Friday’s practice saw the familiar faces duelling at the top of the time sheets, and the battle between Mercedes and the Red Bull of Sebastian Vettel continued into qualifying.
Q3 had some relatively unfamiliar drivers in it like Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg, but the real story was the fact Rosberg wasn’t. Although the German is clearly on form of late, the error was down to the Mercedes team – they miscalculated just how much the track was evolving.
This may have left some red faces in the Mercedes camp, but Hamilton more than made up for the error when he stormed to a time even homeboy Vettel couldn’t match.
Behind Hamilton and Vettel came Mark Webber in third and the Lotus cars of Kimi Raikkonen in forth and Romain Grosjean in fifth.
Proving Silverstone wasn’t a fluke, Daniel Ricciardo displayed his top form to take sixth for Toro Rosso, ahead of the Ferraris of Filipe Massa and Fernando Alonso – the Scuderia decided going for the medium options and losing a few grid spots outweighed starting on softs.
McLaren driver Jenson Button lined up ninth opting out of a timed lap along with Sauber’s Nico Hulkenberg in 10th.
As the lights turned green at the Nurburgring, pole-sitter Hamilton bogged down which allowed Sebastian Vettel to get alongside him, with Mark Webber also jumping on the Mercedes’ bad fortune. Hamilton was squeezed out and Vettel led into Turn One from Webber, with Hamilton knocked back to third.
Filipe Massa only managed three laps after he spun off at Turn One and stalled.
Although Webber kept his teammate in check, he pitted for a new set of tyres on Lap 9 with the possibility of rejoining ahead of Vettel but there was a typical moment of Webber bad luck – the pit crew couldn’t get the right rear tyre on properly and when he pulled away it bounced across the pit lane and hit a cameraman. Later news informed that he was okay.
Still needing to make a stop, Romain Grosjean led the German Grand Prix as his Lotus teammate Raikkonen pitted. The Flying Finn rejoined just behind Hamilton.
Meanwhile Hamilton was being held up by teammate Rosberg, to which Mercedes came over the radio: “You are on a different strategy to Lewis so please don’t hold him up.”
Hamilton finally took Rosberg for sixth and immediately started to pull away. Raikkonen also jumped on the opportunity and charged around the outside of the German at the final chicane.
A few laps on and Hamilton complained of having no grip and Raikkonen passed him around the outside at the final chicane to take fourth.
The Mercedes obviously didn’t like the 44C heat as Fernando Alonso closed up to the back of the Hamilton. The Spaniard took a few stabs at the Mercedes but Hamilton showed some great defending.
Approaching the halfway point and Jules Bianchi peeled of the track as his Marussia caught fire. Having climbed out, waiting for the cranes to lift the car free, the Frenchman watched on as the Maruissa rolled backwards across the track. This brought out the safety car and drivers headed for the pits for fresh rubber.
Lotus were having a great race with Frenchman Grosjean closing in on Vettel and Raikkonen close behind in third – a real test of nerves for Vettel at his home Grand Prix.
Alonso kept spirits high in the Ferrari camp, as he looked good for forth place having started eighth. By lap 51 the Spaniard lapped 1.4 seconds quicker than Vettel.
Because Raikkonen is their championship contender, Lotus tell Grosjean that Raikkonen is coming up very quickly behind him. “Do not hold him up.” Four laps later the Frenchman lets Raikkonen past at the final chicane.
The remaining laps were action packed and tense. Hamilton managed to pass Sergio Perez for sixth place, and Alonso started to catch the Lotus cars.
With all of that going on behind him, Raikkonen was catching Vettel by a few tenths a lap.
On the penultimate lap the Finn managed to get inside the DRS window, leaving the German fans with their hearts in their mouths.
Mercedes fans enjoyed a fantastic move by Hamilton as he passed Button on the outside of Turn 2 for fifth.
Despite their best efforts, the Lotus cars just couldn’t prevent a dominant Vettel take his first German Grand Prix and the Red Bull driver punched the air as he crossed the line.
11) Di Resta
18) Van der Garde
DNF: Vergne, Bianchi and Massa