German Grand Prix - Disappointment for the German fans Before the German Grand Prix Ferrari had promised to be competitive again, and they delivered their promise, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were on second and third position during ...
German Grand Prix - Disappointment for the German fans
Before the German Grand Prix Ferrari had promised to be competitive again, and they delivered their promise, Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa were on second and third position during qualifying, Alonso lost the pole position by only two-thousands of a second to German favorite Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel. During the race they showed the Ferrari F10 was the fasted car on the track, and after a dream start both Ferraris disappeared at the horizon and went on to win the German Grand Prix. Ferrari is back, but unfortunately for them, their one-two victory was stained by the team order controversy which unfolded 18 laps before the end of the race. Vettel was the only driver who could keep up with the Ferraris and took third position, while his team colleague Mark Webber had a troublesome race and finished sixth.
Vettel had a bad start, he concentrated on Alonso who was right beside him, and was caught off-guard by Massa who passed him on the outside just before the first corner. "There was no way I could stay ahead of him [Alonso] and then I was surprised to see Felipe coming from the left.", he said. "But, after that we still had a good race. The closer I got to the car in front, I began to feel tyres losing grip and starting to grain, but I think for most of the race the Ferraris were probably a tenth or two quicker than us.", Vettel explained. Webber's Renault engine developed an oil consumption problem and he had to concentrate on bringing his car to finish. However, the Australian remained optimistic, "I wasn't in the main fight today, but I'll be back. It's competitive at the front and that's how it should be, so we're looking forward to the next race."
McLaren's Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton scored a fifth and sixth position respectively during qualifying, during the race the McLarens were simply not fast enough, Hamilton finished in fourth, and Button in fifth position. A disappointed Hamilton, "We need to go back and figure out where we can improve, and pick it up again very quickly. Today, we did everything we could do, now we just have to work harder than ever to get ahead of the cars in front." Team principal Martin Whitmarsh agreed with Hamilton, "In truth, in the circumstances, that's probably about as many [points] as we could have hoped to score today. We'll continue to develop our car in the weeks and months ahead, with a view to adding as many world championship points to the milestone total of 300 we've amassed this season as of today."
Team colleague clashes 'steal' the show again
The race itself was not the most exciting race of the season, the race was not disrupted by the rain that had been forecasted, neither did the extreme tyre allocation lead to extra pit stops as Bridgestone had predicted. The real excitement started after Alonso crossed the finish line and the media besieged the Ferrari pits to question team principal Stefano Domenicali about what exactly had happened between Alonso and Massa after they had swapped positions on lap 49. The words 'team orders' and 'fixing the race' were used, but Domenicale and both his drivers ignored the comments and maintained it had been a great race with a great result for the Italian team.
During the race several more team colleagues clashed, Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari ran into the back of Sebastian Buemi and seconds later the Swiss driver lost his rear wing. Both had to pit for repairs, but Buemi's car was too badly damaged to continue the race. Alguersuari about the incident, "I was on the inside going into Turn 6 and I braked well leaving enough space, but there seemed to be some problems in front of me, as the cars ahead all slowed much more than is normal. I braked again, but it was not enough and I drove into him [Buemi]. Naturally, I am sorry for that." Alguersuari finished in 15th position, one lap behind the winner of the race.
Force India drivers Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi also made contact and Liuzzi had to come in for a new front wing. Sutil had already planned to come in after the first lap, "It was always our strategy that, if after the start I had not made up places, I would pit on the first lap to change to the prime tyres and make up positions when other cars stopped later on.", he explained. Thus both drivers came into the pits at the same time, and in the confusion the team switched the tyres, Liuzzi went out with Sutil's tyres and vice versa. Both drivers had to go back to the pits to change to the right set of tyres again, and after that their race was effectively over, Liuzzi finished in 16th and Sutil in 17th position, two laps behind the leaders.
