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F1 Roundup - Sun 23rd July 2012

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Post F1 Roundup - Sun 23rd July 2012

Ferrari are refusing to believe that they now have the fastest car in Formula 1 in wake of Fernando Alonso's third win of the season in Germany, insisting nothing has changed in the need to continue to develop the F2012.

Alonso heads into the season half of the season having opened up a healthy 34-point championship lead over Mark Webber while the two drivers the Spaniard himself has signalled are his two biggest rivals for the crown, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, are even further adrift with 10 races remaining.

Alonso still looking for more

But while they may have now won two of the last three Grands Prix and finished second in the other, Ferrari's Team Principal Stefano Domenicali continues to insist that the team have work to do before they have the best overall package on the grid - pointing to the way Red Bull and McLaren hounded Alonso for nearly the entire race on Sunday as evidence that they aren't quickest yet.

"It's true - that's what I said in Silverstone," he told reporters on Sunday evening at Hockenheim.

"I believe that we have not the fastest car. Of course if we had the fastest car it would be easier to win. We need to improve the car.

"We need to make sure our car is good in all the different conditions: wet, dry, different kind of tyres and so on.

Ted's Notebook - German GP

"For sure in such a tight championship you need to develop the car race-by-race otherwise you will lose points because the competition is so strong.

"You think that today the first three cars were in two or three seconds, whatever it is, it's tough.

"Consider that Fernando did 67 laps of qualifying. They [McLaren and Red Bull] are very strong."

Although Alonso has pulled more than two race wins clear in points terms of everyone from fourth-placed Kimi Raikkonen backwards in the Drivers' Championship, including lead McLaren runner Hamilton, Domenicali is wary of writing anyone off at this stage with so much of the season still to run.

"I expect all the competitors [to still challenge] because we may have a difficult race and with such a close gap everything is possible," the Ferrari chief added.

"So I do not underestimate anyone in the first five or anyone else in the classification because I want to make sure that we are focused on maximising what we are doing."

Vettel and Horner slam Hamilton
Red Bull duo round on McLaren driver after he unlaps himself
Sebastian Vettel has branded Lewis Hamilton "stupid" for unlapping himself during the German Grand Prix, arguing that the McLaren driver shouldn't have 'interfered' with the race leaders.

Hamilton was running out of contention a lap down having picked up a puncture on the opening lap at Hockenheim but at around the halfway stage, having just pitted for fresh tyres, he found himself right behind race leaders Fernando Alonso and Vettel and just ahead of Button, who was in the process of catching his two rivals.

Vettel confident in last minute overtake

Although out of position and already lapped, Hamilton's McLaren was running at a faster pace at the time on far fresher tyres compared to the three cars around him and the Briton was able to line up and pass Vettel with the aid of DRS on the run to the turn six hairpin on lap 36.

The move drew an animated response from Vettel - with the World Champion to be seen waving his arm from the RB8 cockpit - and he continued his attack on his McLaren rival in the post-race press conference.

"That was not nice of him [Hamilton]. I don't see the point why he is trying to race us," Vettel complained. "If he wants to go fast then he can drop back, find a gap and go fast there.

"But it's a bit stupid to disturb the leaders. He was a lap down so I don't see the point anyway. I think that potentially lost us the position to Jenson because soon after that we pitted, I think only two or three laps after that."

Hamilton's 100th GP not something to celebrate

Vettel's pass to re-take second from Button on the final lap of the race was at the centre of later controversy as the German driver completed the move with all four wheels off the race track and he was later handed a 20-second time penalty that dropped the World Champion to fifth place in the final classification.

However, speaking live on Sky Sports F1 amid his defence of his driver's actions in that incident, Red Bull chief Christian Horner suggested Hamilton's alleged crime was far worse.

"I think a bigger incident is what went on with Lewis Hamilton. Why was he interfering with the race leaders?" Horner asked. "He should have respected the fact that they were ahead on the track."

When put to him by Sky Sports F1's Johnny Herbert that Hamilton was actually the quickest car on the track at the time and there is no rule that says you are not allowed to unlap yourself, Horner replied: "Yes and no. Yes and no. He didn't attempt to make any move on Fernando. He was a lap down and this was for the lead of the race. Sebastian gets pushed off line, gets dirt on his tyres and it costs him time in a crucial battle with Fernando Alonso."

