“At least the race had entertainment value, but for us it was catastrophic”, is the first comment of Mercedes Motorsport boss Toto Wolff after the turbulent Grand Prix of Germany. For the Silver Arrows, the 125th anniversary in motorsport at the Hockenheimring turned into a disaster.
The raw facts: Valtteri Bottas retired due to a self-inflicted accident. Lewis Hamilton was off the track twice, had a messed up pit stop and didn’t score points in eleventh place. For the first time since his retirement in Austria last year, the World Champion didn’t get any points. Although this was since adjusted due to penalties to Alfa Romeo bumping Hamilton up to 9th in the end.
Had both Alfa’s not had their torque irregularity infringements, it would’ve been only the second time ever not to score points since Hamilton drove for Mercedes. The first time was Barcelona 2013.
“At the beginning, we controlled it really well, but then we made wrong decisions about accidents”, Wolff concludes “And that’s no way to win a race”.
For Hamilton, the race in the 29th lap took the decisive turn. Like moments before with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, he slipped too far outwards at the last turn, and crashed into the track barrier. In contrast to the Ferrari driver, Hamilton could continue. He crossed the track and took the most direct route towards the pit lane.
Then Mercedes experienced an unusual and laughable comedy moment (cue Benny Hill music). It took a long time until the damaged front wing was replaced. In addition, the mechanics did not know at first which tyres to fit. Valuable seconds passed until the right tyres were picked out of the pit garage and put on.
“He had the accident right at the pit lane. Nobody was prepared and then there was the wrong call at the tyres. That hasn’t happened to us for years,” Wolff comments on the chaotic scenes. “That made us look pretty stupid.” Hamilton also received a penalty of five seconds for bypassing the bollard on the wrong side of the pit lane.
Did Mercedes simply lose track of the unsettled weather? “The weather always plays a role, but you can see that you can also manage it – as it was the case with Verstappen. Some guys have used it to their advantage, like Kyvat and Stroll. You have to congratulate them,” says Wolff about the good results of the unlikely pair. “But for us, of course, everything went to pieces.”
In the final phase of the race, Bottas still had the chance to save a podium position for Mercedes. But on the 55th lap, the Finn lost it at turn 1, and hit the track with the front end of the car. A few laps earlier, Hamilton had already put a high-speed spin there, but was lucky and hadn’t struck anything. For Bottas the race was over.
“Many others also made this mistake. Leclerc also crashed. It was just a bad day for us and our drivers. It can’t get much worse.” comments Wolff
With a view to the WRC standings, Mercedes got away with what could be described as a black eye.
Hamilton continues to lead with a comfortable 39-point lead over Bottas. Verstappen came a little closer to the Finn with his second victory of the season. The Red Bull driver is still 22 points behind Bottas. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes still has a reassuring 146 points advantage over Red Bull despite losing out to the Honda team today.
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