Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 21° Track 26° Humidity 90.3% Wind 0.8 m/s
IT rained overnight at Hockenheim and then again, during the driver’s parade, it turned from a drizzle to a deluge, with them all stood in open convertibles just properly getting doused. AT which point anyone with half a memory will recall that a bit of timely rain assisted Lewis Hamilton last year in going from 14th to 1st, albeit with an own goal by Sebastian Vettel. Digging into that a little bit, the condition was such that the new Hypersoft tyre was quicker than the Inters, and as it turns out, neither Bottas nor Hamilton have a new set available should those conditions return. Vettel, Verstappen and Leclerc all do, however….
Also thinking backwards to Brasil, Verstappen did manage to put on quite a clinic in the wet and the prospect of him and Hamilton trying to outbrake each other into T2 does put a delicious chill down the spine….. All the cars were out on their reconnaissance laps on full wets such has been the dearth of running in torrential conditions with this new set of aero regulations. Soon enough, Inters were deployed as well and as the start approached the rain softened and it looked to be right on the line between the two when the lights finally went out….
Norris has been sent to the back of the grid as the issues he had with his battery during yesterday’s qualifying has necessitated replacing some components, specifically a new MGU-K, ES and CE were all installed. And then the forecast came, rain for the next hour to hour and a half as the drivers headed to the grid. Formation lap behind the SC was announced which means that its full Wets across the field for the start…..
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by the Safety Car as apparently there were multiple formation laps according to the app, although the possibility that the race had started without anyone’s knowledge was also being discussed. Multiple formation laps was a contingency however and as the third one got underway the drivers were getting increasingly grumpy about it, generally with the sentiment that it wasn’t that bad….
At last, it was announced the SC was in and it was to be a standing start so here you go again, albeit 64 laps now….
Lights Out!!!! Great Start by Hamilton as Verstappen dropped to P4 after picking up some rather unfortunate wheelspin. Bottas and Raikkonen took advantage, Into T6 it was Sainz, up a position on Grosjean as he went wide into T1 and then made it up. It was 3 wide with Hulk up the inside and Grosjean the meat in the sandwich with Sainz on the outside. Sainz went very wide and it was Hulkenberg seizing P5 as Leclerc had also had a decent start and as they rolled into the second lap he was already up to P6.
Magnussen sent Sainz wide into T1 but Carlos was able to keep his foot in it and then it was Perez ahead of Magnussen and then Kmag returned the favor as Perez had a spin and was into the wall. Replay awaited but in the meantime it was the Safety Car and Vettel and Albon were quick to take advantage to grab the intermediates, along with most of the rest of the field.
With the Safety Car in, only Magnussen, Stroll, Russell and Kubica stayed out and it was Raikkonen rocking by Kmag on lap 8 that did him and he pitted for Inters the last of that group to realise that strategy wasn’t going to work. The timeing of the pitstops did well for Vettel, who took advantage of being a bit farther back to get in and out of the pits early, winging his way up to P8 in the process.
At the front then, it was Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen and Leclerc with Bottas 3 seconds back of Lewis and the Leclerc 8 seconds abaft of Verstappen, having done well to get up to P4 as heavier rain was expected in the next 10 incidents. IT wasn’t all good news for Ferrari as Leclerc was being investigated for an unsafe release having balked Grosjean and cost him several positionsas they exited the pits.
With more rain expected the times stabilised as drivers sought to maximise tyre life for the expected deluge. Lap 12 brought the unwelcome news that not only was the rain not going to arrive as soon as originally expected, but that the Ferrari of Vettel was once again having issues, and he had lost a fair amount of time to the leaders. Team fine for Ferrari then, unsafe release on lap 14 announced. And the following lap it was kaboom!! as Ricciardo’s engine let go in ever so spectacular fashion, dropping oil all over the place.
Ricciardo finally parked it up and the VSC was out, bringing in Leclerc and Raikkonen for some newer tyres. Lap 17 and it was off and back to racing they went, Leclerc cashing in immediately by rocking some purple sectors just for fun…. Crossover was reckoned around 1:21 from Inters to Slicks by Pirelli pre-race and times were just not there as 1:27 was the new fast lap set by Leclerc.
Into T6 Max chucked it up the inside, and then completely lost the back as he was making a serious move on Bottas which sent him wide and cost him almost 3 seconds of time to the Finn as Bottas was dropping off Lewis, 5 sconds back. This also brought Leclerc closer to Verstappen and at a second a lap things were looking good for the Ferrari driver.
