x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Massa gives way for Alonso German GP win in Hockenheim

Team orders come into play as Ferrari clinch a one-two at Hockenheim with home-favourite Sebastian Vettel finishing third.

Fernando Alonso leads Felipe Massa during the closing stages of the German Grand Prix after overtaking his Brazilian teammate under team orders.
Fernando Alonso leads Felipe Massa during the closing stages of the German Grand Prix after overtaking his Brazilian teammate under team orders.

Fernando Alonso led home a one-two finish for Ferrari in today's German Grand Prix, albeit with the whiff of team orders hanging in the air. On the anniversary of a crash in Hungary a year ago that came close to costing him his life, Massa was forced to settle for second best at Hockenheim after leading for most of the opening 48 laps. That was until he eventually gave way to Alonso after what appeared to be a coded message from the pit wall to allow the Spaniard by. It helped Alonso to his 23rd career win, and his second this year that puts the double world champion firmly back in the title hunt as he now trails by 34 points championship leader Lewis Hamilton who was forced to settle for fourth.

Sebastian Vettel completed the podium, coming within a second of Massa towards the end, but he was never in a position to make a move for second place. The McLarens of Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button were never in the hunt, finishing over 20 seconds behind Vettel. Hamilton, though, has again managed to extend his lead over Button to 14 points, but the pace of the chasing pack means they are now closing in with Vettel and Webber ? who was sixth ? cutting into his lead. It was an abysmal start from Vettel that cost him the win as he faced a two-pronged assault from the Ferraris and found himself skewered from both sides. Clearly fearing the greater threat would be Alonso, Vettel moved to his right in a vain attempt to squeeze out the Spaniard.

But not only did the 23-year-old fail with that manoeuvre, he also left the door wide open for Massa to comfortably make his move to his left. It was a case of "thank you very much" from the Brazilian who, in the space of just a few hundred yards on the run down to the first corner, had moved from third on the grid to grab the lead. With the two Italian cars out front, there followed a fascinating tussle between Massa and Alonso, most notably in the few laps after their switch to the harder tyres from the softer compound. Massa clearly struggled to get his rubber up to temperature, which allowed a frustrated Alonso to crawl over the back of the Brazilian.

The most notable was on lap 21 as backmarkers started to make their presence felt, at one point allowing Alonso to get his nose ahead on the straight heading into the hairpin. Massa, though, had the line through the sharp right-hander, only to come under attack again through the stadium complex, but again just managed to hold sway. A fuming Alonso expressed his anger over the radio when he said: "This is ridiculous", prompting intense discussions on the Ferrari pit wall. Credit then to Massa as he soon responded, posting a number of fastest laps to increase his lead to 3.5secs. That was arguably as Alonso was cooling himself down inside the cockpit of his car because he then launched another assault from the midway point of the race.

But on lap 47 Massa then received a message from engineer Rob Smedley who said: "Okay, so, Fernando is faster than you." The inference of a team order, as Alonso was 31 points clear going into this race and in with a greater shot of the championship, was apparent. Two laps later Alonso finally made his move stick, getting close enough to a very slow Massa coming out of the hairpin to then pass his team-mate down the short straight that immediately followed. Smedley then radioed in again to Massa to say: "Good lad. Sorry." Alonso then sailed off into the distance to win by 4.1secs, with Vettel just 0.9secs back, and as for the rest, they were nowhere. After stepping out of their cars in parc ferme, Massa gave Alonso the cold shoulder as he attempted to embrace his teammate, a clear sign that he was not happy. Webber, who was forced to give up his chase of Button for fifth due to an oil problem, came home sixth and 14 seconds adrift of the Briton. Such was the pace of the Ferrari, everybody else was lapped, with Renault's Robert Kubica and Vitaly Petrov seventh and 10th, sandwiching the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. * PA