The lead of the championship changes hands again after an emotional rollercoaster for Hamilton and Vettel
For the fourth time in the last five races, there is a change at the top of the drivers’ standings – and it’s Lewis Hamilton back on top once again. The Brit takes a 17-point gap away with him from Germany following a quite remarkable weekend at Hockenheim.
Sebastian Vettel took a superb pole position as title rival Hamilton ended up down in 14th after a hydraulics problem at the end of Q1. It seemed set for the German to extend his advantage in the title battle.
However, Sunday would be a complete change of fortunes for the two four-time world champions. It was despair for Sebastian Vettel and one of Lewis Hamilton’s best victories.
Things looked to be going serenely for the German as he gapped Bottas, Raikkonen and Verstappen in the opening stint. Raikkonen did the undercut and even though he got stuck in the Finns dirty air for a few laps, the victory seemed to be in his hands when he was allowed through.
Yet, there would be the cruel end at his home GP thanks to his slow speed crash at turn 12. It was the smallest of mistakes, but could it be the championship defining moment? We’ll see in November.
As for Hamilton, it was an incredible Sunday. Just 24 hours after the massive pain of qualifying, he was the driver who had every reason to be happy at the end of the race.
He rapidly moved up from P14 to P5 by lap 14 and looked set for some good points. A fantastic show of tyre management and pace on his first set of tyres brought him into contention. A change to the ultrasoft at the end of lap 42 from P3 dropped him to P5 – but within 11 laps that became P1.
Verstappen risked going for inters and it backfired, Vettel crashed out, and both Finns pitted under SC conditions.
Hamilton inherited the lead and showed tremendous speed on the resumption of the race to take a superb victory ahead of Bottas and Raikkonen on older tyres compared to the Finns. It was a case of never giving up and getting the maximum reward.
Haas throw away points yet again
A familiar pattern in 2018 is Haas losing valuable points on Sunday afternoons and this problem continued in Germany.
A fantastic qualifying saw Magnussen and Grosjean start in 5th and 6th for the Grand Prix, and for most of the race, things looked really good. Before Vettel’s crash, Grosjean and K-Mag ran in 7th and 8th - Magnussen had been running 6th for quite a while, but the Dane struggled a bit on the slippery track and fell behind Hulkenberg and his stablemate.
A bad call to pit both drivers for intermediates cost them dearly. They boxed for that tyre under safety car conditions – but within three laps they were back in for ultrasofts after making a terrible decision.
It left Grosjean 10th and Magnussen 12th before the restart. The Frenchman produced a great drive in the closing stages to overtake Hartley, Ericsson and the Force Indias to recover crucial points for him and his team – but on a weekend where they were quicker than Renault once more, they lost two points in the battle for fourth in the constructors’ standings to the French manufacturer.
Magnussen should have been P7 at least, but double stacking at both stops cost the Dane dearly.
Haas must cut out these errors to have any chance of overhauling Renault. Their car is clearly the fourth best on the grid at present.
Bizarre strategy calls
Haas F1 weren’t the only team to make some bamboozling choices during yesterday’s race.
With only some small rain falling at turn 6 and the rest of the track bone dry, Sauber and McLaren brought Leclerc (P11) and Alonso (P13) in for intermediates at the end of lap 43 and it was a big mistake as the track remained dry. They were back in three and four laps later respectively.
Toro Rosso pitted on the same with Gasly, but he fitted the full wet tyres as the Italian team made an incredibly bad selection.
It left all three drivers two laps down and unable to recover those laps during the safety car period.
Respected TV commentator and former F1 driver Martin Brundle summed it up well: ‘’Are we at the same venue as this race Crofty?’’
Leclerc and Gasly’s stablemates were the biggest beneficiaries of this. Marcus Ericsson finished 9th and Brendon Hartley one place behind as the pair of them stayed on dry tyres over the 67 laps and took full advantage of the other drivers and teams who pitted for inters or wets.
Hockenheim needs to stay on the calendar
In recent times, the German venue has been on the calendar every two years. F1 needs to keep this venue and hold a race here every year.
Yesterday’s race was certainly one of the best in the V6 era. There was plenty of drama and action at the front, as well as some absolutely fantastic racing between a lot of cars in the midfield throughout the Grand Prix.
This circuit is very good for racing and there were lots of wheel-to-wheel stuff at the hairpin yesterday. Let’s hope Liberty Media can come to sort of agreement to keep this place on the lineup next year.