F1 Nurburgring Race Results & Report: Hamilton Pushes to the Win, Vettel 4th

What Happens When We Don’t Need Rain for a Good Race

9:54am EST — Lewis Hamilton won the 2011 German Grand Prix, a race marked by close fighting amongst the leaders and well through the field, despite a lack of rain. Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber completed the hard-fought podium, in a race were the lead changed not just from pit stops but actual on-track passing. After the final pit stops, Hamilton took the lead he lost in a fast stop by Ferrari back decisively, pushing Alonso out of the way. Webber had no chance to fight for anything higher than third after Red Bull kept him out a long time on degrading softs in the final few laps. On the other side of the garage, a last lap pit stop allowed Sebastian Vettel to take fourth from Felipe Massa as the Red Bull boys got the German out ahead of Massa.

Webber (1:30.079) started the race on pole after holding off a stunning late fast lap from Hamilton, who started on the front row after a weekend of disappointing times. Vettel was next to Alonso on the second row, the first time the German started a race in the 2011 season off the front row. Saturday’s qualifying was one of the most exciting of the season, with surprising drivers in the knockout zone during each of the sessions, only to haul themselves forward with late fast laps.

Alonso was the first man to go quickest during the Friday morning practice, only to be displaced by Webber that afternoon, then Vettel on Saturday morning. All three practice sessions saw multiple drivers slide through the gravel traps and work on their rallying skills, though only Buemi on Friday and Chandhok on Saturday had any problems in getting back out of the kitty litter. Saturday was an even worse day for Buemi, after he was excluded from qualifying for mis-matched fuel samples over the course of the weekend. He will start from the back of the grid, next to Tonio Liuzzi, who was given a five-place grid penalty for a Friday gearbox change.

It began to rain lightly about ten minutes before the race start, becoming more heavy as the start time approached. All drivers started on dry tires, with Hamilton taking the lead from Webber as Vettel got pushed between a weaving and diving Alonso and Massa, with the Spaniard taking third position. Massa had the better start of the Ferraris, but his push toward Vettel distracted the German and allowed ALonso to push through. di Resta and Heidfeld had a moment together, but both continued on in the rear of the field. At the end of the first lap, Hamilton led Webber by over a second, with Alonso, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Sutil, Petrov, Schumahcer, and Button the top ten. However, Alonso soon had a moment, losing the rear end and allowing Vettel to capitalize and take third. Hamilton was off at the front, nearly two seconds ahead of Webber.

However, Webber gained a tenth, then more back on Hamilton, with the two trading fast sectors. Meanwhile, Vettel was still less than a second ahead of Alonso, whose rear continued to step out on him on the slightly damp but drying track. Massa started to push, as Rob Smedley kept telling him he needed to take fifth from Rosberg. Perhaps Alonso got the message meant for his teammate, having slid under Vettel for third into the first turn, coming up behind him on the front straight and going the tiniest bit wide into the turn to force Vettel far enough out of the way to go through.

Perez was the first to pit on L9. Vettel continued to go backward, after a rallying stage that lost him seven seconds after touching the white line and Astroturf. He was quickly into the clutches of Rosberg and Massa.

Hamilton led Webber by only seven tenths as the tenth lap ended, with Alonso, Vettel, Rosberg, Massa, Sutil, Schumacher, Petrov, and Button the top ten. Meanwhile, Heidfeld and Buemi got together as Heidfeld moved to the right of Buemi, with the Swiss driver pushing him a bit farther over (possibly not seeing him) and into the grass, launching Heidfeld through the grass and into the gravel. Just before that, Heidfeld had been given a drive-through penalty for causing the collision with di Resta. Into the first turn, Massa took Rosberg much as his teammate did Vettel earlier.

However, the fight at the front was quite hot, as Webber pushed Hamilton as the Briton went a bit wide as they went past Heidfeld’s car being craned away. Webber pushed through to take the lead, as Hamilton came back at him on the pit straight in a move that looked much like the McLaren teammates’ coming together a few weeks ago, only Hamilton was along the wall and made the pass cleanly. Alonso was right behind the two of them, attempting to dive under Webber for second, though he told Ferrari that it would be time to pit for tires soon.

