Sebastian Vettel broke his German Grand Prix duck by taking victory at the Nurburgring despite a late surge from Kimi Raikkonen.
But it was yet more disappointment for Lewis Hamilton who once again went backwards from pole position, only finishing fifth thanks to a last lap overtake on former McLaren teammate Jenson Button.
Hamilton’s chances of a win were thrown into jeopardy at the very first corner. The Mercedes man got a decent start but Sebastian Vettel got an even better one. And while Hamilton tried to squeeze Vettel into Turn One he lost momentum allowing Mark Webber to come round the outside.
Sealed with a kiss: Sebastian Vettel claimed first in the German GP despite a late surge from Kimi Raikkonen
Jump for joy: The Red Bull driver celebrates this first-ever win on home turf, breaking his Nurburgring duck
The net result was that Hamilton found himself in third by the second corner, Vettel just managing to stay ahead of Red Bull teammate Webber.
With the majority of the field having started on the option tyres, the rush to the pits began in earnest from as early as the end of lap 4. The dangers of the pit lane were demonstrated when Paul di Resta’ release came to the attention of the stewards, the Force India driver nearly collecting a Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso.
But that danger was nothing compared to the drama four laps later, when Mark Webber blasted away from his garage without his right-rear tyre attached. The wheel bounded down the pit lane, past the Mercedes and McLaren garage and straight into the back of television cameraman, knocking him flying.
Red Bulls: Sebastian Vettel, on home soil, leads team-mate Mark Webber in the early stages
Medical crews were quickly on the scene and the unfortunate cameraman was thankfully sitting up soon afterwards. A press release named the cameraman as Paul Allen with early reports suggesting he had been transferred to hospital after suffering a cut head and a sore shoulder.
Back on the track, Romain Grosjean’s complaint that he was quicker than teammate Kimi Raikkonen given the Frenchman’s pace.
Meanwhile, Mercedes also had to get the message across to Nico Rosberg, having started on the harder tyre, not to hold teammate Hamilton much longer.
Hamilton eventually sneaked by into Turn One on Lap 14 but by then the damage had been with Grosjean profiting from the hold up to emerge from his first stop ahead of the Mercedes.
On lap 19 it went from bad to worse as the sister Lotus of Raikkonen swept by into fifth with Hamilton complaining to his team about the performance of his tyres.
Line-up: Lewis Hamilton drives ahead of Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg (left) and Kimi Raikkonen
Leading by example: The Red Bulls of Vettel and Webber front the pack early on in the race
Next to breathe down Hamilton’s neck was Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari. Battle Royale ensued between the former McLaren teammates.
Hamilton was doing sterling work to keep the Spaniard behind, but in the end the decision was taken to switch to a three stopper, the Silver Arrows diving into the pits at the end of lap 22.
But what was turning out to be a very unlucky afternoon for the 2008 world champion took yet another unfortunate twist after Jules Bianchi’s Marussia burst into flames. The fire was out almost as soon as it had started, but inexplicably the stricken car, minus its driver, began rolling back down the track.
A safety car was the only option, and the leaders took full advantage by diving into the pits for their second stops meaning Hamilton, with more laps on his tyres was down in seventh.
Lightning: Vettel speeds past his home crowd at the Nurburgring
The delay did play into Jenson Button’s hands, however. Having made his first stop way into the race at the end of lap 21, Button’s two stop strategy received a boost by the pedestrian laps behind the safety car with 2009 world champion handily placed in fifth.
The safety car stayed out for five laps, enough time for Webber, a lap down after his pit stop woes, to catch up with the back of the field.
Finally, at the start of lap 30, the field were racing again with Vettel maintaining his lead at the head of the pack.
But Hamilton was soon toiling yet again, Nico Hulkenberg somehow keeping his Sauber ahead of the Mercedes.
Spinning out: Ferrari's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa stops in his car on the Nurburgring circuit
And Vettel was not having things all his own way with Lotus duo of Grosjean and Raikkonen in close attention.
Finally, at the end of lap 38, Hamilton was free of Hulkenberg, as the Sauber changed tyres for the second time. Hamilton was making little impression on his next target, fifth placed Button with McLaren’s gamble on trying for a two stopper looking like a masterstroke.
At the front, Alonso was trying to get himself into the podium picture as Raikkonen, leaving his third stop for as long as he dare, emerging as the biggest challenger to Vettel’s hopes of a maiden win on home soil.
Indeed the German found himself in a tightly-fought dog fight Hamilton for three corners longer than he would have liked after making his third stop, which promoted Raikkonen to the lead.
Up in flames: Jules Bianchi's Marussia caught fire and a cameraman was hit by Mark Webber's tyre (below)
Thoughts of a two stop strategy for the Finn disappeared at the end of lap 49 when both the Lotus and then the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso dived into the pits for soft tyres and a blast to the flag of the 60-lap German grand Prix.
The two men with three world titles between them were soon gaining on the man with a trio of championships to his name, Grosjean the only man standing between Vettel and the rapid closing duo of Raikkonen and Alonso.
But those fragile tyres on both the Lotus and Ferrari were soon past their best as the traffic played its part in the closing stages.
The order not to hold up Raikkonen was headed by Grosjean but with 5 laps to go a 2.5 second gap to Vettel was a bridge too far for the Finn even though he managed to get it down to a solitary second as they approached the final circuit.
Triumph: The win at the Nurburgring was Sebastian Vettel's first ever German Grand Prix victory
Hamilton, however, was not giving up the ghost and with the chequered flag being readied he powered his Mercedes past the McLaren of Button to take fifth spot.
‘They gave me a run for the money,’ said Vettel as he crossed the line.
'It's unbelievable! 'I'm very, very happy. Kimi pushed hard at the end. They (Lotus) tried to do something different by switching to a different compound (with Raikkonen's third stop).
'I'm just glad the race was 60 laps, and not 61 or 62. I'm very happy with this result and to win in Germany.'
Raikkonen appreciated the fact he ran out of laps as he said: 'We managed to do pretty well. 'We obviously want to win, and if the race had been longer then maybe we would have a chance. In the end the result is not ideal, but it's pretty okay for us.'
The win for Vettel was just what the doctor ordered following his retirement at Silverstone when his gearbox let go while he was on course for the victory.
What better way to banish that disappointment than winning your home race for the very first time? The smart money is on title No 4 for the triple world champion.