Originally written on Race Review Online  |  Last updated 11/11/14

 

The 2012 German Grand Prix was fantastic from start to finish.  Changable conditions and the fact that nobody had raced at the Hockenheimring on Pirelli tyres all added to a sense of unpredictability and excitement. Qualifying The qualifying session was fantastic.  Any rubber laid down in the final practice session had been washed away by downpours between practice and qualifying.
The session started on dry tyres, before moving to intermediates after the rain began to fall in the seven minutes between Q1 and Q2.  Qualifying three was on full wet tyres!  I can’t remember the last time I saw so many different tyre set ups required in just one hour of qualifying. Race The race was ultimately dry and came down to a straight fight between Ferrari’s Alonso, Red Bull’s Vettel and McLaren’s Button.  There were overtakes aplenty and close racing right up to the chequered flag. Ferrari Fernando Alonso Q P1 R P1 Felipe Massa Q P14 R P12 Fernando Alonso looked in control throughout all of the changing conditions of qualifying.  Despite a slight struggle with his Ferrari’s under-steer he never seemed ruffled and shone in the dry, intermediate and wet surfaces.  He sailed through the first two sessions and was rewarded pole position after a smart decision in Q3. The final stage of qualifying was a real question of who could stay out the longest and set the last time as the track rapidly dried.  Though the session was completed on wet tyres, Alonso decided to pit with a few minutes left for a fresh set.  This decision proved vital as the newer tyres with more precise tread made a huge difference in the dying seconds.  The Ferrari man stormed to provisional pole and felt so confident with his grip that he finished even faster with his final lap when all of his competitors had chosen to give up. On race day Alonso clearly felt pressure from Sebastian Vettel in P2 as he chose to position his Ferrari pointing towards Vettel’s Red Bull to cover a fast start.  However, Fernando’s’ caution was unnecessary as he stormed off into the lead after an outstanding start. From the very first corner he never really looked back and although he was pushed to the limit by a resurgent Jenson Button for over twenty laps, he held and was able to provide a pure master class in race craft, team strategy and tyre management. Though Felipe Massa will no doubt feel a degree of safety from Mark Webber’s decision to stay at Red Bull in 2013, his position at Ferrari still dangles very much on the edge.  Massa’s job security will not have been helped by a  poor qualifying performance or a mistake in the first few laps of the race which forced him to stop early and compromise his entire race. Filipe has improved in recent races but he can no longer blame a poor car for his performance.  Though many experts still believe the Ferrari is a handful, it’s very hard to use that excuse when your teammate achieves back-to-back pole positions and three race wins.  Massa’s predicament is made doubly difficult by Ferrari’s position in the Constructors Championship.  Though most fans and reporters place higher importance on the Drivers’ Title, the real money is made through victory in the Constructors’ Championship. Ferrari may be second in the standings but they are a distant second as current leaders Red Bull have two consistent high point scoring drivers.  No driver can win the Constructors’ Championship on his own for his team…not even Fernando Alonso! Red Bull Racing-Renault Sebastian Vettel Q P2 R P2 Mark Webber Q P3 (+5 for penalty, gear box change) R P8 The Red Bull team pushed Alonso to the limit on Saturday and although Mark Webber was eventually going to drop three places for a gear box change, a 2/3 finish was very pleasing for the team. On race day Vettel was initially strong but fell prey to a cunning mid-race McLaren strategy.  Jenson Button was able to leapfrog Sebastian in the second round of pit stops after a fantastic out lap and a little help from Lewis Hamilton.  However, Vettel pushed to the end and as I write this article was able to take his second place back and earn some redemption for the 2010 Canadian Grand Prix. This could all be taken away from the Red Bull driver though as his final lap pass on Jenson Button around the outside of turn 6 was only achieved by completely leaving the circuit to finish off the move.  This is technically illegal and Vettel may well suffer a penalty from it.  This could be anything from a grid drop next race to a time penalty that could drop him as low as P5.  Whatever, the eventual result, Sebastian really fought hard today and although he was disheartened it would have taken something really special to beat Alonso. Mark Webber never really got going on race day.  He seemed to really struggle on the middle stint medium tyres.  The Red Bull man had some good scraps with Michael Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg, but his Championship challenge took a slight knock by his relatively poor performance today.   McLaren Mercedes Jenson Button Q P7 R P3 Lewis Hamilton Q P8 R DNF McLaren endured yet another mixed weekend.  It seems this team really can't find a result in which both drivers finish happy!  Neither driver set the world on fire in qualifying but Jenson Button was pleased to out qualify his team mate for the first time this season.  On race day, the drivers had very different fortunes. Whilst Lewis Hamilton’s race was effectively ruined on the first lap by a left rear puncture the team were able to use him later on in a brilliant bit of teamwork. Jenson Button got off to a great start and was able to pass his way from seventh to third in just over ten laps.  The McLaren man then began to really close in on Alonso and Vettel.  Around lap 30 the front runners found themselves behind Lewis Hamilton and about to lap him.  The Ferrari and Red Bull passed with relative ease but quickly had to slow to preserve their tyres.  This gave Lewis the opportunity to un-lap himself, re-gain some pride and crucially help his teammate out by disrupting one or both of the leader’s races. Hamilton quickly passed a furious Vettel and was able to push Alonso to the limit.  This all really helped Button make up some space on his rivals.  Lewis may have eventually retired but he did so having really helped Jenson. Button put in some great lap times and was able to leapfrog Vettel in the second pit phase.  