Lewis Hamilton took advantage of some fast pit stops and some brave overtaking manoeuvres to win the German Grand Prix – his second victory of 2011 and the sixteenth of his career.
Fernando Alonso took second place but ran out of fuel on his way back round to the pits. He was given a lift to the podium by Mark Webber, who finished third.
The forecasted rain stayed away from the NÃ¼rburgring for the entire race, one which saw Sebastian Vettel miss out on a podium finish for the first time this year. However, the world champion did overtake Felipe Massa in a late pit-lane battle to finish fourth.
German drivers Adrian Sutil, Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher finished the race in sixth, seventh and eighth. Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov took the final points.
Despite a brief shower before the start of the race, every driver left the grid for the formation lap on slick tyres – the track was not wet enough for the intermediate Pirelli rubber. The track temperature was a chilly 14°C and drivers were going to struggle to get heat into whatever compound they used this afternoon.
As the five red lights went out, Lewis Hamilton got off to a great start and took the lead from Mark Webber. Sebastian Vettel found himself as the meat in a Ferrari sandwich through the first corner and challenged his Red Bull team-mate for second place before losing P3 to Alonso. Alonso gifted P3 back to Vettel at the beginning of Lap 2 after going off the track.
Further down the field there was a coming together between Nick Heidfeld and Paul di Resta, dropping them both down to the back of the pack. Big winners off the start-line were Kamui Kobayashi, who found himself twelfth at the end of the second lap despite starting eighteenth, and Sebastien Buemi, who was up to P18 within two laps after starting from the back of the grid.
At the end of Lap 4, Hamilton had a lead of 1.8 seconds over Webber, who was a further 0.8 seconds ahead of team-mate Vettel. Alonso was 0.7 seconds further down in fourth and Nico Rosberg was running fifth, three seconds behind Alonso.
There was soon a battle developing on track between Vettel and Alonso and, at the beginning of Lap 8, Alonso took third place from the world champion at the end of the start/finish straight. There was no such luck for Felipe Massa in the other Ferrari – he was stuck behind Rosberg during this stage of the race and, despite constant encouragement from his race engineer, could not find a way past the Mercedes driver.
Vettel had a big moment on Lap 9. The German was coming into Turn 10 when he put a wheel off the circuit and spun his car round. He did not lose fourth place, but dropped right back into the clutched of fifth place man Nico Rosberg.
The first retirement of the day was Lap 11 when Nick Heidfeld attempted to pass Sebastien Buemi. Heidfeld's Renault was squeezed out by Buemi and went into the back of the Toro Rosso, became briefly airborne, and then beached itself in a gravel trap. In a way, the race-ending accident came at the right time for Heidfeld as he had just been given a drive-through penalty for causing the opening lap collision with Paul di Resta.
Webber had a go at Hamilton down into the final corner of Lap 12, but Hamilton cut back inside Webber at the beginning of the start/finish straight and using the straight-line speed advantage of the McLaren, Hamilton re-took the lead of the grand prix.
This contretemps between the two front-runners allowed Alonso to catch them up, and soon he was having a go at getting past Webber.
Instead of attempting to hold off the impending onslaught from Alonso, Webber then came in for his first pit stop at the end of Lap 14. He came out of the pits in traffic, just behind the Force India of Adrian Sutil.
Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel all made their first stop at the end of Lap 16. Hamilton and Alonso came out of the pits just behind a battle between Felipe Massa and Mark Webber. Webber had made the undercut work and now had track position over Hamilton and Alonso.
Massa, who was temporarily leading the race, went into the pits for his first stop at the end of Lap 17. He came out ahead of Vettel, whose home race was by no means going to plan.
At the end of Lap 20, Webber had a lead of 1.1 seconds over Hamilton, who was 1.2 seconds ahead of Alonso in third.
Michael Schumacher, who had caught up with team-mate Rosberg by the time the first round of pit stops was complete, then copied Vettel's earlier spin almost exactly. This lost him about 15 seconds, and dropped him a couple of places to P9.
