Fernando Alonso

German GP – Clever strategy hit by hot weather

Nurburg, 7 July – Fernando Alonso finished the German Grand Prix in fourth place for Scuderia Ferrari, while his team-mate Felipe Massa had to retire on lap 4, when he spun off the track and the engine on his F138 stalled. The race was won by Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull, who was flanked on the podium by the Lotus duo of second placed Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean in third. The result means that, while the Spanish Ferrari man is still second in the Drivers’ classification, the gap to today’s race winner has grown from 21 to 34 points. Felipe is still seventh. In the Constructors’, the Prancing Horse remains third, still just 3 points behind Mercedes, however, Red Bull has extended its lead at the top of the classification.

When the lights went out, the two Red Bulls ambushed pole man Hamilton in the Mercedes so that Vettel immediately led from Webber, with the Mercedes now third ahead of the two Lotuses of Raikkonen and Grosjean. Next was Felipe who jumped Ricciardo in the Toro Rosso to take sixth, while Fernando was up one place to seventh. Everything appeared to be going smoothly, but then Felipe had a spin at the first corner on lap 4, with the car stuck in gear and the F138 stalled, putting an end to the Brazilian’s race. The yellow flags from Massa’s incident appeared to prompt some very early pit stops with Di Resta and Vergne coming in on that lap, Ricciardo came in on lap 5, with Hamilton stopping on lap 6. Next time round, the leader Vettel pitted.
Lap 9 saw a dramatic incident as Webber pitted and was released, although one wheel had not been secured properly. It bounced dangerously down pit lane and hit a TV cameraman. Webber obviously had to stop in pit lane and was pushed back the garage, after which he was able to rejoin.

Lap 12 saw Fernando come in from second place, a late stop as the two Ferrari men opted to do yesterday’s Q3 on the harder Pirelli compound in order to use them to run a longer first stint today. However, the hotter weather completely changed the relative performance of the two types of tyre and nullified the strategt advantage the Scuderia had hoped for. He took on another set of Mediums and dropped down to eighth. Grosjean pitted next lap and that eventually moved him up from fifth to second place and lap 14 saw the internal Mercedes battle go in favour of Hamilton as he made a hard move stick on Rosberg. Next it was Raikkonen’s turn to pass the German. Grosjean was flying and catching the leader Vettel, while in eighth place, Fernando was now right behind Rosberg, and he was 4 seconds off Raikkonen, on a similar strategy to the Ferrari man. Gradually, the man from Oviedo was moving towards the front again and by lap 18 he was right behind Hamilton and Raikkonen and on lap 20 he nearly passed the Mercedes at the chicane and had another abortive attempt down the straight. There was more side by side action, until the Englishman pitted on lap 22, putting Fernando fourth behind Raikkonen.

Lap 25 saw the race neutralised, as the Safety Car came out, because Bianchi’s Marussia was parked on the side of the track, on fire. After the driver got out, it also started rolling down the hill, thankfully coming to a halt in a safer place. Lap 29 and the race was on again with the order Vettel, Grosjean, Raikkonen, Alonso in fourth, Button and Hulkenberg – these last two having stopped just once so far – with Hamilton seventh, followed by Maldonado, Perez and Sutil completing the top ten. While the top three were lapping in the 1m 35s, Fernando was doing 1m 36s and dropping to 1.6 behind Raikkonen. The race order remained unchanged for a while, until Grosjean pitted for a third stop on lap 40, so that Raikkonen now led from Fernando by 3.2 seconds, with Button, who had still only changed tyres once, in third ahead of Hamilton, Vettel and Grosjean. Hamilton and Vettel were wheel to wheel on lap 44 until the German got past to take fourth place, the Englishman pitting on the next lap for a third and final time.

Button brought the McLaren in for his second stop on lap 47, which meant that Vettel, who was lapping very quickly at this point was now third behind Fernando, albeit 10 seconds down, however as Fernando had only used the Medium tyre so far, he was committed to make a third and final stop to ensure he legally used both types of slick tyre. Raikkonen had to do the same and both men came in on lap 49, which meant that with ten laps of the 60 remaining, Vettel and Grosjean now occupied the top two places, with Fernando fourth behind Raikkonen. Lapping faster than the Finn, the Spaniard who never gives up sensed third could be in his grasp if the Lotus faltered and he banged in a race fastest lap on lap 51 with the gap between them standing at 3.2 seconds, then 2.7 on lap 53. It was to be the outright fastest lap of the race.

On the quicker Option tyre, Kimi managed to pass team-mate Grosjean to take second place on lap 55, so Fernando was now 1.4 behind the Frenchman, but would he be able to catch and pass him in just five laps? Lap 56 and the gap was under a second, with the Ferrari man running six tenths faster and within the permitted gap to use the DRS to help overtaking. But in the end it was not to be and the battle right at the front was equally exciting with Raikkonen catching Vettel, again to no avail. One last minute change saw the battle of the Brits resolved in favour of Hamilton who managed to pass Button on the 60th and final lap to take fifth.

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