German Grand Preview: Alonso wins Hockenheim, Hamilton the ‘ring

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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:

 DriverTeamGapPit
1. Fernando AlonsoFerrari2
2. Sebastian VettelRed Bull3.72
3. Jenson ButtonMcLaren6.92
4. Kimi RaikkonenLotus16.42
5. Kamui KobayashiSauber21.92
6. Sergio PerezSauber27.82
7. Michael SchumacherMercedes28.93
8. Mark WebberRed Bull46.92
9. Nico HulkenbergForce India48.13
10. Nico RosbergMercedes48.83
11. Paul Di RestaForce India59.22
12. Felipe MassaFerrari71.43
13. Daniel RicciardoToro Rosso76.82
14. Jean-Eric VergneToro Rosso76.93
15. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams1 Lap3
16. Vitaly PetrovCaterham1 Lap3
17. Bruno SennaWilliams1 Lap3
18. Romain GrosjeanLotus1 Lap3
19. Heikki KovalainenCaterham2 Laps4
20. Charles PicMarussia2 Laps2
21.Pedro de la RosaHRT3 Laps2
22.Timo GlockMarussiz3 Laps2
23.Narain KarthikeyanHRT3 Laps2
 Lewis HamiltonMcLaren11 Laps4

{to read the entirety of the 2012 German Grand Prix Redux at Hockenheim, click here; for the Hockenheim Quali Recap, here}

Final Positions, 2011 German Grand Prix:

 DriverTeamGap
1. Lewis HamiltonMcLaren
2. Fernando AlonsoFerrari+3.9
3. Mark WebberRed Bull+9.7
4. Sebastian VettelRed Bull+47.9
5. Felipe MassaFerrari+52.2
6. Adrian SutilForce India+86.2
7. Nico RosbergMercedes GP+1 Lap
8. Michael SchumacherMercedes GP+1 Lap
9. Kamui KobayashiSauber+1 Lap
10. Vitaly PetrovRenault+1 Lap
11. Sergio PerezSauber+1 Lap
12. Jaime AlguersuariToro Rosso+1 Lap
13. Paul di RestaForce India+1 Lap
14. Pastor MaldonadoWilliams+1 Lap
15. Sebastien BuemiToro Rosso+1 Lap
16. Heikki KovalainenLotus+2 Laps
17. Timo GlockVirgin Racing+3 Laps
18. Jerome D’AmbrosioVirgin Racing+3 Laps
19. Daniel RicciardoHRT+3 Laps
20. Karun ChandhokLotus+4 Laps
 Tonio LiuzziHRT+23 Laps
 Jenson ButtonMcLaren+25 Laps
 Rubens BarrichelloWilliams+44 Laps
 Nick HeidfeldRenault+51 Laps
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