Third Time at Hockenheim for Alonso
By: James Musoke on July 22, 2012 | 9:40 A.M. EST
Fernando Alonso earned his third victory of the season on Sunday. (Photo: Getty Images)
“It was a very close race from start to finish,” Alonso said. “We did not have the quickest car. McLaren and Red Bull had a little bit extra but not enough to get past. The team took a few strategic decisions that were spot on, at the time of both stops and I knew that I had to concentrate, especially at Turn 6, defending my position by using the KERS.
“We must keep focused, avoid problems with reliability or with the pit stops and I know that when it comes to that, I can count on the best team, a team that is used to winning a lot. All I have to do is think about driving and helping the team. I expect it to go well in Budapest and there is no reason to be pessimistic. However, I am not forgetting that Red Bull and McLaren were quicker. I said that the month of July would be crucial, with 75 points up for grabs in four weeks and so far we have brought home 43, so we will try and finish the job in Hungary.”
Red Bull's Vettel finished in second place, ahead of Button who's remarkable efforts at the Hockenheimring deserved much praise. The British driver started the season in promising form, claiming victory at the season opener in Australia. Since then, it has been a rather disappointing downward slope for the former F1 champion, who only managed to collect seven points from the last six races. McLaren had recently installed various performance upgrades to the MP4-27, which all looked to have worked well throughout the majority of the weekend for both McLaren drivers. Button's tactful rise up from sixth on the grid was met with little challenge from the field, eventually passing Vettel for second place and looking to grab victory away from the Spaniard. However the Brit's tires finally gave in, and Alonso was able to maintain a steady distance and score the win.
Button eventually lost his second spot to Vettel, who caught up to the McLaren and managed to re-pass him with two laps to go. However, Vettel’s pass was eventually deemed beyond the rules of the race as the Stewards decided the German gained an unfair advantage by leaving the track. As a result, Vettel was handed a 20 second drive-through penalty, which when imposed after the race means 20 seconds is added to the drivers finishing time. Button was automatically promoted back to second place in the results, and Vettel demoted to fifth.
“I had a really good race and really enjoyed myself out there,” Button said. “I made a good start, pulled off some good moves on both Nico Hukenberg and Michael Schumacher and had strong pace all afternoon.
“Sebastian Vettel’s pass was a pretty straightforward matter: the rules state that you can’t go off the track to gain an advantage. The thing is, there would have been more opportunities for him before the end of the race as my rear tires were damaged. That’s because I had to push hard to try and catch Fernando Alonso, which meant I had nothing left for the end of the race.
“We pretty much ran out of rubber two laps before the checkered flag. There are two strong positives to take away from today: firstly, although it proved very difficult to overtake, we’re right up there with Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of speed. Our upgrade package is working well: if we can sort out qualifying, we’re in the mix, and we’ll have a really good chance of winning races this season.”
Button's McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton on the other-hand could not capitalize on the newly renovated car on Sunday, and had to retire from the race following an early puncture. Hamilton collected debris following Felipe Massa's lap-one incident, resulting in a puncture and an early pit stop, sending him down to 22nd on the occasion of his 100th Grand Prix. Hamilton had run well after the early mishap, making his way up to 16th, before more problems were eventually encountered. All in all, the team can look back and be encouraged by the pace of the car following the performance upgrade.
“My second-lap puncture was incredibly unfortunate: there was debris scattered across the full width of the track and I didn’t have any option other than to drive straight through it,” Hamilton said. “What’s more frustrating is that, at the time, I was the eighth car through – so to be the one to get the puncture is just cruel luck. It was immediately clear that my car didn’t feel the same after the puncture. However, after a few laps, I was able to adapt my driving style, and the car had good pace during the middle stint. However, with the damage to the rear, I think we were lucky to get that far, to be honest.”
Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen also provided some exciting racing in Germany as he moved up from 10th on the grid, passing hometown hero's Michael Schumacher and Nico Hulkenberg to finish in fourth place, with Sauber's Kamui Kobayashi rounding out the top five. However, as a result of Vettel’s penalty, Raikkonen will move up to third and Kamui Kobayashi will take fourth.
Sauber's other half Sergio Perez finished in sixth position, ahead of Schumacher in seventh and Red Bull's Mark Webber, who had a low-key race to finish in eighth spot. The German pair of Hulkenberg and Nico Rosberg took the final three points of the day, finishing in ninth and tenth place respectively.
The result extends Alonso's championship lead to 34 points over Mark Webber, as we head into the final race before the summer break: The Hungarian Grand Prix.