Monday 23 April 2018

Vettel claims his first ever German Grand Prix title

Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates winning the German F1 Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring
Red Bull Formula One driver Sebastian Vettel of Germany celebrates winning the German F1 Grand Prix at the Nuerburgring
Red Bull Racing's Sebastian Vettel

Ian Parkes

Sebastian Vettel finally ended his July jinx by claiming victory in the German Grand Prix as he staved off a grandstand finish from Kimi Raikkonen.

Vettel went into his home race at the Nurburgring never having won a race in July in 12 previous attempts during his Formula One career.

But the 26-year-old three-time world champion took the chequered flag by just a second from Raikkonen to open up a 34-point cushion over Ferrari's Fernando Alonso who had to settle for fourth.

It was the 30th win of Vettel's F1 career and his first in Germany, and after suffering a transmission failure just seven days ago at Silverstone to give his rivals a glimpse of a title chance, he has again slammed the door.

Vettel never looked back after beating Lewis Hamilton off the line.

From the 29th pole position of his career Hamilton's sole target at the start was to keep himself ahead of the Red Bulls.

But despite the short run-down to the first corner, Hamilton found himself sandwiched between Vettel attacking to his right and Mark Webber to his left.

Emerging out of the hairpin Hamilton had dropped to third, setting the tone for a ropey race for the Briton, primarily as tyre issues again plagued the Mercedes, particularly with temperatures high.

Initially, it appeared as if strategy would be crucial, with the top six on the grid starting on the faster soft Pirelli tyre, whilst the five cars behind were on mediums.

Those on softs knew they would have to make an early stop given the rapid degradation of the rubber, and sure enough a flurry of stops began after just four laps.

Paul Di Resta was first in, but upon his release almost collided with the incoming Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, an incident the stewards are to investigate.

Come the end of lap eight there was another unsafe release - sparking a second stewards' investigation - but this time with more serious consequences.

Webber's pit crew had trouble fitting the right-rear wheel, and as the Australian pulled out of the pit box it worked loose and began bouncing down the pit lane.

It unfortunately struck an unaware cameraman on his back, sending him sprawling, resulting in a number of mechanics rushing to his aid.

Following treatment the cameraman, Paul Allen, is understood to have suffered no serious injuries, although he is currently in Koblenz hospital under observation.

As he was initially tended to, Webber's three-wheeled car was rescued and pushed back to the pit box by his mechanics, where he was finally sent on his way, albeit a lap down.

As the pit stops unfolded Grosjean proved to be a big winner, with the Frenchman staying out on his soft tyres until the end of lap 13, and slotting into second place behind Vettel.

Behind him, Hamilton began complaining of a lack of grip with his medium tyres, sparking a second and ahead-of-schedule stop after 22 laps.

It was shortly after Formula One endured a Keystone Cops moment after Marussia's Jules Bianchi had parked his car on the grass following an engine blowout and short fire.

Just as a tractor was about to remove the car from the scene, it began to roll backwards across the track just as the leaders in Vettel and Grosjean came into view.

The wayward Marussia was eventually stopped by an advertising board on the other side of the circuit, but the incident naturally brought the safety car into play.

The leaders took advantage, sparking a flurry of pit stops, and with the safety car's departure a few laps later it appeared as if Vettel would be caught by Grosjean.

Although Grosjean came within 0.5secs of Vettel, he could make no more headway, resulting in a third change of tyres on lap 40, that was covered by the world champion.

Raikkonen, however, stayed out until the end of lap 49, switching to the soft tyres and an end-of-race charge that saw him reel in his team-mate five laps from home.

But he could do nothing about Vettel at the death and is 41 points shy in the standings.

Grosjean just held off Alonso for third, the Spaniard the only Ferrari to finish as Felipe Massa spun out at the start of lap four.

Hamilton passed the McLaren of Jenson Button on the final lap to claim fifth, albeit he is now 58 points shy of Vettel.

"It's unbelievable!" was Vettel's immediate remark following the podium ceremony.

"I'm very, very happy. Kimi pushed hard at the end. They (Lotus) tried to do something different by switching to a different compound (with Raikkonen's third stop).

"I'm just glad the race was 60 laps, and not 61 or 62. I'm very happy with this result and to win in Germany."

Raikkonen appreciated the fact he ran out of laps as he said: "We managed to do pretty well.

"We obviously want to win, and if the race had been longer then maybe we would have a chance. In the end the result is not ideal, but it's pretty okay for us."

Team-mate Grosjean feels Lotus made the right call in bringing him in early for his third stop, despite failing to challenge for the win late on.

"It's good, a good result for the team, we had a strong race," said Grosjean.

"I thought I had a chance with Seb, but then we had a different strategy which was the right thing to do, but I'm happy to be back on the podium."

Press Association

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