Carnage at Hockenheim!
THE German Grand Prix was supposed to be a celebration of all things Mercedes-Benz. Aside from being the title sponsor of the race, the German marque was celebrating 125 years in motorsports. All around the fabled circuit were Mercedes-Benz historical cars, team gear, road models and other stuff.
Mercedes-Benz had every reason to be excited for the weekend. In qualifying Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton took pole over Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen, with teammate Valtteri Bottas slotting in third. P4 was held by Red Bull Racing’s Pierre Gasly, and Kimi Raikkonen took top honors for Alfa Romeo by getting P5.
The race start saw wet conditions, with Hamilton holding on to the lead in the run up to Turn 1, with Bottas immediately behind. Both Red Bulls of Verstappen and Gasly had to cope with excessive wheel spin at the line, dropping them down the order. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who began on P10, made up a couple of places by sweeping past his struggling rivals.
All runners found it difficult to cope with the track conditions. Everyone had a incident in one form or another — from running wide, hydroplaning, to banging wheels with each other — basically getting caught out by the horrendous track conditions.
As early as Lap 2 the safety car appeared after Racing Point’s Sergio Perez hit the wall at Turn 11. Teams gambled with varying choices of tires. Some chose to swap the Pirelli wets to intermediates. There was chaos in the pitlane, with everyone running about trying to undercut their opponents. Even Ferrari made the mistake of releasing Leclerc in the path of Haas’s Romain Grosjean, earning the team a hefty fine.
There were numerous safety car appearances due to the likes of Leclerc slamming onto the wall at Turn 16; Daniel Ricciardo blowing up his Renault engine; and Lando Norris losing power in his McLaren. It was a busy day for safety car driver Bernd Maylander.
Action on track was frenetic. Keeping up with what was happening was difficult. When Leclerc crashed, followed immediately by Hamilton, the partisan crowd went wild for the new race leader — Verstappen. The Red Bull driver, who had a terrible start, now found himself in possession of the lead, something he would not relinquish until the checkered flag.
The “Flying Dutchman” had the grip and, more importantly, speed to grab his second win of the 2019 season.
The drive of the day, as voted by majority of the fans, was for Sebastian Vettel; the German who had the misfortune of not setting a time in Q1 due to a problematic turbo, began the race dead last. But he slowly climbed up the ranks by making his overtaking moves stick, and, more importantly, bolting on appropriate tires during his stops.
Vettel passed everyone, with the exception of the race leader, with relative ease, and crossed the line in second place to the delight of the locals and the faithful tifosi. Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso took the last step on the podium by keeping Racing Point’s Lance Stroll behind.
There was no bigger smile on the podium than that of Kvyat; it was his first podium this season.
On the flip side, it was a race to forget for Lewis. The defending champion lost his front wing after sliding out at Turn 16, then instinctively dove into the pits for repairs. Unfortunately, he entered on the wrong side of the entry marker, thereby incurring a five-second penalty from the stewards. Hamilton served his penalty during his last stop, dropping him down to last place.
Meanwhile, Bottas, who was trying to salvage glory for Mercedes in their home track, fell victim to the slippery conditions and slammed his car onto the barriers as he was trying to catch Stroll. This was the first DNF for Bottas since Austria 2018.
It was another race where Honda power (Red Bull and Toro Rosso) stood atop the podium.
In the drivers’ standings, Hamilton still lead with 225 points, followed by teammate with 184 points. Verstappen, with his win, now securely holds on to third with 162 points, Vettel in fourth (141) and Leclerc in fifth (120).
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