German Grand Prix – Hockenheim – Race

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso yesterday became the first driver to win three times this season.

It was an incident filled day, which began even a couple of hours before the race got underway, when Red Bull were reported to the Stewards following FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer’s report surrounding the legality of the teams’ engine maps.

Bauer was of the opinion that the engine torque maps of the RB8’s were in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the Technical Regulations, the thought being that the engines were able to deliver more torque at a given engine speed in the mid RPM range, thus potentially altering the aerodynamic characteristics of both cars, in direct contravention of Technical Directive 036-11.

Horner, being chased by a pack of journalists through the paddock area into the pit-lane, was clearly annoyed by the interest the investigation was generating, taking the unusual stance of challenging the media’s ability to be in the pit-lane whilst a support race was underway. A clear indication, in your author’s eyes, that there was something amiss.

Following meetings with representatives of both Red Bull and Renault however, examinations of ECU (Engine Control Unit) data, stewards said that “while they did not accept all the arguments of the team, they concluded that as the regulation is written, the map presented does not breach the text of Article 5.5.3.”

In effect, the stewards say the rules are as clear as mud. It is widely expected that clarification will be issued by the FIA in the near future.

Horner’s McLaren counterpart, Martin Whitmarsh refused to be drawn to make a comment in the run up to the decision, but said that he hoped “the FIA would take advantage of a meeting of the sport’s Technical Working Group on Monday to issue a clarification that banned what Red Bull were doing.” He went on to state “It’s an advantage. You don’t do things like that which are challengeable unless there is a performance advantage.”

With the decision being delivered close to the start of the race, the Red Bull’s were allowed to start from their qualifying positions, Webber however being relegated to eighth on the grid, following a gearbox change on Saturday.

It was an eventful first lap, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, starting in a very disappointing 13th, collided with the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. Massa’s front wing was seen to fly through the air and debris was all over the track at turn one. We have seen Safety Cars deployed for less, but unusually Charlie Whiting decided against sending out the Mercedes SLS AMG.

Grosjean and Senna would suffer front wing damage, Senna also suffering a puncture to his front left tyre. Another victim of a puncture on lap 3 was Lewis Hamilton; he struggled to get the car round to the pits, even reporting to the team on his way round that he should retire. The team changed the tyres and sent him on his way, despite being way down the field, ultimately his pace was reasonable.

Jenson Button in the sister McLaren was proving that the upgrades they had bought this weekend were working well, overtaking both Hulkenberg and Schumacher, promoting himself to third by the 11th lap.

With Vettel stopping one lap later than Button, he was able to come out in front of the McLaren driver, but the pace of the MP4-27 finally proved to be good and he closed in on the German and second place during their second stints.

As the halfway stage of the race approached, Vettel began to catch Alonso with just under a second between them. But the out of position McLaren of Hamilton was on fresher tyres and he was determined to unlap himself into the inside of the hairpin, which he was well within his rights to do, much to the annoyance of the German.

Button would then take the race to Vettel, pitting on Lap 41 to what would seem to have been the quickest pit-stop of the season so far at 2.31 seconds. With Vettel’s tyres ‘falling off’, he would pit for tyres on lap 42 at the same time as Alonso.

Approaching the pit exit as the Red Bull of Vettel was still building speed, Button made the pass stick and moved into second place behind Alonso. Button’s race engineer heard saying over the radio ‘that was perfect Jenson, let’s have Alonso’.

Button continued to catch Alonso in the closing laps, while behind him, Vettel seemed to be nursing his tyres. With ten laps remaining, Button had closed the gap to Alonso to just half a second. Meanwhile, teammate Hamilton had retired with what is thought to have been a gearbox issue, the only retirement of the race.

In the final five laps however, Vettel seemed to have benefited from nursing the tyres and by this time was around 0.2 of a second faster than that of Button, who appeared to be struggling for grip, Alonso increasing his lead at the front.

On lap 66 however, Vettel was able to benefit from using DRS into the hairpin and managed to make the pass, but Button and his engineer were quick to complain that the pass was made outside the circuit, his engineer confirming they had already made a complaint to Race Director, Charlie Whiting.

Annoyingly, Vettel said after the race in several interviews that Button didn’t tell him that he thought he would be handed second place back, despite us clearly hearing that conversation take place before the podium celebrations began.

A stewards inquiry ensued, and some time after the race was over, the stewards agreed that Vettel had indeed made his pass outside the limits of the circuit and he was handed a 20 second penalty, demoting him back to fifth and handing Button back his rightful second place. Raikkonen and Kobayashi also benefiting from the German being penalised.

With the McLarens showing an improvement in pace, despite Hamilton’s difficult outing, the upcoming weekend in Hungary; a track where the team are not only competitive, but with 10 wins they are the most successful Constructors. The McLaren pair are also multiple winners at the Hugaroring; Hamilton winning in 2007 & 2009, Button in 2006 & 2011.

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