German GPR Race Recap: Vettel beats Lotus, SC & flying wheel mark race at the ‘ring

Sebastian Vettel finally won the German Grand Prix, holding off a late charge from Kimi Raikkonen on fresh soft tyres. Romain Grosjean stood on the third step of the podium, after listening to Lotus and allowing championship fighter Raikkonen through. Fernando Alonso nearly caught him in the final ten laps, also on fresh soft tyres, but appeared to run out of fuel just beyond the finish line. The Nurburgring hosted an interesting race full of fighting for position, tyre strategy, a safety car, and a tyre bouncing through pit lane.

Red Bull release Mark Webber with a loose right rear tyre. It bounded through pit lane and struck a cameraman in the back. He rejoined last, but managed to finish seventh. Jenson Button parlayed his decent qualifying into a points finish, ending the race sixth after continual battles with teammate Sergio Perez. He finished eighth, with Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg rounding out the top ten.

In other strange happenings, Jules Bianchi’s Marussia attempted to rejoin the race without its driver, Bianchi having gotten out after the engine blew and caught fire. As the tractor attempted to retrieve it, it rolled backward onto the racing line in front of Vettel and Grosjean. That brought out the Safety Car. Vettel led through and after the SC. Though he started on pole, Lewis Hamilton could only finish fifth.

The Briton looked set to repeat his feat as the most recent winner at the Nurburgring, as he had done so in 2011, but he lost out to both Vettel and Webber on the start. Hamilton also had terrible tyre degredation issues, switching to a three stop strategy while fighting Alonso for fifth. He dropped well down the order and pushed his way back through the field.

Hamilton (1:29.398) stole pole from Vettel after the checkered flag during Saturday’s qualifying sessions as the latter so often does to the other drivers. Hamilton and Vettel had traded fast laps all through the three sessions, as well as during the three practice sessions, though it had appeared that fellow Mercedes driver Rosberg would join his teammate in the battle with the Red Bull drivers. It would not happen, as a critical misstep from Mercedes left Rosberg in the garage, feeling safe, late in Q2. Instead, the Nurburgring evolved and Rosberg dropped out in the session. His previously set time allowed him to only qualify eleventh, despite a strong showing earlier in the weekend.

Webber qualified third, a tenth slower than his teammate in the final dash to a fast time. Raikkonen, Grosjean, and Ricciardo completed the first three rows for the starting grid. Ferrari looked to play strategy for Sunday, sending Massa and Alonso out in the closing stages of Q3 on the medium compound tyres, allowing them to flip their race strategy and qualify seventh and eighth, respectively. Button’s weekend looked better than other times this season, as the Briton qualified ninth. McLaren, too, had put Button on the harder tyre. Hulkenberg completed the top ten.

Hamilton (1:31.754) led the first practice Friday morning, with Vettel picking up the lead that afternoon and Saturday morning. Rosberg was second fastest in the first session, with Webber, Sutil, and Raikkonen rounding out the fastest five as the weekend began. Alonso got off on the wrong foot, as electrical issues flummoxed Ferrari. He could not complete a single lap Friday morning, though he attempted twice.

Vettel (1:30.416) led Rosberg in the afternoon, with Webber, Grosjean, and again Raikkonen the top five. Hamilton’s early speed slowed in the second session, leaving the Briton eighth fastest. Vettel (1:29.0517) again led Rosberg in the final practice. Webber, Alonso, and Massa rounded out the top five, as the Spaniard’s earlier issues seemed fully resolved. So too were the tyre issues that plagued the entire field at Silverstone, with not a single delamination or blown tyre through the end of qualifying.

On the grid, Mercedes crew worked quickly on the right front of Hamilton’s pole sitting car with Ross Brawn looking on. The Mercedes had both a brake issue and a leaky fuel pump. His right front brake appeared to be stuck open and had smoked for about a minute while sitting on the grid. The crew worked quickly, and Hamilton sat in the car ready to go well before the formation lap.Meanwhile, Pic had dropped on the starting grid due to a gearbox change. Red Bull radioed Webber on the formation lap, “if you get wheel slip, hold the throttle.”