Whitmarsh: McLaren are back
Button charges from sixth to third on the road to confirm McLaren's upgrades have delivered a big improvement
Martin Whitmarsh has declared his McLaren team are firmly back in a position to win races after their expectation of stronger pace in dry conditions came true at Hockenheim on Sunday.

McLaren's recent difficulties in getting heat into their tyres in the wet manifested itself into sixth and seventh grid positions at the end of Saturday's qualifying session, but having shown stronger pace with their upgraded car in the dry in the brief windows of normal running up until then in Germany, the team had been confident of moving forward in race-trim.

Whitmarsh queries Vettel move

And although Lewis Hamilton's race was all-but ruined on the third lap by a puncture, Jenson Button passed both Nico Hulkenberg and Michael Schumacher during the course of the first stint and swiftly caught race leaders Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel through the middle phase of the race.

A record-breaking second McLaren pit-stop, timed at 2.3 seconds, allowed Button to jump into second at the last stops and he appeared set to challenge Alonso for the win until falling back into the clutches of Vettel during the final stages.

Speaking even before the World Champion was relegated from second place for overtaking Button from off the track, Whitmarsh was understandably delighted at the clear evidence that McLaren have finally caught Red Bull and Ferrari again.

"It was a great drive. A frustrating day in many ways but to start back there, he lost a lot of time at the beginning of the race, he had to catch those guys, so he drove brilliantly," he told Sky Sports F1's Ted Kravitz.

"The pit stop I think was 2.31 [seconds] to get out in front was great work by the team, so I'm very proud of them as well.

"So there were lots of positives but just a little bit frustrating that we could have done better here.

"But the underlying news is that we were very competitive and there's a lot of racing in this season and we can certainly win some great races."

With around 10 laps to go Button had closed to within 0.6s of Alonso and seemed set to launch a sustained attack on the Ferrari into the closing stages, but as it turned out the opposite happened with Alonso pulling away to win by 3.7s and Vettel, albeit contentiously, passing the McLaren for second.

German GP - Race in 60 seconds

Whitmarsh admits the need to conserve fuel, and fading rear tyres, had contributed to Button's pace tailing off, although is hopeful McLaren can overcome Ferrari next week in Hungary.

"We were, one, saving a bit of fuel at that stage frankly and his rear tyres had gone off a little bit," he said.

"He'd been behind for some time; Fernando is not an easy person to overtake. He did a good job and you've got to give congratulations to them and they're doing a great job at the moment.

"But they're beatable, we've got to concentrate on that and make sure that we really score good points in Hungary now.

"I think we know we've got a competitive car, we've got a good track record there, we've won there quite a few times in the last few years. It's a good time to win just before the [summer factory] shut down in my experience."

The McLaren chief also praised Button's personal performance, the former World Champion having endured a miserable run since last finishing on the podium in China back in April

"I think those people who felt he'd lost form I think he answered that, he was really good," Whitmarsh added.

"Half-way through the first stint Fernando and Sebastian were away and he had to catch them up, have a great stop to get by and race as hard as he did.

"So it was a great drive."

Vettel demoted to fifth

Button, for his part, was just as delighted with the result - and just as impressed with the speed of his record-breaking pit-stop.

"There are two strong positives to take away from today: firstly, although it proved very difficult to overtake, we're right up there with Ferrari and Red Bull in terms of speed. Our upgrade package is working well: if we can sort out qualifying, we're in the mix, and we'll have a really good chance of winning races this season.

"Secondly, although there's previously been some negative talk about our pitstops, the boys did an unbelievable job today. My fastest stop was a 2.31s - the blink of an eye, and, I'm told, the fastest pitstop in history. They were phenomenal and gave it absolutely everything today - all our effort is really paying off now.

