Race Report: Verstappen wins as Merc implodes at German GP

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On Friday at the German Grand Prix, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Ferrari looked to have the fastest car because in Free Practice 1 and 2, they did but when Qualifying came around, the Ferrari was a reliability nightmare leaving Sebastian Vettel out in Q1 and Charles Leclerc out in Q3 with technical gremlins. There was a part of me that was wondering, if they’d managed to avoid the technical problems, whether they realistically had an answer for Lewis Hamilton’s 1:11s pole lap as that was the quickest we’d seen all weekend long.

Qualifying is one thing, racing is another and come race day, the rain decided that we’d had enough Mercedes dry-race domination and while the team were all donned in their period dress celebrating a racing milestone, the weekend began unraveling before their very eyes in changing conditions and there was no one in a flat cap or braces that could salvage what would become the worst race of the season for Mercedes at their home race in Germany.

In changing conditions and through multiple virtual safety cars as well as real safety car sessions, Max Verstappen, one who should never be trifled with in the rain, took the victory followed by Vettel who came from last in a fit of redemption leading Russian Daniil Kvyat who literally just became a father mere hours before the race and gave Toro Rosso their second podium in the team’s long history.

Win

A big win for Red Bull and Max Verstappen who kept reading the team leaves with every safety car and every tire change. That was the key to this race, being able to read changes on track minute-by-minute and lap-by-lap which the team did. Max was flawless and drove his Honda-powered car to victory on German territory.

A big win for Ferrari who had collapsed on Saturday only to rebound on Sunday and also read the team leaves well enough to get Sebastian from 20th to 2nd when the track dried and the car could stretch its legs on soft tires. Seb struggled early with Inters but once the car was fitted for the final stop on Reds, he came alive and set about passing his way, DRS or not, through the field to score a well-earned 2nd place.

A huge win for Toro Rosso and Daniil Kvyat who scored only their second-ever podium finish—the first being Sebastian Vettel at Monza—and gave the Russian a serious boost as a potential Red Bull replacement for Pierre Gasly as well as a gift on the day his daughter was born. A banner day for Daniil and a bit of a redemptive drive for him as well. Also a big win for his teammate, Alex Albon, who managed to survive a pummeling from Gasly and bring it home in 6th. A terrific points haul for Franz Tost and the team.

A big win for Lance Stroll and Racing Point by being the team who read the tea leaves perfectly in order to get Lance in the lead of the race briefly. With attrition and key strategy, Lance managed to hang on for fourth and drove a terrific race holding off Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas enough to force and error from the Finn and score serious points. It also suggested that the upgrades they brought may be paying dividends to get them closer to the best-of-the-rest.

A win for Carlos Sainz who managed to keep McLaren ahead of Renault as best-of-the-rest and even though he had a spin, he kept his nose clean and the team made the right calls to get him up to 5th while his teammate retired.

A win for Kimi Raikkonen who had a good qualifying session and then showed why he’s handy in the rain by leading his teammate, Antonio Giovinazzi, home for a dual-points finish with good driving, pace and nice strategy calls from Ruth and the folks at Alfa Romeo.

Fail

A big fail for Mercedes at their home grand prix and with the veneer of a period-dress celebration for their history in motorsport, the weekend unraveled quickly. Lewis spun twice, lost a front wing and limped back to the pits prompting a 5s penalty for his efforts. Lewis is no chump in wet weather and to see the struggle unfold, was difficult to watch as he questioned the team’s call for Medium compound tires. His teammate, Valtteri Bottas, lost it at the same turn late in the race while hunting down Stroll and ended his race at a time that his future at Mercedes is being discussed. A weekend to forget and the frustration from Toto Wolff was tangible. I’m not one to make excuses for Lewis but he was not feeling well on Saturday and he drove on Sunday like a guy who was under the weather if I’m honest.

A fail for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who ended his race in the final turn on lap 29 and it was a reminder that he is still honing his craft but you can’t take too much stuffing out of him because Lewis and Valtteri both went off at the same corner. In hindsight, had he kept it on the island, the team were making the best strategy calls for him and he most likely could have challenged for the win.