Webber pitted for the second time at the end of Lap 30, the halfway point of the grand prix, and indeed the 2011 season. Hamilton pitted the next time round, and came out of the pits in front of Webber. Hamilton almost lost the position around the first corner of Lap 32, but Webber could not make his move stick.
Alonso pitted on the following lap, and came out of the pits ahead of Hamilton. However, Hamilton had a go at the Ferrari driver around the outside of Turn 2 and, unlike Webber on the previous lap, managed to pull off the move.
Webber, who had come into the pits in the lead, was now down in third place. Hamilton, thanks to his tenacity, was once again the race leader.
Hamilton then began putting in a series of fastest laps, but McLaren team-mate Jenson Button was told to park his car in the garage with a terminal hydraulics problem. He had been running in P8 at the time.
Vettel made his second stop at the end of Lap 40, and Massa came in one lap later. The Ferrari driver kept track position over the world champion.
Vitaly Petrov was the first driver to put on a set of the medium prime tyres. This was on Lap 48. All of the front-runners still needed to use this tyre before the end of the grand prix, and so they would be watching the Russians' lap times carefully.
At the end of Lap 50, ten laps from the chequered flag, Hamilton had a lead of exactly two seconds from Alonso, and Webber was a further 7.3 seconds back. Hamilton came in for a set of the prime tyres at the end of Lap 51.
Ferrari decided not to bring Alonso in on the next lap, deciding that Hamilton was not benefitting from the fresh rubber. Alonso came in at the end of Lap 53 instead, but could not stay out ahead of Hamilton.
Now only Mark Webber could ruin Hamilton's afternoon, but his lap times were gradually getting slower and slower. His soft tyres were losing grip and Hamilton, on his harder tyres, was already setting faster laps than the Australian.
Webber made his stop at the end of Lap 56, giving the race lead back to Hamilton, and second place to Alonso.
The last bit of excitement for this grand prix was the final pit stops of Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel. Massa still had track position over the German, but both needed to stop for a set of the prime tyres. The both came in at the end of the penultimate lap, and Vettel got out of the pits ahead of Massa, taking fourth place.
German Grand Prix 2011: Provisional Results
|2||5||Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||60||+3.9 secs||18||Report|
|3||2||Mark Webber||Red Bull||60||+9.7 secs||15||Report|
|4||1||Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull||60||+47.9 secs||12||Report|
|5||6||Felipe Massa||Ferrari||60||+52.2 secs||10||Report|
|6||14||Adrian Sutil||Force India||60||+86.2 secs||8||Report|
|7||8||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes||59||+1 Lap||6||Report|
|8||7||Michael Schumacher||Mercedes||59||+1 Lap||4||Report|
|9||16||Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||59||+1 Lap||2||Report|
|10||10||Vitaly Petrov||Renault||59||+1 Lap||1||Report|
|11||17||Sergio Perez||Sauber||59||+1 Lap||Report|
|12||19||Jaime Alguersuari||Toro Rosso||59||+1 Lap||Report|
|13||15||Paul di Resta||Force India||59||+1 Lap||Report|
|14||12||Pastor Maldonado||Williams||59||+1 Lap||Report|
|15||18||Sebastien Buemi||Toro Rosso||59||+1 Lap||Report|
|16||20||Heikki Kovalainen||Team Lotus||58||+2 Laps||Report|
|17||24||Timo Glock||Virgin Racing||57||+3 Laps||Report|
|18||25||Jerome D'Ambrosio||Virgin Racing||57||+3 Laps||Report|
|19||22||Daniel Ricciardo||HRT||57||+3 Laps||Report|
|20||21||Karun Chandhok||Team Lotus||56||+4 Laps||Report|
|Ret||23||Vitantonio Liuzzi||HRT||37||+23 Laps||Report|
|Ret||4||Jenson Button||McLaren||35||+25 Laps||Report|
|Ret||11||Rubens Barrichello||Williams||16||+44 Laps||Report|
|Ret||9||Nick Heidfeld||Renault||9||+51 Laps||Report|