HOCKENHEIM, Germany – Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo both delivered thrilling performances in an action-packed German Grand Prix that saw Seb finish fourth and Dan sixth.
At the front, Nico Rosberg took a fourth win of the season ahead of Williams' Valtteri Bottas. But with the championship leader finishing 20 seconds ahead of the Finn, spectators had to look further down the order for excitement. Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes delivered his share, powering through from 20th on the grid to third at the end of the race. Behind the podium finishers, Sebastian enjoyed another superb battle with Fernando Alonso. It was a fight that was joined in the closing stages by Daniel, who after being passed by the Ferrari driver on newer tires, fought back to finish just eight hundredths of a second adrift of the double champion.
There was drama right from the start of the race. While pole winner Rosberg and front-row starter Bottas got away cleanly when the lights went out, Felipe Massa in the second Williams and McLaren's Kevin Magnussen collided, with the result that Massa barrel-rolled into the gravel traps. He emerged from his car unhurt but was out of the race. Magnussen continued but after pitting for repairs rejoined in last place. Unfortunately, Daniel got caught up in the incident and was forced to take evasive action. It meant he dropped back to 15th. He immediately began to claw back positions, however, and was soon up to 12th – ahead of Hamilton who was making his own charge through the field. The pair's march towards the top five was on half of the tale of the first half of the race, though the Mercedes driver managed to squeeze past Daniel in the battle for P7 at the hairpin.
The other major tussle was the one developing Sebastian and Alonso. The pair, in third and fourth places, scrapped relentlessly throughout the opening stint, with Seb retaining the upper hand. In the second pit stop, Ferrari pitted Alonso a lap earlier in a bid to find a way past Sebastian. It seemed not to have worked, as Seb emerged in front of the Ferrari, but the Spaniard then got past the champion under DRS to steal the place. That left the team with a strategic call to make, and they decided to undercut the Italian team bringing Sebastian in on lap 45 for a set of used soft tires.
The move worked well, and when Alonso dived for the pits 10 laps later for a final set of supersoft tires, Seb was 11 seconds ahead and Alonso had fallen to sixth place behind Daniel. The Australian was on older soft tires, however, and suffering against the pace of Alonso's used supersofts. He defended hard, though, and just as Seb had battled with Alonso in Silverstone, here in Hockenheim Daniel dueled with the Ferrari driver for half a dozen laps of thrilling wheel-to-wheel racing. Daniel eventually lost out on lap 61, but he fought back until then end, almost passing the double champion as the pair crossed the line in an impossibly tight finish.
Afterwards, both Seb and Dan spoke enthusiastically about the battles fought during the race.
"It was fun with Fernando today – we started maybe where we left off in Silverstone," said Seb. "It was quite entertaining, the first half of the race, and at one point it was quite tight with both the Ferraris, but we managed to stay ahead. The second stop was a bit too close and Fernando was able to pass without too many difficulties, which put us on the back foot, but we decided to be a bit more aggressive towards the end and make sure we got the undercut and then we could put some gap between us, which was crucial for us as we were quite tight in terms of fuel towards the end of the race. I think that was the best we could get today. Daniel just missed passing Fernando at the end unfortunately."
The Australian wasn't too dismayed, however, branding the race "awesome fun."
"That was one of the most enjoyable races I've had. I mean, not on the first lap, obviously, that was just the wrong place at the wrong time. I wasn't as worse off as Massa and hopefully he is okay. I was on the outside and when the collision happened, I had to avoid it and went pretty far down the field. I don't know exactly how far back. From then on I just got on to the radio and said let's make an amazing recovery and make ourselves proud today. And I think we did that, we fought hard and we didn't leave anything on the table. These are the moments and battles that I personally thrive off and enjoy. Fernando is known to be a tough fighter, and I thought who better to have a good fight with? I was on the Primes and he was on fresher Options and I gave it the best fight I could and, well, nearly!"
Team Principal Christian Horner said that the result was the maximum the team could have achieved but branded the race as "hard fought" and "exciting."
"Fourth and sixth were the absolute maximum we could achieve out of today, especially after the first corner when Daniel did an amazing job to avoid the accident, said Horner. “There was some great racing with Sebastian and Fernando early in the race and he was really our main competitor today. Our strategy worked out that we were able to beat him in the end reasonably comfortably with Sebastian, and Daniel came close as well after recovering extremely well and fighting hard with some more great racing towards the end. It was an exciting Grand Prix; there's still a big gap to Mercedes but we're working hard to try and close it down."
With Seb fourth ahead of Alonso and Daniel, seventh place was taken by Force India's Nico Hulkenberg. Jenson Button was eighth for McLaren, ahead of teammate Magnussen and the final points position went to Sergio Perez in the second Force India.
Rosberg's win leaves him on 190 points with Hamilton now 14 points back. Daniel lies third with 106 points, nine clear of Alonso, who is six ahead of Sebastian. Infiniti Red Bull Racing now have 188 points in the Constructors' Championship and maintain second place behind Mercedes.
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