VF1blog: A battle to the very end
The 2013 German Grand Prix was a truly thrilling spectacle, particularly the closing stages where it was a battle to the end between Vettel and Raikkonen to take the race win. It had many – including myself – on the edge of their seats and it was a fantastic way to end the 60-lap race.
I thoroughly enjoyed the race from start to finish with the final stint being particularly interesting with the differing strategies playing out. Pirelli brought changed tyres to the Nurburgring and they worked really well, drivers still had to conserve at times but we saw a lot more pushing from the drivers which I felt was what was needed. Mercedes obviously don’t agree with me after struggling but it fell into the clutches of Red Bull and Lotus yet again – hence the top three.
However there was a truly worrying and horrific incident during the race that saw a cameraman injured in the pit-lane. Fortunately Paul Allen – a British cameraman for FOM – was not seriously injured and remained conscious throughout his trip to the medical centre and the hospital. However it was a very worrying few minutes after the incident which took place just after Mark Webber’s first pit stop. The Red Bull driver was released from his pit-box with a loose right-rear wheel which became detached from the car and traveled down the pits. Some Lotus crew members managed to avoid the tyre but the unsuspecting cameraman was hit by the 12kg tyre and at some speed.
I’m thankful that the TV crews didn’t replay the full incident in respect to the cameraman as he was being treated and sent to hospital, it was the right thing to do and it truly shocked me but fortunately he is not badly injured and I wish him a speedy recovery. However I think this shows that more safety is needed in the pit-lane and one of the changes could be helmets for every person in the pit-lane or a re-think into the record-breaking pit stops. Someone suggested a spotter for each camera crew and whilst it is a good idea, it would bring more people into an already unsafe and crowded pit lane. I think crews being stationed on the pit wall or at the edge of the pit garage would be fine but these things need testing to see if they can give the same view as the current structure. It’s fair to say that whilst I’m always in awe at how fast the pit stops now are – I recently had a go at the Red Bull Racing #OPENHOUSE event – they hugely increase the danger of a loose wheel and we were fortunate that the wheel didn’t pick up more speed or collect more people.
However, back to the race and it was exciting from the start. We had a dry practice session which saw plenty of running and the shock exit of both Williams drivers in Q1 – we were all hoping for a better result on their 600th race – and then the arrogance of Mercedes showing through after they kept Rosberg in the garage in Q2 despite the times improving and the track evolving, hence his 11th place. I was very happy for Jenson getting through to Q3 and Hulkenberg showing better pace in the Sauber after their struggles.
Lewis Hamilton’s lap of the Nurburgring was fantastic. Another stunning pole position lap for the Brit and he managed to take the battle to Red Bull who had set the pace in FP2 and FP3. However he couldn’t keep the position off the line despite an okay start – he was swamped by the Red Bull’s and almost lost out to Raikkonen too. The first few laps were interesting to see the two Red Bull’s pull away from Hamilton when I thought he would be more competitive. You could tell that he was struggling at the end of the first stint and I was also surprised Grosjean’s mega stint on the softs – he did more laps on the tyres than Alonso did on his medium compounds.
Grosjean was on fire in those early laps and that is where he made up most of the ground. I was hugely impressed by him and I’m really glad to see him return to the podium as the drive was just fantastic. I did think he could be the one to take the challenge to Vettel but in the end it was Kimi – they even had to do the “Romain, Kimi is on a different strategy to you” radio message.
The mid-part of the race was all about pushing hard and seeing where everyone would fit for the final stint. It was almost like the calm before the storm as it settled down at that point. However we did see some fantastic racing and some rather unusual incidents during the race. The first was Felipe Massa spinning off track and retiring. Now I’m back-tracking a bit here as this happened on lap three and it was human error which is a shame as he had made up ground. He then failed to pull away as the car was stuck in fifth gear so he was stranded on the run-off area and had no option but to get out of the car – disappointing and surprising.
Another bizarre incident was Jules Bianchi’s engine blow-out which then turned to flames. They soon disappeared but it was strange to see as we rarely see retirements like it in current spec-Formula 1. However once he got out of his car it started to roll down hill at turn 12 and across the track which was very dangerous before coming to rest on an advertising board. It was a very worrying moment that in hindsight is quite comical but I don’t know the cause and it could have caused a big crash – fortunately it didn’t.
The end of the race was fantastic. Great to watch, I loved it. The gaps at the front were increasing and then decreasing, I didn’t know if Vettel could hold him off. I have to admit that I was disappointed that Raikkonen couldn’t have a real go at getting past as we see so Vettel so often waltzing off into the lead never to be seen again. Still, an exciting end. Vettel drove perfectly though and soaked up the pressure well, no errors and 25 points in the bag. Fair play.
The two Lotus cars were so fast, probably the fastest of the race but starting further down yet again lost them time and they also had a tardy pit-stop or two that lost them ground. However overall it was a great team performance alongside the brilliant driving by both cars to get a double podium. Alonso performed really well too after starting at the wrong end of the top 10 on the hard tyres. His progress in the early laps was slow but the mid and final stint really put him in contention and he just missed out on a podium.
It had looked so promising for Hamilton after qualifying but yet again he lost the lead and the win. However it was down to the middle stint where his tyres grained heavily in the very high temperatures. Despite an okay first stint and a strong final part of the race to take fifth place back from Button, it proved that Mercedes are back to square one with their tyre issues. Jenson followed him across the line for some well deserved points after a stunning drive on a two-stop strategy. Some teams had to make a late switch but JB made the most of it to finish sixth although he was fuming for being blocked by the Caterham’s in the final few laps.
Then came Mark Webber. Another great drive – there were so many on Sunday afternoon – after falling to last place by the safety car period. He did some fantastic overtaking and was fast for the whole race so it makes you think about where he could have been placed had he not had the unfortunate pit incident. Eighth finished Sergio Perez who had a quiet race other than overtaking his team-mate early on and then getting re-passed in the closing laps.
Rosberg recovered to ninth after his shocking qualifying position however he is rightfully downbeat after struggling with the tyres – Mercedes, get your act together! It seems they are back to square one with their troubles and that’s not what they want to see, thankfully they have a three week break to investigate. Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10 for Sauber which was a decent drive. I had thought that he would go for a tw0-stopper but they went for three trips to the pit lane and he had a good last stint to weave through the slower cars to nab the final point.
A quick comment on Williams too after they finished 15th and 16th in their 600th GP. They had been on course for points but they had a problem in the pit stops for both cars, such a shame but hopefully they can get that first point soon! Also Force India had a terrible race with Di Resta and Sutil in 11th and 13th. They were strangely off the pace and neither of their drivers made up much ground. Ricciardo was similarly underwhelming in race trim and Vergne’s retirement was so quiet that I barely noticed – he has been running in the mid-field prior to it. However that was partly because the drama at the front was so exciting.
So an exciting race that yet again raises further questions on safety, this time in the pit lane. However we now have a three week break to get things sorted and the young driver test at Silverstone (which I will be attending, exciting!) will be crucial for the development of these highly talked about tyres.
The Hungarian Grand Prix is not usually a thriller but it should be another good race to watch and is a place that a lot of the drivers and teams enjoy visiting. Enjoy the break and see you on the other side!
Author: Jack Leslie
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