Nürburgring: Race Report

To assume, will make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’

The Race:

Beware the curse!

And today such a pithy retort is ideal for what unraveled in front of us today in Germany. It’s safe to say that the majority of people assumed that Sebastian Vettel would dig deep and cruise to a sweet home victory, starting in third was merely an insignificant hurdle to overcome with a storming start, but it never came. The curse of the home race weighed heavy on all of the German drivers this weekend, and none were able to reward the podium with a splash of champagne. Although one was able lighten the load on his countrymen. Adrian Sutil step forward. The (whisper it) curse is a recurrent theme, and one that has been a thorn in many sides this year already; Mark Webber at the beginning, the McLaren duo and Paul di Resta the weekend previous and Fernando Alonso plus Jaime Alguersuari twice. And when we look forward, the only one with a chance to break the run is Felipe Massa in Brazil, and who wouldn’t love to see that happen?

For the leading team it was what we consider an ‘off day’, not to overshadow Webber’s achievements of both leading laps (finally) and beating his team mate (finally), but they were cleanly beaten by a resurgent Ferrari and an on-the-pace McLaren. Come the season’s close we may look upon this trip to the Nürburgring as the game changer, for a team so undeniably dominant all year the knives are naturally out to poke holes in their tight packaged carbon-fibre armour. Is this the point where the championship open up to all-comers? If Vettel cracking under pressure? Has Webber finally found his form?

Never has there been a tale of more woe, than this of Kinky Kylie and her Romeo

It was clear for all to see that Vettel was unhappy with his car, set-up and balance before and brakes during the race, but he was presented with a few choice bonus items to soften the body blows. After Alonso gained the advantage of sticking Vettel inside a Ferrari sandwich the only joy that came to Vettel was in the form of two gifts from Ferrari, a mistake by Alonso on lap 2 gave Vettel a brief reprieve and 3rd place…for 6 laps. Massa formed the other half of the Ferrari sandwich and kept the youngster easily at bay until a heartbreaking last lap pit stop error gifted Red Bull a fourth place. Quick note, Martin Brundle mentioned to Webber that the tyres seemed more durable and the Australian replied, “They are – and it’s playing right into my hands.” With Pirelli looking to make the rubber last longer, could this be what he needs to power up his mojo-meter?

Hamilton making a bid for London 2012

If there was form to be found out on the track, it was scooped up and laid back down by Lewis Hamilton (read Best Driver below). Webber was the king of the middle sector, Hamilton had the first wrapped around his nose cone and when released by a sleepy Alonso (check out Banzaiiiii) he streaked ahead in Vettelian fashion and proved ellusive. Skipping past a bogged down pole-sitter when the lights dipped he enjoyed the spoils of a typically aggressive but thankfully controlled (and incident free) race from start to finish. Whether Jenson Button could have improved from his poor start is irrelevant due to a hydraulic failure, but what the team proved today was that they can now beat Red Bull on merit. In China Vettel’s tyres fell away allowing Hamilton a way through, and a mistake by the German in Canada opened the door for Button, but in Germany it was outright pace that won the race.

We may not have had the wet race promised by so many, but again the pure racing hearts of those who inhabit the grid provided all the entertainment required for a great Sunday. Bernie should take note. Sebastien Buemi had a calamitous outing, losing his qualifying time for a dodgy fuel sample and now a 5 place grid drop in Hungary for causing Heidfeld to replicate Vitaly Petrov airborne Malaysian adventure. Despite a copycat turn 10 spin, Schumacher had a positive weekend both scoring points an executing some fantastic moved, without the need for a new nose cone! Rosberg failed to make the same impact, only shining for a moment as he closed rather rapidly on Vettel down the straight.

