Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix overnight, helping to ease the perceived pressure on McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) relegated Red Bull off the top two steps for the first time in 2011, while Mark Webber (Red Bull) managed third place. In some respects it was a disappointing result for Mark after he started from pole position.
All three men on the podium led the race at varying stages and in the first half of the race were nose to tail. It was after the second round of pitstops that Hamilton was able to slowly build a race-winning lead.
It’s the second race in a row now where the Red Bulls have not had the race pace to hold off their competitors. The second half of the 2011 season could have some real excitement if Ferrari and McLaren can remain consistent on Sundays.
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) registered his worst result for the year finishing fourth. A position he claimed on the second last lap in pit lane when he and Felipe Massa (Ferrari) came in to make a compulsory tyre change.
Vettel (216pts) still enjoys a very comfortable 77 point lead in the drivers’ championship over Webber (139pts). The fight for second is hotting up, however, with Hamilton (134pts) and Alonso (130pts) close behind. In the race for the constructors’ title Red Bull would have to suffer a total loss of performance to squander their 112pt cushion.
Daniel Ricciardo finished the race in 19th position and was the sole finisher for HRT following Liuzzi’s retirement on lap 37. The young Aussie is making steady progress but is hungry for more. It’s probably fair to say many were expecting his performance relative to his teammate to be much closer. With more experience let’s hope he closes the gap further.
You can read the full post-race press conference, courtesy of the FIA, after the break.
[Pic: Vodafone McLaren Mercedes]
German GP – Conference 4
1 – Lewis HAMILTON (McLaren)
2 – Fernando ALONSO (Ferrari)
3 – Mark WEBBER (Red Bull)
Q: Lewis, your second win of the season and I get the feeling that meant a little bit more than your first win of the season.
Lewis HAMILTON: Yeah, I think so. I think every win is special but I think the emotion and all the energy the team put into the car and the effort they have put inâ€¦ when we donâ€™t see results like this it slowly builds up, so when you finally hit the sweet-spot and get it, I think it is just ever better. It just couldnâ€™t feel any better. I think we never expected to come here this weekend and be so fast. We were hindered in the last race a little bit, but the guys did a fantastic job, really pushing very hard. Even the guys back at Brixworth HPE are pushing very hard and the engine was great. I just feel great. I think one of the best races I think I have ever done.
Q: Fernando, the top three finishers were all pushing hard but maybe pushing a little bit too hard in your case, as you ran out of fuel at the end of the race. Did that compromise your fight with Lewis towards the latter stages?
Fernando ALONSO: No, not really. I think in the last stint we could not get any closer to Lewis. I think with the medium tyres we were not too quick, so we just controlled the gap with Mark and secured the second place. For us, it was a fantastic race, a fantastic Sunday again. We struggled a little in quali, being fourth yesterday, but today the car showed great pace, a great degradation of the tyres, so we can keep the pace of the leaders and we jump (Sebastian) Vettel on the track and Mark in the pit-stop. It was great the second place after the win in Silverstone, the second place in Valencia, so it is definitely a good moment of the championship for us. Next week we have another opportunity.
Q: Mark, describe your emotions after another pole position that sadly, for you, you couldnâ€™t convert into a win.
Mark WEBBER: Yeah, we werenâ€™t quick enough today. Did everything I could. I was happy with how I drove. I think these guys just had that little extra margin when they needed to do it, especially at the back part of the stints. A little bit more range and that made us a little bit exposed on strategy. We know what we have got to improve on. I couldnâ€™t have got much more out of what we had today, so disappointed not to get the win, but all three of us had a smooth day really. A good fight around the stops. Like you say, mixed emotions. Another good result. You need to perform at a high level to get these, but we will keep learning. The progress has been decent but we need to improve.
Q: Lewis, where did your extra margins come from? How much was down to the car and how much was down to you?
