Verstappen takes German Grand Prix after Hamilton crash hits his hopes
British driver finished 11th after he stopped to have front wing replaced
Lewis Hamilton crashes his Mercedes during the Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring in Hockenheim, Germany. Photograph: Mark Thompson/Getty Images
Max Verstappen won the German Grand Prix after a fascinating, gripping race in treacherous wet conditions that proved to be too much for a host of drivers and for the first time this season saw the normal pecking order of F1 turned on its head.
Lewis Hamilton, having led from pole for Mercedes made a highly uncharacteristic error in the wet that cost him a potential win and was compounded by some questionable strategy decisions by his team and he finished in 11th place. Worse still for his team, Valtteri Bottas also crashed out late in the race.
Ferrari, already suffering a calamitous weekend after both their cars suffered mechanical failures in qualifying, only saw it get worse as Charles Leclerc crashed at turn 16, ending his race. Yet there also was major consolation for the Scuderia in that Sebastian Vettel came back from 20th on the grid to claim second, having moved through the field during the race before a late charge from fifth to the second step.
Toro Rosso got it just right with Daniil Kvyat taking third place, their first podium since Vettel won for them in 2008, as did Racing Point who managed to get Lance Stroll into fourth. Both teams made the right tyre call late in the race that leapfrogged their drivers up the field. Carlos Sainz was fifth for McLaren.
In what had been an unpredictable, captivating race that seemed impossible to call, it was Verstappen who held it all together. This is his seventh career win and his second in three races having also taken the flag recently in Austria. His first win at Hockenheim is a huge result for Red Bull on a circuit where they had not been expected to really challenge Mercedes and Ferrari. He has looked solid all weekend but to secure the win from second on the grid in such tough conditions was yet further evidence of how strong a driver he has matured into.
The win cements Verstappen’s strong third place, 62 points behind Hamilton, while Vettel is languishing in fourth 20 points behind him.
With the race starting in treacherous wet conditions as the track dried and then rain returned again, switching between wet and dry tyres became decisive as were the calls when to do so as the safety car was repeatedly used as drivers were caught out in Hockenheim.
Verstappen had stayed in the mix throughout but looked unable to challenge Hamilton’s lead. However, after a sequence of stops just over one third distance with the leaders taking slicks the entire race changed.
Leclerc, however, was found wanting, on cold tyres he lost it going wide at turn 16. He was not alone as Hamilton too went off at the same place, suffering damage to his front wing and had to immediately veer over into the pits. The stop was painfully slow, taking 50 seconds as the team was unprepared for him with either wing or tyres. There was some confusion over which tyres he would take before they finally found the intermediates to fit but the damage had been done. It dropped him to fifth and the Dutch fans erupted as Verstappen inherited the lead behind the safety car prompted by Leclerc’s stricken car. Worse still for Hamilton he was given a five-second penalty for his late entry in to the pitlane.
Hamilton charged but with the safety car deployed again on lap 41 when Nico Hulkenberg too went into the wall at 16. Mercedes, however, opted to leave their cars out, not willing to lose track position due to having to take the time penalty at the stop.
Verstappen and Bottas pitted for new slicks on lap 47 as did Hamilton a lap later. Stroll and Kvyat who had taken slicks under the safety car came out well ahead, while Hamilton ultimately emerged in 12th.
Verstappen had the race in his hand and finished it with the control absent from his more experienced rivals. In stark contrast to Bottas who crashed out at turn one on lap 58. The celebrations at Red Bull will be long and loud and the debrief at Mercedes likely a painful affair. They have not failed to score a point for over a year since the Austrian Grand Prix in 2018. – Guardian