Webber pitted for his second set of soft tires on L15, as did Rosberg. Webber rejoined in sixth, in the middle of a traffic jam. Schumacher was the next to pit as Alonso was just over a second behind Hamilton at the front. Webber moved up to fifth around Sutil, but Hamilton and Alonso stopped on L17. Vettel also pitted in the middle of a fight between himself and Massa, and Webber approaching from behind. On their way out of the pit lane, Hamilton and Alonso came out just as the dueling Massa and Webber, who were then leading, were passing pit out. Webber tried to go around Massa on the outside, going a bit off , pushing the Brazilian very hard. He did not take the lead just then.

However, Massa pitted on L18, directly from the lead, leaving Webber to lead his first lap of the race. Alonso had another look on Hamilton for second, but did not take the position. By the end of L20, Webber had just over a second on Hamilton, with Alonso, Sutil, Button, Petrov, Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, and Schumacher the top then. Sutil, Button, and Petrov (fourth through sixth) had yet to stop. Petrov was quickly losing position on his older tires, as Massa then Vettel were easily through on the Russian. Rosberg, though, had a much more difficult time as his teammate was also pushing from behind. Both Mercedes drivers had on fresher tires. Rosberg finally went through as Schumacher followed him and looked to take position from his younger teammate.

Lost in the actual racing on the track, Barrichello had retired with an oil leak. His former teammate also began to have a bad day, spinning just where Vettel had earlier and getting suck spinning himself back around on a runoff area. He dropped to ninth. Button was the next to pit, after Petov and Alguersuari. That left only Kovalainen and d’Ambrosio yet to stop, though all the drivers would have to stop again for the harder compound tires. Meanwhile, Red Bull informed Vettel that he might have issues with his rear brakes. At the front, the top three had over twenty-two seconds on Massa in fourth, and nearly no one on track was closer than those in the top three.

Just before the halfway point, Mike Gascoyne helpfully informed those on Twitter that “rain maybe 30-40 mins away.” The top three continued to close their gaps, with Hamilton eight tenths off Webber, and Alonso seven tenths behind his former teammate. Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, Sutil, Button, Schumacher, and Kobayashi completed the top ten. They still led at halfway, though Webber dove to the pits as L31 began. He rejoined in third, as Hamilton stopped on the next lap and came out in the lead Webber was stuck behind Kovalainen. Webber took a look and went to take the lead back, but Hamilton pushed him wide to stay in the proverbial lead. It was the actual lead on the next lap as Alonso pitted. Alonso took the lead coming out of the pits, only to have Hamilton go around the outside to claim the lead again. Alonso had been a bit wide out of the first turn, leaving room for the Briton to take the position through the next turn.

Hamilton led Alonso and Webber after they three had completed their second stops, though they each had one more stop to complete. Massa remained fourth, with Vettel completing the top five, though Massa was then just under seven seconds behind Webber. Quickly, Hamilton gained a gap of two and a half seconds on Alonso by the end of L34. His teammate was in a fight for sixth with fellow Mercedes-powered driver Rosberg, taking the position as the German went a bit wide through Turn 1. It would not last, as Button’s McLaren had a hydraulics issue and the team told him to retire.

McLaren next told Hamilton that, to help for the next pit stop, the team would need his right-hand clutch to be further away from him. Schumacher pitted on L38, for another set of softs with twenty-two laps remaining. At the front, Hamilton had 2.8s on Alonso, who had his own gap of 4.6s over Webber. Massa, Vettel, Sutil, Kobayashi, Rosberg, Petrov, and Perez completed the top ten, though Vettel pitted as L40 ended. Liuzzi, meanwhile, had pulled over at the end of the pit straight, ending his race. Massa stopped the next time around, coming out just ahead of Vettel and maintaining the order. Vettel locked up while they were fighting, using an escape road and being forced to allow Massa to get back ahead.

