Just when F1 spectators sat back expecting Mercedes to spin another 1-2 win in Round 11, Verstappen snatched another spectacular victory for Red Bull! More stunning was how home hero Vettel stormed from P20 to take the second place in the podium. As if those incredible maneuvers were not enough, this heart-stopper of a round changed status quo and put Toro Rosso in the podium, and Racing Point and McLaren in the Top 5!
No, there were no Silver Arrows when the chequered flag was waved. It had to be a heck of a fight for Mercedes to lose the top 5, and the top 10 even if it were not for the penalties incurred by the Alfa Romeos. Those penalties catapulted Hamilton from the 11th to the 9th.
This is THE F1 round that no one should have missed for anything. If you did – Woe to you! – get the highlights here. And whatever you do, get yourself glued, and don’t miss any more races because it’s game on!
Hockenheimring host to the wet and wild GP
Officially known as Formula 1 Mercedes-Benz Großer Preis von Deutschland 2019, this year’s German Grand Prix marked its 78th running since 1926 and the 64th time that it became part of the World Championship. This 64-lap race took place in Hockenheimring Baden-Württemberg, a 2.842-mile permanent racing circuit located in the Rhine Valley in Baden-Württemberg, Hockenheim, Germany.
This race marked the 125th year of Mercedes in motorsport racing, the reason for the celebratory livery that their drivers donned. Racing Point and Williams, on the other hand, announced that the weekend race would see the upgrades they’ve made to step up their game.
Hamilton bested other cars to the pole
For the driver who holds the record for the most pole positions, Hamilton did not surprise with another pole. This was, however, Hamilton’s first pole in Hockenheim for more than a decade. The question was – would this pole convert to a win? Even that seemed not so mind-boggling since he also holds the record for the most wins from pole. Next to Hamilton on the grid were Verstappen, followed by Bottas, then Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen on the fifth.
Those first five positions were held by Mercedes, Red Bull, and Alfa Romeo. It’s a rare occasion to not see at least one Ferrari at the first two or three rows. The Prancing Horses suffered from engine issues, which for Vettel was like coming home to start racing on the wrong footing. He failed to set the time in Q1 and had to start at the rearmost position. It’s a grim prospect for the home crowd who came to root for him, and this added to the gloom brought about by the inclement weather. Leclerc, who set the fastest time in Q1 and second fastest in Q2, had the same problems as Vettel and failed to set a lap time in Q3.
For any F1 seasoned observer, however, all these—the unexpected qualifiers, home crowd pressure, last-minute car problems, threatening weather, and tension building up—are but elements that could turn an uneventful race into a crazy chase. Round 11 of 21 was all about these and more.
Mind-blowing turn of events
On Race Day, a good mix of the Silver Arrows, the Red Bulls, an Alfa Romeo, a Haas, a McLaren, a Racing Point, a Renault, and a Ferrari stood from P1 to P10. With eight teams in the Top 10, it’s safe to say that it was going to be a well-represented and highly fired-up race! Would this be the turning point for the World Championship dominated by Mercedes and Ferrari? With the wet tracks and overcast sky, it seemed like anything could happen.
- For this wet race, Pirelli designated the following: C2 (hard), C3 (medium), and C4 (soft), and the full wet and intermediate tyres. It also announced that there’s no obligation to use more than one compound.
- The 2019 German GP was scheduled for 67 laps. Due to the heavy pre-race downpour and the continuing drizzle, however, all cars started on wet tyres in the formation lap. Three more laps were ran behind the safety car to make sure that the tracks were safe and dry enough to race. A standing start was declared by the race director with all first four laps considered as formation laps, effectively reducing the number of race laps to 64.
- The Red Bulls had a slow start. Hamilton, Bottas, and Räikkönen immediately sped away as 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively. It looked like the Ferraris were not taking their lackluster qualifying classification sitting down and were poised for action as soon as the lights went out. Before Lap 1 was through, Vettel had already passed by all five cars that started before him, and Leclerc had successfully climbed from P10 to P6.
- Verstappen made a strong recovery in Lap 2 and overtook the Alfa Romeo on 3rd, with Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg clambering up on 5th. Lap 3 meant an early retirement for Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez, who was P8 on the grid, after spinning out of Turn 11. In the same lap, Vettel swapped for intermediates.
