From a driver perspective, the best way to win any race is to lead from start to finish. For the fans, though, a classic three-way encounter is much more interesting. And that's exactly what they got at the Nürburgring on Sunday as Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber contested almost the whole race distance for the top spot.
The lead changed hands several times, not just as a result of pit stops but also out on the track. In the end, it was the McLaren man who prevailed, passing Alonso on the outside as the latter emerged from his second stop and then pulling out a convincing gap.
Hamilton had already been quicker off the line than pole-sitter Webber and had fended off repeated attacks by the Australian before losing out to both him and Alonso at the end of the first stint. A miscalculated second stop for Webber and a sweet pass on Alonso brought the British driver back to the front.
Ferrari held off Red Bull as Webber struggled for pace in the third stint. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel was battling away somewhat further back in the pack than usual. The German came out of the first corner in fourth position, temporarily got past Alonso into third place, but then went into a 180-degree spin.
Vettel seemed to be at a disadvantage, having been told half way through the race that he needed to shift the brake balance towards the front to compensate for problems at the rear. However, the fault seemed to correct itself, and with 15 laps to go, he reverted to his default brake setting.
From that point on, he stuck to Massa's rear bumper and piled on the pressure. Yet it was the pit stop on the 59th and penultimate lap that settled the matter. Ferrari took a few seconds longer than Red Bull, which enabled Vettel to emerge onto the track in fourth position.
Behind the front-runners, Adrian Sutil sprang a surprise with a two-stop strategy, which brought him up to sixth, edging out Nico Rosberg who had overtaken him several times on the track but ultimately stopped once too often.
Also in the points today were Michael Schumacher, who had to work hard to get back up the field after spinning off track, Kamui Kobayashi and Vitaly Petrov. Nick Heidfeld retired after a collision with Sebastien Buemi, while Tonio Liuzzi, Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello had to return to their respective garages with mechanical faults.