Hocken' it up at the 2012 German Grand Prix [spoilers]
Saturday's qualifying session already gave us a glimpse at the answer when Alonso landed his Ferrari on pole for the second race in a row. Alongside him lined up one Sebastian Vettel, adamantly trying (in relative futility) to defend his world titles. Michael Schumacher showed he still has some fight in him by qualifying in third position again, with Nico Hulkenberg landing his Force India in fourth, making a heavily German front-of-grid for the home crowd at Hockenheim. Williams' Pastor Maldonado took fifth ahead of the McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton. Mark Webber had qualified third but was relegated to eighth due to an unscheduled gearbox change, with Paul di Resta and Kimi Raikkonen landing in ninth and tenth positions.
A technical investigation was launched prior to the start of the race into the engine mapping on the Red Bull cars, but the defending champions were acquitted and faced no punitive measures as the engine management systems were deemed technically legal.
The leaders moved smoothly off the line at the race start with little drama, but further behind some minor collisions relieved Massa and Grosjean of their front wings, forcing both into the pits for fresh nosecones. Senna pitted as well, as did Hamilton due to a punctured rear-left tire. The issue would dog the McLaren driver for the remainder of the race.
In an otherwise rather uneventful opening to the race, Perez took ninth place from di Resta, while further up front Button had worked his way up the field to take third place.
In the first round of pit stops, Schumacher re-emerged in eighth place behind Hulkenberg, only to pass him in a gutsy move around the outside of the corner, enabling Raikkonen to pass as well.
Following the first round of pit stops, Alonso retained his lead ahead of a defiant Vettel. Having started the race in sixth, Button admirably held on to third place ahead of Raikkonen in fourth. Hamilton picked his way through the front-runners, but in an odd turn of events, he was a full lap behind, thanks to that earlier puncture.
The second round of pit stops saw Alonso, Vettel and Button re-emerge in the same positions until Jenson overtook Sebastian for second place. In the ensuing pursuit, Vettel ran wide several times, but finally managed to regain his position from the McLaren on the penultimate lap.
Button's wingman Hamilton, however, fared even worse, finally retiring from sixteenth place (for which he would have scored no points anyway) before the finish line.
And that was it: Alonso took his third race win this season to elevate himself as the clear frontrunner, now holding 154 points to Webber's 120 and Vettel's 110. Vettel in turn took second place, followed by Button in third. Raikkonen, Kobayashi, Perez, Schumacher, Webber, Hulkenberg and Rosberg divided up the remaining points. Join us again next week for the results from the Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break leaves us without F1 racing until September.
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