An extraordinary German Grand Prix delivered action in spades and another change in the lead of the Formula 1 World Championship standings.
Pole-sitter and crowd favourite Sebastian Vettel was seemingly in control of proceedings at the front of the field ahead of Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Räikkönen, while Lewis Hamilton gave chase in his Mercedes after starting from fourteenth on the grid. The Englishman had carved his way inside the top six by Lap 11.
Hoping that the forecasted rain showers would coincide with his need to make his compulsory pit stop, Hamilton drove a long opening stint but eventually had to peel into the pits and his rubber finally gave out. He rejoined in third place, behind the two Ferraris, but now Räikkönen was in front of Vettel after the Finn made his ‘undercut’ strategy pay dividends to leapfrog his teammate.
That would come at the expense of his tyres in his second stint, and with Vettel zeroing up to the back of the Finn on tyres that were 10 laps newer it was no surprise to see Räikkönen get the telephone call from the pit wall instructing him to move aside.
That put Vettel back in the lead and he looked on course to extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship.
On Lap 44, the rain came down, but it only hit half the circuit. As the field grappled with whether to switch to intermediate tyres – with those doing so quickly realising their error – Vettel stayed out until he had a wobble approaching the Sachskurve, slid across the gravel and into the wall. He’d thrown away 25 vital championship points and the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings.
The Safety Car was called, offering the field a free pit stop. Dithering by Mercedes ultimately saw Hamilton kept out on track while Bottas – who had slipped past Räikkönen trying to lap the wayward Kevin Magnussen – was called into the pits.
That gave Hamilton track position at the front of the field. Hopes of a grandstand battle to the finish line between the Mercedes drivers were thwarted when more team orders came through, instructing Bottas to hold station in second place after he briefly challenged Hamilton at the restart. A disbelieving Hamilton took the victory and reclaimed the lead of the Drivers’ Championship standings, a result few would have considered possible on Saturday evening.
Räikkönen would finish third ahead of Max Verstappen, who had a fairly quiet race en route to fourth. His Red Bull Racing teammate Daniel Ricciardo – starting from the back of the grid after swapping a number of power unit elements – struggled to emulate Hamilton’s early-lap overtaking and retired just past one-third distance with a sudden loss of power.
Nico Hülkenberg claimed his and Renault’s best finish of the year in fifth place, crossing the line ahead of a charging Romain Grosjean who hustled his Haas from outside the points to sixth place over the final laps of the race with a succession of brave overtaking moves.
The two Force Indias of Sergio Pérez and Esteban Ocon recovered from the team’s poor showing in qualifying to finish seventh and eighth respectively, giving the Silverstone more valuable points to boost its slim hopes of defending its mantle as the top midfield team.
Marcus Ericsson drove a bullish race to ninth place, his second points’ finish in three Grands Prix, although in truth he was well and truly shaded by Sauber teammate Charles Leclerc all race until the Monégasque driver was erroneously called into the pits for Intermediate tyres during the rain shower.
The final point – doubling his career points’ tally – was Toro Rosso’s Brendon Hartley.
|FORMULA 1 EMIRATES GROSSER PREIS VON DEUTSCHLAND 2018 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (67 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||67||1:32:29.845|
|2.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||67||+ 4.535|
|3.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||67||+ 6.732|
|4.||Max Verstappen||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||67||+ 7.654|
|5.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||67||+ 26.609|
|6.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||67||+ 28.871|
|7.||Sergio Pérez||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||67||+ 30.556|
|8.||Esteban Ocon||Force India F1 Team Mercedes VJM11||67||+ 31.750|
|9.||Marcus Ericsson||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||67||+ 32.362|
|10.||Brendon Hartley||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||67||+ 34.197|
|11.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team Ferrari VF-18||67||+ 34.919|
|12.||Carlos Sainz Jr||Renault Sport F1 Team RS18||67||+ 43.069|
|13.||Stoffel Vandoorne||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||67||+ 46.617|
|14.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda STR13||66||1 lap behind|
|15.||Charles Leclerc||Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C37||66||1 lap behind|
|16.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren F1 Team Renault MCL33||65||Gearbox|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps|
|DNF.||Lance Stroll||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||53||Brakes|
|DNF.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF71H||51||Accident|
|DNF.||Sergey Sirotkin||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW41||51||Oil leak|
|DNF.||Daniel Ricciardo||Aston Martin Red Bull Racing TAG Heuer RB14||27||Power loss|
|Fastest Lap||Team / Entry||Lap||Time|
|Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport F1W09||66||1:15.545|
Carlos Sainz Jr – who was provisionally classified 10th – was issued a 10-second post-race time penalty for overtaking under Safety Car conditions.
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Sutton Images