Newly-married Nico Rosberg has increased his Championship lead by winning a hectic German Grand Prix on Sunday, ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas. It follows the trend for Mercedes drivers to win their home race, a feat accomplished by Hamilton in Britain a fortnight ago. The Brit finished 3rd on Sunday, climbing through the field after a disastrous qualifying session.
The last race in Hockenheim was in 2012, and saw a win for Fernando Alonso. However, last year’s German Grand Prix (held at the Nurburgring) was a closely-fought race between Vettel and Raikkonen, culminating in another home-grown winner.
Qualifying was a day of mixed fortunes for the home team, as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg grabbed pole. By contrast, the session also included a big crash for Lewis Hamilton in the arena section when his front right brake disc exploded, launching him into the gravel and eventually the barrier. This left him 15th on the grid, until a change of gearbox and brakes dropped him to 20th on the grid.
Sunday arrived, but the predicted thundery weather did not. At the start, Rosberg and Magnussen got away well from 1st and 4th respectively. K-Mag looked to take advantage of the slow-starting Felipe Massa at the first turn, but neither had quite enough space. The result was another first lap retirement for Massa – he hit the front left wheel of the Dane’s car, and flipped upside down.
With so much mayhem, the Safety Car was inevitable, and led the field for a couple of laps. Daniel Ricciardo lost out the most from the incident. Staring 5th, the Aussie had to take to the gravel to miss the flying Williams, and slumped to 15th. Hamilton had got to 17th after the start, leaving the duo to scythe their ways through the pack.
After the restart the action did not die down, as Lewis quickly dispatched the Marussia of Max Chilton. Hammy and Danny then both pounced on Adrian Sutil at the hairpin. The Red Bull driver made it through cleanly, but Hamilton’s lunge was a little later, and Sutil made light contact with him.
Kvyat and Perez were the next two to tangle at turn turn 7. The young Russian has not made many mistakes in his rookie year despite being just 19, but this time, he gave Perez no room, tried to overtake on the outside, and subsequently spun himself after making contact with Checo.
Raikkonen was next on the hit lists of Hamilton and Ricciardo. On Lap 13 Ricciardo managed to get past Kimi, but Hamilton’s ambition was even greater. Again using the hairpin as his overtaking point, he made himself three-wide with Raikkonen and Ricciardo, squeezing against Kimi and knocking a small piece of front wing off. The result was Hamilton getting past both drivers, and though a little scruffy, it was surely one of the overtakes of the season so far.
After being overtaken by two cars, Raikkonen’s confidence must have taken a hit – an assumption that was all but confirmed when exactly the same thing happened just two laps later. Vettel emerged from the pits and found himself behind Raikkonen but ahead of Alonso. Sebastian and Fernando both got DRS and once again mugged Kimi at the hairpin. The Iceman made even more contact, bumping both cars and losing more of his front wing.
Fast forward to lap 30, and former team mates Button and Hamilton were close to one another. Lewis made a lunge at – you guessed it – the hairpin, but instead of a textbook overtake, collided with his compatriot’s sidepod. The next lap saw him get past cleanly, passing the McLaren before the corner itself. In a sporting gesture, Lewis put his hand up to apologise for the contact, and moved onwards.
The damage to their friendship had been salvaged, but Lewis’ car was in a less than favourable condition. The contact had removed one of his front wing end plates, and it was hurting his tyres badly, meaning he had to pit for an extra set later on.
Those with tickets for the grandstand at the hairpin definitely got their money’s worth, as on Lap 46 Daniil Kvyat’s Toro Rosso cried enough, erupting into flames at the hairpin. An Oil leak was the end to his first German Grand Prix, and it caused a great deal of fire to spew from the Renault power unit’s bowels.
Adrian Sutil’s featureless season continued when he lost the back end of his car coming out of the final corner. He tried to spin his car around to resume his race to 15th place, but the engine cut out and he was stranded in the middle of the track. The German decided not to try and move his car to a safer place and instead abandoned it, expecting a Safety Car. Bizarrely, no Safety Car was deployed, and Marshalls had to run across the track to move the stricken Sauber.
It was easy to forget that Nico Rosberg was even racing, such was the ease with which he won. It was the first time since 1939 that a German driver in a German car had won the German Grand Prix, but 75 years on, young Nico had made some history, and improved his championship gap while he was at it. Valtteri Bottas clung on to take his third podium finish in a row, and the 3o0th for the Williams team. He was chased all the way by a spirited Lewis Hamilton, whose drive from 20th to 3rd shows why he is not out of the title fight in the slightest.
1) N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG
2) V Bottas, Williams
3) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
4) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
5) F Alonso, Ferrari
6) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
7) N Hulkenberg, Force India
8) J Button, McLaren
9) K Magnussen, McLaren
10) S Perez, Force India
11) K Raikkonen, Ferrari
12) P Maldonado, Lotus
13) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
14) E Gutierrez, Sauber
15) J Bianchi, Marussia
16) K Kobayashi, Caterham
17) M Chilton, Marussia
18) M Ericsson, Caterham
A Sutil, Sauber (Spin)
D Kvyat, Toro Rosso (Oil Leak)
R Grosjean, Lotus (Water Leak)
F Massa, Williams (Collision)
The results put Rosberg 14 points clear of Hamilton in the standings, and both are well clear of Daniel Ricciardo who lies 3rd in the standings. Alonso is in fourth, with the rising star of Valtteri Bottas just eight points behind, in fifth.
The next race will take place just one week later on July 27, from the Hungaroring in Budapest, Hungary.