A Mercedes 1-2 In Germany As Team Orders Ensure Hamilton Wins
Germany has a fine motorsport history and made a welcome return to the Formula 1 calendar this weekend following a two year absence for financial reasons. After German multiple champion Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team had extended their championship leads at the previous British round, all was to change at Hockenheim as in a rain affected race Mercedes finished first and second with team orders ensuring Lewis Hamilton took the victory ahead of Valtteri Bottas.
The modern version of the famous Hockenheim circuit, where the iconic Jim Clark was sadly killed back in April 1968, no longer quite has the mystique and fear factor of its longer former self, but it is still a driving challenge.
Despite the domination of F1 by German manufacturer Mercedes since 2014 and the success of German drivers Vettel and Nico Rosberg the home fans don’t seem to have been quite as in love with the sport since the heady days of mass support for their hero Michael Schumacher, but there was still a large multi-national crowd cheering on their favourite drivers and teams.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo had set the fastest time in Friday’s opening free practice session, edging out the Mercedes of Hamilton by just 0.004s, but the likeable Australian already knew he would be starting Sunday’s Grand Prix from the back of the grid after a need for various power unit elements to be replaced. His team knew this would have to happen in Germany or at the next race in Hungary and opted for the former, knowing they could be really competitive at the Hungaroring in a week’s time.
Max Verstappen’s Red Bull was the best of the rest ahead of Vettel, Bottas (on the morning Mercedes confirmed he would be driving for the team again next year) and Kimi Räikkönen in the other Ferrari.
Second practice took place under a baking sun with the air temperature reaching 31C, but the conditions didn’t slow Verstappen who outpaced Hamilton, Bottas and the two Ferraris at the top of the timesheets. The young Monegasque Charles Leclerc, learning at every Grand Prix in his first year in F1 and tipped as a possible Ferrari driver as early as next year, continued to set impressive times in his Sauber.
After Friday’s sun the final free practice session on Saturday was badly affected by heavy rain and the teams were reluctant to risk damage to their cars with the all-important qualifying hour set to follow shortly afterwards. For the record Leclerc went fastest, but only nine of the 20 drivers set a time.
There was high drama in the opening part of the qualifying process as Hamilton’s Mercedes suffered a loss of hydraulic pressure and his team told him to stop the car immediately. Initially he refused to comply, prior to doing so and briefly attempting to push his car back to the pit lane before realising it was almost a mile away and he was endangering the lives of other drivers, marshals and himself. The failure meant Hamilton would start the following day’s Grand Prix from 14th position.
In contrast his main championship rival Vettel, born not far from the circuit, flew to a new track record and claimed a crucial pole position for Ferrari, overcoming the threat of Bottas’ Mercedes on his final qualifying lap and sending the home fans into raptures of delight. Räikkönen and Verstappen, who was again supported by a sea of orange clad travelling Dutch fans, claimed the second row on the grid ahead of the ever improving Haas cars of Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean.
The conditions were hot and humid on race day with a threat of rain in the air and following a clean start to the Grand Prix poleman Vettel led from Bottas, Räikkönen and Verstappen. As the German gradually extended his lead over Bottas his Ferrari team-mate made a surprisingly early pit stop on lap 15 to switch from ultrasoft tyres to the more durable softs and rejoined in fourth position ahead of Hamilton, who had been gradually making his way through the field.
The leading Vettel then made his own pit stop for the same switch, but crucially 11 laps later, putting the Ferrari duo on different strategies.
Poor Ricciardo’s bad luck continued as despite starting from the back of the grid with a new power unit he ground to a halt on the 29th tour, with his stricken Red Bull refusing to go any further.
As the race progressed and the dark clouds above increased in intensity the leading Räikkönen was clearly holding second placed Vettel up and the team told the Finn to let his colleague past. Once ahead, Vettel led comfortably from Räikkónen and Bottas and Hamilton made his pit stop on lap 42 of 67 to change to ultrasoft tyres.
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Out front Vettel remained in control and Bottas passed Räikkönen for second place on lap 51 when the veteran Finn had to take evasive action away from Magnussen’s Haas. Just one tour later the outcome of the race took a decisive turn when the leading Vettel made a slow speed mistake at the damp Sachs Kurve and slid across the gravel into the barriers, ending his race instantly.
Following a safety car period to assist removal of the damaged Ferrari and following further pit stops it was Hamilton who led from Bottas, Räikkönen and Verstappen when the race resumed.
Straight away second placed Bottas was thrilling the crowds racing wheel to wheel for the lead with Hamilton, but the Mercedes chief strategist quickly told Bottas over the radio “Please hold position. Sorry”. The last thing you want to hear as a racing driver when you in with a chance of winning, but team orders are team orders and the Finn duly complied and dropped back behind Hamilton to the chequered flag.
Räikkönen salvaged something for Ferrari with a third place finish as Verstappen, Nico Hülkenberg and Grosjean completed the top six finishers.
The result put Hamilton back in the lead of the Drivers’ Championship and Mercedes reasserted their authority over Ferrari on the Constructors’ front.
So the Formula 1 title fights now move on to the Hungaroring, just outside the beautiful Hungarian city of Budapest, for the final Grand Prix before the sport takes its usual four week summer break. A circuit I can very much recommend if you want to combine attending an F1 race with a great city break.
2018 Formula 1 German Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr32m29.845s
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +4.535s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +6.732s
4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +7.654s
5 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) +26.609s
6 Romain Grosjean (Haas) +28.871s
7 Sergio Perez (Force India) +30.556s
8 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +31.750s
9 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +32.362s
10 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) +34.197s
11 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +34.919s
12 Carlos Sainz (Renault) +43.069s
13 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +46.617s
14 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) Lapped
15 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) Lapped
16 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Retired
17 Lance Stroll (Williams) Retired
18 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) Retired
19 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) Retired
20 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) Retired
2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship (after 11 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Lewis Hamilton 188
2 Sebastian Vettel 171
3 Kimi Räikkönen 131
2018 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship (after 11 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Mercedes 310
2 Ferrari 302
3 Red Bull 211
A Mercedes 1-2 In Germany As Team Orders Ensure Hamilton Wins, 22nd July 2018, 17:50 PM