NURBURGRING, Germany, July 7 – Sebastian Vettel extended his lead in this year’s drivers’ championship when he finally won on home soil on Sunday.
But the defending triple world champion had to survive several spells of intense pressure to steer his Red Bull to victory in the German Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old German, who also had never won a race in the month of July, came home narrowly ahead of fast-closing Finn Kimi Raikkonen and his Lotus team-mate Romain Grosjean of France.
Vettel’s win was his fourth this year and the 30th of his career and it lifted him 34 points clear of nearest rival, Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari, in the drivers’ championship.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Vettel. “Kimi was pushing very close in the end, but I was pushing in every lap except from the ones with the safety car.
“I enjoyed today and I could feel Kimi coming and it was quite close with Romain too, but we recovered and I am very happy the race ended after 60 laps — and not 61 or 62 laps.”
Vettel’s win means that in the constructors’ series, Red Bull lead with 250 ahead of Mercedes on 183.
Raikkonen, who closed within a second of Vettel at the end as he stretched his record run of points-scoring races to 26, said: “My radio only worked in one part of the circuit and unfortunately today there was quite a lot to discuss.”
Grosjean, who finished third to grab his first podium finish in five races, said: “It’s good, it is a good result for the team. I thought I had a good chance, but Sebastian drove very well.
“The team took the decision to put us on different tyres and it worked out in the end.”
Alonso came home fourth ahead of Britons Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Jenson Button of McLaren with Australian Mark Webber seventh in the second Red Bull.
Hamilton started from pole, but fell back and struggled with his tyres before fighting back in the closing stages with some fine passing moves.
“I have nothing positive to say about these tyres,” said Hamilton.
“I don’t understand why we struggle so much on them, but the team is working hard and we need to keep pushing.
“I felt I was having such a difficult time and I wanted to know if Nico wasn’t having a problem then it must be something with my driving or my set-up.
“But it turned out it wasn’t. We didn’t have any blowouts this weekend — but I don’t particularly like the tyres.”
Mexican Sergio Perez finished eighth for McLaren ahead of Germans Nico Rosberg in the second Mercedes and Nico Hulkenberg of Sauber.
Vettel became the first German to win a German Grand Prix at the Nurburgring in the history of the Formula One world championship.
After the drama of four exploding tyre blowouts in last Sunday’s British Grand Prix, the race was run without similar incidents other than when an errant wheel flew off Webber’s car during a pit-stop and struck a tv camerman, Paul Allen, in the back.
The FIA said: “He was treated at the circuit medical centre and then transported by helicopter to Koblenz Hospital.
“The Briton has been kept there, under observation. Further information from the hospital will be provided as soon as it becomes available.”
On his victory lap, Vettel screeched: “Woo-hooh! Thanks guys, that was a tough race — they really gave me a run for my money.”
He was right, but it may be a different story again at the next contest, the Hungarian Grand Prix, on July 28.