LH: Well, I think none of us can win without the car. I think bit by bit just learning more about the how the car is behaving and with the driving style I was able to learn to look after the tyres a little bit more. There were certain areas where I was losing out to these guys. I was quickest in the first sector, quickest in the last sector, but struggling in the middle sector, so it was really improving my line in a lot of different places, particularly turn three. At the apex of turn three I was sliding my tyres quite a lot but later on I was able to recover from that and avoid the sliding. At turn eight, which is the fast chicane, I wasnâ€™t able to take (it) flat out at the beginning of the race, while Mark was and he was catching me massively. With a couple of alterations and with all the switches that we have, all the toys we have, it was really fantastic for me to be able to make steps forward. I was really surprised again that my tyres lasted so long later on in the race, so I guess there are still areas we need to improve on, particularly on heavier fuel for the beginning of the race, but this is a massive step forward and I really hope that we, as a team, can really use this to propel us forward and to keep the momentum going.
Q: Fernando, it was such a close fight between all three of you for pretty much all of the 60 laps. How difficult was it to concentrate on the racing and the overtaking while trying to focus on what you needed to do to save tyres and save fuel in your case as well?
FA: Yeah, it was an attacking race. In a way we didnâ€™t concentrate too much on the tyres today because when you are in a group fighting three cars together you are just concentrating on getting close enough to the DRS zones and using your KERS in the best possible place. It did work with Sebastian, I was able to overtake him. It didnâ€™t work at some other parts of the race, but I think it was nice to watch the fight of all three and at the end fantastic result for us again. Quite a good race.
Q: For the first time this season the championship leader doesnâ€™t sit amongst the top three. Mark, is this what we can expect from here on in as we move into the second half of the season, a close fight between you and Sebastian at Red Bull and Lewis at McLaren and Fernando at Ferrari as well?
MW: Yeah, hope so.
Q: What gives you that confidence that it is going to be such a great fight? From what weâ€™ve seen today or by the developments you feel the three teams are making?
MW: Well, the last three races it has closed up if you want to talk about the little comparison between us two but obviously the main comparison is with our opposition. We got beaten at the last race and we got beaten here, so you donâ€™t have to be Einstein to work out that we need to keep working hard. We have had a phenomenal run. We are still leading the constructorsâ€™ (Championship) very, very well. Seb has got a good lead in the Driversâ€™ (Championship) but you have got to keep being consistent and learning. We have got great people at the factory and reliability is still good. Obviously JB (Jenson Button) dropped out today so thatâ€™s an added bonus for us in the team, so keep our head down and press on.
Q: Lewis, letâ€™s start with the start. What happened there, as it was pretty good?
LH: Yeah, it was one of our best starts, which is a huge difference to what we had perhaps in some places like Valencia. We have been working really hard on our starts and I think I got good temperature in my tyres, good temperature in my brakes, and as we pulled away it felt just fantastic. It was probably one of the best starts we have had all season and it was just at the right time really. It was important to get into the lead at the beginning, otherwise we may have seen Mark pull away. After that it was just trying to bridge the gap. At the beginning of the stint I was able to do that, but I think we are better at generating heat in our tyres. Then, inevitably, our tyres degraded a little bit quicker and the others began to catch up. But it was an eventful race I think.
Q: Then Mark came past you, but you got him a lap later?
LH: Yeah, I donâ€™t know how the other drivers feel but there was a particular point on the track for me going into the chicane, and from lap to lap it was a little bit different braking into the chicane. Maybe it was just my car but I would have a bit of rear wheel locking or something like that and I would just slide into the corner. I had a bit of a wide moment there so just had to be very cautious at that corner more than any others throughout the race. He got past me but fortunately I was in a position to get past him again into turn one. We had a good battle all the way I think down to turn three. Mark was very fair. That is the kind of racing I love. I love having those kind of races with people but fortunately we were able to come out ahead.
Q: The important thing about this stage of the season â€“ is it is important to be on top going into a double header and then the summer break as well?
