Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel took his first home victory at the Nurburgring this weekend, in a race full of action and dangerous incidents.
Mark Webber was the victim of one of those incidents, his car released without its right rear tyre secured, injuring a FOM cameraman. He fought back to seventh.
Daniel Ricciardo was unable to capitalise on an excellent qualifying performance for Toro Rosso, eventually ending the race twelfth.
Practice & Qualifying
Mercedes and Red Bull battled for Friday honours, taking the top times in first and second practice respectively. Hamilton suffered a bizarre free practice three loss of plot, ending seventh complaining he was unable to drive the car.
Hamilton came back with a vengeance in qualifying, planting his Mercedes on pole for the second weekend in a row, hopefully with higher tyre pressures.
The pole position was important for Mercedes, on home turf in Germany, as well as for Hamilton who has been overshadowed by Rosberg this year. Rosberg would start eleventh after the team made a mess of timing his runs.
Vettel went second and an annoyed Webber could only manage third. Daniel Ricciardo showed strongly in sixth while Ferrari struggled to make seventh (Massa) and eighth (Alonso) with McLaren playing the ridiculous game of not setting a time to save on tyres for Button, Hulkenberg doing the same for Sauber.
Williams had a dire session for its 600th race, Bottas and Maldonado failing to get out of Q1.
A beautiful clear day in the German forest greeted the drivers, warmer than qualifying and without the tailwind.
Both Webber and Vettel engulfed the lead Mercedes off the start, with Webber going the long way around to slot into second. Raikkonen rocketed through to fourth while Perez, on the prime tyre, gained on his teammate and passed Button at the beginning of lap two.
Daniel Ricciardo held on to his top ten position although Massa jumped him at turn one. Massa didn't last long, spinning at turn one and stepping out of the car after a spin caused by the engine cutting out at the end of lap four.
di Resta pitted first and was released into the path of Jean Eric Vergne who had to brake hard to avoid the Force India and compromise his own entry into his pit box.
Bizarrely, the incident was investigated after the race, but Vergne retired with hydraulic problems. Force India was fined €5,000.
Vettel pushed to keep himself safe from Webber's DRS-assisted straight line speed, but the Australian kept him in his sights, eager to deny Vettel a home win.
An unhappy Grosjean radioed his team with the immortal words, "I am faster than Kimi," but he was not allowed by. Hamilton pitted on lap seven and he dropped into clear air in front of the Williams of Maldonado, but his race was effectively over with rapid tyre degradation.
Red Bull reacted straight away, with Vettel coming in on the following lap and putting Webber in the lead but keeping Vettel out in front of Rosberg with a 2.6 second stop.
Webber's race was destroyed when his car was released without a right rear attached - the tyre cannoned through the Mercedes pit and into the back of a cameraman, who was dashed to the ground but appeared to suffer no serious injuries. The team was fined €30,000.
Webber was wheeled back to his pits and a wheel attached and he was sent out into dead last and a lap down.
While all this happened, Raikkonen began an attack on the Mercedes of Hamilton. Vettel built on his lead by passing the McLaren of Button to enable him to continue in clear air.
Alonso pitted on lap 12 to go on the medium compound tyres again, his first set not lasting as long as Ferrari might have liked. He went on to finish fourth, with third in his sights but without the time to take the place.
Raikkonen and Rosberg enjoyed a robust battle on lap 15, with Raikkonen getting past in a brave move at the chicane. The Finn then moved on Button to continue his march forward.
Meanwhile, Grosjean flew on his new set of mediums to try and chase down leader Vettel.
Pole-sitter Hamilton was fighting with the yet-to-stop Sauber of Hulkenberg, with Raikkonen right on his tail. Rosberg pitted on lap 17 and Hulkenberg came in on 18 to release Hamilton and Raikkonen.
The Finn took advantage and sailed around the outside of the Briton, again at the chicane.
Hamilton next fell victim to Alonso as the Mercedes destroyed its tyres on the hot track. Alonso almost got by on lap 22 at turn one, but Hamilton defended robustly.
The battle became more heated on lap 23, but also remained clean until Hamilton peeled off into the pits at the end of the lap.
Jules Bianchi's Marussia expired in a ball of flames on lap 24 on his way up the hill to the final chicane. He emerged unscathed but forgot to put the car in gear and it rolled backwards across the track as he trudged away.
Luckily, the car ran into an advertising sign on the other side of the track, a brave marshal vainly running after the rolling chassis.
