Max Verstappen wins a wild and wet German Grand Prix, with multiple incidents and safety cars as the weather mixed it all up. Verstappen finished 7+ seconds ahead of Sebastian Vettel after the Ferrari driver recovered from starting from 20th position. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat claimed the final podium place.
The race proved to be problematic for pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton, who finished out of the points after sliding off in the final corner, damaging his front wing and incurring a penalty in the process. That happened just a lap after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc had retired from the race following a near-identical incident. Valtteri Bottas also crashed out of the race in the closing laps to make it a pointless home race for Mercedes.
After several formation laps behind the safety car to clear some of the standing water, the drivers finally lined up for a standing start. When the lights went out, Verstappen suffered a terrible start compared to that of the two Silver Arrows. Hamilton got the power down perfectly to convert pole position to the lead, with teammate Valtteri Bottas in his tracks despite briefly running wide in turn 1.
Leclerc had made up four places and Vettel was up five spots by the time the safety car was deployed for the first time following a spin by Sergio Perez. During that SC a number of drivers made pit stops to change to intermediates, an exception being Kevin Magnussen who stayed out and found himself in 2nd place. However, he was quickly passed by Bottas and Verstappen, then by Leclerc and Hulkenberg before also he changed to intermediates on lap 9.
Hamilton had been left with a 3s lead over Bottas at the front followed by Verstappen, Leclerc, Hulkenberg, Raikkonen, Vettel, Carlos Sainz, Alexander Albon and Antonio Giovinazzi, with Romain Grosjean and Daniel Ricciardo running just outside the top ten.
A big engine blow-up for Ricciardo on lap 14 led to a brief Virtual Safety Car while his Renault was removed.
Leclerc stopped on lap 27 for soft tyres, getting the advantage of another VSC period after Lando Norris stopped on track with a technical issue. The VSC was withdrawn while Hamilton was making his own stop, giving Leclerc the chance to pounce – only for the Ferrari to understeer off the track at the final corner, into the barrier – and out of the race.
Despite a safety car, Hamilton went off at exactly the same place as Leclerc a lap later and damaged his front wing. He made a late entry to the pits, but the team wasn’t ready for him and struggled with the unexpected stop which cost Hamilton the lead. To add insult to injury, the stewards handed him a 5-second penalty for not following the permitted line into pit lane.
With the rain now back, everyone was now forced to revert to intermediates: during these stops, Verstappen picked up the lead over Hulkenberg, Bottas, Albon, Hamilton, Sainz, Raikkonen, Vettel, Gasly, and Giovinazzi.
Raikkonen also sailed through the puddle at the final corner on lap 40, but the inters allowed him to steer clear of the barriers and resume in ninth place. Hulkenberg was less lucky, he went off in the same place on the next lap, but this time the car went into the wall to trigger another safety car.
The threat of rain was rapidly receding, but Verstappen and Vettel both opted to stay on fresh intermediates when they made opportunistic ‘free’ stops before the restart. With little to lose, Stroll switched to softs, and his immediately rapid progress through the field at the restart persuaded others to follow his lead a lap later, with Verstappen and Bottas among those switching to slicks on lap 47 and Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel in next time around.
The stops lifted Lance Stroll into a short lead of the race before Verstappen took back control. Daniil Kvyat also benefited getting third place ahead of Bottas and Sainz followed by Magnussen, Albon, Gasly, Vettel and Grosjean. Hamilton’s earlier five-second penalty meant he dropped out of the points altogether at this point with just 15 laps remaining, and a further spin at turn 1 on lap 53 sent him to the back of the field.
After the rain finally stopped, Verstappen once again pulled away from the field to secure his 2nd victory of the season. There was a furious battle to the line for the remaining podium places which saw Bottas spin off into the barrier on lap 58 after catching the inside kerb at turn 1, triggering a final safety car in the process.
A sprint finish allowed Vettel to make his way onto the podium with late passes on both Kvyat and Stroll to pick up second place behind Verstappen. Sainz crossed the line in fifth ahead of Albon, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Grosjean and Magnussen, with Hamilton in a humiliating 11th place followed by Kubica and Russell.
Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly was a late retirement after an attempted pass on Albon shattered his front wing with two laps to go.
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