Ferrari announced their revival with a one-two at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim as Fernando Alonso took victory with teammate Felipe Massa finishing 2nd. Sebastian Vettel finished 3rd from pole position with Lewis Hamilton finishing 4th and Jenson Button 5th. Mark Webber took 6th place ahead of Robert Kubica in 7th, Nico Rosberg in 8th, Michael Schumacher in 9th and Vitaly Petrov in 10th.
But the victory will have a twinge of controversy in it as team orders – which are banned – might have come into play in deciding he outcome. Massa was leading the race after the first lap and despite Alonso’s attempts to string together a passing manoeuvre, Massa held fort. There’s no disputing that Alonso was quicker and the same was conveyed to Massa rather un-discreetly in lap 47, who “magnanimously” gave up his lead and settled for second place. I still think Alonso would have passed Massa on the track and all this needn’t happen…but the Ferrari hierarchy obviously didn’t want to wait and watch!
Half of the race outcome was decided at the start itself as pole-sitter Sebastian Vettel’s over-exuberance to hold off Fernando Alonso meant he had kept the door wide open going into turn one and Felipe Massa took full advantage of it and stormed into the lead. Alonso himself managed to outbrake Vettel into the second corner and halfway through the first lap, we had a Ferrari 1-2 at the head of the order. Down the order, Mark Webber had a bad start and dropped off behind both the McLarens – who themselves had a decent start and managed to hold position. Toro Rosso had a forgetful start as Jaime Algersuari barged into the back of teammate Sebastian Buemi into the hairpin and took off the rear wing off his car and that meant an early retirement for Buemi. Lotus’ Jarno Trulli was another early retirement with what looked like a driveshaft problem.
At the head of the order, Massa was leading Alonso with Vettel now slotting behind in third place with the two McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton & Mark Webber following in sixth place. The lead drivers had all started on soft tyres which were expected to last not more than 15-20 laps and the first of the pit-stops came right around that stage as first Vettel and then Alonso and pretty much the rest of the top six came into switch to the harder tyres. Jenson Button was one of the driver to stay out on the soft tyres but the late stop meant he lost his fourth position to Lewis Hamilton. Nico Hulkenberg was another driver to stay out on the soft tyres but his sole stop came too late to make any improvements.
Fernando Alonso kept apace with Massa and even tried one or two passing moves right after Massa had made his tyre change but he couldn’t find a way past and had to hold station and even dropped 3 seconds behind him as he bided his time. The defining moment of the race, as well as Ferrari’s championship title challenge, came in lap 47 as Felipe Massa was discreetly told over the radio that “Alonso is faster than you” and I’m not sure if that meant team orders or not but Massa dropped off the throttle at the hairpin and Alonso moved past into the lead. After that move, Massa’s race engineer said “Good lad…sorry” on the radio and at the end of the race, team principal Stefano Domenicali chipped in with the word “magnanimous”.
Barring few passing moves – including one from Kubica on Schumacher, one from de la Rosa on Hulkenberg and the all-important Alonso on Massa – there was little tantalising action on track and though it wasn’t as processional as some of the earlier races of the season, it surely was spiced up a bit by the controversial passing move. There were just the five retirements – Sakon Yamamoto, Lucas di Grassi and Heikki Kovalainen joining the earlier retirees.
As it stands now, Lewis Hamilton still maintains his lead in the Drivers’ Championship by 14 points ahead of Jenson Button with Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber locked in third place on 136 points each. Fernando Alonso’s max points haul lifts him just 34 points behind Hamilton in the table. Over in the Constructors’ Championship, McLaren are at an even 300 with Red Bull on 272 and Ferrari on 208 points.
Whilst the aftermath of Silverstone was all about Red Bull’s favouritism, F1 leaves Hockenheim with Ferrari in the spotlight for having blatantly favoured one driver over another. Whether any action will be taken against them by the FIA remains to be seen but it definitely will remain a talking point – unless we get an even bigger one at Hungaroring next week.