Nuerburgring: As the Formula One season moves into its second half Sebastian Vettel`s armour suddenly appears to have some chinks after Lewis Hamilton`s superb victory left the German in the shade for the second consecutive race in his previously imperious Red Bull.
The world champion shrugged off being out-raced by Spain`s Fernando Alonso in the British Grand Prix a fortnight ago but on Sunday he failed to finish on the podium for the first time this season when he under-performed at his home race.
While he still has a huge 77-point lead over team mate Mark Webber, the remaining nine rounds now promise to be anything but a dull procession to a second consecutive title for Vettel with Hamilton clearly eyeing a late charge.
Whether it is engine regulations, desperation to catch up or Red Bull team taking their foot of the metaphorical gas, the other two current powers of the sport are catching up fast.
It may still be too late to prevent Vettel winning the title but Hamilton, who clinched a brilliant victory in his McLaren on Sunday, was talking up the battles ahead.
"I think it is always a plus, no matter what point of the season is, to be at the front," he said after jumping into third place in the points standings. "We are back in the fight."
The circus quickly moves on from chilly Germany to a warmer Hungary this weekend where Hamilton has won twice. The season then takes a break.
Alonso was second despite not being entirely happy with his weekend at the Nuerburgring, which just shows how far Ferrari have come from their disappointing early races.
The great imponderable is why the Red Bulls are suddenly being snared with Webber third and Vettel only fourth in front of his home crowd.
"We weren`t quick enough. I did everything I could," Australian Webber said. "These guys just had that little extra margin. We know what we have to improve on."
Vettel, who was second at Silverstone after team bosses ordered a peeved Webber not to overtake in the closing stages, cannot rely on any support from the Australian who is still his biggest rival.
Asked if he expected a close fight now between the big four, Webber, the only one of the quartet not to have won the title, said: "Yeah hope so.”