Vettel stopped as soon as the track was neutralised and rejoined in the lead. Webber was allowed to unlap himself on lap 26 before the safety car returned to the pits a few laps later.
Racing resumed on lap 30, with Vettel jumping ahead from a tardy Raikkonen. Webber fired past a Marussia and a Caterham on the restart, determined to salvage points from a so-far disastrous race.
On the upside, he was just eleven seconds from the lead having gotten back on to the lead lap, taking fifteenth.
Grosjean held second with Raikkonen behind, the Finn looking to find a way past the Frenchman with a fastest lap on lap 33, with Grosjean responding in kind on the next lap. This brought him right up behind Vettel to set up a grandstand battle until the next set of tyre stops.
Webber pitted on lap 39, having been bottled up behind the Sauber of Gutierrez. He rejoined without incident.
Grosjean pitted on lap 41, taking on a fresh set of medium tyres, meaning a three-stopper for the Lotus driver. Raikkonen was now free to attack Vettel, who pitted on lap 41.
Raikkonen had been setting super-fast sectors, Vettel rejoining in front of Grosjean. It was now up to Lotus now to get their man in front of the Red Bull.
Lotus got some help in the form of Lewis Hamilton. As always, the Mercedes driver's defence was robust, with Vettel's pass taking three corners to complete.
Hamilton then pitted to cover Button's McLaren, as if to prove he still had it despite his tyre problems. He came out and quickly overtook Rosberg, who was languishing in eleventh.
Raikkonen's advantage to Vettel was quickly eroding, 1.5 seconds falling to Vettel over four laps. The Lotus team finally brought Raikkonen in for soft tyres at the of 49 laps, with Alonso behind him in fourth.
Raikkonen now had a set of soft tyres to sprint to the end, but after the race, it was questionable if that was the right choice.
Hamilton clawed his way to eighth place on lap 50, taking di Resta's Force India at turn one and then mugging Maldonado for seventh later in the lap.
Button and Perez's season-long battle continued, with Button forcing his way past in emphatic fashion.
With eight laps to go, the top four were covered by eight seconds. Raikkonen had to tackle both Grosjean and Vettel, but he would find his teammate slightly easier than the Red Bull driver.
Raikkonen got past Grosjean on lap 55 and set off after Vettel, with just four laps to chase down the win. He continued to chip away at Vettel's lead, sector by sector, to at least get into the DRS zone.
The Lotus was one second behind the leader by the beginning of the final lap, but it was not to be for the Finn, who fought hard for the final lap. Pole-sitter Hamilton passed his former teammate on lap 60 for fifth place, but second on the grid Vettel took the flag from Kimi Raikkonen almost exactly a second behind.
Daniel Ricciardo finished twelfth after what the West Australian termed a "boring" race struggling on the Prime tyres.
Webber came home seventh behind Button and in front of Perez.
"Today was a bit of a nightmare and you want to wake up tomorrow and have another go at it. We had an excellent start and were in a great position leading up to the first stop with Seb, but we lost all of that. We lost a lot of points today and a chance to challenge for the win, but there's no rewind button now."
Formula 1 returns in three weeks for the Hungarian Grand Prix.
- Sebastian Vettel - Red Bull-Renault 1h41m14.711s
- Kimi Raikkonen - Lotus-Renault +1.008s
- Romain Grosjean - Lotus-Renault +5.830s
- Fernando Alonso - Ferrari +7.721s
- Lewis Hamilton - Mercedes +26.927s
- Jenson Button - McLaren-Mercedes +27.996s
- Mark Webber - Red Bull-Renault +37.562s
- Sergio Perez - McLaren-Mercedes +38.306s
- Nico Rosberg - Mercedes +46.821s
- Nico Hulkenberg - Sauber-Ferrari +49.892s
- Paul di Resta - Force India-Mercedes +53.771s
- Daniel Ricciardo - Toro Rosso-Ferrari +56.975s
- Adrian Sutil - Force India-Mercedes +57.738s
- Esteban Gutierrez - Sauber-Ferrari +1m00.160s
- Pastor Maldonado - Williams-Renault +1m01.929s
- Valtteri Bottas - Williams-Renault +1 lap
- Charles Pic - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
- Giedo van der Garde - Caterham-Renault +1 lap
- Max Chilton - Marussia-Cosworth +1 lap
- Jean-Eric Vergne - Toro Rosso-Ferrari 22 laps
- Jules Bianchi - Marussia-Cosworth 21 laps
- Felipe Massa - Ferrari 3 laps
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