Nico Rosberg sailed to victory on home soil this weeekend, and in front of Mercedes-Benz' most important crowd.
Behind him battles raged up and down the field in a race filled with action, ever-changing tyre strategies, all dominated by Lewis Hamilton's charge from twentieth on the grid.
The drama started at turn one, with a Williams flipping in front of Daniel Ricciardo and causing him to lose ten places - and a possible podium finish.
PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING
WIth the removal of the complicated FRIC devices, Mercedes was expected to struggle. Which is really a relative term as the team topped the timesheets, but Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo was much closer than the usual half-to-one-second gap.
Nico Rosberg nailed the Mercedes on pole, but his job was made easier by Lewis Hamilton's car throwing a front brake disc and pitching the Brit into the wall during Q1.
The Williamses of Bottas and Massa came in second and third, while Daniel Ricciardo again out-qualified Vettel.
The McLarens also seemed to improve in a FRIC-free world, with Magnussen in fourth.
Race day was overcast and poor Marcus Ericsson, who hadn't set a time in qualifying, had to start from pitlane while Hamilton was allowed to take twentieth slot on the grid rather than a pitlane start.
Rosberg got a sensational start as did Kevin Magnussen. Felipe Massa didn't see the Dane there and cut straight across him, clashing tyres.
The Williams went over on to its roll-hoop and scraped across the tarmac on the outside of turn one before landing again on its wheels.
Ricciardo had to take evasive action, dropping ten places while Magnussen pitted and rejoined behind the safety car.
Vettel was the big winner, taking over where Ricciardo might have been. Ricciardo soon had Hamilton on his tail as they both began to cut through the field. Hamilton had a moment as he followed the Red Bull past Sutil, the Sauber driver bumping the unexpected Mercedes.
On lap nine, after an excellent battle with Sergio Perez, Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat got a little too ambitious and tried to squeeze the Mexican on the apex of a corner. Perez did as much as he could, but the Russian's car was pitched into a spin, losing him five places and causing an unplanned pit stop.
Alonso was first to pit, which worked out well for him (briefly at least), Vettel rejoining behind the Ferrari after his pit-stop.
Hamilton and Ricciardo, meanwhile, battled hard over a series of laps.
The pair drove up to the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen. Ricciardo held off a diving attack from Hamilton and the very next corner got by the Finn, who struggled the entire race.
Hamilton wasn't keen to let the Australian go but Raikkonen was having none of it. Hamilton tried to sneak by coming in to the stadium but the 2007 world champion held the 2008 champion to the outside and maintained the place.
Ricciardo then got bottled up behind Perez leaving Hamilton with a chance to get by Raikkonen. He did it, locked up and with light contact at the hairpin, bits of wing flying off the Ferrari. Ricciardo went around the outside of it all but still lost the place to Hamilton. He soon pitted to change his rapidly wearing tyres.
Hamilton's charge continued the next lap as he charged past Perez for fifth place.
Raikkonen's eventful race continued - as Vettel dropped in between the Ferraris, three cars tried to overtake each other at the hairpin. Alonso squeezed Raikkonen into Vettel but the German held his nerve and managed to clear both of them.
After the frontrunners had stopped, Hamilton found himself in second, on a long first stint with good fuel economy. It seemed that the team decided to stretch Hamilton to a two-stop strategy - he allowed Bottas past without drama.
Despite having a reasonably broken front wing, Raikkonen was flying through the field. Hamilton pitted on lap 27, the two stop idea vanishing.
Letting Bottas past a few laps earlier was now seeming less like a good idea. Nevertheless he set to work, passing Ricciardo for seventh on lap thirty.
Half a lap later, the Mercedes driver found life a bit harder getting past Jenson Button. Hamilton thought Button was letting him past at the hairpin, but the McLaren driver turned in and made more of a mess of Hamilton's front wing endplate.
Hamilton got by the next lap, even apologising as he passed his former teammate on the straight.
With twenty-five laps to go, both Mercedes drivers complained of their front lefts wearing quickly. The super-softs had proven to be short-lived on both cars.
