German GP: Winners and Losers

Monday 8th July 2013

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Health and Safety Car gone mad...

Health and Safety Car gone mad...

Romain Grosjean was robbed of a German GP victory by the most stupid deployment of the Health and Safety Car yet seen.

Star of the Race
Romain Grosjean, Lotus, 3rd
Grosjean should and could have won today, if only there hadn't been a Safety Car. Having stopped six laps later than Sebastian Vettel, and clearly making his tyres work better, he was on course for an easy two-stop race. He made a set of Softs last till the end of Lap 13 - and he was still lapping at the same speed or slightly faster than the cars behind when he did come in.

After the first round of pit-stops on Lap 17 he was 2.8 behind Vettel (and closing), 5.2 in front of Button, who was 3.9 in front of Hamilton, who was 0.6 in front of Raikkonen. He was already nine seconds up on Raikkonen and lapping faster than him.

When the Safety Car came out he was forced to pit, and so his set of Mediums were used for just 10 laps before he had to take on another set. The gap from Grosjean to Vettel had come down to 1.9 seconds on Lap 22 and he would have inherited the lead when Vettel came in for a second time. Vettel had to stop three times, Grosjean could easily have made it on two, as could Kimi Raikkonen. Before the runaway Marussia spooked out Charlie Whiting, Lotus were on course for a 1-2.

Through no fault of Romain's he was demoted to P2 - which he had to hand over to the disappointed one. He may have been a bit sluggish at the re-start but his final few laps defence of P3 from a storming Alonso was impressive.

Overtaking Move of the Race
Lap 60, Lewis Hamilton on Jenson Button
There were some epic Raikkonen moves around the outside of cars in the DRS zone up to the Schumi chicane, but by and large they relied on the overtaking car not fighting too hard as Raikkonen sliced across the apex. Had he tried that with an unwilling Perez then we might have got some interesting post-race quotes.

Hamilton's last lap pass on Button around the outside of Turn 3 as the two cars battled it out for a precious fifth place looked like it might not come off, he'd tried it on Maldonado and had to back off. This time the stakes were higher, so Hamilton kept his foot in and persisted. Jenson's fading Softs couldn't hold on and the Mercedes was through.

Winners
Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1st
It's pretty clear that god is a Ferrari fan, who likes to meddle with other teams too, especially when it comes to the "good lord giveth and the good lord taketh away" bit. Last weekend he took Sebastian Vettel's win away, this weekend he chucked in a Safety Car which helped him stave off Grosjean and Raikkonen.

Kimi Raikkonen, Lotus, 2nd
We didn't think we'd see the day when Kimi Raikkonen lamented the lack of contact with his team over race radio, but there you go. Raikkonen re-invigorated his Championship campaign with a P2 which could have shaken out as a P1 or even a P3 had the cards fallen a different way. It was another great drive with some decisive overtaking moves.

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, 4th
Alonso is reprising his 2012 campaign by making the most out of any situation and pushing the car to its absolute limit. His start wasn't the best and the Ferrari tactic of using scrubbed Mediums from Saturday didn't work because they were gone by Lap 12. Fernando must have been grateful that Lewis Hamilton opted for more tyres on Lap 22 when he hadn't been able to find a way past for three consecutive laps and then the Safety Car allowed him to jump the leading Mercedes driver comfortably.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 5th
On sheer pace, 5th is probably the best Lewis could have hoped for - both Red Bulls and both Lotuses were quicker than him and more kindly to their tyres. He put in an epic defence of 5th place against Alonso from Lap 18 onwards and was gloomy about his result after the race. Presumably this was heightened by the assumption that Kevlar-belted rear tyres were going to be far more manageable than steel-belted ones.



Jenson Button, McLaren, 6th
Time for another friendly chat with Sergio and that 1960s folk duo, Martin and Jonathan. On Lap 2 he resisted Perez into Turn 1 when he must have known that his team-mate was on a different tyre strategy. Perez returned the favour later in the race when he too, must have known that he couldn't hold Jenson back on a new set of the Soft tyres.

Button lost out when the Safety Car came out as he'd only just pitted for tyres and it was thanks to the Caterhams battling it out in front of him that he was caught by Hamilton on the final lap and fifth place became sixth.