Lotus driver Jarno Trulli was next in line to retire. He had a strong start, but on lap four he got a problem with the gearbox, went into the pits to reset it, but after another lap he had to give up his race. A disappointed Trulli, "It's very frustrating because I was having a very good weekend, probably the best of the whole season so far, and it's like the luck just isn't with me. We've got another chance next weekend so I hope the luck changes there." Heikki Kovalainen had a collision with Pedro de la Rosa and also had to give up his race.
Virgin driver Lucas di Grassi had to retire from the race after he had spun on lap 50. The Brazilian about his spin, "I hit a bump on the curb which damaged the suspension and so I lost the car. The damage meant that it was impossible to continue so what could have been a really great race ended early for me." Team colleague German Timo Glock finished in 18th position, three laps behind the leaders and one lap in front of the remaining HRT car of Bruno Senna. The other HRT piloted by Sakon Yamamoto abandoned the race after the Japanese driver experienced gearbox problems.
Disappointing race for the German fans
With six German drivers participating in the race, the German crowd had been looking forward to this year's edition of the German Grand Prix, and in particular to comeback of the Mercedes Silver Arrows team, with German drivers Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg. Like the other German drivers they were disappointing to say the least. On Saturday during qualifying Schumacher didn't make it into Q3, and Rosberg qualified in ninth position, one second slower than the man on pole.
Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn after qualifying: "We obviously had a disappointing qualifying today at one of our home races, particularly considering the promise that we showed over the practice sessions. With the changeable weather conditions over the weekend and a new aero package on the car, clearly we haven't understood how to get the best from it here."
During the start of the race Schumacher made up three places and secured fifth position, with Rosberg behind him in sixth position. Schumacher made his only stop on lap 14, but after Robert Kubica made his stop on lap 18, he came out in front of the German seven-times champion, Schumacher tried to get his place back, but his Mercedes was simply to slow compared to the Renault. "What we achieved after my stop was the maximum that was possible. Of course I would have wished for more, especially as our race performance tends to be better than qualifying, but it did not work out. We will certainly not get nervous but we have to sit down, analyze the reasons and put the right solutions in place." Schumacher concluded.
On lap 24 Rosberg made his pit stop, but although the Mercedes pit crew clocked the fastest pit stop of the day, Rosberg rejoined the race just behind Kubica, but now with Schumacher behind him. Rosberg, "Achieving eighth place is damage limitation really and we were able to minimize the loss to Robert in terms of points but it has generally been a struggle this weekend."
And the last driver in this tale of German drivers is Nico Hulkenberg, a rookie driving for the Williams team. After the problems Williams had earlier this season, he is now almost as fast as his team colleague, and the most experienced driver on the grid, Rubens Barrichello. Williams managed to get both cars into the top ten during qualifying, with Hulkenberg on 10th position, only two-tenths of a second slower than Barrichello, and one-tenth of a second slower than Rosberg. "I think there was a bit more there time-wise at around about Rubens' pace, but I didn't have the greatest run right at the end of Q3." Hulkenberg commented after qualifying.
During the start Hulkenberg lost a lot of places, and he was not able to recover the lost places. The Hulk was in 10th position when he made his pit stop on lap 34, but rejoined the race in 14th position, just behind Barrichello. He finished the race in 13th position. "The car pace wasn't really there today and with a pretty uneventful race, there wasn't even the possibility of an unexpected opportunity to reclaim some advantage.", the young German said after the race.
All in all, not a good day for the Germans, Vettel finished in 3rd position instead of winning the race, Rosberg finished in 8th, Schumacher in 9th, Hulkenberg in 13th, Sutil in 17th and Glock in 18th position, but at least they all finished their home Grand Prix.
Bridgestone race report
It was expected drivers had to make more than one stop for tyres, but because the weather was colder than normal, the track temperature was about 22C, drivers could stay out longer. The top three finishers were on a Super Soft/Hard tyre compound strategy and had no problems with tyres at all. A few drivers experienced graining of the super soft tyres, but not serious enough to change tyres.