LH: I think it is always a plus, no matter what point of the season is, to be at the front. We really, really and I particularly didnâ€™t expect to be anywhere near where we are today this weekend. I thought we would be struggling behind both Red Bulls and Ferraris and perhaps I may have been able to split one of the Ferraris but it was quite the contrary. Really surprised at the speed that we had. We are always quite quick in the races. I think it is a little bit unfortunate that the rules have been a little bit consistent over the last two races. But we are back in the fight. I think the next race is going to be very hot probably, which will be another big challenge for us but we are working very hard in anticipation of that so hopefully we will still be competitive.
Q: Fernando, second place after winning two weeks ago. Are you happy with second? No one ever is, but are you?
FA: Yeah, absolutely. Extremely happy with todayâ€™s result. We had a weekend that probably was not the easiest one. We struggled a little bit on Friday and we saw the Red Bull maybe in a better position than Silverstone. Then yesterday in qualifying we were fourth quickest, half a second or four-tenths from pole position, so no doubts we were struggling a little bit more this weekend because of the low temperatures or whatever the reason is. Also, for sure, the improvements that our competitors brought here and even with all these difficulties we are second and fighting for the victory on Sunday so this is a fantastic achievement from the team again. Second in Valencia, first Silverstone, and second here with three different rules, as Lewis touched on, three different maps, we are constantly first or second in the last three races, with three different type of circuits. Silverstone a very high-speed circuit, Valencia heavy braking and Nurburgring a slow-speed corners. Different kind of temperatures. Valencia hot, here nearly winter temperatures. So with all these conditions we saw our consistency and it puts us in a very good position to enjoy this final part of the championship.
Q: So you are particularly looking forward to Budapest coming up and even Belgium?
FA: Definitely, I am looking forward. With a little bit more temperature in the track it will be a help for us. Soft and super soft tyres for next week should be an advantage also for us in the way we take care of our tyres. So, in one week I am sure that we will have a very interesting race again. McLaren did a step forward and is ready to take victories. Red Bull will be extremely strong in Budapest as we saw last year, so it is challenging for us but we are looking forward.
Q: And you overtook Sebastian on lap nine as well.
FA: Yeah, I overtook him at the start, then he overtook me on lap two into turn three. I was on a wet kerb and then I overtook him again on the main straight. It was good. As we said, there is nothing we lose when we attack at the moment the Red Bulls. They have a very comfortable advantage, so every time we can we will try to overtake them.
Q: Mark, what about the start?
MW: It wasnâ€™t a big issue today. I led the race.
Q: So thatâ€™s one thing accomplished?
MW: Lewis obviously had a phenomenal start. Better than ours. Then we got into the first part of the grand prix. It is always difficult to keep the pressure on the guy in front, which I could do with Lewis in the first stint not too bad. But we know with these tyres that the consumption on them is pretty high following someone like that, so it is always a line line how much you want to be on someone around the stops, around the DRS, but also you hurt the tyres by doing that. It is hard to race when they are like that, but anyway thatâ€™s the way it is. Then I jumped them around the stop. Led the middle stint I think and then we got jumped in the next round of pit stops by both guys. Fernando went one lap longer and jumped both of us. Lewis got him on the outside of three. I tried to do the same move on Lewis but it was quite close. I wasnâ€™t far enough around to really win the corner so all of us are warming up our tyres in the first sector having had the guy thatâ€™s just pitted. But overall mixed emotions. I donâ€™t think I could have got much more. I think I drove to the limit of the car. All of us did. Lewis deserved the win. Fernando, all of us, were pushing hard for the majority of the grand prix and it comes down to the team-work in the pit-stops and everything together. In the end disappointed not to win of course, but we will keep pushing for Budapest. We know we have to improve the car on Sundays. Itâ€™s an area that has been brewing the last few races and it is something that we need to try to address soon.
Q: Is that just the way you run the car or is that development parts?
