Sebastian Vettel has revealed that there was no plan to his third and final-pit stop other than trying to retain the lead of his home grand prix.
The German had been in front for the majority of the race, having jumped poleman Lewis Hamilton at the start, but came under increasing pressure from both Lotus drivers as the Nurburgring event wore on. The black cars appeared easier on their tyres than the leader's Red Bull, but Romain Grosjean was the first to blink as the race headed into its closing stages, stopping for fresh set of Pirelli's medium compound tyres with a third of the race to run.
Prior to that, there had been suggestions that perhaps the Frenchman would try and stretch his second set to the end in a bid to outlast Vettel and claim a maiden F1 win, but even the frugal Lotus team realised that that wasn't going to be possible.
One lap later, Vettel was summoned for his final stop, also taking on the mediums given the distance still to run. That allowed Kimi Raikkonen to assume the lead and, again, the Finn's run prompted suggestions that he could nurse his tyres to the flag, as he done en route
to victory in the Melbourne season-opener. However, a frantic exchange over the – admittedly intermittent - Lotus intercom eventually saw Raikkonen heading in – but for a set of softs that could theoretically be the difference between first and second place.
Dealing easily with team-mate Grosjean – who did not make it difficult for a driver he was reminded was 'on a different strategy' – Raikkonen gradually chipped away at Vettel's lead, eventually reducing it to a single second and picking up DRS assistance on the final lap.
Fortunately for Vettel, the pace bonus wasn't quite enough to bridge the gap before the chequer came out, although the German subsequently conceded that he relieved the race hadn't been over 62 laps…
Asked whether the call to pit immediately after Grosjean had been designed to cover the threat from the Frenchman, however, Vettel initially insisted that there had been no hidden agenda.
“No, I don't think it was the plan,” he revealed after the race, “The tyres were holding up okay and the gap to Romain was increasing a little bit again at that time.