Bridgestone's Hirohide Hamashima, "Both compounds worked better than we expected. The super soft lasted very well. A good example of this was Jenson Button who was to gain position by staying on the super soft for his first stint longer than the other front runners." And added, "The hard compound did take longer to warm-up than we usually see with the prime tyre, and we saw evidence of this in the race with locked brakes, less grip in the corners and lower traction before it was in its correct temperature operating range."
FIA Stewards Report
On Friday during the second free practice Schumacher was fined 1,000 Euro for speeding in the pit lane. On Saturday, during Q3, Webber was reprimanded for exceeding the maximum permitted time between the two Safety Car lines. Sutil and Di Grassi received a five-place grid penalty for exchanging the gearbox, and Glock received two five-place grid penalties for exchanging gearboxes.
On Sunday Kovalainen was reprimanded for causing a collision, Force India was reprimanded for fitting Sutil's tyres to Liuzzi's car, and vice versa. After the race, the FIA Stewards gave Ferrari a $100,000 fine for breaking the regulations, in specific Article 39.7 and 13.7 of the Sporting Regulations. The team order case will also be referred to the FIA World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) for further consideration.
The WMSC will have to decide what exactly the definition of a team order is, because this is not described in the Sporting Regulations itself. Therefore they will have to decide whether the radio messages between Massa and his race engineer Rob Smetley were an indirect team order, furthermore, Ferrari can also be accused of 'bringing the sport in disrepute'. The WMSC will probably also examine the data from the ECU of Massa's car, to see whether he indeed had a problem or deliberately slowed down before Alonso overtook him.
From the 2010 FIA Sporting Regulations: Art. 39.1: Team orders which interfere with a race result are prohibited. Art. 13.7: If in the opinion of the F1 Commission a competitor fails to operate his team in a manner compatible with the standards of the Championship or in any way brings the Championship into disrepute, the FIA may exclude such competitor from the Championship forthwith.
The Ferrari team order controversy
Because Ferrari had after the British Grand Prix denied the FIA Stewards had told them to order Alonso to give back his place to Kubica, while FIA delegate Charlie Whiting claimed he did warn Ferrari three times, the FIA decided to give all pit to car and race control to team radio communications free for broadcasting, starting from the German Grand Prix. Teams can no longer push a button to censor certain messages, which led to the disclosure of the conversations which took place during the race between Massa and his race engineer Smetley.
With these conversations in mind, it stands to reason this was a team order in disguise. Ferrari defended their action by claiming Massa was never specifically told or ordered to let Alonso pass and argued Massa was the one who had made the decision, but the FIA thinks just giving a driver hints about what he should or could do in the best interest of the team, is in fact a team order. Information was given to a driver which changed the outcome of the race.
Massa tried to hide his disappointment during the post-race press conference, but his body language revealed his frustrations when he was being asked about the alleged team order and commented: "Well, I don't think I need to say anything about that." Both Ferrari drivers fell short of giving a plausible explanation, Massa maintained it was his decision, and Alonso claimed he thought Massa slowed down due to a gearbox problem.
Next stop: Hungaroring in Hungary
The last race before the summer break is the Grand Prix of Hungary. McLaren is still leading both championships, but Red Bull has closed the gap, while Ferrari has made significant progress and is looking to close the gap with McLaren and Red Bull. But the Hungarian Mickey Mouse circuit has quite different characteristics compared to the faster Hockenheimring, and it is expected a whole different scenario will unfold next weekend.
As for the FIA WMSC investigation that awaits Ferrari, the team and the fans will have to be patient, the FIA has not announced there will be a special meeting of the WMSC, and with the next general assembly of the WMSC due on September 10, everyone including Ferrari, will be left in the dark for a couple of weeks about the possible consequences the team order controversy will have. The outcome could be anything: Ferrari could face a disqualification from the German Grand Prix, or could be banned for one or more races, or the WMSC could decide to sharpen the somewhat nebulous rules about team orders, and stick to the $100,000 fine the team already received from the stewards of the race.