Max Verstappen crowned king of the ring in Germany

2019-07-31 06:02

ON its day there isn’t a sport that can match the drama, exhilaration, and rapture of Formula 1. And on a rainy day in Germany, Formula 1 has most definitely delivered a race to remember.

Saturday qualifying was as embarrassing a day as Ferrari has experienced in some time.

Well set to claim at the very least one spot on the front row, neither Sebastian Vettel nor Charles Leclerc made it to the final shoot-out as both cars suffered technical failures.

It left Lewis Hamilton to pick up the pieces and secure pole position with Max Verstappen alongside on the front row.

Though most of the weekend had seen the Hockenheimring drenched in sunshine, race day was markedly different as the rain came down. It prompted a couple of formation laps behind the safety car but conditions were good enough for a standing start. It was Hamilton who led away cleanly from pole as a bad start, similar to Austria, dropped Verstappen down the order.

It allowed Valtteri Bottas into second while Kimi Raikkonen scythed his way into third.

Leclerc, starting 10th, made an impressive start to be running sixth within a few laps while Vettel, too, charged his way through the back-markers to 14th. The first safety car was brought out by Sergio Perez’s crash, which triggered the first round of pitstops with drivers swopping full wets for intermediate tyres. The race settled momentarily before the virtual safety car (VSC) was deployed for Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault that expired in a plume of smoke.

As conditions improved, drivers dived back into the pits for dry tyres. With Hamilton and Bottas still running in first and second, Verstappen struggled to heat his medium tyres and spun in the stadium section but rejoined without any damage. Again, the VSC would be called on, as this time Lando Norris retired from the race with a loss of power.

The most dramatic sequence of events was just about to unfold. Leclerc, now in contention for the podium and even the race win, ran wide at the penultimate corner and slammed his Ferrari into the barrier and out of the race which prompted the appearance of the safety car.

No sooner had Leclerc stepped out of his cockpit than race leader Hamilton lost control of his car at the same corner. Though the Mercedes driver also hit the barrier he was able to rejoin with the need for a few front wing.

He dived into the pitlane but in doing so, incurred a five second penalty for failing to enter the pitlane before the bollard that indicates the correct pit entry. It wasn’t the end of Hamilton’s misery though as his arrival in the pitbox caught his team unawares. The pitcrew rushed around for the correct tyres and a new nose but thanks to the safety car and reduced speed Hamilton emerged in fifth overall.

As the race ‘settled’ Verstappen was comfortably in the lead with Nico Hulkenberg in second ahead of Bottas. No sooner had the whispers begun spreading that Hulkenberg could be on for his first ever podium than the German driver found himself in the same barrier as Hamilton and Leclerc moments later.

Yet another safety car was called on as drivers were back in the pits to swop dry tyres for intermediate tyres. However, Lance Stroll and Racing Point gambled on dry tyres, which worked a treat as the Canadian driver found himself in the lead as the rest of the field went into the pitlane.

Verstappen regained the lead of the race shortly after, with Stroll desperately holding on to second ahead of Daniil Kvyat, Bottas and Carlos Sainz. As Kvyat took second place from Stroll a few laps later, it was going from bad to worse for Hamilton who flat-spotted all four tyres in a high-speed 360 in turn one.

Mercedes’ day was about to get even worse when Bottas, just like Hamilton, spun at turn one. Unfortunately for the Finn, he didn’t get away with it and destroyed the front of the Merc, prompting yet another safety car.

As the race restarted, it was Vettel’s turn to come alive. He produced several brilliant overtakes to pass Sainz, Stroll and Kvyat in quick succession. It was a brilliant drive for Vettel, who started last on the grid, but kept his composure amid the chaos, to finish a fabulous second.

Up ahead, Verstappen led serenely and apart from the earlier spin had no other issues. Apart from Mexico 2018, nearly all of Verstappen’s other race wins have come in dramatic fashion and Germany 2019 was no different.

The seventh victory of Verstappen’s career was likely his most mature and reveals a driver ready to be a championship contender.

While Verstappen marched to his second win in the last three races, his teammate, Pierre Gasly had a miserable afternoon.

His good moments were clouded by several off-track excursions before a coming together with Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon put him out of the race. You couldn’t help but feel as Gasly brought his damaged car to a halt that it likely marked the end of his stint as a Red Bull driver.

As impressive as Verstappen was, it was undoubtedly Kvyat who deserved driver of the day for a sensational third place finish. It had been a long road back for Kvyat who was first replaced at Red Bull by Verstappen and later sacked by Toro Rosso. It couldn’t have come at a better time for the Russian, who may find himself back at Red Bull in quick time.

Elsewhere, Stroll eventually finished fourth ahead of Sainz in fifth who survived his own spin in the penultimate corner. Albon made it a double points finish for Toro Rosso in sixth. While the Alfa Romeos of Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished seventh and eighth on the track the two cars were later given 30-second penalties for a pre-race rule infringement of, effectively, driver coaching. Alfa have stated their intention to appeal the penalties.

This promoted Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen to seventh and eighth while Hamilton also benefited by being elevated to ninth. It also means that Williams secured their first point of the season with the elevation of Robert Kubica to 10th.

Although this German Grand Prix is likely to be the last for the foreseeable future, it went out on a spectacularly high note. There’s little time for F1 to catch its breath as the paddock heads to the Hungaroring this weekend, for the final race before the month-long summer break.

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