Nico Rosberg cruised unchallenged to a home victory at Hockenheim as team-mate Lewis Hamilton traded a rocky path, with several changes of strategy, through the field from 20th on the grid to take third place by the chequered flag.
Valtteri Bottas starred once again and gave Williams something to smile about with his second P2 finish in a row, after team-mate Felipe Massa had rolled out of the race at the start in a collision with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen. Bottas’ late race defence from Hamilton, on worn tyres, was one of the highlights of an eventful race.
Behind the podium finishers, Sebastian Vettel claimed fourth place for Red Bull Racing, while Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso won a thrilling duel with Daniel Ricciardo in the second Red Bull to take fifth.
There was drama as soon as the lights went out. While Rosberg and Bottas got away well and held position through turn one, Magnussen, who’d made a good start, came up the inside into Turn 1 and collided with Massa. The Brazilian’s car was flipped upside down as the pair slid off into the gravel trap at turn one. The Williams came to rest right side up and Massa was quickly out of the car but also out of the race. Magnussen was able to continue, though he had to pit for repairs. The Dane rejoined at the back of the field.
The incident also disadvantaged Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo; he had to take evasive action and dropped back into the midfield in 12th place. His team-mate, Sebastian Vettel avoided trouble, however, and rose to third as the safety car was deployed.
When the racing resumed Rosberg held his lead from Bottas, with Vettel third ahead of Alonso. Nico Hulkenberg was in fifth, while Jenson Button had risen to sixth from 11th on the grid.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was charging through the pack. The Briton had dropped to 20th on the grid after a gearbox change, but by lap eight he was up to 12th behind Ricciardo who was also making progress.
Hamilton was now almost 18 seconds down on his front-running team-mate and he continued to lose time as he battled with Ricciardo. The Red Bull driver made it past Jean-Eric Vergne and Kimi Raikkonen but while Hamilton got past the Frenchman he briefly became stuck behind the Finn.
Now 25 seconds down on Rosberg, Hamilton had to move decisively and he did so on lap 13. Pulling alongside Raikkonen, Hamilton braked late into the hairpin. The Mercedes and Ferrari made contact but Hamilton made is past and with Ricciardo avoiding trouble, the Briton passed the Red Bull into the bargain. The move elevated him to seventh.
Rosberg, meanwhile, had made his first stop and as the bulk of the field, who had started on supersoft tyres, headed for pit lane, Hamilton, who had started on soft tyres, rose to second, 7.7s behind his team-mate. Bottas then retook second on lap 20 with Hamilton under instruction not to resist the Finn.
Hamilton finally made his first stop on lap 27, taking on another set of soft tyres. He resumed in eighth place. At the front, Rosberg was now 13 seconds ahead of Bottas, with Vettel third, a further eight seconds back. Alonso held fourth ahead of Hulkenberg and Button. Ricciardo was once again in front of Hamilton.
Hamilton, on fresh tyres, passed Ricciardo for P7 on lap 29 but then tried to overtake Button. He misread the pace of the McLaren, thinking that Button was letting him through, however and hit the sidepod of Button’s car. It removed Hamilton’s left front wing endplate but the Mercedes driver carried on and then made a clean pass on his former team-mate on the following lap. He found a way past Hulkenberg on lap 33 for fifth. However the damage hurt his tyre performance and he requited a change of strategy later to compensate.
Between the two Mercedes, Alonso and Vettel made their second stops, with the Ferrari stopping a lap earlier in a bid to find a way past the Red Bull. It seemed not to have worked as Vettel emerged in front of the Ferrari, but the Spaniard then breezed past the German under DRS to steal the place.
Rosberg made his second stop, for another set of soft tyres, on lap 42 and rejoined in the lead. Hamilton, meanwhile, was complaining that his tyres were wearing too fast to make the target distance planned for his stint and the team immediately switched him to a three-stop strategy, bolting on supersoft tyres on lap 43.
He immediately began setting race fastest laps as he began to reel in the eight-second gap to Vettel. Red Bull brought the supersoft-shod Vettel in for his third and final stop, during which he took on soft tyres. He emerged in sixth position behind Button.
On lap 50, Adrian Sutil spun in the final corner and his car stalled almost in the middle of track. It seemed set for a safety car and Mercedes, perhaps anticipating it, brought Hamilton in for his final set of tyres, more supersofts on lap 51. The safety car didn’t appear however and the Mercedes driver, who rejoined behind Alonso and ahead of Vettel , faced 16-lap stint on the quick but fragile tyres.
It didn’t hurt Hamilton, however, and he passed Alonso for P3 on lap 56 to sit just over seven seconds behind Bottas.
Alonso, meanwhile, made his third and final stop, for supersofts, with 11 laps to go. He rejoined in P7 behind the Red Bulls of Vettel and Ricciardo and the McLaren of Button but with fresher, quicker tyres.
Ahead Hamilton was chewing through the gap to Bottas with the deficit reduced to just four seconds by lap 58. On the following lap the Briton took 1.7 seconds out of the Finn to set up a move.
Behind then a dogfight developed between Alonso and Ricciardo, with duo tussling hard for P6. Despite Ricciardo’s best efforts he couldn’t resist indefinitely and eventually the Ferrari driver muscled past at the hairpin. He ran deep, however, and offered Ricciardo a way back in. The Australian pushed hard to recover the position but Alonso hel on. With Vettel now 7.6s ahead and out of reach fourth was the best Alonso could do. It was by a tiny margin, however. Ricciardo battled to the end and when the duo took the flag there were just hundredths of a second separating the pair.
At the front Rosberg took a comfortable fourth win of the season, but behind him Hamilton could find no way past the calm and collected Bottas, who took his third podium finish in a row.
With Vettel fourth for Red Bull and Alonso and Ricciardo taking P5 and P6 respectively, seventh place was taken by Hulkenberg. Button was eighth, ahead of team-mate Magnussen and the final points position.
Rosberg’s win leaves him on 190 points with Hamilton now 14 points back. Ricciardo lies third with 106 points, nine clear of Alonso, who is six ahead of Vettel.
With their ninth win of the season, Mercedes meanwhile have scored more points as a team in the first 10 races of 2014 than in the whole of the 2013 season.
GERMAN GRAND PRIX, Hockenheim, 67 laps
1. Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1h33m42.914s
2. Valtteri Bottas Williams +20.789s
3. Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +22.530s
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +44.014s
5. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +52.467s
6. Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull +52.549s
7. Nico Hulkenberg Force India +1m04.178s
8. Jenson Button McLaren +1m24.711s
9. Kevin Magnussen McLaren -1 lap
10. Sergio Perez Force India -1 lap
11. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari -1 lap
12. Pastor Maldonado Lotus -1 lap
13. Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso -1 lap
14. Esteban Gutierrez Sauber -1 lap
15. Jules Bianchi Marussia -1 lap
16. Kamui Kobayashi Caterham -2 laps
17. Max Chilton Marussia -2 laps
18. Marcus Ericsson Caterham -2 laps