Hockenheim

2014 German GP Race Report

After a morning of mixed weather conditions, the drivers were wheeled to the grid under a dry if overcast track. A likely threat of rain during the race kept the strategists guessing before the start, especially for AMG Mercedes as they tried to optimise their result with Nico Rosberg on pole and team mate Lewis Hamilton well down in 20th, after a gearbox penalty.

From the start it was Nico Rosberg who comfortably made the best getaway, with the action unfolding behind him as Williams driver Felipe Massa and the fast starting McLaren of rookie Kevin Magnussen collided at the first corner. Whilst it appeared to be a racing incident, despite Massa’s protests of it being Magnussen’s fault, the end result was a spectacular flip for an uninjured Massa and a severe derailment to Magnussen and Red Bull man Daniel Ricciardo’s race.

The Safety Car was scrambled for one lap to retrieve Massa’s stricken Williams, before the re-start which saw the other Williams of the quick young Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas try his best to hang onto the Mercedes of Rosberg out front. The advantage of the Mercedes is such that Rosberg was comfortably able to open a gap to the rest, as the attention focused back to the recovery drives of the other Mercedes of Hamilton and Ricciardo.

Both were flying through the field with apparent ease, reaching the fringes of the top 10 by lap 8. A lap later and they receiver further help as Scuderia Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat hit the Sahara Force-India of Sergio Perez he was battling, with replays showing Kvyat didn’t give Perez enough room when attempting the pass at Turn 8.

Hamilton then made several more places with an audacious double pass on Ricciardo and the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen going into Turn 6 after the back straight on lap 13, with a slight nudge on Raikkonen the only contact between the three. The left Hamilton 8th and climbing as others around him started pitting for new soft tyres. The top 2 Rosberg and Bottas pitted on lap 15, re-joining either side of Hamilton.

A long first stint appeared to be paying off for Hamilton as he easily held 3rd, before his tyres started giving up on lap 22, subsequently losing him roughly 1 second a lap before his finally pitted from 3rd on lap 26, re-joining 8th. Back at the front, and Rosberg was serenely building a 13 second advantage over Bottas in 2nd as he appeared to be cruising to a first home victory.

On the other hand, Hamilton was having anything but a serene race as he battled back through the pack for a second time, giving Jenson Button in his McLaren a love tap to the side pod exiting Turn 6 after a misunderstanding. Although he attempted to apologise later on the damage was already done as the front wing damage to the Mercedes was enough to hamper his tyre management for the rest of the afternoon.

As the second pit stop window began from roughly lap 33, the action intensified as reigning champion Sebastien Vettel and former champion Fernando Alonso carried over their epic battle from the British GP two weeks ago. Eventually it was Vettel who was able to use newer tyres to pass the Ferrari of Alonso for 4th some laps later.

Both the Mercedes drivers were now complaining about their tyres, something they rectified as they stopped on lap 41 and 42 respectively. For Rosberg this was simply routine, yet for Hamilton it was anything but. His stop signalled a drastic change of strategy from a two to a three stop race. This left him able to charge down the rest with a short stint on the super soft tyres, before a conservation final run on another set of the super soft tyres.

Lap 50 saw Sauber driver Adrian Sutil suffer a strange spin exiting the final corner, leaving the car unable to re-start precariously and potentially necessitating a late Safety Car. Sensing a potential Safety Car, Mercedes gambled on pitting Hamilton to steal a remarkable 2nd place a lap later. The Safety Car never materialised leaving thing tough for a potential podium now.

Things improved however as Alonso pitted with tyres that were completely shot on lap 55, leaving Hamilton 3rd and chasing down Bottas who was also struggling with his tyres in 2nd. Behind them Ricciardo was also using new tyres to charge up the field, although he soon had Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari on his rear wing challenging him for his 5th place.

What ensured was a truly brilliant battle between the two as they constantly changed places over successive laps, until the fun was ended as Alonso finally made it through on lap 62 exiting Turn 9. From her the attention for the final laps turned to Hamilton, who was desperately trying to pass Bottas but to no avail as Bottas held on behind a dominant Rosberg for 2nd , with Hamilton completing the podium in 3rd. Sebastien Vettel came home a quiet 4th from Alonso in 5th and Ricciardo coming home 6th.

Nico Hulkenberg delivered again in 7th, with Jenson Button in 8th from team mate Magnussen who recovered well to come home 9th. Completing the top 10 was Sergio Perez in 10th. From here the F1 circus moves on to Hungary before a well deserved 3 week break for the F1 paddock before the final run in begins at Spa in Belgium.