Race Start:
Hamilton got away well as the lights went out, but Vettel got the inside as Hamilton dove across to cut Vettel’s line. Webber came around the outside to take second from Hamilton, capitalizing on the free track ahead. He had nearly taken Vettel for the lead as well, but Vettel’s inside line kept him ahead on the exit. The field continued to push and jostle one another, as Massa managed to take sixth from Ricciardo. Alonso was unable to follow his teammate through.

Further along the lap, Maldonado and Gutierrez scuffled, leading to the Mexican leaving a trail of dust behind him. Vettel led Webber by less than a second, with Hamilton, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Massa, Ricciardo, Alonso, Button, and Perez the top ten. Button and Perez fought over ninth, as the younger driver pushed his teammate wide into Turn 1 and took ninth from him.

Perez continued to deal in close quarters, looking for a way around Alonso while attempting to hold off his teammate. Massa spun out on L4, ending his race after such a promising start. Massa spun to the left and slid to the right, having lost the rear into T1. Ricciardo was well behind, ruling out contact as a cause of the spin.

Pit Stops Begin (L5 of 60):
Di Resta, Vergne, and Pic took advantage of the slowing field to pit. Force India released di Resta right as Vergne came by the box. The Frenchman had to brake heavily and di Resta wiggled his way out of the box. The stewards announced that they would investigate the possible unsafe release after the race. On the next lap, Ricciardo, Sutil, van der Garde, and Bianchi all pitted. Hamilton did so on L7, as did Gutierrez. Hamilton rejoined in tenth, between Rosberg and Maldonado.

Meanwhile, Grosjean had informed Lotus that, “I’m much quicker than Kimi.” Vettel pitted on the next lap, looking to match the Mercedes undercut. That left Webber in the lead, as Vettel rejoined seventh and still ahead of Hamilton. Perez had also pitted on that lap. Red Bull called Webber to pit on the next lap. Raikkonen followed him in. Webber had a terrible stop, with issues on the right rear wheel. The mechanic frantically waved to indicate that the wheel was not on, but the rear jack man released anyway. The wheel came flying off Webber’s car, bouncing through the Mercedes pit. It smacked a cameraman in the back, knocking him to the ground.

Webber turned off the engine on command without having left the pit lane. The team ran back and got him, put the wheels on properly and released him. That incident would also be investigated as an unsafe release after the race. Grosjean did not pit, flying along in the lead. He had nine and a half seconds over Alonso, with Button and Vettel behind. That order would not long last, as Vettel pushed through on Button, dipping neatly underneath the Briton.

Grosjean continued to push in the lead while his teammate looked to take seventh from Hamilton. The Briton sat behind his teammate, complaining that they were on different strategy as the German continued to hold off Hamilton. Brawn soon got on the radio to remind Rosberg that Hamilton was, in fact, on a different strategy and to not hold him up. Alonso pitted on L13. for more medium tyres. As Hamilton continued to sit behind Rosberg, the German still refused to let him through.

Grosjean pitted from the lead as L14 began, rejoining in third. Alonso had dropped to ninth and immediately set two race fastest sectors. Hamilton finally passed Rosberg. He, Button in third, Hulkenberg in fourth, Maldonado in eighth, and Bottas in tenth had yet to stop. Using DRS, Raikkonen made his own way through on Rosberg, who was unable to fight back in the next DRS zone.

End L15 of 60:
Vettel led Grosjean by three and a half seconds. Button, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Rosberg, Alonso, Maldonado, and Bottas completed the top ten, with the same men not yet to pit. Rosberg made his first stop on L17. Grosjean had been closing on Vettel as the laps progressed. Hamilton had been looking for any way around Hulkenberg, but the German pitted on L18 and stepped out of Hamilton’s way. Hamilton’s day would only get worse, as he complained of a lack of grip. Raikkonen pounced, taking fourth from him and the Brit struggled. Hamilton radioed later, “these guys are on different tyres than me, man.”

