Sebastian Vettel experienced the pressure he can expect if Kimi Raikkonen joins him at Red Bull next year, as the Finn pushed him all the way to the finish of the German Grand Prix at Nürburgring on Sunday.
In the end the reigning world champion beat the 2007 title holder to the chequered flag by one second, to win his home race for the first time and break the jinx that has hitherto prevented him from winning in July.
Vettel's finely judged drive under intense pressure from the Lotuses of Raikkonen and his team-mate Romain Grosjean was achieved despite the intermittent performance of his KERS power-boost system midway through.
"It's a great relief," Vettel admitted as he savoured one of the sweetest of his 30 career victories. "There were high expectations, especially when you have a good car, but we never let that get to our head and it feels very sweet now to have succeeded at last. Both German tracks, Hockenheim and Nürburgring, mean a lot to me, and it's a privilege to have a home grand prix, so I'm incredibly proud today.
"I had to push every lap, and it's so tough when you are on the limit while still trying to look after the tyres and get through traffic. Lotus were incredibly quick and gave us a good run."
There were no further problems with Pirelli's tyres after the changes the Italian company introduced here, but the race was marred by a nasty incident on the ninth lap when Red Bull released Mark Webber before his right rear wheel had been properly secured. As it bounced down the pit lane it struck cameraman Paul Allen on his left-hand side, knocking him to the ground. He remained conscious and was taken by helicopter to Koblenz Hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken shoulder and cracked ribs.
Later there was a more light-hearted moment on the 24th lap which, nevertheless, could had been very dangerous. On the 22nd lap Jules Bianchi had parked his Marussia with mechanical problems on the rise to the NGK chicane, where momentarily it caught fire, and two laps after the Frenchman had abandoned it there the red and black car began to roll slowly back down the hill, across the track. Mercifully, nobody was approaching at the time, but the safety car was deployed and the race did not resume until the 30th lap.
Vettel, who had outdragged pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton to take the lead into the first corner, kept his cool as Grosjean and Raikkonen now launched their attack. In the end, Grosjean faded a little after pushing Vettel hard, and handed second place to Raikkkonen on the 55th lap after Lotus had gambled by putting the Finn back on to soft-compound tyres. Raikkonen soon closed down Vettel's two-second advantage, but just ran out of time to launch his own challenge for victory.
"I'm very happy that the race ended after 60 laps and not 61 or 62…" Vettel grinned.
Raikkonen wondered afterwards if he should have tried to finish without that third pit stop, but explained: "I had massive problems with the radio. I could hear the team but they could only hear me at two corners and, unfortunately, there was quite a lot to discuss. I wonder if we should have gone to the end, as the tyres were OK.
"It's hard to know what would have happened in another two laps, but we had good speed and I think we would have had a big fight and probably I would have passed him."
Hamilton had a tough race after dropping from pole to third by the first corner, and later losing a lot of time trapped behind Nico Hülkenberg's well-driven Sauber. Several times Hamilton was heard to complain about the performance of his tyres, though with a feisty drive he climbed back to a respectable fifth place, passing the McLarens of Sergio Perez, then Jenson Button, in the closing stages.
Nevertheless, Hamilton was frustrated and unhappy. "I've to hold myself back because I've got nothing positive to say about these tyres," he said "I don't understand why we struggled so much on them, and the only positive is that we got some points. It's a shame because the team is working so hard and doing such a good job. Clearly, we've got a good car, but for some reason it just doesn't work on these tyres."
Higher track and ambient temperatures than last week at Silverstone, where Mercedes' Toto Wolff admitted the situation was marginal, did not help Hamilton's cause, nor team-mate Nico Rosberg's; the latter could only manage ninth.
Hamilton's old team was back to its usual form with a great strategic race in which Button started on medium-compound tyres, Perez on softs. The two raced each other wheel to wheel at times, but Button had the upper hand this time to take a decent sixth as Perez could not resist the recovering Webber in the closing stages.
"Our pace was reasonably good and our lap times compared to the four cars at the front weren't too bad either," Button said. "The safety car didn't help our strategy but we were a lot stronger here than we've been for the past few races. We didn't put a foot wrong all weekend, and we got the best out of what we have."
German grand prix: Race details
1 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1hr 41min 14.711sec
2 K Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus F1 Team 1:41:15.719
3 R Grosjean (Fr) Lotus F1 Team 1:41:20.541
4 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 1:41:22.432
5 L Hamilton (GB) Mercedes GP 1:41:41.638
6 J Button (GB) McLaren 1:41:42.707
7 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:41:52.273
8 S Perez (Mex) McLaren 1:41:53.017
9 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1:42:01.532
10 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 1:42:04.603,
11 P di Resta (GB) Force India 1:42:08.482,
12 D Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:42:11.686,
13 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:42:12.449,
14 E Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 1:42:14.871,
15 P Maldonado (Ven) Williams 1:42:16.640,
16 V Bottas (Fin) Williams at 1 lap,
17 C Pic (Fr) Caterham at 1 lap,
18 G van der Garde (Neth) Caterham at 1 lap,
19 M Chilton (GB) Marussia at 1 lap. Not classified:
20 J-E Vergne (Fr) Scuderia Toro Rosso 22 laps completed,
21 J Bianchi (Fr) Marussia 21 laps completed,
22 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 3 laps completed.
World Championship standings
1 S Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 157pts,
2 F Alonso (Sp) Ferrari 123,
3 K Raikkonen (Fin) Lotus F1 Team 116,
4 L Hamilton (GB) Mercedes GP 99,
5 M Webber (Aus) Red Bull 93,
6 N Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 84,
7 F Massa (Br) Ferrari 57,
8 R Grosjean (Fr) Lotus F1 Team 41,
9 P di Resta (GB) Force India 36,
10 J Button (GB) McLaren 33,
11 A Sutil (Ger) Force India 23,
12 S Perez (Mex) McLaren 16,
13 J-E Vergne (Fr) Scuderia Toro Rosso 13,
14 D Ricciardo (Aus) Scuderia Toro Rosso 11,
15 N Hulkenberg (Ger) Sauber-Ferrari 7,
16 P Maldonado (Ven) Williams 0,
17 V Bottas (Fin) Williams 0,
18 E Gutierrez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari 0,
19 J Bianchi (Fr) Marussia 0,
20 C Pic (Fr) Caterham 0,
21 M Chilton (GB) Marussia 0,
22 G van der Garde (Neth) Caterham 0.
1 Red Bull 250pts,
2 Mercedes GP 183,
3 Ferrari 180,
4 Lotus F1 Team 157,
5 Force India 59,
6 McLaren 49,
7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 24,
8 Sauber-Ferrari 7,
9 Williams 0,
10 Marussia 0,
11 Caterham 0.
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