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2014 German GP Qualifying Report

After Lewis Hamilton’s heroics at his home grand prix two weeks ago, the shoe is on the other foot this weekend as AMG Mercedes team mate Nico Rosberg will be hoping for the same result as his and the team’s home race at Hockenheim.

The build up to the weekend has been dominated so far with talk surrounding the sudden banning of the FRIC (Front and rear interconnected suspension) systems, which all 11 teams are running this year. It seems the FIA has decided they have become far too complex and too much of an moveable aerodynamic device, leading to their ban starting this weekend.

There was much anticipation therefore in the paddock to see what kind of effect this ban had on the order, although the session would have to go some to be more entertaining than the mixed conditions in Britain two weeks ago provided. Q1 hadn’t even began before Caterham were struggling as a hydraulic problem with Marcus Ericsson’s car left him unlikely to compete in the session at all, something which was later confirmed halfway through the session.

At the front however, it was the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton that set the first truly competitive lap time with a 1.18.693, a cool 0.7 seconds quicker than the rest halfway through Q1. On the other hand, a small shockwave was sent through the paddock a minute later as Finland’s Valtteri Bottas confidently put his Williams-Mercedes top of the times by a cool 0.4 of a second over the rest. For Rosberg, it appeared his home race was proving a burden rather than an advantage, as he made two separate mistakes on successive qualifying laps.

The drama of Q1 was soon provided as Hamilton suffered a front right brake disc failure, which pitched him into the banked stadium section Turn 13 tyre wall. The fast impact left Hamilton sounding slightly winded in the aftermath, and sent the red flags flying with 7 minutes left.

After the small delay a frantic final 7 minutes was set up as everyone ventured back out on track with the one lap super soft tyres. The action proved fast and frantic, with the unfortunate casualties of Q1 being firstly Adrian Sutil who is resigned to 17th in his Sauber-Ferrari for his home grand prix.

Alongside him in 18th is Jules Bianchi in his Marussia-Ferrari, with row 10 containing usual suspects Pastor Maldonado in his troublesome Lotus-Renault and the Caterham-Renault of Kamui Kobayashi. Sitting 21st and 22nd for tomorrow will be Max Chilton in his Marussia and the unfortunate Marcus Ericsson in the second Caterham.

After a quiet opening few minutes of Q2 as the teams waited to save their tyres, Q2 sparked into life with Bottas again setting the early pace with a blistering 1.17.353. HIs time last roughly 30 seconds at the top however, as a far more dialled in Rosberg stole top spot with a 1.17.109. After this lap time the track went relatively quiet before the final runs began with a few minutes remaining.

With a seemingly small amount of improvement in the track, the final two minutes proved a constant flurry of changing times and places, of which the final order was only settled well after the session was over. When the dust settled, it showed that from those eliminated it was Jenson Button who fell in 11th for McLaren-Mercedes, with fellow champion Kimi Raikkonen alongside him in 12th.

Behind them it was Jean Eric Vergne in his Scuderia Toro Rosso-Renault in 13th, from Esteban Gutierrez in the leading Sauber in 14th. The final two eliminated were Romain Grosjean for Lotus-Renault in 15th and Hamilton who couldn’t take part in Q2 because of his accident.

The stage was not set for the final 12 minute Q3 showdown for pole, with first runs meaning the action started from the moment the pit lane light turned green. Once these times filtered through it was Rosberg who was unsurprisingly on top with a 1.15.540, with the two Williams-Mercedes cars close behind. From here the session calmed down before the final runs for pole began with a few minutes left on the clock. These runs proved a damp squib however, as the top 3 remained the same with Rosberg claiming a popular home pole, from the impressive Williams twins of Bottas and Felipe Massa in second and third.

4th was a brilliant result for McLaren rookie Kevin Magnussen, with popular Aussie Daniel Ricciardo piloting his Red Bull-Renault to 5th. Reigning World Champion Sebastien Vettel will again be disappointed to be behind his team mate in 6th, with Fernando Alonso for Ferrari and Daniil Kvyat for Scuderia Toro Rosso behind Vettel in 7th and 8th. Rounding out the top 10 were the two Sahara Force-India-Mercedes team mates, with Nico Hulkenberg winning their battle in 9th from Sergio Perez in 10th.

This German GP qualifying session has provided plenty of story lines for tomorrow, with Hamilton’s recovery drive already being eagerly anticipated. Up front, it appears Rosberg will at the very least have to fend off what should be a stern challenge from the Williams of a determined Valtteri Bottas. It should be a thrilling race indeed.