After the controversy of 2010 this year’s German Grand Prix was all positives, with the only orders Rob Smedley had to give Felipe Massa relating to his inability to pass cars. Here we’re looking at the performance of the frontrunners, better known in these parts as The Top Dogs.

McLaren

  • Qualifying: Hamilton(2nd) Button (7th)
  • Race: Hamilton (1st) Button (DNF)

That Lewis Hamilton is the outright fastest driver in Formula One is pretty clear. This doesn’t always lead to race wins – he is not necessarily the most complete racer in the paddock – but in yesterday’s German Grand Prix he hooked everything up to produce one of the finest displays of his career. Hats doffed, articles about his future in the sport tucked away until his next on-track collision, the man was Top Dog yesterday.

Fast-starting, hard-fighting and composed when necessary, this was one of his better wins in Formula One, up there with (but not on the same level as) Silverstone ’08 and Japan ’07.  Indeed, Hamilton was on it all weekend: his qualifying lap was something to behold. If Lewis could get everything so spot on every weekend even an Adrian Newey-designed Red Bull would have a serious title threat.

Jenson Button was absent pretty much all weekend. He qualified badly and dropped back at the start, finding himself behind Vitaly ‘The Iron Curtain’ Petrov. His eventual DNF – a result of hydraulic problems – caused little more than a ripple in the ocean that was this race. Apparently he was capable of fourth, but sixth seems more likely, and with a second retirement in a row he is now badly adrift in the drivers’ championship. We’d put a money on him ending the year fifth.

Badger’s Best: Hamilton

 

Ferrari

  • Qualifying: Alonso (4th) Massa (5th)
  • Race: Alonso (2nd) Massa (5th)

alonso

Another fine drive from Alonso, who has now finished in the top two at four of the last five grand prix. Germany didn’t quite go to plan, with fourth on the grid less than he’d expected and Hamilton muscling him out of the way for the lead after the second round of stops, but if a weekend in which you finish the race second is disappointing then things can’t be all that bad. He seems extremely happy, super-motivated and as fast as ever – and he still reckons he can win this title.

Felipe Massa meanwhile has become a footnote of grands prix. Out-qualified 10-0 by Alonso, he regularly finishes with three or more cars between himself and the Spaniard and needs engineer/pep coach Rob Smedly to gee him along to pass cars (which is Felipe’s job). Sure they may hang on to him for another year, but that’s for a lack of options on the replacement front rather than a genuine faith in the Brazilian.

Badger’s Best: Alonso


Red Bull

  • Qualifying: Webber (1st) Vettel (3rd)
  • Race: Webber (3rd) Vettel (4th)

There’s something very worrying about taking more poles than you score race wins – iIt’s not a good stat. But so it is for Mark Webber, now nine times a polesitter but only six times a race winner. Ultimately he has to be disappointed with this result, and needs to start asking serious questions about his ability to get off the line – it’s cost him dear in 2011.

Still, Mark was excellent for much (just not enough) of the weekend and formed part of that brilliant three-way battle for the win. He’s finally finished ahead of Vettel, though it only equated to three more world championship points. Basically a case of good, but room for improvement.

Seb meanwhile had his first iffy race of the season, running most of the day in fifth until some excellent work from the Red Bull boys got him out of the pits ahead of Massa. He didn’t look all that feisty, though in fairness neither would you if trying to drag a Renault engine up a hill with a Mercedes in front of you.

But it’s true Vettel seemed out of sorts, perhaps struggling under the weight of German expectation. Or perhaps, having already won the world championship and the Monaco Grand Prix he’s just saving a home win for next year, you know, so he has something left to shoot for.

Badger’s Best: Webber


Force India

  • Qualifying: Sutil (8th) di Resta (12th)
  • Race: Sutil (6th) di Resta (13th)

Hot Rod aficionados will note that this is Force India’s first appearance in the Top Dogs column this season, and it is piano-playing, hair gel-loving German Adrian Sutil who they have to thank for this achievement. Take a bow Adrian. Now, play us a song.

He mashed up a Gumpert on the Nordschleife during the buildup to the race weekend, hardly the best start to your home event, but come Sunday afternoon Sutil was a strong contender for driver of the day. He ran long and fast to take sixth at the flag, ahead of both Mercedes.

Team-mate di Resta wasn’t as on it as usual in qualy and then got tangled up with Heidfeld at the start, ruining his race. Whereas Paul has shown well in qualifying Sutil managed to bring home the bacon in the race this weekend. That, and how to play the piano, is something the young Scot could learn from his team-mate.

Badger’s Best: Sutil

Driver character graphics provided by Unlap.