Hamilton pitted a lap after Rosberg, the pit-crew trying to fix the balance of the Briton's car, compensating for the broken wing.
Ricciardo was half a second behind behind Jenson Button on lap 44, running seventh but with a disintegrating set of super-softs.
Vettel pitted for the third and last time on lap 46 as Kvyat's car came to a halt, well alight. The Toro Rosso fire was the second Renault conflagration for the weekend after Kobayahsi's Caterham caught fire in practice.
Ricciardo pitted the following lap with twenty laps to do on a set of soft tyres. A few laps later he got past Button who had also pitted, taking fifth.
Fernando Alono's hard grafting drive appeared to be paying dividends as he closed in on Valtteri Bottas in second. That battle would soon be overshadowed by the silver Mercedes of Hamilton drawing in close and passing the Spaniard.
On lap fifty, Adrian Sutil managed to spin his car in the middle of pit straight. He was unable to get it going again and he jumped out.
Hoping for a safety car, Hamilton pitted for the third time, returning to the track in an amazing fourth place. Race control took quite some time to decided what to do with the stricken Sauber.
Three marshals ran across the track under double-waved yellows and pushed the Sauber to the side of the track and then through a gap in the fence.
Bottas and his team had a discussion about running all the way to the end. The Finn calmly told the team it would be difficult, but that he would try.
Hamilton was bearing down on him at a rate of almost two seconds a lap but also had deteriorating tyres.
Alonso wouldn't be attempting that, his front left almost shredded - he pitted on lap fifty-six but was able to run those tyres ragged, passing Ricciardo for fifth on lap fifty-nine.
The Australian put up a fight, though, re-passing Alonso. The Ferrari drive came back at him and once again Ricciardo strong-armed his way past and then held Alonso behind him for the next lap as they fought wheel-to-wheel.
The Hamilton-Bottas battle was more exciting than expected - both had to nurse their tyres but Hamilton couldn't rely on top speed to sail by.
Alonso finally passed a determined Ricciardo on lap sixty-two, but the Red Bull driver made him work for it.
Hamilton's tyres looked awful, compared even to Bottas'. The Williams team radioed their man to say that the threat from Hamilton was fading. The battle went right down to the final lap, but Bottas and the Williams team took their third podium in a row.
Rosberg sailed to victory at home, powered by a German engine, extending his lead over Lewis Hamilton who finished third behind Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo finished sixth, almost a minute behind Rosberg.
“That was awesome fun, one of my most enjoyable races I’ve had. I mean, not on the first lap, obviously, that was just the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn’t as worse off as Massa and hopefully he is okay. I was on the outside and the collision happened, I had to avoid it and went pretty far down the field, I don't know exactly how far back," Ricciardo said.
"From then on I just got on to the radio and said let's make an amazing recovery and make ourselves proud today. And I think we did that, we fought hard and we didn't leave anything on the table."
"These are the moments and battles that I personally thrive off and enjoy. Fernando is known to be a tough fighter and I thought who better to have a good fight with. I was on the Primes and he was on fresher Options and I gave it the best fight I could and, well.., nearly!”
Formula 1 returns next week for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
German F1 GP Results
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes - 1h33m42.914s
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Mercedes +20.789s
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +22.530s
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault +44.014s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +52.467s
- Daniel Ricciardo - Red Bull-Renault +52.549s
- Nico Hulkenberg - Force India-Mercedes +1m04.178s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes +1m24.711s
- Kevin Magnussen - McLaren-Mercedes -1 lap
- Sergio Perez - Force India-Mercedes -1 lap
- Kimi Raikkonen - Ferrari -1 lap
- Pastor Maldonado - Lotus-Renault -1 lap
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Renault -1 lap
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari -1 lap
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Ferrari -1 lap
- Kamui Kobayashi - Caterham-Renault -2 laps
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Ferrari -2 laps
- Marcus Ericsson - Caterham-Renault -2 laps
Felipe Massa - Williams-Mercedes
Daniil Kvyat - Toro Rosso-Renault
Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault
Adrian Sutil - Sauber-Ferrari
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