HOCKENHEIM, Germany (AP) — Nico Rosberg won the German Grand Prix on Sunday to stretch his lead in the Formula One drivers’ championship over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton, who finished third after starting 20th.
“It’s an amazing feeling to win at home. It’s a very special day,” said Rosberg, who led throughout to become the first German to triumph at Hockenheim since Michael Schumacher won in 2006.
Hamilton, who crashed in qualifying and survived a number of scrapes throughout the race, could not pass Valtteri Bottas in the closing laps and the Finn took second to give Williams its 300th F1 podium finish.
“It was not easy and required input from all the engineers. Thanks to all the fans. I saw many Finnish flags so thank you,” Bottas said.
Hamilton was pushed back to the penultimate row of the grid due to his qualifying crash and a penalty for changing his gearbox, but threaded his way through the field despite a broken front wing caused by a collision with former teammate Jenson Button of McLaren.
His super-soft tires wore quickly in his final stint and he did not have the grip to get past Bottas. Rosberg leads Hamilton by 14 points going into next weekend’s race in Hungary.
Four-time defending champ Sebastian Vettel was fourth, ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso who won his exciting battle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for fifth.
Alonso and Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, who finished seventh, are the only drivers to have scored points in each of the ten races so far this season, and the Spaniard’s points finish means Ferrari has finished in the points for 77 consecutive races.
There was a collision at the first corner between Kevin Magnussen’s McLaren and Felipe Massa’s Williams, which flipped over and slid across the run-off area in a shower of sparks.
The McLaren also left the track and Ricciardo had to steer wide around them to avoid the damage, dropping him down to 15th and compromising his race.
Magnussen had to pit to repair damage to his left front tire but Massa’s race was over. The Brazilian emerged unhurt from the car to cheers from the crowd.
“I’m okay. The accident was a little bit more scary watching than being inside. I just saw everything the other way around, but I am fine,” Massa said. “I am so disappointed at what happened. It’s another race and another car that has pushed me out and finished my race. With a car that that is very competitive and fast that’s so disappointing.”
Massa said the Danish driver was at fault although a stewards’ review found no wrongdoing.
“I was in front and doing the corner in front. If someone needs to watch, it’s the car behind,” Massa said.
It was looking like it could be another a 1-2 for Mercedes as Hamilton quickly worked his way through the field. The Briton hit Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari to overtake both the Finn and Ricciardo in a brave move at the hairpin on lap 13. A piece of Raikkonen’s front plate flew into the air.
On lap 30, Hamilton tried to overtake Button on the hairpin but damaged his left-front wing and that proved critical in finishing third rather than second.
“I did as good as I could. It was hard to get through the pack safely and I had a little bit of a collision with Jenson,” Hamilton said.
“I thought he was going to open the door which he has done a couple of times lately but that was my bad judgment.”
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat retired on lap 46 when his car burst into flames. The Russian was visibly annoyed, hitting a barrier in frustration.
Adrian Sutil of Sauber spun on lap 50 of 67 and stalled in the middle of the start-finish straight. The race director had to make a big decision on whether to bring out the safety car, which would have pulled Rosberg back to the field, or let the race continue, and he chose the latter even though it took a couple of laps before they moved the car.
“That would have made it more difficult,” a relieved Rosberg acknowledged.
It has been a remarkable couple of weeks since the German’s first non-finish of the season at the British Grand Prix. The 29-year-old married his girlfriend, watched Germany win the World Cup, signed a contract extension with Mercedes, and he has now won his home GP for his fourth victory of the season.
Rosberg had previously not finished higher than eighth place at Hockenheim, in 2010. The best he managed at a German GP was fourth at the Nurburgring the year before that