NUERBURGRING, Germany (Reuters) - Sebastian Vettel finally got the monkey off his back and triumphed at his home German Grand Prix but more challenges await this month with a tyre test and a race in Hungary he has never won.
Red Bull’s triple world champion increased his lead in the current standings to 34 points on Sunday after holding off a late charge from Lotus’s Kimi Raikkonen to the delight of thousands of German fans at the famous Nuerburgring track.
The victory was his first in July and he will now head to Budapest at the end of the month with renewed confidence, even if the tyres set to be used at the Hungaroring will differ from Germany.
A series of dangerous tyre blow-outs at the British Grand Prix two Sundays ago forced supplier Pirelli to rush out a safer set of rear tyres for the Nuerburgring which had an inner belt of Kevlar, a synthetic fibre, rather than steel.
A more long-term approach will be taken from Hungary with tyres more similar to 2012 set to be introduced after a special testing session for F1 drivers at the young drivers’ test at Silverstone July 17-19. Uncertainty still reigns though.
“There’s a test at Silverstone where race drivers are allowed to test and so we have a tyre test you can say, for at least a day and get a little bit more of an idea, and then I think Pirelli will make up their mind and decide to get together with the FIA,” Vettel told reporters.
“Whether the teams like it or not, it doesn’t matter. So I think at this point we don’t know which tyres we are probably running in Hungary. The most important thing is that we learn the lesson from previous races, especially Silverstone.”
Red Bull will be sad to see the rears from Germany go after being impressed with how they degraded and performed safety-wise, although they had one calamity at a Mark Webber pit stop when a rear tyre came free and hit a television cameraman, who broke his collarbone and two ribs.
“There are further changes for Budapest and teams get a chance to try it out at Silverstone. I don’t think the tyres need to be so high in degradation to produce good races,” team principal Christian Horner said after a thrilling end to the race in Germany.
Romain Grosjean was third in an excellent effort by Lotus and the Frenchman also feels much happier with Pirelli’s new tyre outlook after complaints from teams all year about high degradation.
“I am looking forward to using the full new tyres from Budapest onwards that I understood a little bit better last year than this year,” he said.
The only team puzzled by this weekend’s tyres were home hopes Mercedes, who endured a difficult race with Lewis Hamilton slipping from pole to fifth and Nico Rosberg coming a lowly ninth as they struggled with high temperatures affecting the rubber.
Ferrari took a bold strategy by deciding not to push for pole in qualifying on Saturday to conserve tyres for the race but Fernando Alonso, second in the overall standings, only managed to climb to fourth.
The Italian team’s performance in Hungary could be key to the rest of the season with 10 races remaining this year.
The three-week gap until Budapest is likely to see developments on Pirelli’s bid for a contract-extension for 2014 with big engine rules changes coming in next year and limited testing opportunities.
Champions Red Bull are also losing Webber to endurance racing at the end of the year and a rumoured announcement of Raikkonen as his replacement can not be discounted this month.
Editing by Patrick Johnston