Alonso becomes a three-time winner with Pirelli in 2012
Ferrari driver Fernando Alonso converted his pole position in Germany to a third victory this year, extending his championship lead. It was also the Spaniard’s 22nd consecutive points finish. Alonso used a two-stop strategy to control the race, only losing the lead when he made his pit stops. Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel passed McLaren driver Jenson Button with two laps to go to claim second place, in yet another close finish.
After a wet qualifying session, the drivers were given free choice of starting on the P Zero White medium or P Zero Yellow soft: the two compounds nominated for the German Grand Prix. The top 10 qualifiers, led by Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, all started on the soft tyre with just five cars starting on the medium: the Sauber of Kamui Kobayashi, the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne, the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg (who started 21st on the grid following a gearbox change penalty) and the two Marussias of Timo Glock and Charles Pic.
The race got underway in ambient temperatures of 21 degrees centigrade, with the teams having limited information about the slick tyres at Hockenheim following two days of intermittent rain. This meant however that most drivers had their full allocation of practically unused soft tyres available, which had only run in the final free practice session on Saturday – as well as in Q1 for some teams.
Alonso held the lead from the beginning, while pit stop strategy gained Jenson Button a place on his third and final stop on lap 40, when he pitted a lap earlier than Alonso and Vettel for his final set of mediums. The two leaders reacted by pitting one lap later for the same compound, but Button’s lap in the meantime was fast enough for him to ‘undercut’ Vettel and move into second. However, Vettel was able to get past Button with a dramatic move in the closing stages.
Button’s team mate Lewis Hamilton was less fortunate: following a puncture caused by debris, Hamilton made an early pit stop and rejoined at the back, putting him out of sync with the frontrunners. Such was the benefit of Hamilton’s fresh tyres though that he was able to pass the leaders – who were on a different strategy – straight after making his pit stop, despite being a lap down: a perfect demonstration of how important it is to be on the right tyre at the right time.
The top six all adopted a two-stop strategy, with Michael Schumacher, who made a late stop for soft tyres, the highest-placed three-stopper in seventh – having also set fastest lap. His team mate Nico Rosberg also used a three-stop strategy to make up 11 places and finish 10th, taking the final drivers’ point.
Pirelli’s motorsport director Paul Hembery commented: “The teams had to take quite a flexible approach to their strategies, with so little dry running up to today, and as a result we saw a wide variety of ideas and tactics coming into play. The strategies meant that we saw an extremely finely balanced race, with the leaders rarely separated by more than a handful of seconds. With 20 laps still to go the top three were covered by less than three seconds and it stayed close to the end. The majority of teams opted for a two-stop strategy, running their two final stints on the medium tyre. The last stint was particularly crucial, with the drivers having to look after their tyres carefully in order to ensure consistent performance all the way to the finish. The top three drivers all showed great determination to maximise the potential of the medium tyres to the end.”