At the British Grand Prix, Mercedes weren’t expecting to do well, and they didn’t. Schumacher put in a strong qualifying performance for third on the grid in the rain, but in the dry race there was nothing he could do to stay near the front, and the illustrious German finished seventh, which was a reasonable result considering that Mercedes did not expect the car to be suited to the Silverstone circuit.
Ahead of today’s German Grand Prix, Schumacher stated “We have the most difficult race behind us”, referring, of course, to the British Grand Prix. Unfortunately for Schumacher it proved not to be so. He again put in a good performance in qualifying to take fourth place, and inherited third when Mark Webber took a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change. In the race, Schumacher was again unable to stay with the front-runners, and finished seventh, as had happened at Silverstone.
If Silverstone was expected to be the tough race of the season, and the W03 was supposed to be better suited to Hockenheim, then how is today’s result to be interpreted? It can only be that Mercedes have taken a step back.
After a poor start to the season, Ferrari have made massive strides forward, to the point that they now have possibly the quickest car, and definitely the quickest driver in Fernando Alonso. Red Bull have improved in recent races, and are on a similar level to Ferrari. McLaren struggled in Valencia and Great Britain, but bounced back in Germany with a significant upgrade package the obviously made a huge difference as Jenson Button finished second. Where is the development from Mercedes? They must be developing the car, otherwise they would be at the back of the field, but the improvements are not particularly evident on the race track.
With a four-week break coming up after next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix, it is possible that Mercedes are planning a significant upgrade for the first post-break race in Belgium. The W03 should in any case be quick at the high-speed Spa-Francorchamps track, and again at Monza for Italian Grand Prix. But the rest of the season is unlikely to be suited to the W03 as it is now, and so some action is required from the team.
Can Mercedes deliver a car capable of competing at the front? They did it in China. Perhaps they can do it again.
Fernando Alonso has taken his third win of the season with a fairly uneventful victory from pole position in Germany.
After making a good start, Alonso led almost continually to the flag, surrendering the lead for only a couple of laps when he made his first pitstop. Although he never had to defend too vigorously, there was always a challenger close behind. In the early stages of the race it was Sebastian Vettel who was chasing the Spaniard, and then after Button passed Vettel in the second round of pitstops, the Briton kept Alonso honest until Vettel took the place back while he was outside the limits of the track. The stewards ruled that Vettel’s pass was illegal, and he was handed a 20-second penalty after the race was completed, but he crossed the line second with Button close behind in third.
Kimi Raikkonen came home fourth after a fairly strong afternoon that included a good pass on Michael Schumacher. Kamui Kobayashi finished fifth ahead of his Sauber team-mate Sergio Perez, and the pair of them were followed by Schumacher, who struggled for pace over the race distance but managed to collect his 77th career fastest lap. Mark Webber came home eighth after a race in which he lacked performance for no apparent reason. Nico Hulkenberg finished ninth for Force India followed by the second Mercedes of Nico Rosberg in tenth.
Lewis Hamilton was hoping for a strong race in dry conditions after struggling in yesterday’s wet qualifying session, but the McLaren driver was unfortunate to pick up a puncture in the early stages of the race that put him out of contention. He eventually retired his car with 11 laps remaining after providing some entertainment by passing Sebastian Vettel to unlap himself. Despite Hamilton’s tough day the team will be reassured by the pace of the car after a significant upgrade for this race.
There were no points for Williams and Toro Rosso today, continuing the run of bad form both teams have experienced recently. Pastor Maldonado in particular must be wondering what he has to do to achieve decent results – since winning in Barcelona over two months ago, the Venezuelan has not finished in the top ten.
Vettel’s post-race penalty pushes him back to fifth position, giving Kimi Raikkonen his fourth podium of the season, and promoting Kamui Kobayashi to fourth place. Vettel is gradually falling back in the Drivers’ Championship, a situation he will want to remedy in a hurry.
Alonso has now extended his championship lead to 34 points over Mark Webber, with Vettel a further ten points back. Kimi Raikkonen has moved up into fourth place in the table, albeit 56 points behind Alonso.
Formula One now heads to Budapest for next week’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Alonso will be keen to consolidate his championship lead ahead of the mid-season break, but he will face stiff competition from Red Bull and the resurgent McLarens.
After being hauled in front of the stewards to explain their engine maps, Red Bull will be relieved to have no action taken against their drivers for today’s German Grand Prix.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer had examined the RB8 engine maps and found evidence that suggested that Red Bull were attempting to gain an aerodynamic advantage by blowing more air through the exhaust than was required to produce the demanded torque at full throttle at mid-range revs.
Christian Horner was surprised to hear that his team was being investigated, and his confidence in the legality of the RB8 proved justified as the stewards decided not to impose any penalties on the Red Bull drivers.
Sebastian Vettel will start second, with Mark Webber eighth after qualifying third and receiving a five-place gird penalty for changing his gearbox.
Red Bull have been referred to the stewards at the German Grand Prix for having illegal engine maps.
FIA technical delegate Jo Bauer examined the engine maps on both RB8 cars and considered them to be in breach of Article 5.5.3 of the 2012 Formula One Technical Regulations as he found the maximum torque output in a certain range of revs to be significantly less than the engines are known to be capable of producing.
In addition, Jo Bauer considered that the illegal engine maps would also alter the aerodynamic characteristics of the cars, which is illegal under this season’s regulations.
The stewards are currently looking into the potential breach, which could result in penalties for Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. If the cars are found to be illegal, Vettel and Webber may be excluded from the results of qualifying and demoted to the back of the grid. They may even be required to start from the pitlane, as they would be required to change the engine maps for the race, which would put them in breach of parc ferme regulations.
It seems unlikely that the Red Bulls will not be allowed to race.