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Red Bull upswing at the Nürburgring - Germany 2013 // Sebastian Vettel is right at home, as the team recover their winning ways

Published by Christine

Red Bull crew poised and ready
Credit: Gilham/Getty

With the tyre troubles solved at least temporarily, we could turn our attention back to the track action proper, and the ongoing battle between Red Bull and Mercedes. For another week, it seemed as though they were the only two that were going to have any pace to fight over the weekend, but in Germany, we saw another player throw their hat back into the ring. Lotus have been inconsistent over the season so far but scooped some serious results at the Nürburgring.

There was a lot to be learnt under the shadow of the Eifel mountains, and teams came away ready for the three week break, a young driver test, and a heap of items on their to-do lists.

Red Bull

Driver positions - Red Bull
DriverQualifyingRace
S Vettel2nd1st
M Webber3rd7th

Before the race weekend, a lot was made of the fact that Sebastian Vettel hadn’t won in Germany, and, even better, hadn’t won in Formula One during the month of July. These are fun statistics, particularly as it is the defending champion’s home race, but Vettel has never let facts stand in his way before.

Qualifying went very much like it did last weekend, with the Red Bull pair lining up behind what probably would have been two Mercedes cars, if the latter team hadn’t made a strategic error. However, both Vettel and Mark Webber managed to get past polesitter Lewis Hamilton at the first corner, so that from there, they could manage the race. Vettel didn’t dominate, he was pushed to the line, but it was still a reasonably comfortable victory that helps extend both driver and team championship leads.

Webber, unfortunately, was part of the unsafe release in the pit lane that saw an FOM cameraman hit with an out of control tyre. The team have been fined for the incident, and they were very lucky that a latter safety car allowed Webber to recover the lap he was on, and work his way back up into the points. Red Bull are known for their incredible pit stops, and this is something you wouldn’t expect from the experts. With sub-three second stops, though, things are bound to go wrong sometimes, and it was Webber who suffered the bad luck this time. Overall, it was a strong weekend for the team, taking the fight to Mercedes and breaking some of those statistics that were hanging over their heads.

Lotus

Driver positions - Lotus
DriverQualifyingRace
K Räikkönen4th2nd
R Grosjean5th3rd

The Lotus team haven’t had the best few races, with Kimi Räikkönen only just managing to hang on to his record-breaking run of points finishes through some difficult weekends. On the other side of the garage, Romain Grosjean has retired from three of the last four events, so it was about time the team turned things around.

The higher temperatures helped them out slightly, and Romain Grosjean’s long run on the soft tyre at the start of the race put him right up in contention with race leader Vettel. The Safety Car period helped one side of the Lotus garage and hindered the other, and it also put the pair on the same piece of tarmac, so team orders would have to come into play. Räikkönen eventually got past Romain to take the fight to Vettel, but he ran out of laps and finished about a second behind.

Nevertheless, it was a double podium finish for the team that had a huge effect on both championships. Kimi Räikkönen closed the gap to Fernando Alonso, as he battles to remain in the title fight, whilst the team standings saw Lotus move back towards the epic fight between Mercedes and Ferrari. Although they missed out on the win, the team racked their podium finishes total up to seven – proving they can do it when the circumstances are right. If they can figure out what it is that helps them out at some tracks rather than others, they may be able to start repeating these results on a more regular basis.

Ferrari

Driver positions - Ferrari
DriverQualifyingRace
F Alonso8th4th
F Massa7thDNF

Given how the team structured their final qualifying session, it was clear that Ferrari had no confidence in the one-lap pace of the car. The duo of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa bolted on the harder compound of the two, and set a couple of lap times that were almost two seconds off the pace. They lined up 7th and 8th, with Massa ahead – one of the few times the Brazilian has outqualified his teammate this year.

Massa ruined his chances of making up ground during the race, as only four laps into the event he spun the car off track. He then couldn’t get the car into gear and going again which meant his race was over before he’d really begun. This has forced Ferrari to come out and defend their number two again, as critics jump to ponder who will be next in line for Massa’s job. Meanwhile, Fernando Alonso made the best of what they had to offer and dragged his car up to fourth, but there was no real time he looked in the fight – not until the closing stages of the race. He battled Romain Grosjean for the final podium position, but didn’t have enough time or performance to make the difference.

The team have taken the blame squarely for themselves, with a timely quote from Stefano Domenicali reminding us that it is the car that’s not delivering rather than their drivers. They may not be ready to write the season off yet, but the longer this goes on, the less time there is to make vast improvements.