Second Pit Stops Begin (L19 of 60):
Ricciardo made his second stop, the first man to do so, on L19. So too did Bianchi. Alonso, however, had soon caught Hamilton. He pulled out to go around the outside, but ran out of straight to take fifth. Alonso tried the outside into T1, then the inside through T2. The radio feed had Hamilton asking if Rosberg was also suffering the same tyre issues, which was affirmed.

Button made his first pit stop from fourth on L22 as did Maldonado. At the same time, Alonso went for another go at and over under with Hamilton. He could not pass and spent a turn side by side. Hamilton sounded less controlled as his radio messages continued. He pitted on L23, switching to a three stop strategy. He rejoined on another set of mediums. Bottas, Gutierrez, and Vergne all stopped on L24. At about the same time, Bianchi’s engine let go. He pulled to the side near the final chicane, the rear of the car on fire, and walked away.

Safety Car (L25 of 60):
In a horrible scare, Bianchi’s Marussia began rolling backward. It moved back out onto the track in front of Vettel and Grosjean, then rolled toward a marshal stand. It ran into an advertising sign, which stopped its progress. Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso, Perez, Sutil, di Resta, Rosberg, Webber, and Pic all pitted as the SC deployed. Rosberg looked for a way to pass a Force India while entering the pit lane.

Vettel led Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso, Button, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Maldonado, Perez, and Sutil were the top ten under the SC. Ricciardo, di Resta, Rosberg, Gutierrez, Bottas, van der Garde, Pic, Chilton, and Webber completed the running order. Vergne had retired with a hydraulic problem. Alonso, Button, Rosberg, Hulkenberg, Maldonado, and Bottas all had to stop for different tyres, as per regulations.

Restart (L29 of 60):
The SC returned to pit lane as L29 ended, on the start of the halfway lap. Vettel bunched up the field, then squirted away across the SC line. Vettel had plenty of lead into T1, though Perez looked for any way through on Maldonado for eighth. Webber made up position from dead last to sixteenth, passing Chilton, Pic, and van der Garde through the first two turns.

Halfway (End L30 of 60):
Vettel had a second gap to Grosjean at halfway, with Raikkonen, Alonso, and Button the top five, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Maldonado, Perez, and Sutil rounded out the top ten, covered by less than eight seconds after the restart. Though Vettel attempted to perform his typical feat of streaking away at the front, Grosjean nearly matched him. Even as they remained close, Raikkonen worked on catching his teammate.

Further back, Hamilton wanted desperately to pass Hulkenberg for sixth but could not. At the front, Grosjean caught Vettel after the latter had a slow middle sector. Both Lotus drivers were quite close behind Vettel, each within a second of the car ahead. They crossed the start/finish with the same gap two laps in a row, only for Grosjean to dip a nose inside Vettel.

Other scrappy drivers included Perez and Maldonado, with the former wanting desperately in front of the latter. He made the pass stick on the outside at T2. Hamilton was not so fortunate, with no way to pass Hulkenberg. He would be unable to do so, but gained the position as Hulkenberg pitted. Back at the front, Vettel had gotten a tiny gap back from Grosjean, who also had a bit more gap back to his teammate.

Third Pit Stops Begin (L38 of 60):
After Hulkenberg pitted for another set of the harder tyre, he still needed to stop again, not then having used the soft compound for the race. Webber pitted as well on the next lap. So did van der Garde. Vettel continued to eek out a margin as his race engineer encouraged him to “keep fighting.”

Grosjean made his third stop on L41 after his Lotus had gotten a bit wiggly at the rear. Ricciardo also pitted for the third time on that lap. Raikkonen immediately set two sectors in race fast time. Vettel pitted from the lead, leaving Raikkonen to hope for a very fast in lap. Vettel rejoined in fifth, ahead of Grosjean. Gutierrez also pitted that lap. Despite responding to Grosjean’s stop, Vettel heard instructions to cover Raikkonen over the radio. Grosjean posted a race fast lap, sitting a second behind Vettel and closing.

