Date:Tuesday July 24 2012
Following months of disappointment, McLaren's Jenson Button finally had cause to celebrate in Germany.
Since his second place finish at the Chinese Grand Prix in April, Button has struggled with his McLaren, finishing in the points just three times in the next six races and finishing no higher than eighth.
The 2009 Formula One World Champion would have been feeling the pressure, especially after a poor showing in his home race at Silverstone last time out.
But McLaren came to Germany with a new upgrade package and in the dry at least both he and team-mate Lewis Hamilton looked quick.
Button and Hamilton topped the timing sheets in free practice one, before damp conditions played their part in proceedings.
In free practice three, Button was in the unfamiliar position of finding himself dead last on a Saturday morning. But the McLaren had decided to concentrate on long dry runs, which explained why he was 4.9 seconds off of the pace set by Fernando Alonso.
So into qualifying and McLaren must have been optimistic, until the rain came and the McLaren appeared to struggle in the wet conditions. Hamilton qualified eighth 3.565 seconds off the pace, but Button didn't fair much better, in fact he was just 0.073 quicker in seventh.
Speaking to formula1.com after qualifying Button said: “We struggled to get the tyres to work today – when you can’t get temperature into the tyre; you don’t know its limit because it’s too cold, and you can’t hit the brakes either because you’ll lock up. It’s an issue we’ve had for a few races and an area where we need to improve. In dry running, however, the pace is very good: we just struggle in wet conditions to get the tyres working.
He continued: 'the positives that we can take away are that our car looks quick in the dry and that this weekend’s upgrade package is a good step forward. Everyone should be proud of their efforts to not only get it working, but to also have delivered it ahead of schedule this weekend. Today was tough, but I hope we have a good race tomorrow.”
Much to the delight of Button it was a dry race and the McLaren enjoyed a good start pulling away from the grid.
He diced with danger, running wheel-to-wheel with Pastor Maldonado before getting past the Williams and then he began his assault on the field with driving that is not often associated with Button.
Using the DRS zone in the way it was intended he first set up his move on the Force India of Nico Hulkenberg, he dummied the move to go around the outside, commiting the German to the middle of the track before diving down the inside under-braking.
Then on the same part of the track he caught and passed another German in the form of Michael Schumacher, although the Mercedes didn't offer as much resistance, choosing to either not fight the position or simply being caught out by the speed Button was enjoying during this part of the Grand Prix.
After the first phase of pit-stops Button was in third place behind Vettel and Alonso, but with Hamilton struggling with a damaged floor following his early race puncture, Button found himself behind Hamilton during the mid-way point of his second set of tyres.
Hamilton was given the order to not hold up Button and with fresh rubber, Hamilton was able to pull away from Button and even catch and pass Vettel, much to the annoyance of Vettel.
Red Bull claim that this was the part of the race that helped Button close the gap, but in reality, Hamilton didn't play in role in it, catching and passing Vettel in the DRS zone and then immediately pulling away from the German.
Button was the first to pit for a second time and whilst the McLaren team have come under severe criticism due to mistakes in other races, they ran like clock work for Button's stop, changing all four tyres in just 2.4 seconds.
This pit stop together with a quick out-lap got him passed Vettel when Red Bull and Ferrari pitted at the same time.
The drama wasn't over at this point though, Button's tyres started to lose grip towards the end of the race and Vettel was able to get back into the battle for second. But rather than being patient and picking his moment, Vettel decided to make his move off the track to attempt to claim second place in his home grand prix.
Button refused to discuss the manoeuvre after the race which resulted in a 20 second penalty for Vettel, which moved Button back into the rightful position of second.
“I had a really good race and really enjoyed myself out there. I made a good start, pulled off some good moves on both Nico Hukenberg and Michael Schumacher and had strong pace all afternoon. Sebastian Vettel’s pass was a pretty straightforward matter: the rules state that you can’t go off the track to gain an advantage. The thing is, there would have been more opportunities for him before the end of the race as my rear tyres were damaged. That’s because I had to push hard to try and catch Fernando Alonso, which meant I had nothing left for the end of the race. We pretty much ran out of rubber two laps before the chequer.
Button's strong points finish moves him up to seventh in the F1 standings, but he remains 24 points behind team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Date:Tuesday July 24 2012
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