Fernando Alonso celebrates his third win this yearEnlarge Photo
Ferrari's Fernando Alonso stretched his championship lead by winning the 2012 Formula 1 German Grand Prix at the Hockenheim Circuit on Sunday, always with his eyes on the rearward mirrors as he was hounded by Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel and McLaren's Jenson Button all the way to the checkered flags.
The Spaniard became the first three-time winner in the paddock by beating Vettel by 3.7 seconds to the checkered flag.
While the German got to celebrate on the podium with Alonso and Button, race stewards questioned his tactics in pressuring Button with an off-circuit pass on the penultimate lap, slapping the reigning world champion with a 20-second penalty that moved him to fifth place from his original second finishing position.
After enduring changing weather conditions for the first two days of this German Grand Prix meeting, the sun came out and this was a straight-up race; the tactics emerged on number of stops for each team--whether to change Pirelli tires with two stops or three. All of the leaders made two calls to the pits but everyone had varying tire strategies for this race.
Alonso called it "a very close race from start to finish. We did not have the quickest car," he alleged. "The team took a few strategic decisions that were spot on, at the time of both stops and I knew that I had to concentrate, especially at Turn 6, defending my position by using the KERS. I am not forgetting that Red Bull and McLaren were quicker (today). I said that the month of July would be crucial, with 75 points up for grabs in four weeks and so far we have brought home 43, so we will try and finish the job in Hungary."
Vettel wasn't terribly happy with the stewards' decision as he knew Button's tires were gone. "I tried to outbreak him and I wasn't sure where he was. I couldn't see him in that moment so decided to give enough space and went off-line on the slippery point and was able to stay ahead and get past him. The only intention was not to crash and to give him enough room. I have respect for him and I didn't want to squeeze him," Vettel said.
“Sebastian’s pass was a pretty straightforward matter: the rules state that you can’t go off the track to gain an advantage," Button stated. "There would have been more opportunities for him before the end of the race as my rear tires were damaged. I had nothing left for the end of the race. We pretty much ran out of rubber two laps before the checkered flags."
Teammate Lewis Hamilton had a 100th Grand Prix race to forget, as he incurred a puncture on the second lap from the requisite first-lap tangle between Felipe Massa's Ferrari and the Toro Rosso of Daniel Ricciardo. He dropped to the rear of the field but unlapped himself from Button and Vettel, chasing Alonso when he stopped for the second and final time. The Briton's pace didn't help his cause as he retired on the 58th lap due to the accident damage.
Kimi Raikkonen - Photo courtesy Lotus F1 TeamEnlarge Photo
There's just one week between races to finish out the month of July and Alonso leads Webber by 34 points in the Drivers' standings, with Vettel just two behind the Aussie. Raikkonen and Hamilton round out the top five. In the Constructors' battle, Red Bull still leads with Ferrari 61 points in arrears. McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes make up the top five. The Grand Prix of Hungary takes place next weekend.