Lewis Hamilton claimed his second race win of the season as McLaren took advantage of the cold conditions at the Nurburgring.
Starting second on the grid the Briton drove a near-perfect race that included an audacious overtaking move around the outside of Fernando Alonso. Mark Webber yet again failed to convert pole position into a win, coming home third behind Alonso and in front of team-mate Sebastian Vettel.
It was cold and damp at the Nurburgring with drops of rain falling as the cars assembled on the grid. The biggest problem for the drivers was getting heat into the front tyres with an ambient of just 13C and the track at 15C. Sebastian Buemi had been moved to the back of the grid after the stewards found an irregularity in fuel taken from the car after qualifying.
Red Bull had a number of 'spotters' round the circuit watching for rain because of the localised nature of the weather. Christian Horner said that conventional weather radar wasn't going to be as effective as usual. It was raining as the cars set off on the formation lap but the much-expected showers never came.
Six Rows of Grid : 1.Webber, 2.Hamilton, 3.Vettel, 4.Alonso, 5.Massa, 6.Rosberg, 7.Button, 8.Sutil, 9.Petrov, 10.Schumacher, 11.Heidfeld, 12.DiResta
Start: Polesitter Mark Webber was slow off the line as the red lights went out and Lewis Hamilton was easily past him and into a defensive position on the inside for Turn 1. Behind, Mark Webber was under pressure from Alonso and team-mate Vettel, who in turn had to fight off Felipe Massa. Vettel kept one Ferrari behind him but not the other.
In pushing Massa wide onto the run-off tarmac, Vettel also opened the door for Nico Rosberg, who was a long way back going into Turn 1 but was able to cruise into P5 for Turn 2 ahead of the second Ferrari.
Further back, Jenson Button had a dreadful start losing places to Sutil and Petrov and then, further round the opening lap, Michael Schumacher as well. Meanwhile Nick Heidfeld ran into by Paul Di Resta spinning both cars. The stewards would investigate and give Heidfeld a drive-through for causing the collision.
However, start of the race was made by Kamui Kobayashi who started from P.17 and ended the opening lap in P.12
Positions after Lap 1
> 1.Hamilton, 2. Webber, 3.Alonso, 4.Vettel, 5.Rosberg, 6.Massa, 7.Sutil, 8.Petrov, 9.Schumacher, 10.Button, 11.Barrichello, 12.Kobayashi, 13.Maldonado, 14.Alguersuari
The Ferrari is slow to get its tyres up to temperature and on Lap 2 Fernando Alonso ran wide in Turn 2 and Vettel was straight through into P3. Alonso, ever patient, built up tyre temperature and was back challenging Vettel on Lap 6 while ahead of them Mark Webber was right on Hamilton's gearbox.
Felipe Massa was anxious to get past Nico Rosberg from Lap 2 onwards but despite deploying the DRS after Lap 3 couldn't find a way past.
On Lap 8 Fernando Alonso passed Vettel for P3, going up the inside into Turn 1. Two laps later and Vettel spun off the road when he put one wheel onto the wet kerb margin and lost a lot of time but no places thanks to Rosberg dropping so far back. That put him into a small train with Rosberg and Massa which he gradually pulled away from. On Lap 12 Massa was eventually able to outdrag Rosberg into Turn 1, much to the relief of engineer Rob Smedley (who'd been telling him exactly where he should use his KERS).
Nick Heidfeld had just been informed that he was to get a drive-through penalty for his opening lap indiscretion when he tried to go round the outside of Sebastien Buemi up to the Michael Schumacher-designed Veedol Chicane. Buemi simply didn't see him, moved out wide and found a Renault there, sending it bouncing into the gravel with a lot of damage and retirement. Buemi got a puncture for his troubles.
Lap 12 was also notable for Lewis Hamilton running too deep into the Veedol Chicane and being slow on the exit. Mark Webber was able to get alongside him into the final corner and Lewis had to give way as Mark had the inside line. However Hamilton wasn't finished yet. He lined up behind the Red Bull going down the straight and dived down the inside in a brilliant re-overtaking move.
The front three were very close together now and Webber was coming under pressure from Alonso behind. On Lap 14, in a bid to keep Alonso behind, Webber braked very late and the three were almost side by side as they went through the corner together. At the same time, Vettel was coming under pressure from Felipe Massa who was eager to find a way past.
At the end of Lap 14 Webber and Rosberg pitted, on Lap 15 Schumacher pitted, then on Lap 16 Alonso, Hamilton and Vettel pitted. As Lewis and Fernando left the pitlane, they exited onto a track where Mark Webber was duelling with the yet-to-stop Felipe Massa battling into Turn 1. The undercut had given Webber the lead once Massa was taken out of the equation.
Felipe duly pitted a lap later, but Vettel had been unable to make the undercut work for him and Massa moved into (net) P4 by stopping later with Vettel back to (net) P5.
Positions on Lap 18: 1.Webber, 2.Hamilton, 3.Alonso, 4.Sutil(not stopped), 5.Button (not stopped), 6.Petrov (not stopped), 7.Kobayashi (not stopped), 8.Massa, 9.Vettel, 10.Rosberg, 11.Schumacher.
