Sebastian Vettel hailed his maiden victory on home soil yesterday as “a great relief” as he finally blew away his German Grand Prix and July jinxes.
Vettel had failed in his five previous attempts to take the chequered flag in front of his own fans and in a remarkable 12 during July, yet had won in every other Formula 1 calendar from March to November.
The monkey is off the back of the 26-year-old, who is firmly back on track for a fourth consecutive F1 title after a transmission failure with his Red Bull seven days ago at Silverstone allowed his rivals to close the gap.
Vettel crossed the line just a second ahead of Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen, who is now 41 points adrift, with Fernando Alonso 34 behind after the Spaniard could only finish fourth in his Ferrari.
“It’s unbelievable, a great relief,” said Vettel following the 30th win of his F1 career, and fourth this season.
“When you have a good car and for a couple of years you’ve had a good run, when you are on home soil, people expect you to win. So it just feels very, very sweet to have succeeded after a couple of tries. Both tracks, Hockenheim and Nurburgring, mean a lot to me. To race in Germany, to have a home grand prix, is a privilege. So a great relief, I’m very happy, a special day which will take some time to sink in. I’m just incredibly proud.”
Lotus’s Romain Grosjean completed the podium, although at one stage it appeared as if the Frenchman would grab his first win as he closed to within half a second of Vettel just past the midway point of the 60-lap race.
Instead, it was Raikkonen who was Vettel’s main challenger over the closing stages, but with the Finn running out of laps.
As for Lewis Hamilton, he conceded before the race he would be going into it on a wing and prayer given his pole lap was laced with good fortune after issues in practice that resulted in an untried set-up for qualifying.
Off the line, Hamilton was slow away, dropping behind the Red Bulls on the short run down to turn one and, from there, it was always going to be an uphill struggle.
The sun also shone over the Nurburgring, exacerbating Mercedes’ tyre degradation woes, with Hamilton, in particular, sliding around on his second set that forced an earlier-than-planned second pit stop.
There was a crumb of comfort on the final lap when he passed former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button for fifth, but, overall, it was a hard day at the office again for the 28-year-old.
“We’ve clearly a good car, but for some reason it doesn’t work in these hot conditions,” said Hamilton. “We’ll keep working on it. The positive is we were able to recover to fifth place with a good strategy and great pit stops, and we’re still second in the constructors’ table. Hopefully we’ll have a better chance at the next race, but for now there’s a lot of hard work ahead of us.”
After two races without scoring, McLaren managed to get both cars back in the points again, with Button sixth and team-mate Sergio Perez eighth, the duo either side of Mark Webber.
Remarkably, the Australian was a lap down early on after losing his right-rear wheel as he spun out of the pit box following a bungled pit-stop. Bouncing through the pitlane, it sickeningly struck and floored cameraman Paul Allen, who is currently in Koblenz hospital as he sustained a fractured collarbone and two broken ribs. The unsafe release earned Red Bull a fine of €30,000 (£26,800).
In another incident, the engine in Jules Bianchi’s Marussia blew and caught fire, forcing the Frenchman to park his car off track. However, as it was about to be recovered, it rolled down a hill and back across the circuit just as leaders Vettel and Grosjean were approaching.
The car’s momentum was eventually halted by an advertising board, bringing out the safety car which ultimately aided Webber’s cause, as he was able to unlap himself and eventually catch the pack.
Behind Perez were Nico Rosberg and Nico Hulkenberg in ninth and tenth for Mercedes and Sauber respectively, the latter passing Force India’s Paul Di Resta late on to nudge the Scottish driver out of the points.
Call for increased pitlane safety gear
RED Bull team principal Christian Horner says safety equipment should be worn by all personnel working in the Formula 1 pit lane.
Horner made the comment in the wake of an incident that occurred during Mark Webber’s first stop in yesterday’s German Grand Prix. As Webber pulled out of his pitbox, the right-rear of his car wheel detached itself and bounced past Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes mechanics before thudding into cameraman Paul Allen.
Allen was immediately attended to and was flown to Koblenz hospital, where he was diagnosed with a two broken ribs and a fractured collarbone.
Horner said: “When you see something like that it’s a horrible feeling, because your immediate concern is for that individual.
“From our side we need to understand fully what happened, why the wheel wasn’t located, obviously detaching itself from the car with quite a bit of energy. The most important thing is he is fundamentally okay, but it was a timely reminder that life in the pit lane is still a pretty dangerous place to be, that things can go wrong.
“Mechanics have to wear safety gear and helmets, and maybe it’s time some of the other operational people in the pitlane have some safety equipment.”