Lap 19 and Sainz lost it into the final turn and just kept it out of the wall, losing his comfortable spot in the top 10 and plummeting to P14, just behind his teammate. 2 laps later and the rain was a-comin, supposedly first to the stadium section as Verstappen on the radio was complaining of his tyres going off completely. He was not the only one, as Vettel, too, was saying similar things.
No stop for Sebastian, though, and it was Stroll getting round Magnussen that brought the HAAS driver in for some slicks, bravely strapping on a set of Softs and setting off in pursuit of better lap times.
AS that experiment got underway, Verstappen was back up to the gearbox of Bottas, and on lap 23 was beginning to seriously harass the Mercedes driver. Vettel was next to try the dry tyre, also rocking one of his many leftover sets of Softs from quali as a look at Kmag’s times showed it was about that time…..
A look at S2 times showed a gain of more than a second and Vettel’s times were dead on with those on the worn inters. Lap 26 and Verstappen was in to undercut Bottas. Bottas answered the call as Verstappen was out on the Medium tyre, about which IDK. Bottas followed suit and was out just ahead of Max anmd this promoted Leclerc to P2 as more and more of the field were in for slicks.
By lap 28 it was just the top two and then Norris stopped with a total loss of power and the VSC was out yet again. Just before, Verstappen had a lurid slide and his radio message was sheer entertainment as between the curses he was very well aware that he had a set of Softs available and was VERY curious as to why the team sent him out on the harder compound.
The VSC enabled Leclerc to rock onto some Softs and then Hamilton was in and out as the VSC ended and then the Safety Car was brought out for Leclerc, who lost it savagely into T17 and into the wall he went and was sunk in the gravel trap. Sigh……
This brought Vettel back in for another set of tyres, and it was the Inters for the Ferrari driver. Hamilton had an off in nearly the same spot and he just managed to keep it out of the trap, although at the cost of his front wing. He was able to cut across the track and make the pitlane, and to the utter surprise of his mechanics, he showed up dragging bits and it was a goat rodeo to get the wing and proper tyres on. Back onto the Inters as the rain had done just enough to ruin the chance at slicks and oh my, what a race.
Taking advantge of the SC that eventually resulted when Norris stopped, both Bottas and Verstappen were back in and out for Inters, after the rather unfortunate try at the Medium tyre, Bottas one lap later, and as the dust settled it was Verstappen now in the lead, followed by Hulkenberg and Bottas, then Albon, Hamilton and Sainz. Lewis was being investigated for skipping the bollard on his way into the pits, but given the angle he rejoined the track with his damaged car it would’ve been a physical impossibility to do so….
By now it was lap 32 as the Safety Car continued to prowl round the track and the following lap, the lapped cars were sent round to get the race back underway.Lap 34 and it was on, as desperate race engineers reminded a host of drivers of exactly what the SC in procedure was and there were 30 laps left to go…
5 second penalty for Hamilton as Vettel retook P8 from Gasly, who had nicked it on the restart… Lap 36 and Verstappen was 5 seconds up on Hulkenberg and the fact that Bottas was not quicker to get round Hulkenberg was rapidly destroying Mercedes’ plan for the next phase of the race. Especially as Hamilton had gotten round Albon and was now closing down his teammate.
This seemed to do the trick and Bottas was by Hulkenberg as Hamilton was now under investigation for going too slowly under the SC, as freed of constraints he was off in search of his teammate, the pass of Hulkenberg being a mere trifle for the powerful Mercedes…
Lap 39 and it was under a second and a half between the two Mercedes drivers as Vettel took P7 away from Raikkonen who went wide into the final turn and at the front times were starting once again to dip into the 1:27’s. 2 seconds to Sainz for Vettel as the laps ticked by. Lap 41 and into the barriers went Hulkenberg and out, yet again was the Safety Car.
This precipitated a new round of pit stops or at least a stop, as Verstappen was in for a new set of Inters. Hamilton was kept out as he had a 5 second penalty, which would’ve cost him too many positions, and Vettel was in as were both HAAS drivers and Stroll, all for fresh Inters…
The extended SC did give Hamilton a chance to point out that his tyres were not necessarily in the greatest shape, but maths are maths and the computers had done all their totting up and figured he would lose less by carrying on than by coming in….
Grosjean in P11 and Magnussen in P12 with fresh tyres looked in good position to sneak back into the points as the back of the track, T16 and T17, was being dinged as very slippery by Verstappen as they waited for the recovery of the Renault. Stroll decided it was time for slicks, or possibly for another Safety Car.
