following hairpin. The chase of Alonso was broken first by a Marussia getting very slightly in the way and then Lewis Hamilton re-emerging from the pits just behind Vettel on Lap 33 and just in front of Button.Given that he had some speedy machinery and brand new tyres, Lewis decided to have some fun and unlap himself. Vettel and Alonso's tyres were 13 and 15 laps older, but despite this inequality Vettel decided that he wanted to defend the position from a car that was clearly quicker but no threat. Lewis was not to be denied and duly made the pass on Vettel on Lap34, producing a Fastest Lap of 1:20.091 as he did so.

Soon afterwards Vettel was onto his race engineer, but the problem was not with Lewis Hamilton, who he later labelled "stupid" for the move, the anxiety was about his KERS which was malfunctioning. He was advised to re-start the system and not to use the high energy discharge.

Jenson Button dived down the pitlane for his second stop at the end of Lap 40 (as Alonso's engineer had predicted he might) in a bid to gain the undercut. The McLaren pitcrew turned round the MP4-27 in what the team are saying is a World Record time of 2.31 seconds. That combined with a fast outlap put him in a great position, because after Vettel and Alonso stopped a lap later (all taking on medium tyres), Button had got in front of Vettel.

It was still very tight, though. Alonso led Button by 1.2 seconds and Button was 1.3 seconds in front of Vettel. Despite Red Bull telling Vettel that Button had a flatspot on his front right tyre the Brit was able to close up on Alonso - close up but not pass. On Lap 44 Jenson was just 0.8 behind Alonso.

Positions on Lap 44: 1.Alonso, 2.Button, 3.Vettel, 4.Raikkonen, 5.Schumacher (five World Champions in the top five), 6.Hulkenberg, 7.Kobayashi, 8.Perez, 9.Rosberg, 10.Webber, 11.Di resta, 12.Massa.

Vettel at one stage dropped to 2.6 seconds behind Button and ran wide in successive corners indicating that he might have been adjusting his KERS. Because after Lap 53 he began to home in on the back of Jenson, reducing the gap to 1.1 seconds by Lap 61.

Though the McLaren team thought that Alonso's tyres might go off in the last three laps it was Button who began to fade off the back of Alonso. Having been 0.6 behind on Lap 57, the gap got wider and wider; 1.5 seconds on Lap 62, 3.3 seconds by Lap 65 as Vettel sought an opportunity to grab second place at the death.

Unlike the two-stopping Saubers, Webber and Raikkonen; the German contingent of Hulkenberg, Schumacher and Rosberg all had to stop for a third time dropping them down the order late on. Schumacher was about to be caught by Kobayashi, but after his stop dropped down to seventh place behind Kobayashi and Perez. Similarly Hulkenberg dropped back behind both Saubers and Mark Webber when he came in for the final time.

In the last few laps Michael Schumacher just failed to catch backl up and get close enough to Perez to make a move. Unlike Sebastian Vettel who caught Jenson Button and attacked him round the outside into the hairpin. Vettel ran wide and off-track while snatching P2 from Button on the penultimate lap. It was a controversial pass because Vettel hadn't done it on the track.

Subsequently he was handed the time equivalent of a stop-go penalty - twenty seconds - which dropped him from second to fifth. Had he just given the place back he would have kept the podium position. As they crossed the line, it was Alonso, from Vettel from Button. Kimi Raikkonen was a distant P4 followed by the Saubers of Kobayashi and Perez in fifth and sixh, Schumacher in seventh, Webber in eighth, Hulkenberg in ninth and Rosberg in tenth. Lewis Hamilton had been the only retiree on Lap 58 with a broken differential and it had been a fruitless srace for Felipe massa in P13.

Alonso may not have won at Silverstone, but he had the satisfaction of being slower than the two following cars yet still winning. In 2012 he hasn't put a foot wrong.

FH

Results
01. Alonso Ferrari 1h31:05.862
02. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 3.732
03. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 6.949
04. Raikkonen Lotus-Renault + 16.409
05. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 21.925
06. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 27.896
07. Schumacher Mercedes + 28.960
08. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 46.900
09. Hulkenberg Force India-Mercedes + 48.100
10. Rosberg Mercedes + 48.800
11. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 59.200
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:11.400
13. Massa Ferrari + 1:16.800
14. Vergne Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1:16.900
15. Maldonado Williams-Renault + 1 lap
16. Petrov Caterham-Renault + 1 lap
17. Senna Williams-Renault + 1 lap
18. Grosjean Lotus-Renault + 1 lap
19. Kovalainen Caterham-Renault + 2 laps
20. Pic Marussia-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. De la Rosa HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
22. Glock Marussia-Cosworth + 3 laps
23. Karthikeyan HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
Did Not Finish
Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 58

Vettel's Maiden Ferrari Run

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