If you believe a team like us would say the championship is finished after half the season, that is absolutely not the case. The thing we have to do is improve the car, full stop. Things change so quickly that we've seen in the last couple of races. There are nine races to go, everything is still possible.

- Stefano Domenicali, Team Principal, Ferrari

Mercedes

Driver positions - Mercedes
DriverQualifyingRace
N Rosberg11th9th
L Hamilton1st5th

Although much has been made of the strides Mercedes made forward after their secret test, and how much they must have learnt at such an event, this weekend showed that a lot of their race pace relied on the tyre-swapping benefit that has since been banned. Fast in qualifying again (but for a strategic error that left Nico Rosberg sitting in the garage as his chances at a top ten grid slot went out the window), the team couldn’t take the fight to anyone come race day.

Lewis Hamilton’s pole position was gone in the blink of an eye, as both Red Bull drivers swept past him into the first corner. From there, the Brit was left complaining about the grip on his rubber for the rest of the afternoon – at one point declaring that the drivers around him must be on completely different tyres to his own. He managed to bring it home fifth, with Nico Rosberg improving from 11th on the grid to finish just inside the points in 9th place.

Ross Brawn places the blame on the higher temperatures at the Nürburgring, as well as issues when the fuel loads were high. Whilst it may have seemed on the outside that the team had overcome whatever gremlins were bothering them on Sundays, Brawn knew they hadn’t fixed the problems. The German GP just highlighted how flattering the last two events have been for them.

McLaren

Driver positions - McLaren
DriverQualifyingRace
J Button9th6th
S Pérez13th8th

Meanwhile, the McLaren team had a positive weekend which was a breath of fresh air for everyone after hearing Jenson Button recently admitting post-race he had never been so happy to get out of a car. This time, things were looking much brighter but it is now a case of too little, too late. McLaren have turned their focus on the 2014 car, and whilst not abandoning this season altogether, they aren’t prepping any major updates any time soon.

Despite that, something about the Nürburgring suited their car, and Jenson Button found himself in the top ten after qualifying. With strategy the top priority, he didn’t set a time on the Saturday, saved rubber for Sunday and started the race on the medium tyre – compared to most drivers around him on the soft. He had a good race, not really challenging forward, but able to defend his position where required. Button had a bit of a moan afterwards about struggling to get past the Caterham drivers, but even with lapping issues, he finished sixth for a healthy points finish.

Sergio Pérez found himself battling on the same tarmac as his teammate on a couple of occasions, but ultimately couldn’t quite keep up. They both put in long final stints and managed the tyres, with Pérez crossing the line eighth. A double points finish and a nice momentum boost for the team, even if they have their heads in 2014 already.

Sauber

Driver positions - Sauber
DriverQualifyingRace
N Hülkenberg10th10th
E Gutiérrez14th14th

The reports surrounding the Sauber team are not good at the moment. A string of underwhelming performances and a lack of financial support have raised question marks over the future of the Swiss outfit, and whilst there is no definitive news either way, the team need some good results to help make their case.

Unfortunately, the German race didn’t deliver on that front. Nico Hülkenberg managed to scoop the tenth spot on the grid, undoubtedly helped by the mistake Mercedes made with Rosberg. He didn’t set a time on Saturday, and focused instead on Sunday. Teammate Esteban Gutiérrez qualified better than he has of late, but was resolutely midfield in 14th.

Both drivers found themselves fighting for positions throughout the race, which was fun for them, but cost time. Whether defending or overtaking, concentrating on a competitor instead of an all-out lap time is costly, and it can’t be very heartening to know all that work was for no benefit. Hülkenberg and Gutiérrez finished the race in exactly the same positions they started them in.

A single point for Sauber isn’t enough to turn things around, but team principal Monisha Kaltenborn is confident they will be able to see out the season. She's not the only one with something to say though.

Unfortunately, the timing of the safety car was at the worst moment for us as a team - eight laps into Nico's second stint on the medium tyres and immediately Esteban had pitted. Therefore, it was going to be difficult to recover and scorepoints from there. Nico did a good job in the last stint to get tenth place, which is good for the morale of the team.

- Tom McCullough, Head of track engineering, Sauber

Force India

Driver positions - Force India
DriverQualifyingRace
P Di Resta12th11th
A Sutil15th13th

After the qualifying highs of Silverstone, Paul di Resta found himself back in the middle of the pack again for the German Grand Prix. He qualified 12th, to Adrian Sutil’s 15th – although the German complained of a DRS issue that cost him “about half a second per lap.”

