Lewis Hamilton took his second Grand Prix victory of the season with a determined drive at the Nürburgring. The McLaren driver took advantage from rival Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber with his sensational race pace to score a win in the German Grand Prix.
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso finished in second position while pole sitter Mark Webber was only third for Red Bull Racing.
As for the battle for fourth, Sebastian Vettel pitted until the final lap to take the crucial track position over Felipe Massa in a race in the pits while changing to the prime tyre.
By finishing outside the podium positions, the championship leader’s remarkable run in coming first or second is over. And yet, Vettel still leads the standings with 216 points, 77 ahead over team-mate Webber and 82 over race winner Hamilton.
Webber almost got swamped at the start – no thanks to his car bogging down as the five red lights went out – with Hamilton instantly sweeping past him and the two Ferraris then going either side of the Red Bull into Turn 1. Neither made it through, and while Alonso held on in third ahead of Vettel, Massa was edged out wide and dropped to sixth behind Nico Rosberg.
Vettel would get past Alonso for third place when the Ferrari ran wide in the Mercedes-Benz complex on lap two, but six laps later the Silverstone winner was able to successfully retaliate into Turn 1. Soon afterwards, Vettel lost touch with the lead battle when he brushed the damp white marker line under braking for Turn 10 and snapped into a spin. He rejoined without losing track position, but the top three were long gone.
Webber was the first of the evenly-matched trio to pit on lap 14. The Australian initially lost time in traffic, but once in clear air he was able to start setting new fastest sector times, meaning that when Hamilton and Alonso pitted in unison on lap 16, they came out just behind the Red Bull.
Once the late-stopping Massa came in for his first tyre change, Webber finally found himself leading a lap for the first time this season, though he could not shake off Hamilton and Alonso.
Webber was again the first to come in when the second stops began on lap 30, with Hamilton and Alonso following suit over the next two laps.
This time the under-cut did not work. Hamilton rejoined ahead of Webber and determinedly fended off the Red Bull through the complex. Alonso managed to jump both of them, but Hamilton made the most of his warmer Pirellis to drive around the outside of the Ferrari at Turn 2 to retake the lead and then start edging clear, holding a three-second cushion while Webber began to drift away from Alonso.
With the prime tyres felt to be significantly slower, the leaders tried to stretch their third set of option as long as possible. Hamilton came in on lap 50, and though Alonso held on for two laps longer, the McLaren was able to stay narrowly in front.
Webber took a gamble in staying out longer and ran until lap 56 of 60 – finally taking the prime – but it did not pay off, as he rejoined still some distance behind Hamilton and Alonso.
Vettel fell behind Massa in the first pit-stops and spent the rest of the race on the Ferrari’s gearbox. Only when they finally pitted for the prime with just one lap to the flag did the championship leader manage to get fourth back.
Adrian Sutil’s best drive of the season brought him sixth place for Force India, as he made a two-stop strategy work to beat the Silver Arrows duo of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. The latter had been challenging his team-mate until losing time with a mid-race spin at Turn 10.
A great start and a two-stop strategy helped Kamui Kobayashi come through from P17 to ninth for Sauber, just ahead of Petrov, who lost ground by staying out too long on his first set of tyres.
As for Jenson Button, this was a disappointed race for the McLaren driver. A slow start dropped him to tenth, and he then spent the race in traffic, couped up behind Vitaly Petrov’s Renault for most of the first stint. Just after making it past Rosberg and into sixth spot, his car developed a hydraulic problem and had to retire.
Completing a disappointing day for the majority of the large home driver contingent, Renault’s Nick Heidfeld tangled with Paul di Resta’s Force India on the opening lap. The German earned a drive-through penalty for the incident, but by that time Heidfeld was out of the race after clashing with Sebastien Buemi’s Toro Rosso on the approach to the chicane.
Red Bull Racing must be feeling the pressure as both Ferrari and McLaren are closing the performance gap. With Alonso winning the previous race at Silverstone and now Hamilton at the Nürburgring, the team must step up or risk losing the advantage as the Formula One World Championship enters the second half of the 2011 season.
German Grand Prix race result, 60 laps:
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h37:30.334s
2. Alonso Ferrari +3.980s
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault +9.788s
4. Vettel Red Bull-Renault +47.921s
5. Massa Ferrari +52.252s
6. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +1:26.208s
7. Rosberg Mercedes +1 lap
8. Schumacher Mercedes +1 lap
9. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
10. Petrov Renault +1 lap
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari +1 lap
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
13. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes +1 lap
14. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth +1 lap
15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault +2 laps
17. Glock Virgin-Cosworth +3 laps
18. D’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth +3 laps
19. Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth +3 laps
20. Chandhok Lotus-Renault +4 laps
Fastest lap: Vettel, 1:34.587
Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 44 laps
Button McLaren-Mercedes 42 laps
Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 23 laps
Heidfeld Renault 10 laps
World Championship standings, round 10:
1. Vettel 216
2. Webber 139
3. Hamilton 134
4. Alonso 130
5. Button 109
6. Massa 62
7. Rosberg 46
8. Heidfeld 34
9. Schumacher 32
10. Petrov 32
11. Kobayashi 27
12. Sutil 18
13. Alguersuari 9
14. Perez 8
15. Buemi 8
16. Barrichello 4
17. Di Resta 2
1. Red Bull-Renault 355
2. McLaren-Mercedes 243
3. Ferrari 192
4. Mercedes 78
5. Renault 66
6. Sauber-Ferrari 35
7. Force India-Mercedes 20
8. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 17
9. Williams-Cosworth 4
Next race: Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring. July 29-31.