MW: It has been like it for the past two-and-a-half years. The car has been very, very quick on Saturday and normally enough on Sundays to win grands prix. Obviously, the last two we have been done fair-and-square. Seb last weekend, me this weekend, so we didnâ€™t really have much to punch back with. So hats off to the opposition. Thatâ€™s what itâ€™s about but it is good that we have only got four days and we are in Budapest again to try and have another crack.
Q: Is Budapest a track you feel will suit you?
MW: I think the car should go well there, yes. But again, it is down to tyres, but we saw last year it is a little bit more like the middle sector here.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
Q: (Vincent Marre â€“ Sportzeitung) Lewis, how do you rate your percentage chance of winning the Championship, if you had to rate it ?
LH: The chance? Weâ€™re not really looking at that. Coming into this weekend, I said we would just try and take it one race at a time. Again, we never really anticipated being so competitive this weekend, but of course, weâ€™ve just had a win and with the way people have finished the race, itâ€™s a massive bonus or positive for us, but thereâ€™s still a long, long way to go and itâ€™s about trying to keep doing this, trying to get some consistency. If I say something now, and then the next race could be a disaster because itâ€™s a very, very hot track, we could be in a similar position as we were in Valencia. I would prefer to keep my mouth closed and let the pace of our car do the talking.
Q: (Alvaro Faes – La Nueva EspaÃ±a) Lewis, we all know that music is very important for you, itâ€™s very important in your life. I would like to know if you knew or were a friend of Amy Winehouse, and if you have any special thoughts for her after winning today?
LH: I think itâ€™s a very, very tragic time. Music, in general, is a huge, huge part of my life. I donâ€™t know what I would do without music and she was a very, very uniquely talented singer and writer, and she was really one of the very few nowadays that even writes their own songs, so she was very special and I canâ€™t imagine how tough it is for all of the family, but mine and my familyâ€™s thoughts and wishes go to them. We all said a prayer for her last night and for the family as well.
Q: (Sarah Holt â€“ BBC Sport) Lewis, you never stop believing in your driving style, despite various criticisms that youâ€™ve had this season and in the past. How important was that today, because you were producing very stylish moves, progressive?
LH: I think days like this definitely pay off more than you could imagine, and being able to have close races â€“ this was a great race in the sense that there was Mark, me and Fernando all within a tenth of each other, lap after lap after lap and it was about real perfection and it was about really not making mistakes. It was awesome and I think both of these guys drove exceptionally well. And then for me, with my aggressive style, people comment about being able to use it. I think today I was in a really very good head space and perhaps I feel even better because I felt the moves I did were some of the most precise moves I have pulled in a while. Being able to drive with your head all the time and get it right, just right, is massively satisfying. As I said, I will continue to do it the way I do it and continue to improve.
Q: (Joris Fioriti â€“ Agence France Presse) Fernando, during the last races youâ€™ve been saying that what you have to do is get as many points as possible, and wait for Sebastian Vettel to make mistakes. Today he made a couple of them; do you think itâ€™s due to the pressure that you put on him, and also to Mark and Lewis.
FA: No, I donâ€™t think so. I think itâ€™s just about racing; whatever happens I donâ€™t know what happened to him. I think he spun at the beginning of the race. I donâ€™t know how he was stuck behind Felipe, whether he lost position in a pit stop or whatever but these things happen. For sure if you start from pole position, you have a second advantage in your car and you lead the whole race, itâ€™s very easy. When there is more competition, you need to take races in a different way, you need to be perfect in all things: the start, the pit stops, qualifying etc and maybe today they had some difficulties in one of the areas but I think they are still very, very quick. They were on pole position yesterday, they are by far the favourites for Budapest so after this race it still doesnâ€™t change anything compared to yesterday. For sure, as I said, if we have a small chance to recover the gap in the championship, if we do races like today, we are on the podium and he isnâ€™t. To have that combination in our case, we need the best possible performance from our teammates, as I said yesterday, in my case, we need the best McLaren performance as well, to see the McLarens very, very strong and taking points from Red Bull.