Sutil made his third stop on L44, even as Vettel and Grosjean closed on Hamilton in fourth. They made a neat train, leaving Raikkonen to gain more time in the lead. Vettel went to pass around the outside in T1, but could not make it stick. He continued to push, passing Hamilton into T3. Grosjean followed Vettel through the chicane.

Hamilton immediately pitted for the third time. Speculation abounded that Lotus might attempt to two-stop Raikkonen to leave him in the lead, but he would require thirty-six laps of his wearing tyres. On the radio, Raikkonen indicated that his tyres were “not bad.” Another radio message informed those listening, as well as Raikkonen, that he could only be heard if he radioed just after T12.

Meanwhile, Button had yet to stop more than once. He still needed to use the option and had fifteen laps remaining in the race. He finally made his second stop on L48. Rosberg pitted on the next lap for his third stop.

10 Laps Remaining:
Raikkonen pitted for his third stop from the lead as L50 began. Alonso followed him in. They rejoined third and fourth on the softer tyres, though Alonso went far too wide into T1. Hulkenberg also pitted further back. Hamilton forced the issue, going three wide with di Resta and Maldonado into T1. At the end of L50, Vettel led Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso, Perez, Button, Hamilton, Maldonado, di Resta, Webber, and Bottas. Maldonado had dropped out for his second stop. Williams gave him a dismal one, as the right front wheel gun refused to work properly. Perez took the position from Button by again forcing his teammate wide though T1. Button would return the favor on the next lap.

Vettel had nearly two seconds on Grosjean, but only three and a half seconds covered the top three. On the radio, Lotus informed Grosjean that he should not hold up Raikkonen. Alonso continued to push, closing on Raikkonen but still three seconds back. Vettel soon held a two second lead over Grosjean. As he came across lapped traffic, Vettel lost a bit of time. It also allowed Raikkonen to catch his teammate. Alonso gained a bit of time on both of them. With another radio message to not hold up Raikkonen on the option, Grosjean let Raikkonen through and into second as they ended L55.

Vettel had two and a half seconds on Raikkonen with five laps to go, with Alonso, in fourth, less than a second and a half behind Grosjean. He continued to push, soon within the DRS zone of Grosjean ahead. Though Vettel seemed safe, Raikkonen had only 1.6s to Vettel and three laps to get around him. Raikkonen flew through the sectors, continually gaining time on Vettel. Across the line to start the penultimate lap, Vettel had only 1.2s gap. He soon got into the DRS zone.

Further back, Hamilton took out a large portion of Button’s gap, looking to pass his former teammate for fifth, he would go for it into the final lap. Button fought back, but could not hold off Hamilton. Vettel still had the lead as the final lap began, looking for his first ever victory in the German Grand Prix. In the end, he would do so. Raikkonnen could not catch the German, while teammate Grosjean rounded out the podium ahead of Alonso. He parked his car at T1 on the cool-down lap. It looked rather as though he ran out of fuel as he crossed the line.

Final Positions, 2013 German Grand Prix:

1. Sebastian VettelRed Bull3
2. Kimi RaikkonenLotus1.03
3. Romain GrosjeanLotus5.83
4. Fernando AlonsoFerrari7.73
5. Lewis HamiltonMercedes26.93
6. Jenson ButtonMcLaren27.92
7. Mark Webber*Red Bull37.53
8. Sergio PerezMcLaren38.32
9. Nico RosbergMercedes46.83
10. Nico HulkenbergSauber49.83
11. Paul di Resta*Force India53.73
12. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso56.93
13. Adrian SutilForce India57.73
14. Esteban GutierrezSauber60.13
15. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams61.92
16. Valtteri BottasWilliams1 Lap2
17. Charles PicCaterham1 Lap3
18. Giedo van der GardeCaterham1 Lap3
19. Max ChiltonMarussia1 Lap4
 Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso38 Laps2
 Jules BianchiMarussia39 Laps2
 Felipe MassaFerrari57 Laps

*under investigation after the race for an unsafe release in pit lane

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