- The Prancing Horses made a strong comeback in Lap 6. The German had advanced to 9th and likewise with the Monegasque who was now on 4th. Hamilton still held the lead, securely holding the margin between him and Bottas. Verstappen was on 3rd but his teammate lost a lot of places after the hairpin turn and was on P19 as of Lap 7. It’s the big three teams again in Top 4, but it’s too early to tell. The Renault man held his place on 5th, while Räikkönen and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen fought for 6th. The battle was not theirs alone as the Ferrari home racer was making headway behind them.
- Magnussen pitted in Lap 9 for inter tyres, losing his position to Vettel who was now breathing on the Alfa Romeo driver’s neck. However, the red car stalled possibly due to the same engine issues he earlier had in the qualifiers, allowing Räikkönen to stay on the 6th and advance to the 5th until well into Lap 16.
- Lap 14 was not so good for Ferrari and Renault. Debris was noticed underneath Leclerc’s car. Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault, on the other hand, suffered from power unit failure, which led to this race’s second retirement. A Virtual Safety Car (VSC) was deployed, which Leclerc took advantage of to pit for his second set of inters and possibly to get rid of the debris. After the green light, the race was still led by the Silver Arrows, followed by Verstappen, Leclerc, Räikkönen, Hülkenberg, and Vettel, in that order.
- In Lap 17, Verstappen thought it was time to make a move on Bottas but failed and nearly caused a collision. He regained his position safely. Hülkenberg regained the 5th from Räikkönen.
- From Laps 19 to 20, Leclerc had been speeding faster than any racer on the track, closing in on Verstappen and separating the Top 4 from the rest of the racers.
- Light rain started to wet the tracks again in Lap 22, but the next few laps saw the teams calling their drivers to pit for slicks. First was Magnussen in Lap 23. Next was Vettel who changed to softs in Lap 24 and rejoined in P11. Verstappen pitted in Lap 26 for mediums, rejoined in P4, but was immediately all over the back of Leclerc, who was still on inter tyres. (Note: The order of the Top 6 - Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Verstappen, Hülkenberg, and Räikkönen)
- Most drivers including Bottas and Leclerc pitted in Lap 27 for a change to slicks. This lap started several cars spinning—first was Verstappen losing control of his car, which took a 360-degree spin at Turns 14 and 15, followed in the same fashion by Racing Point’s Lance Stroll. Both drivers lost some time, but they were safe otherwise. The Dutchman rejoined in P6, while Stroll recovered his position ahead of Williams. This lap also retired a third driver—McLaren’s Lando Norris—for loss of power, which called for another VSC. (Note: The order of the Top 6 - Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Hülkenberg, Räikkönen, and Verstappen)
- Hamilton pitted for slicks in Lap 29. All of a sudden Leclerc, who was now on softs, ran wide at the final turn and crashed on to the barriers! This was definitely a disastrous day for the Prancing Horses, leaving Vettel the lone Ferrari on the tracks. It was not to be the Silver Arrows’ best day, either. Only a few moments later, it was Hamilton who crashed in Lap 30, prompting another full safety car! This brought the question—was the call for slicks a good idea?
- Apparently not. Before the safety car period was over, all cars were running on inter tyres. The latest turn of events changed the order of the cars on the track. From the top—it was now Verstappen, Hülkenberg, Bottas, and Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon in Lap 34. Hamilton rejoined in 5th but was slapped with a 5-second penalty by entering the pit lane on the wrong side of the safety bollard.
- Also in the points positions were: McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. on 6th, Räikkönen on 7th, Vettel on 8th, Gasly on 9th, and Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi on 10th.
- In Lap 37, Bottas and Hamilton edged out Hülkenberg to take 2nd and 3rd respectively, filling the leading Red Bull’s mirror with Silver Arrows. That ended Hülkenberg’s podium position, which he held for several laps.
- A few more cars crashed and drivers retired, including home racer Hülkenberg in Lap 40. Verstappen and Vettel took advantage of the safety car period to change to inters. Magnussen followed suit, but Stroll was out to try things differently—his car donned the soft slicks in Lap 45.
- With the Silver Arrows a safe distance behind, Verstappen pitted to change to slicks in Lap 47. Bottas and many others in the midfield, except Hamilton, did the same.
- Hamilton pulled to pit in Lap 48, leaving Stroll—who had pitted earlier—to take a momentary taste of the podium lead before Verstappen took it away. Just 16 laps to the finish, and this was how the unbelievable Top 5 lineup turned out—Verstappen, Stroll, Daniil Kyvat, Bottas, and Sainz, with the Racing Point and the Toro Rosso drivers alternating on 2nd and 3rd. After a mini-battle, the Russian overtook the Belgian and held on to 2nd till the final laps.