Alonso wins controversial German GP
Hamilton's title hopes punctured as Spaniard leads from start to finish; Button promoted to second after Vettel is penalised for illegal pass

Fernando Alonso strengthened his grip on the World Championship race with a supreme victory in a controversial and action-packed German Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver led from start to finish across a riveting 67 laps at Hockenheim, rebuffing first Sebastian Vettel and then Jenson Button after the much-improved MP4-27 snuck past the Red Bull when the German returned to the track at the second round of pit-stops following a record-breaking tyre-change by the much-maligned McLaren crew.

German GP - Race in 60 seconds

The duo's roles were reversed on the final lap when Vettel found a way past Button - a way that saw all four of the RB8's wheels off the track as it rounded the MP4-27. Despite Vettel's wide-eyed protestations of innocence when confronted by an unimpressed Button after the race, it was a move that immediately looked highly dubious and a stewards' investigation followed.

Two hours later and Vettel's second place had turned into a far less palatable fifth as the stewards ruled that his pass on Button had indeed been illegal and imposed a 20-second time penalty against the German which promoted Button back into second and Lotus's Kimi Raikkonen to the final podium position.

The penalty was also welcome news for Kamui Kobayashi who was confirmed in a career-best fourth best after both he and Sauber team-mate Sergio Perez had earlier impressed to finish fifth and sixth respectively on the road ahead of Michael Schumacher, who again slipped backwards in the under-performing Mercedes.

"I absolutely would penalise Vettel and move him back behind Button"
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle Quotes of the week

Vettel's penalty proved an unexpected sting in the tail for World Champions Red Bull who had earlier only escaped a pre-race penalty when the stewards were forced to concede that they had wriggled through an engine-mapping loophole.

No such controversy surrounded Alonso's 30th career victory, however. Despite never escaping from the close proximity of either Vettel or Button, the brilliant Spaniard remained unruffled throughout and always just far enough ahead to avoid a challenge for the lead of the race. Too quick, too clever, too good.

Too bad, though, for Lewis Hamilton after his McLaren ran over the debris left strewn across the first corner when Felipe Massa carelessly lost the front-wing of his Ferrari at the start of the race. By the time that Hamilton had returned to the track with his puncture repaired, Alonso was a full minute further up the road and the 2008 World Champion was once again facing a race of frustration.

But you can't keep a magnet for controversy out of the limelight for long, however, and Hamilton was launched back into the cut-and-thrust of the battle for the lead of the race when, out of sequence from the frontrunners after his second stop, he found himself tucked up behind Vettel, faster but also a lap down. The response was typical Hamilton as the McLaren driver swiftly unlapped himself, drawing an indignant reaction from Vettel that was repeated in the post-race press conference.

Ted's Notebook - German GP

"It was stupid for him to disturb the leaders," complained the reigning World Champion. "That was not nice of him [Hamilton]. I don't see the point why he is trying to race us. If he wants to go fast then he can drop back, find a gap and go fast there."

Hamilton's day of misery ended with a tactical retirement on lap fifty-eight and since winning in Canada he has scored a paltry two points in three races. A pre-break fillip in Budapest next week is desperately required - for his confidence as much as his title aspirations.

The good news, then, is that the prospect of a McLaren victory is back within the realms of possibility with the MP4-27 a full match for both the Red Bull and Ferrari throughout the race and Button very nearly pulling off an unlikely victory until overcooking his tyres towards the end of his final stint.

"I had to push hard to try and catch Fernando, which meant I had nothing left for the end of the race," the 2009 World Champion reflected. "We pretty much ran out of rubber two laps before the chequered flag."

Button tight-lipped on Vettel pass

But after enduring arguably the worst slump of his career, Button was back to his stylish best this weekend, his quest for victory amounting to a finely-judged three-pronged attack interspersed between his two pit-stops: stage one) overtake Nico Hulkenberg and Schumacher to follow in the wake of the two leaders; stage two) pass Vettel for second, under-cutting the Red Bull with a faster lap on fresh rubber and an ultra-fast pit-stop that saw McLaren set an unofficial world record; stage three) overtake Alonso for the lead of the race.

Close but not quite - and trust Alonso to be the only fly in the ointment as Button finally rediscovered the zip that saw him take victory in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix.

McLaren are back, but it is Ferrari's resident genius who remains out in front.
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