What a rain-soaked eventful German Grand Prix it has been at Hockenheim with Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing taking the spoils of victory and Championship leaders Mercedes not being anywhere close to a podium finish in their home Grand Prix following Lewis Hamilton taking his first pole position at Hockenheim since 2008. Not only was it Mercedes’ 200th Grand Prix but they were also the title sponsor for the race to mark their 125th year competing in motorsport.
It was also a mixed weekend for Ferrari, with not just one, but both cars breaking down during qualifying with Sebastian Vettel not even able to set a time in Q1, resulting in him starting for the back of the grid whilst Charles Leclerc was unable to make it out of his garage for Q3.
Verstappen started second on the grid and together with his team timed their tyre changes better than the other teams after what seemed like numerous safety cars and emerged at the front of the field after five pit stops.
Vettel crossed the finishing line second, having started from the back of the grid and made a superb comeback in front of his home crowd. Third place went to a surprised and emotional Daniil Kvyat, for Toro Rosso after the Italian team also made the right call for tyre changes.
Lance Stroll in his Racing Point led the race briefly towards the end of the race, after the team put him on dry tyres. He eventually had to give way to Kvyat and Vettel to take a superb fourth, ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz, who at one point in the race was down in 14th place.
Alexander Albon survived a coming together with Pierre Gasly on the final lap to take sixth in the other Toro Rosso, ahead of the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, with Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen banging their Haas wheels but escaping damage to complete the top 10 and have a better weekend for the Haas F1 Team.
However the joy was short lived for Alfa Romeo, as a few hours after the German Grand Prix the stewards penalised Räikkönen and Giovinazzi for clutch infringements at the start of the race, knocking them out of the top 10 and promoting four drivers up the order, including Robert Kubica to give Williams their first point of the 2019 season.
This also meant that Romain Grosjean moved up to seventh and Kevin Magnussen to eighth, while Lewis Hamilton managed to salvage something from his disastrous afternoon by scoring two points in ninth. Teammate Valtteri Bottas looked like he would finish on the podium only to spin out and end his race as did Charles Leclerc.
Lewis Hamilton summed up his afternoon by saying: “What a crazy race. This has been one of the most difficult races we’ve had as a team for a long time. I thought I had the race under control, but we took a risk going out on slicks and the race fell apart from there. I went wide at Turn 16 and it was like ice out there, then hit the wall and damaged my wing. I made a mistake and even sure how, but that’s very painful and I’m just glad it’s over. It’s hard to perform when you’re not at 100 per cent. I need to make sure I’m fit and healthy again in time for the next race. You live and you learn from days like this. It’s important now that we regroup for Hungary. I’m happy for Seb, who fought his way back to P2 from the back, and how good to see Daniil and Toro Rosso on the podium too – good for them.”
Red Bull Racing
Max Verstappen said on winning the German Grand Prix: “To come out on top after a race like that is amazing and for the Team to win for the second time this year with Honda is incredible. I don’t know exactly what happened at the start but it seemed that everyone on the right side of the grid had a bad getaway and low grip. I had a particularly poor start when I released the clutch but stayed calm and followed the Mercedes cars closely. It was hard to pass due to the dirty air and the tyres started to struggle as the track dried. From there onwards we always made the right decisions. Even though the first slick tyre was maybe a bit hard and I had a few moments, with a 360 spin, I luckily kept going. Once I was back on the Intermediates and in the lead I was able to control the race and really show the pace of the car. Once you are ahead you can take a few less risks and everything feels a bit nicer. The conditions were very tricky and it was all about survival. It was definitely not an easy race and very tricky with the changing conditions. The Team made all the right calls. They were giving me the right information and keeping an eye on all the other teams and sector times. They were really on top of things and everyone worked so well together. It has been one of my most difficult races and it is great to come out on top. For sure I enjoy driving in the wet but also you need a good car for that. You can find a bit of pace in yourself but today we had both things right and I’m very happy with the result. The orange fans were standing up, especially when I was in the lead which was also amazing to see. A big thank you to the whole Team and it has been a crazy but amazing Sunday.”
Having salvaged what looked like being a very disappointing German Grand Prix for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel said afterwards: “That was quite a race. I enjoyed it even though it was a tricky race, something of a lottery. It was a very long one and I don’t even remember all of it. It was very tough at times, especially on the intermediates in the slippery conditions. I made up a lot of ground immediately after the start and in the first couple of laps, even though it was difficult to see. After that, it was quite hard to get into a rhythm as I did not feel so comfortable on the intermediates and their degradation was quite high. It was hard to tell if the lack of grip was because of the track being greasy or because the tyres were going off.”
“To be honest in these kind of races you can’t count on anything until the last couple of laps. I think I was about P8 when the last safety car came out. There are so many decisions to make, but overall we stayed on track and in the race. In mixed conditions when it was starting to dry on the slicks I felt comfortable and that’s when we made up the most ground.”
Only 13 cars finished the German Grand Prix in the end, with the top 10 as follows: Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz, Alexander Albon, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton and Robert Kubica getting the final point for Williams.
In the Drivers’ Championship, Lewis Hamilton stretches his lead over his teammate with 225 to Bottas’ 184, whilst Max Verstappen is catching up with 162 points, having scored 26 this weekend, dropping Sebastian Vettel down to fourth on 141 points. In the Constructors’ Championship, Mercedes are way out front on 409 points ahead of Ferrari on 261 points and Red Bull Racing on 217 points.
The next round of the championship takes place in Hungary this coming weekend.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, McLaren and Haas F1 Team