Hockenheim 2010 in two words: team orders. With six Germans in Formula 1 this season you’d have thought the odds were good for a home win at Hockenheim today. Apparently not. At one point during the race it looked as though Felipe Massa could triumphantly take the win exactly a year on from his horrendous accident which threatened both his life and his racing career.
“Ok … so … Fernando is faster … than you“. Poor Rob Smedley, Massa’s race engineer, was clearly not happy to be delivering the killer team order to let Alonso through. A couple of corners later and Massa grudgingly let Alonso through to allow him to take his hollow Hockenheim victory.
If you heard the team radio from Rob Smedley to Felipe Massa at the end of the race and wondered what ‘magnanimous’ meant, then wonder no more… It means “free from petty resentfulness or vindictiveness, noble, and high-minded”. We couldn’t have said it better ourselves. Rob Smedley would have won Badger’s first ever ‘Engineer of the Day’ until he “cleared up” his radio message after the race, explaining to the BBC that he was actually trying to “hurry up” Massa, and apparently not give a team order. But we’re not stupid.
Back to the start, and a pincer movement from the Ferraris on the start left Vettel looking vulnerable. Massa had the lead handed to him on a plate at the 1st corner whilst Vettel was busy hustling Alonso.
Hamilton, the expert in daring first-lap overtaking moves, made up several places off the line. Toro Rosso driver Buemi lost his rear wing on the first lap, and was forced to make an early pit stop.
An early stop for Vettel triggered a cascade of pit stops, Alonso pitted on lap 14, followed by a super-quick stop from Mark Webber. But ‘crazy’ Kobayashi on the soft tyres kept Mark Webber under pressure.
At one point Massa was looking a little scrappy, making mistakes, all the while being hunted down by Alonso, yet after the pit stops the order remained the same with Massa out in front. Later on whilst coming through traffic Alonso fancied his chances against Massa, but lost the place a corner later. We also saw Kubica come out alongside Michael Schumacher after a late pit stop, and quite happily had the measure of the F1 veteran.
Button, who is known for his smooth driving style and low tyre wear, stayed out until lap 23 on the soft tyres, a strategy which worked pretty well. Button came out in 4th, jumping the Red Bull of Webber and right behind team-mate Hamilton.
Near the middle of the race Massa found his mojo, and pulled a gap from Alonso at a rate of half a second per lap. Of course there was much encouragement over the radio from Rob Smedley, or ‘Smedders’ as we here at Badger like to fondly refer to him. Meanwhile on the Ferrari pit wall a typically Italian heated discussion was going on as to how, whether, and when, to get Alonso into 1st place.
The two McLarens began playing a defensive race from the halfway stage, with the aim of keeping the quick Red Bull of Mark Webber behind. The strategy was successful, and at the chequered flag the McLarens finished with their championship places still intact.
There was a lot of overtaking during today’s grand prix, but unfortunately the vast majority of those moves were under blue flags. Hockenheim was more like the M25 with the volume of traffic during the race! There was hardly a screen shot where blue flags were not flying.
Aside from the ‘team order’ controversy, the race was relatively uneventful. Di Grassi took a spin on lap 53,Vitaly Petrov got a properly patronising slap on the wrist for improper gear shifting, and Heikki Kovalainen had a collision with De la Rosa.
In the press conference Massa was suspiciously coy about the incident, “well I don’t think I need to say anything about that” said Massa. A bittersweet 1-2 for Ferrari indeed.