A fail for Renault who suffered a dual-DNF. Daniel Ricciardo’s engine blew up and it was the older engine from the beginning of the season so maybe that can be tolerated but Nico Hulkenberg was running very well in the top 5 and threw it off the island. Not a result he needs as he, like Valtteri, is at the end of his contract and team boss Cyril Abiteboul is making noises about looking elsewhere.

A fail for Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly who managed to classify as last of the finishers even though he went out of the race on lap 62 as he hit sister-team driver Alex Albon. Gasly, like Verstappen, lost several places at the start but could never find pace anywhere approaching that of Verstappen and his inability to make any meaningful gains through the field while both Toro Rosso drivers did have many wondering if he’ll be back in the car after the summer break.

WTH

A WTH for Haas F1 drivers who managed to once again hit each other in a race that should have seen them a little higher than 9th and 10th. IF they can’t quit battling themselves, how can they focus on beating those around them? The team needs driver consistency right now and neither are doing much to provide that.

A WTH for Sergio Perez who is normally relatively handy in rain but spun early and ended his race quickly. It’s unfortunate because he was higher in the order, having qualified well, and may have been able to make some really gains toward a podium had he kept in on the black stuff.

A WTH for the German race marshals who were dang quick and removing stricken cars in the rain and made the safety car periods shorter…well done to the German staff for being very efficient and it’s mind boggling that this may be the last race in Germany. That needs to change.

Fighting an octopus?

UPDATE: Late news from the circuit from Motorpsort’s Adam Cooper says Alfa Romeo have been penalized 30 seconds (12th and 13th) for a clutch element the FIA says mimics traction control and this moves Lewis and Kubica into the points for the first points-finish for Williams! 

German GP results-

POSDRIVERCARGAP
1Max VerstappenRed Bull/Honda1h44m31.275s
2Sebastian VettelFerrari7.333s
3Daniil KvyatToro Rosso/Honda8.305s
4Lance StrollRacing Point/Mercedes8.966s
5Carlos Sainz Jr.McLaren/Renault9.583s
6Alexander AlbonToro Rosso/Honda10.052s
7Romain GrosjeanHaas/Ferrari16.838s
8Kevin MagnussenHaas/Ferrari18.765s
9Lewis HamiltonMercedes19.667s
10Robert KubicaWilliams/Mercedes24.987s
11George RussellWilliams/Mercedes26.404s
12Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo/Ferrari42.214s
13Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo/Ferrari43.849s
14Pierre GaslyRed Bull/HondaCollision
Valtteri BottasMercedesSpun off
Nico HulkenbergRenaultSpun off
Charles LeclercFerrariSpun off
Lando NorrisMcLaren/RenaultPower Unit
Daniel RicciardoRenaultExhaust
Sergio PerezRacing Point/MercedesSpun off

Driver’s Championship Points

POSDRIVERPOINTS
1Lewis Hamilton225
2Valtteri Bottas184
3Max Verstappen162
4Sebastian Vettel141
5Charles Leclerc120
6Pierre Gasly55
7Carlos Sainz Jr.48
8Daniil Kvyat27
9Kimi Raikkonen25
10Lando Norris22
11Daniel Ricciardo22
12Lance Stroll18
13Kevin Magnussen18
14Nico Hulkenberg17
15Alexander Albon15
16Sergio Perez13
17Romain Grosjean8
18Antonio Giovinazzi1
19Robert Kubica1
20George Russell0

Constructor’s Championship Points

POSCONSTRUCTORPOINTS
1Mercedes409
2Ferrari261
3Red Bull/Honda217
4McLaren/Renault70
5Toro Rosso/Honda42
6Renault39
7Racing Point/Mercedes31
8Haas/Ferrari26
9Alfa Romeo/Ferrari26
10Williams/Mercedes1
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photogcw

I have no problem seeing Hockenheim off the schedule. It’s a shadow of its former self and it’s unfortunate that we will never see these cars race on it in low downforce configuration. The rain was a fluke and it made for an entertaining and dramatic race. I guess Bernie’s idea of sprinklers on track is not so preposterous now. The Merc team took their eye off the prize to bask in their heritage weekend. I seriously hope the FIA and Liberty saw how more challenging these cars were with the loss of traction and aero downforce from the Pirelli… Read more »

Fabio

Ah, I had the same thought about the sprinklers and Bernie.

Rapierman

That was pure insanity. “Monaco 1982”, anyone?