Matador Tames the ‘ring – Alonso Wins German GP

July 23, 2012 9:30 am

Fernando Alonso withstood relentless pressure from no fewer than three different World Champions today as he took a crucial victory in the German Grand Prix.

The Spaniard’s third win of the season was crucial as he bids to claim his third championship crown to follow those he won in 2005 & 2006.

Alonso rules gang of three – his second successive Hockenheim triumph (l-r) Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso & Jenson Button

The race was held at the Hockenheimring circuit which alternates on an annual basis with the legendary Nurburgring as the host of the German Grand Prix.

Alonso took advantage of having secured pole position in Saturday’s wet qualifying session to take an early lead, ahead of Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel and home favourite Michael Schumacher, with Nico Hulkenberg completing a German 2-3-4 in his Force India car. Britain’s Lewis Hamilton was out of luck as contact at the first corner left debris on the circuit that hobbled him with a puncture; a slow recovery to the pits did nothing to increase his chances and he spent much of the afternoon languishing in 17th place thereafter before retiring just after half distance.

Compatriot Jenson Button meanwhile was on a fightback after recent disastrous races and was soon past Nico Hulkenberg for 4th place. The 2009 World Champion then quickly despatched Michael Schumacher to take 3rd behind the charging Alonso and Vettel. By this time Vettel had closed to within a second of Alonso but the Ferrari driver never put a foot wrong and gradually Vettel fell back as his tyres began to fade.

Come the first pitstops Alonso and Vettel maintained position, while Button made use of a blindingly fast Mclaren team pitstop to gain time on the two leaders. The massed ranks of German fans buzzed with excitement as the prospect of a three-way fight for victory looked increasingly likely, aided by the swift progress of Nico Rosberg from a lowly 21st place start to 11th.

Rattling off fastest laps, Button began to close on Vettel who was in turn eating into the lead of Alonso. Asked to respond by Ferrari, Fernando gave it full juice and was soon leaving Vettel behind once again – the double World Champion almost toying with his younger counterpart.

Try as they might, no-one could match Fernando Alonso

 

Meanwhile Kimi Raikkonen was employing a handy strategy to climb from his 9th place grid slot and was soon up to 4th. He was however by no means safe as the Sauber duo of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez once again exhibited both class and pure speed to leapfrog Michael Schumacher, Paul Di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and a much-muted Mark Webber; the Silverstone winner was undeniably off the pace as he has been so often during his association with the Hockenheim track.

 

 

Jenson Button was soon setting the timing screens alight and with twenty-four laps to go pitted for the final time, collecting a fresh new set of Pirelli tyres. The following lap Alonso and Vettel followed suit, but the German had left it too late. Exiting the pits he was side-by-side with Button and the Briton just edged ahead, beginning his pursuit of Alonso and victory.

In the final twenty laps the battle see-sawed between the three frontrunners. Inch by inch Button edged closer to Alonso as Vettel began to make mistakes, locking his brakes and running wide. It was rapidly becoming a two-horse race. However Button couldn’t quite get close enough and Alonso was unflustered as he stayed just far enough ahead to frustrate the McLaren driver’s attempt to pass him. Button had soon used up his tyres and with just two laps to go Vettel had closed enough to lunge down the outside of the McLaren into the tight hairpin at the bottom of the track.

Here the controversy began; Vettel initially got ahead of Button in the braking zone but the McLaren came back at him and regained the initiative at the apex of the turn. While Button remained on the track, Vettel took to the tarmac run-off area, which is not counted as part of the circuit. Accelerating ahead, Vettel overtook the McLaren and seemingly breezed home for 2nd place just one lap later.

Fernando Alonso however was the undoubted star of the day as he consolidated his place at the top of the drivers World Championship. ‘I have to thank everyone at Maranello for the fantastic way in which they reacted to the situation.’ He claimed after the race, ‘After yesterday’s pole, in the wet, the car seemed to be very strong, as we expected. Clearly, I didn’t have a moment to relax but I think I was calmer than the team in the garage and on the pit wall and our fans sitting in front of their televisions!’

Storm clouds gathered over Sebastian Vettel after the race – the German was stripped of his 2nd place and demoted to 5th for an illegal overtake

Raikkonen held on to 4th at the flag and set fastest lap to round off a strong day for the Finn, while Sauber rejoiced in a double points finish with Kobayashi 5th and Perez 6th. Schumacher was 7th, ahead of the Red Bull of Mark Webber and Nico Hulkenberg. Paul Di Resta fell victim to Nico Rosberg in the closing stages of the race as the German snatched an opportunistic point.

However only hours after the race finished, Sebastian Vettel was demoted to 5th in the final results after a stewards enquiry found him guilty of overtaking Button by ‘exceeding the limits of the racetrack’, which gave Button 2nd place back, and promoted Raikkonen to 3rd and Kobayashi to a career-best 4th. Button was further buoyed by news later in the evening that he had also calimed, with the help of his McLaren pitcrew, the fastest pitstop in F1 history during the race – a mere 2.31 seconds to change all four tyres.

Such efficiency was never in doubt with Fernando Alonso however – once again the Spaniard has proved he truly is the best of the best.

Anthony French

 

 

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