LH: You canâ€™t expect him to be perfect all the time. Heâ€™s won a huge amount of races from the end of last year into this year. Itâ€™s easy for everyone to criticise him, just from one race, but heâ€™s been exceptionally consistent for a long time. For whatever reasons, Iâ€™m sure he will bounce back, he will be very quick at the next race and I think itâ€™s maybe a one-off.
Q: (Jaime Rodriguez â€“ El Mundo) Fernando, can you explain what happened on the last lap? It was a strange way to arrive to the podium, making autostop.
FA: Yes. The team told me to stop the car for safety reasons and I stopped the car. Mark was there so I took the taxi!
Q: (Michael Schmidt â€“ Auto, Motor und Sport) Mark and Fernando, in the first two stints, you three were pretty well packed, and then in the third stint, all of a sudden the gap opened. Was there a problem with this particular set of tyres or did you play it strategically to go as late as possible onto the harder tyre?
MW: Itâ€™s very, very complex. Itâ€™s hard to explain all the time why gaps open up here and there. I think I did three laps on this set of tyres in Q2, one quick one, one slow one, one quick one, so probably the lowest priority set for us in terms of the race. Also, I locked the rears like Lewis did in the chicane on one of the laps, so I lost a second and a half, two seconds at the start of that stint, trying to stay with Fernando. Yeah, the cars also behave a bit differently: different fuel loads, all those type of things come into it and then all of a sudden you have one or two tenths per lap and the gaps start to eke away a bit differently to what they were at the start. Also, when weâ€™re close together, obviously the DRS can give you a chance to stay in the zone, but when all of us are free of DRS, then the real pace starts to show, inevitably.
Q: (Livio Oricchio â€“ O Estado de Sao Paulo) Mark, this was the first loss of your team this season, real loss, no pit stop error in the pit stops, no rain, nothing, and you lost to two teams, McLaren and Ferrari. Is this the real moment, is this the real picture of the second part of the season?
MW: I donâ€™t think we can blame a four second pit stop at Silverstone. I think we got beaten fair and square in Silverstone, so this isnâ€™t the first time weâ€™ve been beaten, so this is the second race. Is it the form for the second part of the championship? Difficult to say, because weâ€™re going to go to a track next weekend which should be a bit better for us than this track. Letâ€™s see. If we start to see a real trend, like I say, weâ€™ve got company on Saturday and weâ€™re really not in trouble but Sundayâ€™s are more of a handful for us at the moment. Fernando was with us in Turkey and also in Valencia and Lewis in Barcelona on Sunday. Letâ€™s see. I think itâ€™s a bit early, but itâ€™s not likeâ€¦ Seb had a good run, but itâ€™s not likeâ€¦ I think we were more dominant last year than we were this year. Itâ€™s just that we always put things together and weâ€™ve always been there at the end, but last year we were probably more dominant. Itâ€™s just that Seb had a good run, but close victories, not winning by twenty seconds.
Q: (Flavio Vanetti – Corriere della Sera) Fernando, apart from the track not being particularly favourable to Ferrari, were you missing anything that would allow you to win today? Were you missing anything in the car?
FA: Yeah, I think qualifying was one of the important things that we missed this weekend, because on race pace we were quite quick, or as quick as the leader normally in all parts of the race, all parts of the stints. If you start in fourth, you always have to overtake people, either in the pit stops, where you have to anticipate and try to overtake or stay out longer, or overtake on the track. You are always running behind traffic, so you damage your tyres a little bit more when you are running a second behind another car, so in general I think with a clean race from the front, with clean air, I think we would have a little bit more pace, which we didnâ€™t maximise today. So I think qualifying is one thing that we maybe missed this weekend and then secondly maybe also some of the moments in the race, in the pit stops, when we were very close to overtaking them, especially the second pit stop when I was first in the first corner and I lost the position in the second and in one lap I think I lost two seconds so the warm-up on the out lap was very, very bad, so thatâ€™s something that we need to keep working on.
