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Fernando Alonso has become the first treble winner of 2012, fending off Sebastian Vettel and Jenson Button at Hockenheim. The German passed the Englishman on the penultimate lap but was later demoted to fifth because of an illegal overtake. Lewis Hamilton retired from his 100th race as Mark Webber finished eighth.
Heading into Sunday’s event which marked the halfway point of the season, there was a distinctly sour taste in the paddock as Red Bull escaped punishment after a stewards’ investigation. The Milton Keynes team is intelligently taking advantage of a loophole in the regulations but is sure to come under more fire as the sport regroups next weekend.
On the track, a great getaway allowed Alonso to lead comfortably into Turn 1, then fending off an early-race challenge from Vettel. Further back, team-mate Felipe Massa lost his front wing by hitting Daniel Ricciardo’s Toro Rosso; this resulted in an unscheduled pit-stop as Romain Grosjean and Bruno Senna also came in for repairs following the first-lap dramas.
Lewis Hamilton hit his century of races, but this one will very much be in his bottom ten after running over debris and picking up a left-rear puncture. McLaren made the most of the situation by converting Hamilton’s loss into Button’s gain; as the 2008 title winner was lapped by the leading Alonso and Vettel, he then picked up his pace and passed the German. As he zeroed in on the Spaniard, Button sat third and was quickly closing in on the leading pair. From sixth on the grid, the 2009 Champion had quickly dispatched of Pastor Maldonado before pulling strong passes on Nico Hülkenberg and Michael Schumacher.
The out-of-the-box thinking from McLaren paid off on Lap 42, as Alonso and Vettel left the pits together. The Ferrari retook the lead, but Button dragged ahead of the Red Bull which then lost ground by running wide at the North Kurve on the following tour. As Alonso masterly managed his tyres while keeping Button at bay, the latter eventually dropped off the pace and was overhauled by Vettel on Lap 66 of 67; however, as the German accelerated past the Frome man with all four wheels out of the track confines, he was duly handed a 20-second penalty by the stewards.
Kimi Räikkönen had hoped for a podium, but his strategy of two stints on the Soft compound tyre failed to pay off and left the Lotus driver fourth, ahead of the impressive Sauber twins who picked up a total of 18 points. Force India was narrowly deprived of a double points finish, as Nico Rosberg stormed up from 21st on the grid to tenth, with Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber filling in the gaps for seventh and eighth positions. Hamilton became the only retirement of the race 11 laps from home, pulling into the garage from 16th place.
Alonso’s victory is his third at Hockenheim, after 2005 and 2010, and extends his championship advantage over Webber to a very healthy 34 points, thus marking the first time this year that one driver has been over one race win ahead of the competition. Career victory number 30 leaves him just one slot behind Nigel Mansell for fourth in the all-time rankings.
Post-race development at Hockenheim:
Vettel docked 20 seconds, drops to fifth
With half of the 2012 Formula 1 season now complete, the action continues in Hungary next weekend before the customary summer break in August
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