The German Grand Prix
may have been something of a slow-burner in terms of excitement, but the steady build-up to an exciting last few laps masked some notable performances.
Most of those came from the drivers ultimately rewarded with points, led by Sebastian Vettel, who controlled the race from start to finish. Having got the jump on poleman Lewis Hamilton, the local hero was able to resist everyone who showed an interest in wresting top spot from him, not least in the final few laps.
Although his victory hopes appeared to have vanished when he made a third and final stop for tyres, taking on the softer Pirellis for a ten-lap sprint to the line almost paid dividends. for Kimi Raikkonen, who wound up just a second - and maybe a couple more laps - short of depriving Vettel a first home win. The Finn charged through from third to get within DRS distance of the leader, but could not make a move stick when he needed it.
Second place could, conceivably, have gone the way of Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean, who turned in his best performance - and first points - since Bahrain. Setting a blistering pace having assumed the lead during the first round on pit-stops, Grosjean didn't quite have enough of a cushion to rejoin in front of Vettel, and was ultimately denied runners-up honours when Lotus reminded him that his team-mate was 'on a different strategy'.
As Grosjean's medium Pirellis showed the signs of having to run 20-odd laps to the flag, the Frenchman almost fell prey to Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard having turned in another stealthy - and definitely unspectacular - drive to a solid points haul. Fourth place wasn't enough to stop Vettel re-opening the championship gap, but underlined the wisdom of Ferrari
qualifying both its cars on the harder tyre with one eye on race strategy.
There was a big gap between the top four and the rest of the pointscorers, with Hamilton eventually rounding out the top five after a battle with the tyres on his Mercedes. Swamped by both Red Bulls at the start, the Briton slipped back down the order, and had to pull a last lap move on countryman Jenson Button
to secure fifth.
Button again transcended the potential of his McLaren, running as high as third as the team's decision not to set a qualifying time and then start on the harder tyre allowed him to run a lot deeper into the race than his rivals. While a podium was never really on the cards, fifth appeared viable until the 2009 world champion was delayed by both Caterhams, allowing Hamilton to capitalise.
Sixth place was never under threat, with Mark Webber
a further ten seconds down the road, but that the Australian was in the points at all was a minor miracle given that he lost a lap after Red Bull
failed to secure the right-rear wheel properly at his first pit-stop. Allowed to regain the lead lap under the safety car, Webber then carved his way through the pack to eventually take seventh spot.
The top ten was rounded out, for the second week running, by Nico Hulkenberg, the German securing another vital point for the beleaguered Sauber team. Like Button, 'the Hulk' ran higher up the order at times, but had to settle for finishing ahead of both Force Indias and the remaining Toro Rosso
of Daniel Ricciardo.
The remaining contender for driver of the day honours only finished 15th, but that was not a fair reflection of Pastor Maldonado's efforts in a Williams
far from suited to the demands of the Nurburgring. The Venezuelan could sense a first point of the season until his final pit-stop fell victim to a sticky wheel gun....
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