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Alonso extends lead with dominant win
22 July 2012
Having secured pole position in the rain at Hockenheim, Fernando Alonso showed he could be just as quick in the dry to secure his third win of the season in the German Grand Prix.
The Spaniard was able to keep his place at the head of the field when the lights went out with a perfect start, and quickly set about established an advantage out front, although he was never able to pull out too much of a lead over the chasing pack behind.
Having managed to see off the challenge of Michael Schumacher through the early laps, Sebastian Vettel cemented his place as Alonso's closest challenger through the first part of the race as the leading pair gradually eased away from the battle behind.
Schumacher himself would keep third for the opening ten laps before losing out to a charging Jenson Button at the hairpin on lap eleven, two laps after the McLaren man had made a similar move for fourth on the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg.
Through the opening stint, Alonso maintained his advantage over defending champion Vettel, but when the pair swapped to the medium Pirelli tyres, Vettel was able to close the gap to put the Spaniard under increasing pressure.
Button however was also bringing himself into contention for victory, with his chances aided by team-mate Lewis Hamilton, who was running well down the order having been forced to pit with a puncture caused by debris from the front wing of Felipe Massa after the Ferrari man was involved in a clash at the start.
Despite running a lap down, Hamilton was lapping quicker than Alonso and Vettel who were ahead on track and unlapped himself from Vettel which allowed Button to close on the Red Bull driver.
Button then pitted first for the second and final time and when Vettel dived in a lap later, he resumed just as Button came round turn one. Carrying more speed, Button was able to sweep ahead into second place and did his best to chase Alonso down before starting to suffer with his tyres in the closing laps.
That allowed Vettel to challenge on the penultimate lap having activated his DRS on the run to the hairpin, with the German trying to go round the outside on the right-hander. Putting four-wheels off the track to complete the move, Vettel moved back into second in a move that left Button far from impressed. Alonso however was too far up the road for Vettel to challenge, with the points leader securing his third victory of 2012 to strengthen his advantage at the head of the title race.
Vettel crossed the line three second behind in second with Button third for his first podium finish since the third race of the year in China. Whether the result remains the same is open to debate however with McLaren having complained to the stewards about the way in which Vettel took second from Button with a lap to go.
Behind the top three, Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Lotus after a lonely race for the Finn, while behind him, Sauber pair Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez bounced back well from a disappointing qualifying performance to secure fifth and sixth. Perez in particular enjoyed a strong race having started down in 17th thanks to a five-place grid penalty.
Despite his strong showing early on, Schumacher could only manage seventh place as he failed to make a three-stop strategy work – despite lapping quicker than those around him on the final lap with fresher tyres.
Failing to show the kind of pace that allowed him to set the third quickest time in qualifying, before his penalty for a gearbox change was applied, Mark Webber could only manage eighth while Hulkenberg slipped down the order to ninth at the finish – taking the flag less than a second ahead of countryman Nico Rosberg who also used a three-stop strategy to come back from his post-qualifying penalty and score the final point.
Outside the points however, it was a tough race for a number of the fancied runners with Hamilton being the only person not to finish after pitting to retire in the closing laps. Massa had to settle for 13th place after his early stop for a new nose, while both Bruno Senna and Romain Grosjean were forced to pit at the end of the first lap for new tyres.
Senna would be down in 17th place with Grosjean 18th – both taking the finish behind the Caterham of Vitaly Petrov. Spanish GP winner Pastor Maldonado struggled for speed throughout the race and could only take the flag down in 15th.
As a result of his victory, Alonso will now take a lead of 34 points into the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend in Budapest.
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