Q: (FrÃ©dÃ©ric Ferret â€“ Lâ€™Equipe) Mark, can we have a few words about Cadel Evansâ€™s win in the Tour de France?
MW: Obviously cycling has had a lot of controversy in the last ten years. Iâ€™ve always kept an eye on it, of course, tried my best to enjoy the sport and still watching the incredible courage that the guys show to take on the mountains and climb at altitude and all those type of things, and back up day after day. We know with Cadel that heâ€™s a really strong fighter. He did most of the riding in the mountains on his own. He didnâ€™t have much support. Obviously on the Alpe dâ€™Huez day he had to get a few mechanicals with the bike as well, so he lost a lot of time there. He absolutely deserves the victory, itâ€™s been inspiring to watch him, particularly over the last week, fight on his own. Itâ€™s been a weekend of mixed emotions. You obviously have something like that, which is incredible, but I couldnâ€™t believe what happened in Norway, itâ€™s never far from your mind. It brings what weâ€™re here for into perspective. Obviously we enjoy the racing but there are other people who have had a very, very difficult weekend, for sure.
Q: (FrÃ©dÃ©ric Ferret â€“ Lâ€™Equipe) Fernando and Lewis, do you think itâ€™s McLaren and Ferrari in front of the Red Bulls now, apart from Budapest? Do you think the gap is closed to the two Red Bulls and you can fight for the championship with them?
LH: It appears so but like I say, we didnâ€™t really think we would be so fast and not quite sure what weâ€™ve done, because weâ€™ve not really brought much here. I donâ€™t know if itâ€™s the conditions. I think we were competitive in Montreal and in Monaco and in Valencia, in hot temperatures, we are less competitive. We obviously went to Silverstone with the rule changes which was a big problem for us, and then we come back here to where we were, really, in cool conditions. I think weâ€™re there or thereabouts but I do still feel that the overall performance of the two guys here, particularly the Red Bullsâ€™, is slightly better than ours. You can see this weekend, I was quickest in the first sector and the last sector, but we lose a lot in the middle sector, and thatâ€™s because we donâ€™t have a DRS system as efficient as theirs, so I think that we will lose at least half of those four tenths in the middle sector. If we can improve in that area, then I think we could definitely eke ahead of them, so thatâ€™s what we need to work on.
FA: Yes, same for me. I think that as Lewis said, it seems that one weekend is good for us in terms of Silverstone, the characteristics of the corners or whatever. This weekend seems good for McLaren, for whatever reason, but Red Bull is always there. It seems that all conditions on most circuits are good for them, so thatâ€™s the only difference and I think we need to make another step if we want to be at the same level.
Q: (Kate Walker â€“ GirlRacer) Lewis and Fernando, the Hungaroring is supposed to be a Red Bull track; can you tell us anything about the updates that your teams might be bringing to try and negate that advantage next weekend?
LH: Iâ€™m not quite sure what we have coming. I think the car stays the same although, again, I will inevitably go back and speak to my engineers now and we will do an assessment as to how things were during the race and I will tell them exactly where we can be better and I will push them in every direction possible to hopefully see what we can get. Anything that we may have coming in the future again, Iâ€™m certain my team is pushing very hard to try and bring forward. There are things that we really, really need so we need to put every little bit of resource and effort into that.
FA: In three days time we are in Budapest so the cars will be identical to what we have raced here. I know that there are some parts that we tested on Friday but they were not positive so maybe they check it again in Budapest but the car will be quite similar. The biggest difference or the most significant difference for the car performance and behaviour will be the tyres with the soft and supersoft. The car should work differently for all the teams and we need to adjust the car in a way to exploit the grip from the tyres.