Sergio Perez, McLaren, 8th
Checo got a great start, had a go at irritating his team-mate and brought the car home safely. Without the SC he would have kept 7th.

Nico Hulkenberg, Sauber, 10th
Hulkenberg is reportedly not getting his Sauber salary at the moment, but it certainly hasn't diluted his effort.

Daniel Ricciardo, Toro Rosso, 12th
The Toro Rosso strategy might have been lacking on Sunday, but Daniel wasn't. Or on Saturday either - great qualifying, not just in front of his team-mate, far beyond his team-mate. At the start of the race he did well to keep ahead of Fernando Alonso, who is not easily delayed on Lap 1, even when he has slightly slower tyres on.

If Red Bull are going to choose a Toro Rosso driver to replace Mark Webber, then Ricciardo is an easy choice right now.

Losers
Felipe Massa, Ferrari, DNF
We know for sure that Fernando Alonso is good at driving difficult cars, but Felipe Massa is making the F138 look particularly difficult. Another fantastic start from Felipe, but a driver error at the beginning of Lap 4 put him into a spin from which he couldn't get started again, the gearbox preferring fifth to anything else. At the beginning of the year he looked bullet-proof, but this self-confessed driver error, along with the Monaco braking incident that put him into the barriers will certainly have got Luca Montezemolo reviewing his driver contracts for 2014. Judging from what he said about Sergio Perez last year, it's too early to consider Jules Bianchi for the seat and Webbo and Button are no longer options.

Force India, 11th and 13th
Now we know why Force India were happy to stick with the steel-belted tyre.

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes, 9thAn error by Rosberg in qualifying - when he locked up into Turn 1 on his first Q2 run, thus necessitating another lap on those tyres - cascaded into Sunday. He got a poor start, obstructed his team-mate unnecessarily and finished 9th at one of his many home races.

Mark Webber, Red Bull, 7th
Mark's a loser only in that he stood a real chance of victory today and it was all taken away from him at the first pit-stop. For once he got a great get-away and was up into P2 off the line. Though there is an anomaly about his overtaking move around the outside of Hamilton into Turn 1.

He should have got a drive-through for it. If you look at the replays Mark goes out well beyond the edge of the track as delineated by the white line to make the move. At the end of it, he couldn't get back onto the track because Vettel had positioned his Red Bull there to stop him sprinting up the inside to the next apex, but it was Webbo who went off track first. And because he went off track to complete an overtaking move, it should have been treated no differently than Sebastian Vettel's Hockenheim manoeuvre last year where he overtook Jenson Button courtesy of a generous tarmac run-off.

It could only have been a help to Webbo. The last time he got a drive-through penalty at the start of a race at the Nurburgring he went on to win it and it was quite wrong of the race stewards not to provide him with that inspiration.

As for the rest of the race, the errant wheel got the team a 30,000 euro fine but no race penalty and so his epic sprint for 7th place - like so many epic late-race Webber sprints - wasn't interrupted.

Race Director, Charlie Whiting
Have we witnessed the most needless use of the Safety Car of all time? It's a rhetorical question, the answer is yes. By the time Bernd Maylander was deployed to cover the stricken Marussia the danger had passed, if there was any danger in the first place.

F1 drivers are used to making sudden changes of direction and watching out for vehicles coming at them at speed. They've all started races with Grosjean. This time they had the nice yellow flags to warn them that a Marussia, in full view, was trundling across the track at 5mph. If double waved yellows means 'slow down be prepared to stop' then that would have caught their attention as well as the sight of a gently rolling Marussia with its handbrake off.

As it was, the Safety Car distorted what was building up to be a good strategy battle and handed most cars in the field a cheap pit-stop. Some theorised that it might have been brought out because Charlie wanted to watch a bit of the tennis.

Williams, 15th and 16th
Maldonado looked like he might sneak a point for Frank's team in their 600th GP but it was all undone by a problem on the right front at the second pit-stop.

Radio 5's Jenny Gow: "There's Lewis Hamilton, his Silver Arrows car twinking away in the sunshine."

Andrew Davies

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