Race - Hamilton surprises with German victory 24 Jul 2011
McLarens Lewis Hamilton hit back emphatically at his critics with a beautifully judged drive to victory at a mostly dry Nurburgring on Sunday afternoon, in a race which he described to his crew as easy during his slowing down lap.
Hamilton grabbed the lead from Red Bulls Mark Webber at the start as Ferraris Fernando Alonso and Red Bulls Sebastian Vettel scrapped over third place on a track that was slightly slippery in places from a very light shower just as the grid formed. Vettel took third when Alonso made a mistake, but the Spaniard later repassed him and Vettel lost time first with a half spin in Turn 10 on the ninth lap, then with a rear brake problem.
Hamilton momentarily lost the lead to Webber on the 12th lap after a slow exit from the chicane, but immediately overtook him going into Turn One. Later, however, the Australian took the lead after an early pit stop on Lap 14. The reshuffled order saw Webber ahead of Hamilton, with Alonso very much in play.
Ferraris Felipe Massa and McLarens Jenson Button had meanwhile lost time at the start and had ground to make up.
Webber was again the first to make his second stop, again for soft Pirellis, on Lap 30. Hamilton and Alonso stopped on Laps 31 and 32 respectively, and this time McLaren got their man out ahead again to set the pattern for the race. All three ran as fast and as long as they could on their second sets of soft tyres, which were faster than the harder compounds. Behind them, Massa fought a great battle to keep a recovering Vettel at bay for fourth.
Hamilton clearly had the pace to keep Alonso behind, as Webber appeared to fade for a while. As the countdown began to the final stops, McLaren turned Hamilton round quickly again, as he was the first to stop on Lap 51, and though Alonso went two laps later and Webber another three beyond that, there was never any doubt about the outcome as the 2008 world champion won by 3.9s. Alonso crossed the line 5.8s ahead of Webber, but hitched a ride home on the Red Bulls sidepod after running out of fuel on the slowdown lap.
The Massa/Vettel duel was settled by Ferraris crew on the penultimate lap as both dived into the pits together but Red Bull got their man out quicker, handing him fourth place. Massa was a hugely disappointed fifth.
Behind them, Adrian Sutil made tremendous use of a two-stop strategy to take an excellent sixth place for Force India after a measured drive, beating the three-stopping Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher who, like Vettel, spun in Turn 10. The two silver cars were hounded throughout by Kamui Kobayashis Sauber after the Japanese driver made a superb start, and he took ninth place just ahead of Vitaly Petrov who had tough battles with Button, Schumacher and Kobayashi on his way to 10th and the final point.
Sergio Perez was 11th in the other Sauber after an off-course moment, while Jaime Alguersuari was Toro Rossos top finisher in 12th ahead of Force Indias Paul di Resta who had to fight back from a spin in the third corner after the start. Pastor Maldonado was Williams sole finisher in 14th after Rubens Barrichello hit mechanical trouble early on, the Venezuelan heading home Sebastien Buemi who survived a clash at the chicane which put out first-lap spinner Nick Heidfeld. After a post-race investigation by the stewards, Buemi was handed a five-place grid penalty for the next round in Hungary.
Heikki Kovalainen had an uneventful run to 16th for Team Lotus, ahead of the battling Virgins of Timo Glock and Jerome DAmbrosio. Tonio Liuzzi chased them hard, having overcome a challenge from HRT team mate Daniel Ricciardo, but the Italian retired with electrical problems, leaving the improving Australian rookie to finish 19th ahead of Lotus debutant Karun Chandhok who had a few off-course adventures.
The highest profile non-finisher was Button, who got stuck behind Petrov early on and lost a lot of ground before finally finding a way by. He was running sixth on the road when he was called in to retire on Lap 35, due to hydraulic problems.
Hamiltons win moves him to third in the title chase on 134 points to Vettels 216 and Webbers 139, with Alonso on 130 and Button grounded on 109. Red Bull extended their constructors points score to 355, with McLaren on 243 to Ferraris 192. Mercedes pulled further ahead of Renault, with 78 to 66.
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