McLaren gently reminded Hamilton that he needed to conserve his softer tires as the harder compound (which he still needed to switch to) would be at least a second slower, and he needed to make this soft set last as long as possible. Hamilton had more than three seconds on Alonso, as Ferrari informed Alonso of the McLaren plans.

As the laps ticked down, Alonso maintained the gap to Hamilton, but Webber continued to drop back. All three had forty or so seconds on Massa in fourth. However, Schumacher and Petrov were providing a grand battle, with both dicing over ninth and diving down an escape road. Petrov pitted on the next lap for the harder tire. Vettel finally picked up the pace, coming up just eight tenths behind Massa. Sutil next pitted from behind them, as did Kobayashi from ninth.

Hamilton’s gap over Alonso was down to two seconds, with Webber another 5.3s behind the Spaniard. Massa, Vettel, Rosberg, Sutil, Schumacher, and the lapped di Resta and Kobayashi completed the top ten. Vettel had moved up to directly behind Massa’s gearbox. Hamilton pitted as L52 began, having told the team his tires were going off, and rejoined in third. Ferrari were next out into the pit lane, though Alonso did no pit. Alonso’s time was seven tenths faster than Hamilton, even as he was out on the fresh tires. Alonso did lose time to Webber, pitting on L54 with just four seconds on Webber. Webber did not pit, but Alonso came out behind Hamilton.

Further back, Vettel continued to push Massa for fourth, as his teammate lost time on the old soft tires in the lead. Webber stayed out, with a slower lap and stuck in traffic as Rosberg came out of the pit lane directly in front of the leader. He remained out as five laps remained, with just under twelve seconds between Webber and Hamilton, thereby guaranteeing the Australian nothing better than third. Meanwhile, Vettel’s engineer reminded him to be patient, that “these are good points today,” and to not try anything silly.

Finally, Webber stopped on L57, gifting Hamilton the lead and a three and a half second gap to Alonso. Schumacher also pitted from seventh, giving that position to his teammate. However, the drama began to heighten over fourth position as Red Bull told Vettel to do the opposite of Massa as the Ferrari mechanics were out in the pit lane. However, neither stopped with two laps to go. Hamilton posted the race fast lap to increase his lead as both Massa and Vettel pitted. Vettel nearly ran into the back of Massa into the pit lane, then Vettel took fourth after a slower stop from Ferrari. Hamilton took the win, ahead of Alonso and Webber after an up and down weekend in the McLaren garage. On the cool-down lap, Alonso stopped his Ferrari and had to get a ride back to parc ferme on Webber’s Red Bull, which might just be against the rules. Alonso had not enough fuel, according to team radio, to get back around and, likely, have enough for the FIA to test. Hamilton also jumped the fence to leap into the arms of his mechanics, another bit of rule-breaking from all three on the podium.

Final Positions, 2011 German Grand Prix:

Driver Team Gap
1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren
2. Fernando Alonso Ferrari +3.9
3. Mark Webber Red Bull +9.7
4. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull +47.9
5. Felipe Massa Ferrari +52.2
6. Adrian Sutil Force India +86.2
7. Nico Rosberg Mercedes GP +1 Lap
8. Michael Schumacher Mercedes GP +1 Lap
9. Kamui Kobayashi Sauber +1 Lap
10. Vitaly Petrov Renault +1 Lap
11. Sergio Perez Sauber +1 Lap
12. Jaime Alguersuari Toro Rosso +1 Lap
13. Paul di Resta Force India +1 Lap
14. Pastor Maldonado Williams +1 Lap
15. Sebastien Buemi Toro Rosso +1 Lap
16. Heikki Kovalainen Lotus +2 Laps
17. Timo Glock Virgin Racing +3 Laps
18. Jerome D’Ambrosio Virgin Racing +3 Laps
19. Daniel Ricciardo HRT +3 Laps
20. Karun Chandhok Lotus +4 Laps
Tonio Liuzzi HRT +23 Laps
Jenson Button McLaren +25 Laps
Rubens Barrichello Williams +44 Laps
Nick Heidfeld Renault +51 Laps

1 Comment

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