Penalties: Heidfeld – incident involving di Resta (drive through – not taken as Heidfeld retired), Buemi – causing a collision with Heidfeld (5 place grid drop in Hungary)

Retirements: Heidfeld – Accident (9), Barrichello – Oil leak (16), Button – Hydraulics (35), Liuzzi – Electrical (37)

Results:

Position Driver Team Time
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:37:30.334
2 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:37:34.314
3 Mark Webber Red Bull 1:37:40.122
Fastest Lap Lewis Hamilton McLaren 1:34.302

Read: Full race results for Nürburgring

Best Driver:

It is an easy choice to select the race winner, but even if he came second the race in Germany Hamilton took a huge step in the right direction in answering his critics. Denounced by many as ‘too aggressive’, ‘too immature’ and ‘too hasty’ in the lead up to the weekend, and let’s be honest he can easily be described as such this season. Collisions aplenty with anyone who crossed his path beforehand, the closest he got to repeating that on Sunday was a brief kiss shared between his and Webber’s wheels. When Hamilton gets the balance between aggression and control just right, and has a car capable of performing, he’s unstoppable. But is this cool head repeatable?

Special mention: Way to go Mr Adrian Sutil! His claims to fame this year have been a criminal charge brought against him and being beaten by his rookie team mate, but at his home ground he excelled and gained a well earn 6th place. The best German driver of the day by a very long way.

Best Team(s):

  

If Ferrari had gotten their last pit stop right their weekend would have been excellent, an errant wheel nut ruined Massa’s weekend, on pace during Friday practice he slipped behind on Saturday to widespread disappointment. But the Brazilian turned it on when it counted and he kept Vettel under control for much of the race, so much so Vettel can now draw the Ferrari gearbox from memory. McLaren, similar to Ferrari, had a race of two halves, with Hamilton romping to the chequered flag and Button retiring early. They had the strategy on the day and called Hamilton in for his final pit stop at the optimum time to secure his second win. So they will both share this one, a combined effort from their top drivers have made the world giddy with the possibility of Red Bull being challenged.

Eddie Jordan moment of inappropriateness (or lack thereof):

I’ll take this moment to extend a thank you to the stewards for not penalising two moments at the end of the race when they were perfectly entitled to. Firstly for not disciplining Hamilton for hopping out of parc ferme to enjoy the moment with his team, and secondly for leaving the act of camaraderie between Webber and Alonso alone (see the 1000 word picture below).

Rookie mistake:

What’s the one thing you should avoid doing on a wet track? Dancing on the painted lines! Two drivers made the same mistake on Sunday and both suffered the same consequence, what makes this worthy of the dubious title is that Big Schumi emulated Baby Schumi. So much has been written about Vettel being the next Schumacher, that perhaps no one expected the teacher to copy the student.

Rookie of the Race:

No particular rookie stood out today, Sergio Perez was the highest placed and uncharacteristically used his pit crew more than once. Daniel Ricciardo claimed his highest placing out of the massive tally of 2 races he has, with Karun Chandhok behind him. And perhaps the only one worth discussing is di Resta who complained about not getting enough time on track due to Nico Hülkenberg taking his car out on Friday morning. Excuse me, but isn’t that the exect position you put drivers in last year? How quickly some forget…

Banzaiiiii!!!!:

Without a doubt this goes to Lewis Hamilton for his stunning overtake of Fernando Alonso, it came during a round of pit stops that went on to define the race result. Webber pits on lap 30 for a second set of options, Hamilton follows him in on the next lap and as the Australian fails to secure the undercut the Brit streaks into the lead. Alonso’s turn to pit comes on lap 33 and as he is fitted with his options he gets the jump on the dueling pair, however Hamilton isn’t going to take this lying down. On turn two Hamilton catches Alonso napping and sweeps around the Spaniard to take control of the afternoon.

The 1000 word picture:

Say what?:

The team told me to stop the car for safety reasons and I stopped the car. Mark was there so I took the taxi! I don’t know how he knew that my car stopped, but he told me to jump aboard, and I said “Okay, let’s go, but slowly. He was driving in fourth gear. I was scared. I touched his helmet and said, “c’mon, I have to race next weekend.” – Fernando Alonso


It felt great to overtake Fernando
– Lewis Hamilton, to put it into context he was just short of skipping through the paddock when he uttered this to the BBC.

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