GERMANY RACE REVIEW ’11 – THREE TO TANGO

My apologies for the late arrival of my review. I have been very occupied with the tragedy that struck Norway on Friday, July 22. 76 people so far lost their lives. For what it is worth, my heartfelt sympathy and condolances go out to anyone that are either related to or a friend of the victims. In times like these we realize that racing is not an important thing, but just a passtime entertainment.
Having said that, I also think that its important to not let any tragedy weigh us down. We mourn on behalf of the victims families and close ones and show our support which ever way we can. And at the same time we must let life move on or else we would give in to the very people that try to strike with terror and violence. And on that note, I will proceed with my review of the race this weekend.

QUALIFYING

Ferrari was looking very fast in the hands of Alonso during practice. I had expected a fight for the pole with the Red Bulls. But when Saturday rolled around, Red Bull once again seemed to pull out something special and took pole position. Although not in the hands of Vettel. He had been struggling to find a good setup in all the practice sessions and he could only manage a surprising 3rd on the grid. The biggest surprise however was Hamilton who qualified 2nd behind Webber with a pretty much flawless lap. Alonso slotted in at his familiar 4th place on the grid.

THE RACE

Lights out at the Nurburgring circuit and its Hamilton who takes the lead while Webber bogs down slightly at the start! Sebastian Vettel gets off the line well but is slowed a little between the 2 Ferraris. Alonso takes 3rd ahead of the German. 1 lap later, the Spaniard runs wide at turn 2 and Vettel slips by to 3rd. His racepace is not picking up though and Alonso is hounding him lap after lap until he finally gets by at Turn 1 – proving to be the best overtaking place on the circuit. Even without DRS. If F1 gets back here, Im sure the organizers will take notice of that. If DRS is still in the regulations that is.

Alonso catches up to the frontrunners while Vettel quickly loses ground. Further helped by a spin on lap 9. By now it is clear that the fight is between Webber, Hamilton and Alonso. And what a fight it was. Running so close together, while the teams where trying to outsmart each other in the pit stops. Some great racing were had throughout most of the race between the 3. A great scrap unfolds on lap 12 between Webber and Hamilton. The Briton gets a bad exit from the chicane and Webber jumps on the opportunity for a pass. Down the final straight, Hamilton cleverly gets his position and the lead back while Alonso is lurking in the shadows as usual.

Cut to lap 17 and Webber has pitted first of the leaders for the undercut. This just gets him ahead of Lewis and Fernando after their stops. They are about 1 second apart pretty much through the whole second stint. Meanwhile Vettel has lost track position to Massa as well and is languishing down in 5th and even dropping further behind the Brazillian. Clearly not his day – or perhaps track.
Schumacher spins at the same spot as Vettel. An even more spectacular spin as he holds it nice and long and almost saves it.

We get treated to a replay of an incident between Buemi and Heidfeld. Buemi leaves no room for the German as he was making a move before the final chicane and the Renault launches in the air not unlike Petrov in Malaysia. Heidfeld is not too pleased with that and Buemi is served a grid penalty post race.

Lap 31 and Webber pits first again. Next lap Lewis dives in. He emerges just ahead of Webber – but Webber is making a move in turn 2 with warmer tires. Hamilton is having none of that and just slightly squeezes him out where there is no grip and keeps the lead. A tough but fair move. Kudos to Hamilton there.
Lap 33, Alonso pits and its almost a repeat from the lap before. Alonso emerges as the leader and Hamilton is now the one with the warmer tires making a move in turn 2. Alonso is being a lot more gentlemanlike than Hamilton earlier and that costs him the lead as the McLaren sails past him on the outside. Great pass. Thats gotta hurt for the Spaniard.

Lap 36 and the other McLaren of Button retires with a hydraulics problem as Hamilton is putting in some quick laps to extend his lead. Kobayashi is up to 7th place at this point from his 17th start position. Once again driving with good pace while making the Pirellis last. Not an easy feat. Lap 39 he does some fantastic defending against Nico Rosberg whose tires are 3 laps old while the tires on the Sauber are 19 laps old. Firm but fair. Next lap he has to yield to the newer tires on the Mercedes though.

Webber is also dropping back from Alonso in this stint. The frontrunners about 3-4 seconds apart at this stage. They are prolonging the final pit stop as long as they can since the harder tire can be a second slower or more than the option tire. Hamilton takes on the new rubber on lap 51. Too early? Surely he will lose ground to his pursuers now.. Instead he stays on the same pace and faster yet at times. When Alonso pits 2 laps later, Lewis is comfortably ahead.

Webber stays out until lap 56 while pushing hard on the softs that are now 26 laps old. The strategy did not work as he is still behind Alonso in 3rd after the stop. With 3 laps to go this was to be the final result. A great 3-way fight in the first half of the race, that slightly dropped off as the race went along. Hamilton takes the chequered flag and a thoroughly deserved win.

Meanwhile the final laps showed a cat and mouse play between Massa and Vettel. Vettel is right up in the gearbox of the Ferrari but there is no way past. The Red Bull does not have the straight line speed to do so. Vettels engineer comes on the radio and tells Vettel to do the opposite of Massa regarding pitstops. He goes in – stay out, he stays out, come in. But neither goes in and the lap counter is ticking down. Vettel surely missed his chance for a shot at 4th place now?

One lap to go and they have to come in for the obligatory switch to the harder tire. Vettel brakes so late before the pit entry almost touching Massa. Its a perfect pitstop for the Red Bull team and lo and behold – Vettel gets out ahead of the Ferrari! The German cruises around the final lap to take 4th and thus minimizing his points loss. Even with a dismal race like he had, his lead in the championship was only cut by 3 points from 80 to 77.

Sutil takes a very strong 6th place. The rest of the field was lapped. Fantastic drive from the glass wielding German. Kobayashi gets another point finish in 9th. The racecraft is strong with this one.

DRIVER OF THE DAY

Undoubtedly Lewis Hamilton. He showed unexpected pace and was constantly pushing and attacking. He responded to the criticisms lately by gritting his teeth and setting his sights on the win. And once it was in his grasp, he never let go. It must be even sweeter to have partly secured the win by a particularly cheeky move on the outside of his old pal, Alonso.

DOUCHE OF THE DAY

I struggle to find a real douche in this race. Alonso gave up his lead to Hamilton by being fair so I wont give anyone a douche badge over that. Still it was funny to witness the lap before, how one should defend at that corner and then the next get shown by Alonso how not to do it. Buemi is up there as he should have given more room to Heidfeld and deservedly got a penalty for it. If I have to pin it on anyone, then Buemi it is.

SORENS RACE RATING

7 out of 10 for me. We have been blessed with 2-way fights for the win earlier this year. Now we even had a 3-way fight. It fizzed out a bit at the end but it still was great stuff.
Classic stuff seeing Alonso hitch a ride with Webber on the parade lap. Reminiscent of Senna hitching a ride with Mansell. I should almost add an extra point just for that 😀


Now we move to Hungary – a Red Bull circuit if any. Can Vettel get his dominance back on track there?

Until then, stay puft. And dont forget that Kimi is flying high in the Finnish forests this coming weekend as well. Actionpacked weekend, here I come!

Love,
Soren

Images © Sauber F1 Team/McLaren/Julian Finney, Red Bull, Getty Images/Ferrari spa, Ercole Colombo/xpb.cc

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