The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: German GP: Heartbreak For Vettel As Lewis Defies Odds

28-07-2018

By Jack Target

What a dramatic weekend we had in Germany.

Sebastian Vettel was on track to win his home race for the first time before a costly error ended his race. To rub salt in the wound his rival for the championship, Lewis Hamilton, started from 14th and somehow won the race and now leads the title race by 17 points. 

All of this finishing just moments before an almighty storm came crashing down on to the Hockenheimring, flooding the paddock, in what would have made the race even more wild if it had started just half an hour earlier.

Once again there was drama throughout and the championship swung from one driver to another in the blink of an eye.

A race win looked off the cards from the very early stages of Saturday when Hamilton’s car  gave up on him at the end of Q1. He looked a desperate man as he got out of his Mercedes and tried to push the car back to the pits, hoping his mechanics could fix the issue in time for Q2. He knew that any mishap would further dent his chances at retaining the title. Hamilton simply couldn’t afford to slip up and there he was pushing his car before finally relenting, bending down to the car’s side in what looked like a gut wrenching moment. Many will think it was his own doing as a hydraulic issue was later found out, maybe from a little ‘off-roading’ earlier in the lap but it may have started before then. 

This opened the door for Vettel and the other Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. They would only have to worry about Max Verstappen’s Red Bull too as Daniel Ricciardo sat out the rest of qualifying knowing he was going to start from the back due to penalties.

It looked like Mercedes were going to get pole when Bottas pulled out an unbelievable lap at the death. But not too far behind him was Vettel, setting sector times that flashed purple on TV screens worldwide, finally crossing the line to a huge cheer from his German compatriots in the stands. 

Elsewhere Charles Leclerc impressed again as he got his Sauber in to Q3 for the fifth time out of the last six races and Sergey Sirotkin gave Williams one of their best performances this season starting in 12th.

When the race came it seemed that attention would be on the front and the back. Firstly the front as Vettel held on to first place despite a great start from Bottas. Behind them the Renaults were on the front foot as they looked to take over as the ‘best-of-the-rest’ with Nico Hulkenberg overtaking both Haas cars early on. 

As for the two superstars at the back of the grid, Hamilton and Ricciardo, the pair found it tough to move up early on but Lewis was in to the top ten by the eight lap.

After 15 laps we had our first set of pit stops. Little were we to know there would be some many coming up and so many questionable ones at that too.

Kimi Raikkonen was the first to go in as he looked to hold the fort, waiting for Vettel to eventually come and overtake him on his fresher tyres. 

Hamilton was leaving it very late to pit. It was clear that himself, and a few other drivers like Fernando Alonso, were waiting for the rain to come before they went in for a change of tyre.  

However they got their break a little bit early as just before the 30 lap mark, Ricciardo had to stop due to a power problem with his Red Bull. This was the first opportunity for Hamilton to move up the pack.

Despite Raikkonen’s early exploits, setting a number of fastest laps, his tyres predictably couldn’t last the battle as he let Vettel through with less than half the race to go. Later we had the privilege of hearing the team radio as Kimi was told in a very round about kind away to move aside. A simple ‘Sebby is faster than you’ may have actually worked better in this situation. 

The rain was looking imminent but still Mercedes trusted that they could keep going on the dry tyre as Hamilton pitted with a third of the race remaining. 

It nearly didn’t work. Just a lap later the rain did come and it looked heavy. Leclerc was the first to go in to the pits to get his intermediates on followed by a handful of others. However the rain was only concentrated on a small section of the track. The rest of the Hockenheimring was in glorious sunshine. 

There were some teams who had decided to get on the wet tyres early, hoping to capitalise but the rain was soon moving on as the track dried out once more. 

Things then took a turn.

Bottas went in to second, overtaking fellow Finn Raikkonen as he went to chase down Vettel. It was something he did not have to do as moments later Vettel put his car in to the barriers. It was a bizzare moment and a rare mistake from the German. He had the race win, a home one at that, and a major points haul over his rival in his hands and he blew it. A simple lapse of concentration as he went in to the hairpin and he was off. 

Just when that wasn’t enough drama we had no idea who could actually go on and win the race. Bottas was leading but had to go in to the pits, leaving Raikkonen to take over. He also had to pit, leaving Hamilton, unbelievably, in first. From 14th at the start Lewis Hamilton was 13 laps away from victory. 

With ten laps to go the safety car that was deployed due to Vettel’s incident came in. Bottas immediately pushed his teammate in search of his first win of the season. He needed to prove to his team that they don’t need to look elsewhere. Another one year deal was signed by the Finn but he must have felt he could prove he deserved more. 

In the end he held back and Hamilton won the race. 

From losing out on a home win last time out, Hamilton was able to do the unthinkable in what was one of his most impressive wins in Formula 1. All at the home GP of his rival. Momentum has swung again as we head to Hungary.