Practice Sessions, FP1:
After only 5 days gap, the teams were back to racing mode with practice session program began on Friday as usual. The weather was holding good with not much chance of rain around. A change in tyre production as the 2012 Kelvar style belt were back to make it safe with 2013 spec tyres. Mercedes for the moment continued to top the timesheet with Hamilton ending P1, Rosberg P2 & Webber P3. SFI had a mixture of a start as the home boy Sutil ended P4 with di Resta at P11. It was to see if the 2012 Kelvar belt would have any effect on SFI as they had really built their car around the whole of 2013 tyre spec.
It was a bit unusual to see all the teams opting for so many laps during the session. The highest was 44 laps by Estaben with lowest being 32 by Grosjean (apart from 10 from Binachi due to illness), that is more than half the race distance. Teams were out learning the new tyres and completing the long runs for race day preps. Vettel popped up as he ended P1 with Rosberg P2 & Webber P3. SFI had a tough session as they completed about 100 laps in the day. Paul was P10 while Sutil P11 at the end of the session, lots of laps from Paul specially.
Sun was shining during the last session as teams were happy to complete all the practice session without rain whitewashing it, they got to test the new tyres with ease. Vettel continued at the top with Rosberg at P2 & Webber at P3, same as we saw in FP2. Once again, SFI seemed to have a bit off colour session as Sutil ended P10 and di Resta ended P13 who I believe was on struggling side more than Sutil at that moment.
The battle was between Mercedes and Red Bull for pole. The Lotus were looking a touch quicker too, much better than they were in the last races. It was more like 2 team in the pole battle but outside chance was always there for Lotus. SFI meanwhile were not enjoying there as they were a bit off the pace they have been showing in previous races. The competition around them seemed to have risen with Sauber, STR & McLaren looking in a better shape.
Nice sunny afternoon, you could call it a perfect time for racing or in this case qualifying. In only the first session we could see various tyre strategies with the teams which having a touch slower car straightaway going for runs on the soft tyres. Massa took the lead as Kimi ended P2 & Alonso P3. Both the SFI made it through but it was a bit tense towards the end of the session. Both the Williams, Caterham & Marussia went out in Q1.
Much more intense session as one could get the feeling that there were about 14 cars which could have made it to the top 10 which would only mean that upsets were always going to happen at the end of the session. Massa once again ended at the top of the timesheets with Kimi at P2 & Alonso at P3, same as in Q1. As I was talking about chances of upsets, there it came as both the SFI cars were knocked out in Q2. Paul qualified at P12, the best he could as he said while Sutil qualified a lowly P15 mostly due to the DRS issue he had during the session. Rosberg was the other main contender who lost out as times tumbled towards the end of the session.
Little to talk with no involvement of SFI in the third session but the battle for pole was on in every way. One man down for Mercedes didn’t deter their pole aim by any means. Hamilton all weekend wasn’t looking in the best of shapes but delivered when it mattered as he clinched another pole from Vettel with Webber ending P3. Ferrari playing a gamble qualifying on medium tyres while both Button & Hulkenberg not running in order to save tyres and get a free choice.
The qualifying went on as expected at least on the pole battle side if not for SFI. Hamilton got the pole but there were few tense minds with regard with the race as RBR were by no means an easy threat. Lotus were always in the mix in Germany and Ferrari made a gamble which could pay off. SFI were disappointed, with both the car failing to make the cut. In the intense battle with McLaren, every position and point counts. A good strategy and good tyre management was all needed in the race.
Ahead of the race only 3 questions were in mind for most of the pundits covering the race, will Vettel win his home GP & break the July jinx? Can Mercedes hold on to win? Will there be any tyre explosion? Reckon by the end of the race all these questions were duly answered by the respective people on track towards whom the questions were directed.
Anyhow we get on with the race on a sunny Sunday with no chance of rain, a good test for Pirelli in the warm conditions. The first lap went without any drama again as it surely seems like drivers have learnt to behave in the first few corners. Vettel very much took the lead with Webber having a nice start for a change as Hamilton fell behind. Behind them the field was pretty much set with only Ricciardo loosing big chunks of position as did Rosberg. Vettel lead nicely until the first stop when Grosjean took the lead and was looking very comfortable with the car and to add, set for a win too perhaps. Webber’s luck quickly turned around with botched up pit stop. The stray tyre having hit the cameraman provided quite a scare in the pit lane, thank goodness the cameraman is safe. Things also changed once the safety car was out due to Bianchi’s car driving itself backwards after a fire at the back of his car.
The SC period gave Vettel some respite from the pressure of two Lotus behind. But it wasn’t enough as the fight continued till the last lap. First it was Grosjean and then it was Kimi who pushed Vettel to the very edge. Vettel took all the pressure in to win his home GP for the very first time and also break the July jinx, the first question duly answered. Hamilton only ended P5 after putting up a good fight while Rosberg only matched to score with a P9, second question duly answered. And there was no tyre explosions, Pirelli must be relieved for the time being as the third question answered as well. Apart from the top 3 drivers, rest all looked a touch ordinary with the field being bit far off from the top 3. Alonso the closest in the chase in the end for podium but couldn’t in the end.
The DC battle remains between Vettel, Alonso & Kimi but Vettel is taking a comfortable lead in the championship. RBR at the moment looking safe for the CC as it looks like a fight between Mercedes, Ferrari & Lotus for P2. SFI for now are still 10 points ahead of McLaren but things could get tight. The change in tyres would certainly be a problem for the team and if McLaren can spring such performances more often, then it might be close battle in the end. Though there still a lots to play for, this was our first no point finish race (apart from double DNF in Malaysia). Another break coming up with the Young Driver Test (as it is said), before the next race in Hungary. Sometime for the team to assess and make the changes for the big fight.