Formula One News » Alonso extends advantage with German victory Posted on 22/07/2012
Having annexed pole position in diametrically opposite conditions, the Spaniard got the jump as the lights went out, opening enough of a cushion over the pack to keep himself clear of the squabbling over the opening couple of laps. The contretemps began even before the first corner, as Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa lost his front wing on the back of Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso, while both Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean suffered damage before the field reached the hairpin. Out front, however, Alonso crossed the line with more than a second in hand over Sebastian Vettel, with Michael Schumacher having fended off Nico Hulkenberg to hold on to third spot.
The debris scattered across the circuit at turn one surprisingly only claimed one victim, but it was one of the potential podium contenders, as Lewis Hamilton immediately began dropping back on lap three, and eventually pitted with a shredded left-rear tyre. That left team-mate Jenson Button as McLaren’s sole hope of success, and the Briton was not about to disappoint. After several races in the doldrums, the 2009 world champion was quickly on the move in the revised MP4-27, passing Hulkenberg at the hairpin on lap eight and Schumacher three laps later.
That set up a fascinating game of cat-and-mouse between the top three, with Button closing in on Alonso and Vettel as the race moved towards half-distance. His pursuit was inadvertently aided by his team-mate who, having made a tyre stop on lap 32, found himself being lapped by the leaders, while the second McLaren bore down on him in third. Given the instruction not to delay Button, Hamilton responded by upping his game, despite having suggested that his car was dangerously unstable after the damage incurred in limping back to the pits on lap three.
Unlapping himself from Vettel not only made the Briton unpopular with the Red Bull driver, who lost touch with Alonso, but also saw him drop into the clutches of Button’s McLaren and, when the latter pitted for the second time on lap 40, it proved enough of a delay to allow him to sweep past Vettel when the German rejoined from his own, reactionary, stop a lap later. Alonso also made his final tyre change at the same time, but emerged ahead, although Button continued to home in on the Ferrari.
The McLaren got as close as six-tenths of a second, but could not bridge the remainder even with the assistance of DRS. He also could not shake Vettel as, even when the German put a couple of wheels on the grass on lap 42, Button locked up at the hairpin, flat-spotting his right front Pirelli.
Even so, the Briton still appeared the favourite for victory, seeming happy to wait for Alonso’s tyres to drop off as they did when caught and passed by Mark Webber at Silverstone. Just as he was given the call to go for it, however, the McLaren’s performance seemed to drop off, and Button quickly dropped back into Vettel’s reach.
It took the German until the penultimate lap to finally reclaim second, however, and even then he appeared to do so by using more than the limits of the circuit. A stewards’ enquiry post-race subsequently handed him a 20-second penalty as a result and he drops to fifth in the classification.
Alonso, meanwhile, made good his escape, eventually crossing the line nearly four seconds clear of the battle for runners-up honours. It had been a consummate display of resisting pressure by the championship leader, who now sits 34 points clear of the field at the season’s halfway point, with 154 marks and three victories to his name. The win was the 30th of the Spaniard’s storied career, and marked the 22nd consecutive scoring finish he has achieved over the past couple of seasons.
Vettel’s fifth place moved him closer to Red Bull team-mate Webber in the standings, as the Australian suffered one of those afternoons where little went right. Although he showed brief glimpses of pace, he eventually finished eighth, exactly where he had started after taking his gearbox change penalty.
Instead of the Red Bull moving up the order, it was Kimi Raikkonen, from tenth, who came through, although his race was ultimately scuppered somewhat by the decision to run two sets of the softer tyres at the start, which coincided with track temperatures dropping out of the range required by the Lotus. He inherited third however, after Vettel’s penalty.
The Finn was followed across the line by the two Saubers, both with stories of their own to tell. Kamui Kobayashi made the most of a long run on the medium compound tyres to come home fourth, while team-mate Sergio Perez made quick early progress through the field from a penalised 17th on the grid to take sixth.
Schumacher, who appeared a potential podium candidate in the early stages, ultiamtely came home seventh after having to make a late third stop for tyres. The local hero was rewarded with the race’s fastest lap, but could not quite reclaim the two spots that he lost which making the switch. He was still a comfortable 18secs clear of Webber at the flag, however.
The final points were also claimed by ‘local’ drivers, with Hulkenberg having to settle for ninth in the best of the Force Indias, while Nico Rosberg came from 21st on the grid to sneak the final score, despite also making three tyre stops.
Hamilton was the only retirement of the race, deciding that it was too dangerous to continue through the final ten laps, no doubt disheartened by the fact that his 100th grand prix had resulted in him being lapped. He was repassed by the leaders when it proved necessary to make a third stop in the latter stages, but the DNF will at least allow McLaren to fettle him with a fresh car in Hungary less than a week from now.