As Hockenheim and the Nurburgring trade hosting duties of the German Grand Prix, Hockenheim held the event last season. Events seem much changed from last year in Germany, as Fernando Alonso won the 2012 German Grand Prix at Hockenheim after a race-long strategy duel with Jenson Button over the lead. Button would finish only third, a position he likely longs for desperately with McLaren’s woes this season, as Sebastian Vettel look a late move around the Briton at the hairpin to take second. Alonso kept the lead over Vettel from the pole position even as contact between Massa and Ricciardo well behind him strew carbon fiber debris across the track at Turn 1.
Somehow, only Lewis Hamilton picked up a shard on that first lap, which caused a puncture and forced the Briton to limp back to the garage for an early tyre change and a plea to simply retire immediately. McLaren kept him out, allowing him to help teammate Button later on in the race. Hamilton attempted to unlap himself and managed to hold up race leader Alonso as Button worked to catch the Spaniard. Hamilton’s day would end as badly as it began, as he retired with ten laps remaining.
Alonso won pole in a rain-soaked Saturday qualifying, managing to be the last man to cross the line after Q3 ended. Technically, he did not need to be, as nearest rival Vettel was unable to take provisional pole from the Spaniard, though Alonso did improve his time. Mark Webber qualified third fastest, but dropped down to start eighth with a gearbox penalty. That moved fourth fastest qualifier Schumacher up to start third, next to fellow German Nico Hulkenberg. Schumacher nearly did not make it out of Q1, managing a late fast lap to knock out Jean-Eric Vergne instead.
Rain hampered qualifying, as it did Friday’s practices. Button (1:16.595) and Maldonado (1:27.476) ended the two sessions fastest, with Hamilton, Alonso, Schumacher, and Perez completing the fastest five in the morning, while Rosberg, Vettel, Perez, and Grosjean did so in the afternoon. Schumacher provided some excitement in that session, as he ended the Friday afternoon session early with a red flag, crashing along the barriers.
Mercedes had him fully fixed by Saturday morning, the only dry running to be found before qualifying. Alonso (1:16.014) led that session over Hamilton, Perez, Raikkonen, and Webber. Saturday morning saw Button caught out by a late rain shower, leaving the Briton unable to post a fast lap and ending up slowest of the session.
Sunday morning before the race, technical delegate Jo Bauer announced that Red Bull was under investigation for an engine mapping issue. He indicated that the irregularity allowed the engines to “deliver more torque at a given engine speed in the mid rpm range” and that the “new torque map will artificially alter the aerodynamic characteristics of both cars.” However, word came about an hour before the race that no further action would be taken for this weekend, though the stewards disagreed with Red Bull’s explanation.
In order to find the most recent race at Nurburgring, we must go back to 2011. Hamilton won a wet-dry race that saw much off-track running in the early stages as multiple drivers slid around on the slippery surface. Hamilton and Webber had an early race duel over the lead, with Hamilton gaining it on the start, and Webber looking for anyway back around the Briton.
The early racing was close, a particular result of the conditions with a number of drivers looking for any way around the man ahead. Three stop strategies forced the leaders to stop with just a few laps remaining, allowing Hamilton to keep the win and Alonso to again leapfrog Webber for second. On the final stop, Vettel and Massa nearly collided in pit lane. Ferrari had a slower stop than Red Bull, allowing Vettel to claim fourth over Massa.
Webber (1:30.079) started the race on pole after holding off a stunning late fast lap from Hamilton, who started on the front row after a weekend of disappointing times. Vettel was next to Alonso on the second row, the first time the German started a race in the 2011 season off the front row. Saturday’s qualifying was one of the most exciting of the season, with surprising drivers in the knockout zone during each of the sessions, only to haul themselves forward with late fast laps.
Alonso was the first man to go quickest during the Friday morning practice, only to be displaced by Webber that afternoon, then Vettel on Saturday morning. All three practice sessions saw multiple drivers slide through the gravel traps and work on their rallying skills, though only Buemi on Friday and Chandhok on Saturday had any problems in getting back out of the kitty litter. Saturday was an even worse day for Buemi, after he was excluded from qualifying for mis-matched fuel samples over the course of the weekend. He started from the back of the grid, next to Tonio Liuzzi, who was given a five-place grid penalty for a Friday gearbox change.
Final Positions, 2012 German Grand Prix:
Driver Team Gap Pit 1. Fernando Alonso Ferrari 2 2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 3.7 2 3. Jenson Button McLaren 6.9 2 4. Kimi Raikkonen Lotus 16.4 2 5. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber 21.9 2 6. Sergio Perez Sauber 27.8 2 7. Michael Schumacher Mercedes 28.9 3 8. Mark Webber Red Bull 46.9 2 9. Nico Hulkenberg Force India 48.1 3 10. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 48.8 3 11. Paul Di Resta Force India 59.2 2 12. Felipe Massa Ferrari 71.4 3 13. Daniel Ricciardo Toro Rosso 76.8 2 14. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso 76.9 3 15. Pastor Maldonado Williams 1 Lap 3 16. Vitaly Petrov Caterham 1 Lap 3 17. Bruno Senna Williams 1 Lap 3 18. Romain Grosjean Lotus 1 Lap 3 19. Heikki Kovalainen Caterham 2 Laps 4 20. Charles Pic Marussia 2 Laps 2 21. Pedro de la Rosa HRT 3 Laps 2 22. Timo Glock Marussiz 3 Laps 2 23. Narain Karthikeyan HRT 3 Laps 2 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 11 Laps 4
Final Positions, 2011 German Grand Prix:
Driver Team Gap 1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren 2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +3.9 3. Mark Webber Red Bull +9.7 4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +47.9 5. Felipe Massa Ferrari +52.2 6. Adrian Sutil Force India +86.2 7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP +1 Lap 8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP +1 Lap 9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber +1 Lap 10. Vitaly Petrov Renault +1 Lap 11. Sergio Perez Sauber +1 Lap 12. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso +1 Lap 13. Paul di Resta Force India +1 Lap 14. Pastor Maldonado Williams +1 Lap 15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso +1 Lap 16. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus +2 Laps 17. Timo Glock Virgin Racing +3 Laps 18. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing +3 Laps 19. Daniel Ricciardo HRT +3 Laps 20. Karun Chandhok Lotus +4 Laps Tonio Liuzzi HRT +23 Laps Jenson Button McLaren +25 Laps Rubens Barrichello Williams +44 Laps Nick Heidfeld Renault +51 Laps