The 2009 World Champion then went on to fight Alonso for the victory.  The battle was close and lasted twenty laps but ultimately the McLaren’s tyres began to fall away and Button quickly went from the hunter to the hunted.  He felt very cheated by Vettel’s last-lap pass, but he may well win the position back after a stewards inquiry.  Whatever the final result, Button will be extremely pleased with his performance in Germany and this could signal the start of getting his season back on track. The German Grand Prix may have illustrated a strong team strategy in the McLaren team but it may have also set some alarm bells ringing about one of their drivers.  Hamilton may have helped his team a great deal, but after his first lap incident a series of radio calls asking to retire and complaining about the car all contributed to a feeling that Hamilton had given up way too early.  This is traditionally very uncharacteristic of Lewis but he has complained an awful lot in 2012 and this is not helping build team morale.  Lewis is better than this and needs to think before he pushes that radio button if he wants to keep his drive in 2013. Lotus-Renault Kimi Raikkonen Q P10 R P4 Roman Grosjean Q P15 (+5 for penalty, gear box change) R P18 Everyone agrees that the Lotus team is very fast, but their form seems to have dipped slightly in recent races.  Kimi Raikkonen did a decent job in qualifying but he could have finished higher than P10.  Roman Grosjean found himself in the wrong conditions at the wrong time and his qualifying result was heavily compromised. On race day, after his grid penalty Grosjean never really got going.  A first lap collision meant he had to pit for a new front wing and ultimately Roman will want to forget about this race. Raikkonen fought hard during the race and his team were very brave to keep him on the soft tyres when everyone else switched to mediums in their first stops. This strategy seemed to have worked when the Lotus man carved his way up the standings after initially fitting the tyres.  In fact, his team even radioed him to state that a podium was very much on the cards.  Unfortunately for Kimi, the brave choice proved relatively quickly to be the wrong one as his tyres fell away.  A fourth place result was actually excellent when you consider where he started, but Kimi and his team will be hungry for more.  Sauber-Ferrari Kamui Kobayashi Q P13 R P5 Sergio Perez Q P12 R P6 The Sauber Team were unlucky to drop out in Q2.  Much like Roman Grosjean, they simply couldn’t set a fast enough time as the track conditions had changed too rapidly for them to make a difference.   On race day both Sauber drivers had some great battles with Force Indias, Mercedes and even each other.  These are two talented young drivers at a very promising and popular team.  I hope they stay and build Sauber into the challenger it has the potential to become. Mercedes GP Michael Schumacher Q P4 R P7 Nico Rosberg Q P17 ( +5 for penalty, gear box change) R P10 Yet another nothing race from Mercedes GP.  Nico Rosberg couldn’t find any speed in qualifying and a P17 finish was made worse by the five place drop he had to take. Michael Schumacher had a great qualifying session and a fourth place finish was great.  However, on race day it seemed all too familiar…his car simply dropped down the standings.  Although Rosberg was able to fight back to score one point Mercedes just seem to be floating at the moment.  Michael will certainly be disappointed to have dropped from fourth to eighth, but I’m afraid it’s become a bit of a habit for the Silver Bullets.  Force India-Mercedes  Nico Hulkenberg Q P5 R P9 Paul Di Resta Q P9 R P11 Whilst it was great to see both Force Indias make it to the final stage of qualifying, both men slowly slipped down the rankings on race day.  Force India need to be consistent, but at the moment they are not. STR-Ferrari Daniel Ricciardo Q P11 R P13 Jean-Eric Vergne Q P18 R P14 I don’t quite know what to write about this team.  I expect both drivers will have been disappointed to see Webber sign on to another year at Red Bull as of course STR is the proving ground for future Red Bull drivers.  Jean-Eric Vergne needs to do more to impress as he seems to have become the driver that joins the new teams dropping out of Q1. Daniel Ricciardo impressed a lot of people with his eleventh place qualifying, but he fell backwards on race day.  Williams-Renault Pastor Maldinado Q P6 R P15 Bruno Senna Q16 R P17 Pastor Maldinado had a great qualifying session and was able to finish higher than both McLarens but contact on the first lap ruined his race and a P15 is an extremely disappointing result. Bruno Senna is rapidly running out of time.  It’s such a shame as he is such a nice guy but he simply isn’t good enough at the moment.  When he drove for HRT we could blame the car, but Pastor is consistently faster than Bruno.  Perhaps if he could improve his qualifying performances he might be able to do better on race day?  I fear his days are numbered. Caterham-Renault Vitaly Petrov Q P20 R P16 Heikki Kovalainen Q P19 R P19 I’m running out of things to say about these new teams.  I guess Petrov did well to gain four places, but this team simply isn’t improving enough to justify its place in F1. Marussia-Cosworth  Charles Pic Q P21 R P20 Timo Glock Q P22 R P22 What do Marrussia have to show for three seasons in F1? ….. They’re not the worst team on the grid! HRT-Cosworth Pedro de la Rosa Q P23 R P21 Narain Karthikeyan Q P24 R P24 Simply too slow. I always hate finishing up with such short reviews of the teams at the back.  The problem is there just isn’t anything to say about them. Anyway, the 2012 German Grand Prix may have been uneventful for Caterham, Marussia and HRT, but it was a great race at the front. Many commentators are now talking about Alonso being in control but it certainly doesn’t feel that way to me.  The Championship is only half complete and the fight is hard and close. Alonso will be headed for the Hungarian Grand Prix looking for a nice 31st birthday present and a strong result before the summer break, but nothing in the 2012 Formula One season is certain! Drivers’ Championship Top Three Alonso 156 Webber 120 Vettel 118 Constructors’ Championship Top Three Red Bull Racing 238 Ferrari 177 McLaren 157 

 

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