Button had found a way past Petrov on Lap 12 and McLaren had opted to put him onto a different strategy than Hamilton. Sutil pitted on Lap 23 and Button finally came in on Lap 25.
The race had split up into a battle between the front three, the late stoppers such as Sutil, Button and Kobayashi, and the early-stopping front runners of Massa, Vettel, Rosberg and Schumacher. Michael then exited this as he spun the car in exactly the same place as Vettel had done earlier and lost places as a result (although most of these cars then pitted and got out of the way)
When everyone had taken their first pit-stops the positions on Lap 26 were: 1.Webber, 2.Hamilton, 3.Alonso, 4.Massa, 5.Vettel 6.Rosberg, 7.Sutil, 8.Button, 9.Schumacher, 10.Kobayashi, 11.Maldonado, 12.Perez.The front three were exceptionally close and on Lap 29 just 1.6 seconds covered them. Alonso set a new fastest lap of the race just as Mark Webber pitted for the second time. Hamilton came in for his stop a lap later but Alonso stayed out this time round. As Lewis exited the pitlane, Mark Webber was arriving in the braking zone of Turn 1. Hamilton led through the turn but was slow on exit and Webber came round the outside of him into Turn 2. Wise to this, Lewis moved his McLaren out wide and with Webber on the outside he had to drop back behind Hamilton for Turn 3.
The following lap Fernando Alonso looked to have got past them both as he came in for tyres and accelerated to Turn 1 ahead of the fast arriving Lewis Hamilton. Lewis did what Mark Webber had tried to do the previous lap around Turn 2 but was significantly quicker and was up into P1 with an outstanding manoeuvre.
Further back Jenson Button was closing on Nico Rosberg and passed him on Lap 35. He had closed on Sutil quickly after his pit-stop and passed him on Lap 31 and looked to be chasing down the battle for P4/P5. But a lap later his engineers radioed for him to come in and retire after a hydraulic failure, denying race fans a three-way battle for P4.
From Laps 34 to 36 Lewis - now leading the race - put in a series of fastest laps to establish the biggest lead in the race so far. By Lap 37 he was a mighty 3.1 seconds in front of Alonso with the Ferrari 3.4 seconds in front of Webber. Little changed in the next ten laps with Alonso edging out more of a gap to Webber and Vettel continuing to follow Massa, even through the second pit-stops.
On Lap 48 Lewis had a 2.8 lead over Alonso, who in turn had 5.7 on Webber. All the front runners had to use the harder Prime tyre and it was a question of how long they could make their soft Option tyres last. The primes were between 1.5 and 2 seconds slower and it had been predicted that some teams wouldn't run them till the final few laps.
When Vitaly Petrov came in for a set of the Primes all eyes turned to the timing screens to see how the Russian was faring. When he started putting in fastest sectors McLaren pitted Lewis Hamilton, at the end of Lap 51, (he had only a 2.0 second lead at the time). Would Ferrari respond? No.
Afraid that they wouldn't get the heat into the tyres, Ferrari left it as late as possible. Alonso pitted at the end of Lap 53 but already Hamilton was putting in personal best lap times on the feared Prime tyres and exceeding the Ferrari's pace. Fernando rejoined several seconds down. Webber didn't pit until Lap 56 and had already lost any chance of P2. The only issue left to resolve was who would get fourth place with Felipe Massa hanging onto P4.
Sebastian Vettel was all over the back of him and even with the DRS couldn't get past. They both needed to change tyres before the end. Red Bull told Vettel to watch what Massa was doing and do the opposite - if he pitted, stay out. If he stayed out, come in. He didn't heed the advice.
Thus on lap 59 out of 60 both cars came down pitlane together. Unusually Red Bull got a clear jump on Ferrari and Vettel was on his way again with Massa still stationary. Thus Vettel picked up P4 and Massa P5.
Hamilton crossed the line to record one of his most accomplished race wins four seconds clear of the Ferrari. The McLaren had benefitted from the cold conditions to come home in front of Alonso's Ferrari and Webber's Red Bull. Adrian Sutil scored a valuable P6 ahead of Rosberg P7 and Schumacher P8 with Kobayashi in P9 and Petrov in P10.
If Hamilton and Alonso can do the same in the warmer conditions of the Hungaroring next week, then it really might be game on.
0. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h37:30.334
02. Alonso Ferrari + 3.980
03. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 9.788
04. Vettel Red Bull-Renault + 47.921
05. Massa Ferrari + 52.252
06. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1:26.208
07. Rosberg Mercedes + 1 lap
08. Schumacher Mercedes + 1 lap
09. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
10. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
11. Perez Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
13. Di Resta Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
14. Maldonado Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus-Renault + 2 laps
17. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps
18. D'Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth + 3 laps
19. Ricciardo HRT-Cosworth + 3 laps
20. Chandhok Lotus-Renault + 4 laps
Liuzzi HRT-Cosworth 44
Button McLaren-Mercedes 42
Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 23