Things were looking brighter part way through the race, as Di Resta moved up into the points paying positions, but with the Safety Car and having to adjust strategies around it, the tyres couldn’t last the final stint. Both drivers improved their positions but Di Resta finished 11th, just missing out on the top ten, and Sutil was 13th having also lost a bit of time in the pit stops.

Force India had managed three double points finishes in a row, with a highlight fifth place for Sutil in Monaco. Germany was the end of that run, with neither driver finishing in the top ten. It’s also only the second time Paul has been out of the points, with the other occasion a DNF in Malaysia. They, as do all others (bar one), now have three weeks and a test to try and regain their momentum.

Toro Rosso

Driver positions - Toro Rosso
DriverQualifyingRace
JE Vergne16thDNF
D Ricciardo6th12th

Daniel Ricciardo was asked if the pressure over being considered for Mark Webber’s Red Bull seat was a help or a hindrance, and he fell just on the side of a help. His last two races would demonstrate that, after a great top ten performance in Britain was followed up by a sixth place qualifying at the Nürburgring. Contrast that with Jean-Éric Vergne’s 16th grid slot, and it looks even better.

Unfortunately, things came undone in the race. Ricciardo started on the softer compound which held up okay, but found life on the mediums a lot harder. He labelled it “a frustrating and rather dull race” and finished up twelfth. That’s slightly better than Vergne again, though, as the other Toro Rosso driver scored his second DNF in two races. The last race saw Vergne suffer one of those tyre blowouts, and this time it again wasn’t his fault. He was called to the pit lane after the team spotted a hydraulics problem, and thus his race was over.

We didn't have the pace we needed today and Daniel did what he could, fighting with the Saubers and Force Indias, finishing ahead of one of each of them, but we were not quick enough to chase the McLarens, which were very strong today. For these reasons, we just fell out of the points zone.

- Franz Tost, Team Principal, Toro Rosso

Williams

Driver positions - Williams
DriverQualifyingRace
P Maldonado18th15th
V Bottas17th16th

Williams are still celebrating their 600th Grand Prix, which I think was chosen to be at the last race but mathematically this one, although I lost track of the actual statistics and expect us to still be celebrating this in Singapore. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much to cheer about on Sunday night, looking back at a very disappointing weekend.

It started with a KERS issue that smoked out the garage – thankfully with no injuries and no major damage. The team saw both cars drop out in first qualifying, meaning they had a lot of work to do from the back of the grid. Any progress the drivers made on Sunday was halted by pit stop issues seen on both cars – the front right wheel would not come off, despite trying multiple wheel guns and bashing everything around a bit. There was also an issue with the left-rear on Bottas’ car during his final stop, so pit lane issues all round for Williams.

To take a slight positive away from the weekend, both drivers reported feeling better pace in the car over the course of the Grand Prix – it’s just that 15th and 16th were the best they could do with all the hold-ups.

Caterham

Driver positions - Caterham
DriverQualifyingRace
C Pic19th17th
G Van der Garde21st18th

I’ve already mentioned that Jenson Button wasn’t a fan of the Caterham duo in this race, after feeling he was held up when trying to pass them. It’s a difficult life as a backmarker, because you don’t want to get in the way, but you’re having your own race. Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic were definitely having their own fight this past weekend, particularly as the latter had something to prove.

Pic managed to qualify best of the backmarker four, but was relegated to the back of the grid after taking a gearbox-related penalty. Both Caterham cars found themselves ahead of the sole remaining Marussia in the race, and so they ended up battling with each other. After the final pitstops, Pic was behind Giedo, but fought his way past to finish ahead. Despite being overtaken by his teammate, Giedo believes he’s taking tiny steps forward – this weekend learning even more about tyre management.

Marussia

Driver positions - Marussia
DriverQualifyingRace
J Bianchi20thDNF
M Chilton22nd19th

Marussia were responsible for one of the weirdest, slightly amusing, slightly terrifying, sights of a driverless F1 car rolling backwards across the track by itself. This came after Jules Bianchi stopped his car as it burst into flames, the Cosworth engine giving up for the day. Bianchi was having a troublesome weekend anyway, struggling with a stomach bug that curtailed his free practice running on Friday.

Max Chilton was left to fly the flag for Marussia, and whilst he was reasonably happy with the work he put in during the afternoon, team principal John Booth admits to being very disappointed with the race outcome. Tyre wear gets the brunt of the blame, that and the “unfortunate engine problem.” Let us not forget the unfortunate runaway car, too.

All content in the series Germany 2013