25/07/2012

German GP, Hockenheim: Strategy paid off this time

To be honest, the race wasn’t too exciting in terms of what we have seen this season but it was exciting enough from racing point of view as we got to see some great wheel to wheel racing, some awesome moves from the drivers. Alonso got the strategy correct this time around and got his 3rd win with Button at P2 & Kimi at P3 after a penalty to Vettel.


Whole weekend review is down here:

Practice Session, FP1:


Familiar scenes were to be seen from what we saw last weekend. It was just that early on the session was dry but then rain changed the whole scenario. The teams did managed to get some good running but it wasn’t enough, I suppose. They were testing the new hard tyres given by Pirelli. Button ended P1 with Hamilton at P2 and Alonso P3. Hulkenberg in his home GP finished at P6 and Bianchi sitting for Di Resta ended at P16. Both had a good run specially Hulkenberg who knows this track very well. Clos sat in for Karthikeyan as the Indian was back in FP2.


FP2:


A stop-start session as it was wet at the start with dry in between and things were looking good when it started raining and the track was wet again. Teams did run some considerable laps but I don’t think they had enough data’s collected in the day. Maldonado ended at P1, Rosberg at P2 & Vettel at P3. Hulkenberg continued with a good run but no one could be sure how good it was in such conditions. He set the fastest S2 time in the session. Di Resta was back and he ended at P18, so was Karthikeyan who ended at P24. The drivers at the end of day were left with little to talk about with such conditions and they hoped for some dry run.



FP3:


Finally, it was dry for the drivers to gather as much information they can. This was the first session where the teams could use the soft tyres for the first time but there was little time for them to get any real information about it’s performance. Alonso pipped Hamilton to P1 as rain came hard towards the end of the session. Perez ended at P3. Hulkenberg was down at P12 with Di Resta right behind him at P13. Karthikeyan ended at P23. All did almost the same amount of laps they did in FP1 & FP2.

Nothing conclusive from the rain hit practice sessions as the real fight for pole remained open and with rain predicted for the qualifying session it was all the more lottery. Ferrari, Red Bull & McLaren’s still were the front runners. I felt that SFI duo could make it to Q3 but surely it would be tough for them but the rainy conditions would certainly help. And for Karthikeyan, I hoped that he beat Rosa & Marussia at least.



Qualifying, Q1:


The teams did manage to get some laps in the soft and medium tyres in the session but not for long as rain came back towards the end the of the session or you can just seconds after the session. Raikkonen ended at P1 with Perez at P2 and Rosberg at P3. Both SFI’s made it safely into Q2 after they used their soft tyres. It was a real drama in the end when Schumacher just scrapped through to make into the second session as he demoted Vergne to P17. The rest were the usual suspects of Caterham, Marussia & HRT. Karthikeyan ended at P24 having qualified well within the 107% time.



Q2:


The rain which started towards the end of Q1 didn’t stop much in Q2 although it was predicted to end but it continued and got even harder. As Ferrari engineer pointed the first few timed laps will be enough for Q3 and that happened in the end. Schumacher ended at P1, Vettel at P2 & Alonso at P3. Both SFI having done a better timed lap made it to Q3 in the end as no one could improve after the rain got heavier towards the end of the session. The rain did helped a bit there but SFI’s pace was looking good in the conditions.



Q3:


The rain continued pouring during the third session as well. All the drivers came out to set whatever possible time they can. At least rain gave fans some cheers as every driver were running in Q3. In the end Alonso’s strategy of having a new tyres for last two runs proved crucial as he clinched pole with Vettel at P2 and Webber P3 but pushed down due to penalty. Hulkenberg qualified in the team’s best position yet in the season, P5 he was but was to start at P4 and he also set the fastest S2 time in whole qualifying session. Di Resta lost some time as he didn’t get a clean lap to end at P9.


Ferrari have made quite an amends and are now the team to beat while Red Bull are staying strong as usual. Biggest disappointment was McLaren. An Alonso win was on cards but Vettel was the biggest hurdle for Alonso. With dry race predicted, it would have been difficult for Hulk & Paul to score big points. They had a best chance but with some fear. I was predicting a double point finish.



Raceday:


And it was dry, yes the prediction of a dry race proved to be correct surprisingly. It was a free  choice of tyres and strategy became important as no team had much of knowledge on how the tyres would behave. Most of them started on soft but few chose for hard, I thought to start off with hard would have been better as it was quite hot. Coming to the start of the race, Alonso had a good start as he kept Vettel, Schumacher, Hulkenberg at bay. Button had a good start as Hamilton felt the heat and punctured his tyres due to Massa’s tangle with Ricciardo as he lost his front wing. The debris at T1 was enough to have a SC for 2-3 laps, I thought. Hulkenberg started off well as he hung on to P4 position, Di Resta went up but drop down to where he started. Karthikeyan too had a good start as he was fighting with Marussia and his teammate.


The heat was on at front with Alonso fighting hard with Vettel and then Button after he got the better of Vettel during pit stops. It was a great battle between the three, but that Ferrari was looking pretty good and the team got the strategy correct this time. The thing that clicked me was Hamilton un-lapping himself from the leaders, the one who lost a lot of time was Vettel. Whether Hamilton did it for Button or himself, only he knows. Behind these guys, the Sauber duo of Kobayashi & Perez along with Kimi were having a great race having made loads of places after a low qualifying positions. Their car being good in hot conditions and better on tyres were helping them a lot. Schumacher lost places while Rosberg made up through the field.


The Force India duo had a good start but unfortunately tyre wear was becoming a headache for them and thus they started losing places. The strategy this time wasn’t wrong as Hulkenberg went for 3 stops while Di Resta was on 2. Both the drivers were having some big battles, Hulkenberg was overtook by Schumacher & Kimi in one corner after he made his pit stop while he had many battles with Kobayashi & Perez as did his team mate but the Sauber being on new tyres and a better pace managed to get ahead. Di Resta was also involved in a great wheel to wheel racing with Kimi. Karthikeyan was having his own battle down in the list as he was catching up to his team mate and Marussia.


Button was looking to overtake Alonso but towards the end he started to lose pace when Vettel caught up to him. The road was clear for Alonso and he got it in the end, winning the 3rd GP this year. The world title seems like in his grasp already. Vettel managed to overtake Button but as his move was not right, he was penalised post race as he lost 3 places to finish P5. Button got the P2 position and Kimi ended at P3. Force India’s Hulkenberg ended at P9 as he salvaged 2 points for the team to close in to Williams in CC. Di Resta finished just outside the points as he lost to Rosberg in the end with worn tyres. Hulk was catching Webber but there wasn’t enough laps for him to challenge for P8. Karthikeyan ended P23, pretty close to overtake Glock. A positive race from the Indian as the team hailed the weekend as success.


We don’t have to wait much guys, the Hungarian GP is just few days away. Don’t you just love back to back weekends? The last race before teams head off for summer break. The title picture is getting clear, Alonso looking good to win DC while RBR the CC. Force India are just one point behind Williams, but need a podium or two to get ahead of Sauber which is possible. Karthikeyan is having a good season, positively an un-interrupted run till now. Enjoy another weekend of racing before the drought comes up. Adios!!


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