Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel threw away a certain victory with a rookie error in slippery conditions at the Hockenheimring, while Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton rode his luck avoiding a potential time penalty to snatch victory, after starting from 14th due to a technical issue in qualifying 1 on Saturday afternoon.
There really wasn’t much in the way of action during the first 40 laps, including the start. Hamilton made his way through the field rapidly with his superior Mercedes car, the British driver was up to 4th place by lap 15 courtesy of a few cars stopping ahead of him. Meanwhile, Ricciardo, who started from dead last after an engine change, had made his way up to 6th before suffering a race-ending mechanical issue.
It started getting interesting after lap 43 when it started to rain, Mercedes made a decision to pit Hamilton for his only stop, switching him onto the ultra soft tires as the rain was isolated to the turn 6 area of the track at that time. A number of drivers, notably, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen switched onto intermediate wet tires, which really didn’t pay off for the Dutchman as the track was not wet enough, having to switch back onto slick tires just two laps later, costing him a potential podium in the process.
Then, disaster struck for Ferrari with Vettel making, what has to be considered a rookie error sliding off the track and into the barrier at the SachsKurve, ending his race while out in the lead, which resulted in a safety car, directly causing the race to turn on its head, while Bottas and Raikkonen pitted for fresh ultra soft tires, Hamilton aborted his pitstop at the last moment, driving across the grass from the pitlane to inherit the lead of the race, which was a fortuitous side effect of Mercedes radio comms confusion.
During the safety car restart on lap 58, Bottas was all over the back of Hamilton challenging for a lap before the Finn was instructed by the team to hold station. Bottas, playing the good #2 driver complied allowing Hamilton to pull away by almost 5 seconds by the end of the race, just nine short laps later. Mercedes clearly fearing a penalty for Hamilton cutting back onto the track from the pitlane, which is a breach of the sporting regulations, gave Hamilton the hurry up as the track dried out in the closing laps.
It wouldn’t be Formula 1 without some sort of controversy, and the German Grand Prix was no different. Lewis Hamilton’s aborted pit stop was a breach of Appendix L Chapter IV Article 4c of the FIA’s International Sporting Code, but a simple reprimand was the [non-]punishment for the Mercedes driver, due to the confusion over the team radio, and the fact that this breach was under safety car conditions.
Many pointed to a similar infraction by Kimi Raikkonen a few years back, in Baku was given a 5-second time penalty for a similar infraction, but race director, Charlie Whiting, differentiated the Hamilton infraction because Raikkonen had performed the same maneuver on a ‘green flag’ track.
Personally, I am getting sick and tired of the inconsistencies in stewardship at race events. I’m not a fan of Hamilton or Vettel, in fact, I have a healthy dislike for both of their personalities. So, I don’t have a dog in the race, but the fact that Hamilton and Vettel have gotten away with insignificant penalties for rule-breaking, while drivers not in the championship hunt get hit with more severe penalties is outrageous, making a mockery of the sporting regulations, it’s time for an overhaul of the decision-making process.
That said, it was Vettel running out of talent at the sachscurve that ultimately allowed Hamilton to win, the infraction only happened because Vettel put his Ferrari in the wall, yes, conditions were tricky, but nothing a 4-time world champion shouldn’t be able to handle. The net result is that the drivers’ title has taken a massive swing back in Hamilton’s favor thanks to Vettel’s lapse in concentration. Hamilton now has a 17 point lead over Vettel and Mercedes move back ahead in the constructors’ championship.
German Grand Prix 2018 Results
|1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:32:29.845
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +4.535
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +6.732
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +7.654
5. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +26.609
|6. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +28.871
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +30.556
8. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +31.750
9. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +32.362
10. Brendan Hartley (Toro Rosso) +34.197