Hockenheim – To say that the 2014 Formula One Santander German Grand Prix was anything less than amazing would be a gross understatement. From the very beginning, the race was bound to be a masterpiece of motor sport.
With four German drivers on the grid: Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel, Force India’s Nico Hülkenberg, and Sauber’s Adrian Sutil, the home crowd was guaranteed to have quite a few supporters for each of their countrymen, though Vettel and Rosberg did seem to have more supporters than the other two Germans.
The race started with a troublesome situation for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, whose crash at the end of Q1 left him initially starting in 16th place. However, due to the need to change his gear box, Hamilton was handed a 5 spot grid penalty, resulting in the Briton starting at the back of the grid from 21st. Hamilton’s teammate, Rosberg, started the race at pole, with Williams’ flying Finn Valtteri Bottas starting at P2.
The second row of the starting grid was the first to garner the attention of the crowd in person, on television, and on radio, as Williams’ Felipe Massa (P3) appeared to run into McLaren’s rookie Kevin Magnussen (P4) at Turn 1, resulting in Massa’s car flipping upside down before rolling back to its proper upright position. Magnussen left the scene mostly unscathed, despite falling back to 21st position. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took evasive action, running between the capsized Massa and the wall. The FIA ruled that no further action was “warranted” regarding the incident, as, in their point of view, the offending party had eliminated himself from the race.
At the same time, Lewis Hamilton began his steady ascent up to the front of the pack, by Lap 14 sitting comfortably in 5th place. At this point, Hamilton’s march forward was bogged down, in large part due to the immense skill of the drivers that he was now facing, world champions such as Alonso, Vettel, Button and Räikkönen.
At Lap 15, the two Ferraris of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Räikkönen fought a magnificent battle, which became a bit of a Kimi-sandwich upon Sebastian Vettel’s reentry onto the track from a pit stop as the German and Spaniard caught the Finn in between them at the hairpin turn. Vettel came out winning fourth, whilst Alonso took fifth and Räikkönen took sixth. Upon being sandwiched, Räikkönen also lost more of his front wing, which had already sustained some damage earlier in the race.
By Lap 20, Nico Rosberg’s lead on Valtteri Bottas (2) was up to 9.2 seconds. From this point on, Rosberg had won Hockenheim. The main bit of racing continued behind him for the second through tenth positions. At Lap 28, Romain Grosjean, the unlucky Frenchman at Lotus was forced to retire at the hairpin, reporting to the pit of some issues with the car’s power unit.
Perhaps one of the more strange incidents from Sunday’s race was the brief contact between Hamilton and his former McLaren teammate Jenson Button, when Hamilton’s front wing was slightly broken upon making contact with Button’s MP4-29. The damage would cost Hamilton a second place finish.
At Lap 47, Toro Rosso’s rookie Daniil Kvyat found himself forced to retire after his car went up in flames. The Russian’s frustration with his poor luck was evident. Following the extensive use of the fire extinguishers, Kvyat’s car’s distinctive Red Bull deep blue was well covered by the whitish foam of the extinguishers.
Likewise, at Lap 52, the only of the Germans to retire this weekend, Sauber’s Adrian Sutil did so in the middle of the track after the car spun and stalled at the last corner. Mercedes called Hamilton back into the pits, perhaps in anticipation of a safety car being deployed whilst the marshals removed the Sauber from the track. Unfortunately this plan did not work so well, as no safety car was deployed. Despite this, Hamilton’s fresher tyres were able to take him past Alonso at Lap 56, leaving the Briton in 3rd.
The final six laps of this 67 lap race featured a fantastic fight for fifth between Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso. Not only did this six lap duel leave the crowd cheering with excitement, it also showcased the excellence in driving that is a hallmark of these two drivers.
By the chequered flag, the order stood as 1) Rosberg, 2) Bottas, 3) Hamilton, 4) Vettel, 5) Alonso, 6) Ricciardo, 7) Hülkenberg, 8) Button, 9) Magnussen, 10) Pérez scoring points. The non-points finishers were 11) Räikkönen, 12) Maldonado, 13) Vergne, 14) Gutierrez, 15) Bianchi, 16) Kobayashi, 17) Chilton, and 18) Ericsson, with Sutil, Kvyat, Grosjean, and Massa in the Did Not Finish category.
This leaves the drivers’ championship with Rosberg with 190 points, leading Hamilton’s 176 points by a margin of 14 points. Behind the two Mercedes past the century mark is Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo with 106 points.
In constructors, with Valtteri Bottas’ fantastic third straight podium finish, Williams currently stands in 3rd with 121 points, behind Red Bull’s 2nd place at 188 points and Mercedes’ dominant 1st place at 366 points. Williams is followed by Ferrari’s 116 points (4th place,) Force India’s 98 points, McLaren’s 96 points, Toro Rosso’s 15 points, Lotus’ 8 points, and Marussia’s 2 points. At the bottom Sauber and Caterham’s general lack of points scored has left both teams concerned for their futures, as they both should be.
Next weekend, the Formula One Circus returns to Budapest, where they will compete in this year’s instalment of the always fascinating, and often scorching hot, Hungarian Grand Prix.