Sebastian Vettel found the perfect way to respond to the disappointment of losing victory in the closing stages at Silverstone, winning his home race for the first time.
The German appeared to have the British Grand Prix in the bag when his car ground to a halt with transmission problems just eleven laps from home, and victory at the Nurburgring didn't come without its own headaches, but the three-time world champion was not only able to scratch another race and venue from his 'to do' list, but also ended the hoodoo that had previously prevented him from winning in the month of July.
Vettel's ambitions received a major boost as the lights went out, resisting a squeeze from polesitter Lewis Hamilton and a brave move from an equally fast-starting Mark Webber to emerge from turn one in front. From there, he was able to retain the advantage, but not for the want of trying, particularly from the Lotus team.
With both Red Bulls having got ahead of Hamilton, Webber was Vettel's initial challenger, the Australian clearly enjoying the feel of his RB9 around one of his favourite circuits. The threat was removed, however, with only eight laps on the board when Webber, who had briefly inherited the lead when Vettel made his first pit-stop, had his switch from soft to medium Pirellis go horribly wrong.
While RBR turned Vettel around in the fastest time to that point, Webber was signalled to leave even as the mechanics struggled to fit his right-rear wheel. Notwithstanding the potential for injury to his crew, the Australian would have seen his errant wheel overtake him, before striking an FOM cameraman standing, oblivious to the drama, further down pit-lane….
Webber's pit-stop had promoted Romain Grosjean to the lead, and the Frenchman did what he could to stretch the gap back to Vettel as he pushed his soft Pirellis to lap 13 – fully six more than the world champion. Despite setting a rapid pace, Grosjean's efforts proved to be in vain as he rejoined in third, with Jenson Button – who went as far as anyone on his first stint having started on the mediums – between the pacesetters.
Grosjean made short work of the McLaren and, once again, began eating into Vettel's advantage. His cause was aided by a bizarre incident on lap 23 when Jules Bianchi's abandoned Marussia – which had been sidelined by a spectacular engine failure – began rolling back down the hill leading to the chicane. Fortunately, as with the incident involving the cameraman, there were no serious human cost, but the safety car was scrambled to effect a second rescue attempt, allowing the leaders to make a free pit-stop under caution.
Although Vettel then got the jump at the lap 30 restart, both Grosjean and the chasing Kimi Raikkonen were able to match the German's lap times, and gradually began to edge closer, although neither was able to make the subsequent DRS assistance work in their favour. Despite optimistic suggestions that Grosjean may try to run to the end on his third set of tyres, he pitted on lap 40 – still 20 laps shy of his target – and fitted another set of the mediums in a bid to out-last his rival – only for Red Bull to pit Vettel next time around.
RBR's move allowed Raikkonen into the lead and, for some time, it looked as though Lotus has stolen a march, with the Finn also bordering on being able to go to the end, particularly given the Enstone team's ability to preserve its tyres and the fact that Webber had managed 36 laps on a race simulation earlier in the weekend.
With Vettel closing in, however, Lotus took the decision to pit the leader and switch him back to the softer compound, in the hope of being able to overhaul the German as his harder tyres faded. The stop also allowed Grosjean back into second spot, prompting the question of team orders should Raikkonen's progress go as intended.
Having advised the Frenchman that his team-mate was 'on a different strategy', Lotus was relieved to see that there was little resistance on Grosjean's part, Raikkonen sweeping through with five laps to run. From there, the Finn was able to eat into Vettel's slim advantage but, crucially, got to within spitting distance of gaining DRS assistance without being able to use it.
Vettel, who later revealed that he had been struggling with a KERS problem since the middle of the race, duly held on to win by a single second, with Lotus ruing its man getting stuck behind an intra-team battle involving the two Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton attempted to pass the slower Nico Rosberg between their respective first stops.
Grosjean naturally cut a slightly dejected figure on the podium, despite collecting his first points – also for third place – since Bahrain, sensing that he had had a chance to take his first F1, and at a time when his seat at Lotus is still thought to be under threat.
The Frenchman almost lost third place to Fernando Alonso, the Spaniard having had another stealthy run into a decent points finish. Without ever seeming to have the pace of the two teams ahead of him, the Ferrari driver kept himself in contention for a top five result, before homing in on Grosjean late on, eventually missing out on a podium by a couple of seconds.
Behind Alonso, places were changing right to the end, not least for fifth, where Hamilton passed countryman Button on the final lap. Having seen his pole position advantage wiped out in the distance from lights to turn one, the Briton struggled with the medium tyres as well as being delayed behind Rosberg, but fought back in the closing stages to take advantage of Button being baulked by the Caterhams.
Button, clearly frustrated, crossed the line in sixth spot, equalling his Monaco result, while Webber, having been able to unlap himself under the safety car for Bianchi's runaway Marussia, charged up the order to claim seventh – some reward for what he later described as 'a massive own goal' in pit-lane.
The Australian's final victim was the second McLaren of Sergio Perez, which had earlier gone wheel-to-wheel with Button through turn one as McLaren attempted to make the most of starting the Mexican on the softer tyre. A relatively uneventful race saw Perez bounce around the lower reaches of the points before eventually taking four points, with a comfortable advantage over Rosberg and the battling Nico Hulkenberg who, for the second weekend in a row, salvaged a vital point for the struggling Sauber team.
Missing out this time around was Force India, which brought Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil home in eleventh and 13th, either side of Daniel Ricciardo, who was unable, on this occasion, to translate a top ten start into points. Team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne suffered a second successive DNF, joining Bianchi and Felipe Massa – who spun inexplicably at turn one early in the race – on the sidelines.
Pastor Maldonado had appeared on course for Williams' first points of the year, only to be robbed by a faulty tyre change at his final stop. The Venezuelan eventually sunk to 15th, behind Esteban Gutierrez and ahead of Williams team-mate Valtteri Bottas while Charles Pic overcame his own gremlins to win the battle of the backmarkers ahead of Caterham team-mate Giedo van der Garde and Marussia's Max Chilton.
Vettel's victory - his fourth of the year – re-established his advantage over Alonso to 34 points, with Red Bull enjoying a 67-point cushion over Mercedes in the constructors' table heading into a three-week break before Hungary.