- At Lap 52, the Ferrari home driver set the fastest lap, though still remaining in 7th. In Lap 53, Bottas attempted to recover the 3rd podium position from the Belgian but was unsuccessful, while his teammate careened to a 360-degree spin in Turn 1, dropping farther to P13. Three laps later, and he dropped to P15. Rain clearly poured on the Silver Arrows for this round.
- It seemed like it could not get any worse for the Mercedes cars after Lap 53, but it did in Lap 57! Bottas spun in the now notorious Turn 1 and crashed onto the barriers, putting his race to a frustrating end. The safety car was out, and some drivers including Hamilton pulled to pit. With just six laps ahead, not a lot of things could happen for the Briton who was now at the tail end of the race.
- The German GP in the previous year was just as bad for Vettel as it was now for his teammate and the Silver Arrows. For this home racer, though, this year’s Round 11 has spun his game in the best way he could imagine. It was a vindication of sorts. From P20, he was now on P5 in Lap 59—just a few seconds to the podium, if not for Sainz and Stroll.
- Four laps to finish and Vettel looked like he could smell blood from his prey. He deftly took the McLaren car first, which didn’t take long for him to accomplish, and moved behind the Racing Point car, which was the only obstruction to the podium. Stroll bravely defended his position and didn’t make it easy for Vettel, but eventually lost to the raging Ferrari in Lap 62. In the same lap, Gasly collided with Albon and ended his game, while Albon raced on.
- The Dutchman has secured the lead, while the Russian tried to keep the coveted runner-up podium position. Vettel, though, was not about to call it a day yet. This was the German’s home race and his home crowd. He made another heroic dash in the Final Lap and displaced the Russian to snatch the 2nd place. The final podium result was 1st Verstappen, 2nd Vettel, and 3rd Kyvat—a brilliant finish to the most intensely-fought race this season.
Sensational win, sweetest victory
For Verstappen, the wet German GP race was tricky for all the teams especially on making the right calls and staying focused. The thing, according to the sensational winner, was not making too many mistakes.
It cannot be denied that the sweetest victory was Vettel’s. His incredible performance—wrestling all cars before him in an unfavourable track from P20 to the podium—was nothing short of astonishing. Once again, we saw the four-time Formula World Champion at his best.
Yet, no one could be prouder than Kyvat, who was responsible for bringing to Toro Rosso this important second podium victory ever.
Final result of the German GP, Top 5
The Top 5 result in Round 11 of 21 was not like any that we’ve seen this season. It’s a pretty mix of teams who were the proudest winners to a wild and wet grand prix.
Team and Number
Red Bull, #33
Toro Rosso, #26
Racing Point, #18
Carlos Sainz Jr.
Lest it be forgotten, it was not only Vettel who doggedly fought a long battle from P20 to the podium. Kyvat also started from the rear at P14 followed by Stroll in P15. Also worth mentioning are the other point winners: 6th Albon of Toro Rosso, 7th Romain Grosjean of Haas, 8th Kevin Magnussen of Haas, 9th Hamilton, and 10th Robert Kubica of Williams. Toro Rosso and Haas scored double points in this race.
Verstappen gained an extra point for registering the fastest lap time of 1:16.645 in Lap 61. Alfa Romeo’s drivers, Räikkönen and Giovinazzi, finished 7th and 8th but incurred 30-second penalties each which bumped them out of the Top 10, benefitting Hamilton who was originally in the 11th.
Championship standings before and after the 2019 German Grand Prix
However, Hamilton’s strong showing earlier in this season’s races has protected his overall standing from surprise rounds such as the 2019 German GP. As a result, we don’t see his mishap from the matrix below. The same could be said of Bottas and Leclerc, who retained their relative standings even when they didn’t earn any points in this GP.
Team and Number
Points before the 2019 F1 German GP
Points after the 2019 F1 German GP
Red Bull, #33
Was Round 11 the hairpin turn for the 2019 F1 World Championship?
It would take at least two more races as crazy as Round 11 for Verstappen to come close to Hamilton’s current standing. And it’s highly unlikely that Hamilton or Bottas would allow him to challenge the Drivers’ and Contructors’ championship standings without a fight.
However, the F1 race is all about hairpin turns, unfavourable weather, and ever-shifting conditions, which these drivers are all too familiar with. Anything can change, even the most established race standings.
Were the grand prix in Austria and Germany just the beginning of the challenges being mounted on the Mercs? Will there be more in the Hungarian GP? That’s the next F1 round to watch out for, and one that you shouldn’t miss! Stay tuned at Carpart.com.au!
By Patrick Lumontod