HAAS decided to bet Magnussen on this strategy and Toro Rosso did the same with Kvyat as the SC was in at the end of lap 45… And into the pits came Verstappen with his dead tires followed by Bottas and Sainz. Hamilton rocked by Sainz and Raikkonen and suddenly was in the lead of the race. At least for a lap as he was into the pits for a set of Softs as there was a 6 second gap between the dead Inters and the new Softs.
Big winners were Stroll, temporarily in the lead, followed by Kvyat and Magnussen all of whom were in the top 6. Verstappen wasted little time blowing by Stroll and was into the lead and his fast lap was into the 1:18’s 2 seconds up on anything else that was on the timing sheets.
Kvyat had 4 seconds and a charging Bottas to deal with as Albon was able to get round Magnussen, who was clearly having a bit of trouble getting his tyres up to temperature. Compared to Grosjean, his teammate who was running in the 1:19’s, it was increasingly clear that the Melbourne spec was looking better and better all the time for HAAS.
Bottas was up to Stroll on lap 52, who had already been passed the previous lap by Kvyat, but the similar powertrains was apparently making it difficult for the Mercedes driver to get by, and he was hung behind the Racing Point driver for the time being.
The 5 second penalty for Hamilton had demoted him to P13 and he was NOT a happy bunny about that, well over a minute down as he then he had an off into the first corner and was into the pits at the end of the lap. Out on some Softs and chasing Grosjean, now in P10, roughly 40 seconds up the road and 10 laps left in the race. With Stroll bottling Bottas still, on lap 56 Kvyat was looking to be a good bet for the podium
And then, it was Bottas’ turn to get it all wrong, losing the rear into T16 and then he was a passenger nose first into the barriers and out came the Safety Car. So, with 6 laps to go Verstappen was once again reigned in and behind him it was Kvyat, Stroll, Sainz, Vettel Albon, Gasly, Raikkonen, Grosjean and Giovinazzi. Magnussen was P11 with a new set of tyres to play with and a strong scent of points in the air.
Lap 60 and the SC was in, and off went Verstappen. No overtakes at the start and down the inside into T1 went Vettel as Albon nabbed Gasly, ouch!!! Vettel was making serious inroads into Stroll’s lead as they crossed the line into lap 61. Indeed he could, as by being patient he easily took him heading into T6 the following lap. Streaking off behind, Gasly had lost his front wing as he tried to duck inside as Albon moved right to defend. Off went the wing and out went Gasly. With 1 lap to go, Vettel rocked by Kvyat and with 8 seconds up the road to Verstappen it was a done deal for the top 2 spots. Behind, Kvyat was under serious pressure from Stroll, who was less than a second back of the Toro Rosso driver, and Sainz also inside a second on Stroll.
Out came the checcquers and it was P3 for Kvyat, followed by Stroll. P6 for Albon meant a reboot to Toro Rosso’s Formula B position and the Alfa’s, led by Raikkonen, managed to nail down P7 and P8. Despite yet again banging wheels, the HAAS duo managed to nab the last two points paying positions, leaving Hamilton on the outside looking in by 0.902 seconds, and possibly regretting that spin that cost him an extra pit stop, or possibly that spin that cost him a 5 seconds penalty.
And there you go, on top of Kvyat’s podium, his wife gave birth last night. Not a bad weekend of redemption and triumph for the once disparaged driver. A double podium for Honda as well, so, yeah, a drag perhaps if you’re Zak Brown and perhaps a bitter, bitter laugh for Ron Dennis. There will be much happiness for Racing Point as well, with Stroll able to fend off Bottas and now, with the summer break approaching much speculation about his, as yet unsigned, option. The word Ocon may have been trending there at the end of the race, at a guess. And of course general celebration at Red Bull as Verstappen celebrates his second race win of the year, gifted him variously by Ferrari, Leclerc, Bottas and Hamilton as well as more Safety Cars than even I could count. Which is not to disparage the skill involved at all, as the finishing laps of the race much more than adequately demonstrated.
Kicking themselves all the way home will be Leclerc, Hamilton, and most especially Bottas, who really did seem to have his future in his hands as all he had to do was rock around Stroll with more than a few laps left to get the job done. He did complain of inconsistent brakes in quali, so maybe that played a part but looking from the outside, and there’s always the tyre window to consider post Safety Car, but at the end of the day it’s really hard to see why he couldn’t get the job done.
Fortunately enough, all of the involved parties will get the chance to redeem themselves next week at the Hungarian Grand Prix next week…..
And remember to play nice in the comments!!