Ahhhh Germany. Home to perhaps the world's most under-appreciated cuisine and great beers. The 4th greatest heavy metal region on the planet (behind the US, UK, and Scandanavia). And most importantly, for these purposes, land of perhaps the greatest collective group of F1 drivers over the past 20 years.
Start with Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) and Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull). Add in other current stalwarts Nico Rosberg (Mercedes), Nick Heidfeld (Renault), and. Adrian Sutil (Force India). Throw in some Timo Glock (Virgin) and past drivers such as Ralf Schumacher, Nico Hulkenberg, and Heinz-Harald Frentzen and then try to come up with a list that's stronger since 1992. If we could only include Jody Scheckter (South Africa) and Niki Lauda (Austria), Germany could probably lay claim to best ever status. But alas...
As if all this drving power weren't enough, the German Grand Prix returned to "the famed Nurburgring" for 2011. Even bass-fishing fans know this circuit. It's the track where the (newly recrowned) Big Three take their cars and test them when they want to make a TV ad saying something cool about how well they perform.
So the stage looked set for teutonic triumph. Until qualifying that is. The normally front-row lock Vettel crossed the line in P3, starting somewhere other than the front rowfor the first time in 15 races going back to last season. To make matters worse, he's only won once in his entire career when not starting on the front row.
His Red Bull teammate Mark Webber scored the pole, with Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) coming in P2. Webber's been on the front row a number of times this year, but going into Germany hadn't led a lap. Hamilton made sure Lap 1 of this race wasn't going to be any different, taking the lead at the start. Alonso took Vettel for P3 in the early laps, leading the young German to charge so hard he ended up dropping a wheel and spinning himself even further back into the pack.
As it turned out, Webber's speed in qualifying was no fluke. He overtook Hamilton for 1st on the 13th lap, but resurrenderd it before the start/finish line. What couldn't be maintained on the track, however, ended up happening in the pits, with Webber taking P1 on a Lap 18 pit stop to lead for the first time this season.
Fast-forward 15 laps and fortune reversed itself, Hamilton retaking the lead on a Lap 33 stop, with Alonso rolling out in second and Webber third. And so it stayed until the end. Vettal took 4th from Felipe Massa (Ferrari) on a last lap stop, forced by the need to get the hard tires on before race's end. Sutil finihsed 6th. The victory leap-frogged Hamilton from 5th to 3rd in the standings.
On the downside for McLaren, Jenson Button retired on Lap 36 of 60 due to a hydraulic failure. his second consecutive DNF following his team's failure to fully attach his right rear wheel the previous round in Silverstone.
Also as in Britain, the host country failed to see one of its own take the podium, despite multiple currently active world champions from each. Maybe next year.
Driver standings - Top 10
216 - Sebastian Vettel (Germany) - RBR-Renault
139 - Mark Webber (Australia) - RBR-Renault
134 - Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
130 - Fernando Alonso (Spain) - Ferrari
109 - Jenson Button (Great Britain) - McLaren-Mercedes
62 - Felipe Massa (Brazil) - Ferrari
46 - Nico Rosberg (Germany) - Mercedes
34 - Nick Heidfeld (Germany) - Renault
32 - Vitaly Petrov (Russia) - Renault
32 - Michael Schumacher (Germany) Mercedes
Constructor standings - Teams scoring points
355 - RBR-Renault - Vettel, Webber
243 - McLaren-Mercedes - Hamilton, Button
192 - Ferrari - Alonso, Massa
78 - Mercedes - Rosberg, Schumacher
66 - Renault - Heidfeld, Petrov
35 - Sauber-Ferrari - Kamui Kobayashi, Sergio Perez
20 - Force India-Mercedes - Adrian Sutil, Paul di Resta
17 - STR-Ferrari - Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari
4 - Williams-Cosworth - Rubens Barrichello, Pastor Maldonado
Next event: Hungarian Grand Prix - Budapest - July 29-31