An “Armageddon weekend” is how Mercedes-AMG Team Principal and CEO Toto Wolff described what should have been a homecoming celebration for the Silver Arrows at the German Grand Prix. Celebrating its 200th Grand Prix and the 125th anniversary of its first motorsport race, the Silver Arrows somehow conspired to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory – proving that even the best teams are not infallible.
In the end, a chaotic race punctuated by rain showers, multiple crashes and Safety Car interruptions was won by Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen who, amid is own mid-race dramas, kept his head when many of his rivals well and truly lost theirs. Joining him on the podium was Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel – who started from last place after a turbo issue in qualifying – and Daniil Kvyat, who celebrated the birth of his son on Saturday by giving Scuderia Toro Rosso its first podium finish in over a decade.
Verstappen’s seventh Grand Prix win and his second of the season following his triumph in Austria last month was a demonstration of mature driving in treacherous conditions that caught out far more experienced competitors. It was an unpredictable and enthralling race.
The changeable weather forced drivers and teams to innovate with their tactics and strategy, which some did to far greater effect than others.
Chief among the victims was Mercedes-AMG, which was both entirely unexpected but also overdue given their virtually unbeatable form in recent years. The pit wall was found wanting on strategy and its two drivers, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas, both made costly unforced errors on the slippery track surface.
Hamilton, who had led much of the race when conditions were at their worst, switched to click tyres as the track began to dry. It was the wrong call, as another brief shower hit and he slid helpelessly off the circuit at the penultimate corner, damaging his front wing. Cutting across the track into the pits, he caught his team unprepared and a chaotic tyre change and front wing replacement cost him almost a minute.
By the time he had emerged from the pits he had dropped to fifth, handing the race lead to Verstappen who had himself had a 360º slick tyre induced spin in the stadium section moments earlier. Worse still, Hamilton was given a five-second time penalty for an incorrect pit entry and then further blotted his race with a high-speed spin at Turn 1.
He somehow kept his car out of the barriers but the same could not be said for teammate Bottas, who had an identical mishap at the same corner a few laps later and speared heavily into the barriers. Race over.
The Finn joined an ever-growing list of accident-induced retirements which featured the likes of Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, and Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg, who all embarrassingly came to grief against the barriers. The increasingly under-pressure Pierre Gasly broke his front wing in the final laps, ending an error-ridden race. Also on the retiree bandwagon were Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo (broken exhaust) and McLaren’s Lando Norris (power loss).
Even Ferrari, which had a disastrous Saturday with two mechanical failures in qualifying, managed to salvage something of a result. While Leclerc ended his race in the barriers, Vettel moved from last on the grid to second place. It was a very fine confidence-boosting drive after a run of poor races beset by errors.
The race presented an opportunity for the midfield teams to shine. This was no truer than for the likes of Scuderia Toro Rosso and Racing Point, who timed their pit stops to perfection. The latter managed to vault Lance Stroll from last to the lead, which he held for half a lap before Verstappen breezed by into the lead.
The Canadian ultimately didn’t have the pace to stay on the podium, slipping to fourth behind the charging Vettel and an equally impressive Kvyat. The Russian driver gave Toro Rosso its first podium finish since their one and only win by Vettel at the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, triggering a huge celebration for the small Faenza team. His teammate Alexander Albon, who had never driven a Formula 1 car in wet conditions, gave the team further points with a fine sixth to propel it to fifth place in the Constructors’ Championship standings.
Carlos Sainz Jr. could have put his McLaren on the podium were it not for a spin at the troublesome penultimate corner. The Spaniard kept his car out of the barriers, but lost valuable time trying to recover back to the circuit.
The Alfa Romeos of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished seventh and eighth, but later found themselves under investigation by the FIA Stewards for using incorrect throttle map settings at the start of the race that gave both drivers terrific launches off the line. While it was not a deliberate foul by the teams, the Stewards opted to apply a drive-through penalty (the equivalent punishment issued for a jumped start) that demoted them out of the points.
Their penalties promoted the Haas pairing of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen into seventh and eighth respectively. Following their race-ending collision at the previous British Grand Prix and much to everyone’s disbelief, the duo managed to bang wheels again at the hairpin. Predictably, each blamed the other.
Hamilton crossed the finish line in eleventh place, which became ninth with the Alfa Romeo drivers’ penalties. This earned him a token 2 points, extending his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to 41 over teammate Bottas.
Last but not least, Williams broke its points’ drought with Robert Kubica promoted to tenth place ahead of teammate George Russell. The result owed to the Alfa Romeo drivers’ penalties rather than any speed or strategic nous on the team’s part, but given how much of a nightmare this year has been for the Grove squad, it was a result that came with plenty of cheers.
|FORMULA 1 MERCEDES-BENZ GROβER PREIS VON DEUTSCHLAND 2019 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (64 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB15||64||1:44:31.275||26|
|2.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||64||+ 7.333||18|
|3.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||64||+ 8.305||15|
|4.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||64||+ 8.966||12|
|5.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||64||+ 9.583||10|
|6.||Alexander Albon||Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda STR14||64||+ 10.052||8|
|7.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-19||64||+ 16.838||6|
|8.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-19||64||+ 18.765||4|
|9.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||64||+ 19.667||2|
|10.||Robert Kubica||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||64||+ 24.987||1|
|11.||George Russell||ROKiT Williams Racing FW42||64||+ 26.404|
|12.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||64||+ 42.214|
|13.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C38||64||+ 43.849|
|14.||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull Racing RB15||61||Collision|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG Motorsport W10||56||Accident|
|DNF.||Nico Hülkenberg||Renault F1 Team RS19||39||Accident|
|DNF.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF90||27||Accident|
|DNF.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL34||25||Power loss|
|DNF.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team RS19||13||Exhaust|
|DNF.||Sergio Pérez||Racing Point F1 Team RP19||1||Accident|
Points are awarded to the top 10 classified finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 scale.
Max Verstappen is awarded an additional 1 championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race by a points’ finisher.
- Kimi Räikkönen – who provisionally finished P7 – was issued a 30-second post-race time penalty for a startline infringement.
- Antonio Giovinazzi – who provisionally finished P8 – was issued a 30-second post-race time penalty for a startline infringement.
Images via Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, Red Bull Content Pool and Scuderia Ferrari