[Updated] Fernando Alonso won the German Grand Prix from pole position, his third win of the season and another stunning drive under intense pressure by the Spaniard, who increased his lead in the drivers’ championship to 34 points.
It was the 30th win of Alonso’s F1 career, one less than Nigel Mansell and his second consecutive win at Hockenheim, following on from his controversial win in 2010.
Sebastian Vettel finished second on the road, his 40th podium in F1, with Jenson Button third, but afterwards Vettel was given a 20 second penalty by the stewards for passing Button by going off track with all four wheels. This dropped him to fifth place and promoted Raikkonen to the podium.
There was plenty of controversy as earlier Hamilton had repassed Vettel, when he had just been lapped by the world champion.
The situation around the Vettel pass on Button recalled Alonso’s move on Robert Kubica at Silverstone two years ago, where he went all four wheels off the track to pass and at that race the FIA Race Director ordered him to give the place back, which he could not do as Kubica pitted, so the stewards penalised him with a drive through penalty.
Button had got ahead of Vettel thanks to the fastest ever F1 pit stop at 2.31 seconds, which gave Button the chance to jump Vettel at the second stops.
Kimi Raikkonen got another good result in fourth with Kamui Kobayashi a candidate for driver of the day with a stunning drive from 12th on the grid to finish 5th for Sauber, ahead of team mate Perez.
It was a tense race, with the top three cars separated by less than 2.5 seconds after 60 laps of racing.
Button made a small mistake early in the final stint, flat spotting a tyre, which may have contributed to his problems at the end.
There was drama before the race; FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer had brought the Renault engines used by Red Bull to the attention of the stewards, claiming that the torque levels were not consistent with other races. The implication is that by changing the engine map the team had been achieving hot blowing of air to the diffuser. But just over an hour before the race the stewards issued a statement saying that, while they did not accept all of Red Bull’s explanations, they would take no further action as there was no specific wording for the rules around this area and that therefore the two Red Bull cars would be allowed to start the race in their normal position. However the wording of the statement hinted that this would be an area which would be closed in the near future.
At the start all the front runners went with the soft tyre, with Vergne, Rosberg, Pic and Glock on mediums.
Alonso got a good start to lead, while Schumacher attacked Vettel on the opening lap. Jenson Button gained a place to fifth, while Massa, Grosjean and Senna pitted at the end of lap 1 after contact damage. All switched to medium tyres to gain data for their team mates and to play a long stint strategy.
Hamilton had a poor start and ran into trouble with a puncture on the left rear tyre on lap 3, there was a lot of debris in Turn 1 from first corner tangles. It was a long slow lap into the pits for Hamilton.
He radioed in that he felt they should retire but they sent him back out with a new set of medium tyres, 64 seconds behind the the race leader.
Vettel harried Alonso in the opening stint, within the DRS detection zone of under one second.
Button passed Hulkenberg for fourth place on lap eight, closing quickly on Schumacher in third. He needed to pass him quickly to stay in touch with the leading pair.
He passed him straight away using DRS on lap 11.
Perez had had a strong opening stint and was up to 5th place by lap 14 after the first cars started to make stops. This netted him an 8th place after his own stop.
Some went with medium tyres, like Webber and Hulkenberg, while Schumacher and Raikkonen went with softs.
Both of them passed Hulkenberg in one move on lap 16 as the Force India driver struggled on the medium tyre.
Meanwhile Rosberg and Hamilton were lapping quickly on the medium tyre not having changed it since the start.
Alonso pitted for medium tyres on lap 18, having had data on them from Massa’s first stint.
Button stopped a lap later, also taking the medium tyres, as did Vettel, who not only lost time to Alonso by staying out the extra laps, but who came out behind Kobayashi. He managed to pass him quickly, however.
There was a superb battle between Raikkonen and Schumacher over fifth place, the Finn passed him and then drove away from Schumacher, on the same pace as leaders, 12 secs behind as the race approached half distance.
Alonso was not as fast on the medium tyre as Vettel and Button, who closed up on him.
By lap 29 Vettel was back within the DRS detection zone and Vettel closed right up as they came up to lap Hamilton.
On lap 34 the leaders lapped Hamilton but Vettel made a mistake and Hamilton reposed him, to Vettel’s disgust. This allowed Alonso to open a gap of over 2 seconds on Vettel and Button to close on Vettel.
Hamilton on fresher tyres had the pace to uncap himself on Alonso but sat behind him, apparently not wanting to influence the lead battle further.
Button pitted on lap 41, again choosing the medium tyres, as did Webber. Alonso came in on lap 42 with Vettel, who came out behind Button.
McLaren’s faster stop and Button’s out lap had made the difference. Now he set off after Alonso.
But in pushing hard, he flat spotted his right front tyre on lap 44. It didn’t seem to slow him down much, as he stayed within a second of the Ferrari, while Vettel dropped to two seconds behind.
Vettel pushed a bit too hard and on lap 53 ran wide at Turn 1, losing 8/10ths of a second in the process.
Schumacher’s 3rd stop put Kobayashi fifth, the Japanese driver proving very effective on a medium/medium/soft strategy, with a long first stint.
With four laps to go Button’s tyres began to show signs of losing performance, he had been the first of the three leaders to pit for the second time.
Vettel passed him, but went off track with all four wheels in the process, which Button complained about over the radio. The team indicated that the FIA were aware of it and the stewards did the right thing by giving Vettel a 20 second penalty.
“The rules state that you can’t go off the track to gain an advantage,” said Button. “The thing is, there would have been more opportunities for him before the end of the race as my rear tyres 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 chequer.
Vettel accepted the stewards decision, which drops him a further eight points behind Alonso in the championship, but said, “It was a difficult one, I didn’t know if he was on the inside or not,” said Vettel. “The last thing you want is contact. I can’t see him from the side of the car so I tried to give enough room and went wide. We were all struggling with our tyres and I think that was the case for Jenson and that’s why I passed him.”
“I was thinking he was still there and I didn’t want to close too early. I wanted to leave some space. The last thing you want at the end is to crash. So I decided to go off the circuit to make it safe. He had no traction but even on the slippery paint I was able to pass.”
GERMAN GRAND PRIX, Hockenheim, 67 laps
1. Alonso Ferrari 1h31:05.862
2. Button McLaren + 6.949
3. Raikkonen Lotus + 16.409
4. Kobayashi Sauber + 21.925
5. Vettel Red Bull + 23.732 (after 20 sec penalty added)
6. Perez Sauber + 27.896
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 28.960
8. Webber Red Bull + 46.900
9. Hulkenberg Force India + 48.100
10. Rosberg Mercedes + 48.800
11. Di Resta Force India + 59.200
12. Ricciardo Toro Rosso + 1:11.400
13. Massa Ferrari + 1:16.800
14. Vergne Toro Rosso + 1:16.900
15. Maldonado Williams + 1 lap
16. Petrov Caterham + 1 lap
17. Senna Williams + 1 lap
18. Grosjean Lotus + 1 lap
19. Kovalainen Caterham + 2 laps
20. Pic Marussia + 2 laps
21. De la Rosa HRT + 3 laps
22. Glock Marussia + 3 laps
23. Karthikeyan HRT + 3 laps