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ANALYSIS: 2019 German Grand Prix – Assessing the field

10 Mins read
Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

A wet 2019 German Grand Prix was chaotic, incident packed and produced a thrill a minute for the Formula 1 fans. With Safety Cars galore and the cars diving in and out of the pits, it was hard to keep track of what was happening from lap to lap.

Max Verstappen eventually emerged the worthy winner of a classic German Grand Prix. It was redemption time for Sebastian Vettel after the crash from the race lead last year. The German finished in second position after starting dead last in his home Grand Prix. Daniil Kvyat capped what has been a remarkable comeback from Formula 1 wilderness with his first podium since the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix.

Many of the leading contenders including then race leader Lewis Hamilton came to grief at the penultimate corner where the standing water on the slick tarmac in the run-off area created a skating rink across which the cars slid into the barriers.

Top of the class…

Max Verstappen – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.409s

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Max Verstappen clinched his second win of the season with a mature drive in the mixed conditions at the Hockenheimring. How many drivers win a race after a 360-degree spin as Verstappen did in this crazy race….

The two best drivers in the rain in the last few seasons were on the front row as Verstappen started alongside pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton under the wet conditions. After several formation laps behind the Safety Car the drivers made a standing start from the grid.

Verstappen had loads of wheel spin at the start and dropped to fourth position. But the Dutchman recovered and was on Valtteri Bottas’s gearbox and pressurizing him for second-place in a few laps. Verstappen had his dramatic spin after he put on the medium compound tyres in his third stint in the wet conditions.

But he recovered and kept his composure and after two more pit stops during the Safety Car period emerged the winner. Verstappen won on a day when the top 2 drivers in the drivers’ championship faltered badly.

An ecstatic Verstappen said: “It was amazing, of course to win, but it was really tricky out there. We made the right calls and you really had to be focused. We pitted onto the slick tyre, had a little moment, made a nice 360 so that was nice. Enjoyed that.

“It was all about trying to not make too many mistakes. You learn, over the years. I was very happy with the whole performance today.”

Sebastian Vettel – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: N/A

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Credit: Ferrari Media

Sebastian Vettel redeemed himself after the frustration of finding himself in the barriers from the race lead at the 2018 German Grand Prix. Last season unraveled for the German after that disastrous error and he lost the drivers’ championship to arch-rival Hamilton yet again.

Vettel did not set a lap time in qualification due to an airflow problem to the turbo in his power unit. The German started dead last in twentieth place, but with a fine recovery drive finished in second position.

Vettel’s race came to life after his fifth and final pit stop with seventeen laps to go. The Ferrari SF90 was fast on the soft compound tyres on a drying track that was finally suitable for the slick tyres. The German climbed his way to the front with overtakes galore from ninth position to second position in a car that was fast all weekend.

That first win at the Hockenheimring, just half an hour away from Vettel’s hometown Heppenheim, still eluded him. But after an error-filled season when Vettel has been overshadowed at times by his younger team-mate Charles Leclerc, this result was as good as a win for him.

Daniil Kvyat – Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.183s (Q1)

Race margin to team-mate:  -1.747s

Credit: Octane Photographic Ltd.

Daniil Kvyat started in fourteenth position and clinched an unlikely podium place when he finished in third position. This was the third podium in his career for the Russian driver. The last podium finish at the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix in a Red Bull car must have been a distant memory for him.

Kvyat was demoted one race later to Toro Rosso with the winner of this race Verstappen replacing him at Red Bull Racing. Kvyat’s career went into meltdown mode for the rest of that season and the next season. In 2018, Kvyat stayed in Formula 1 as a development driver at Ferrari.

An unlikely recall to his old Toro Rosso team in 2019 has seen a much more consistent but combative as ever Kvyat performing well. Kvyat became a father for the first time this weekend and ended it on a magical note with the most unexpected podium finish of his career.

The Russian fell as low as nineteenth position after his first pit stop. But he made it count in the last stint on the soft tyres with nineteen laps to go as he climbed from thirteenth to second position. He was overtaken by Vettel in the final laps.

Kvyat joined Vettel whom he replaced at Red Bull and Verstappen the man who replaced him at Red Bull on the podium of a wild and wacky German Grand Prix. This was just the second podium in the history of the Toro Rosso team.

An understandably excited Kvyat said: “It was a horror movie, with a bit of black comedy. At one point I thought the race was done for me and it came alive again. It was an incredible rollercoaster – a bit like my whole career…”

Lance Stroll – Racing Point BWT Mercedes

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.674 (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate:  N/A

Lance Stroll finally made it out of the first qualification session this season. But he still started in a lowly fifteenth position compared to team-mate Sergio Pérez in eighth position.

But even as his experienced team-mate Pérez crashed out early in the wet conditions, Stroll kept his cool and scripted the best finish of the season for the Racing Point team. The young Canadian made the final stint on the soft compound tyres count as he ran as high as in second position with thirteen laps to go.

Eventually Kvyat and Vettel overtook him and Stroll had to be satisfied with a very creditable fourth-place finish. The gamble to pit for the slick tyres earlier than the other drivers paid off and Stroll brought the car home safely.

Stroll kept his head and overcame a couple of spins and almost finished on the podium. In an equally frantic race at the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix at Baku, Stroll had kept his head and taken his first podium.

The Racing Point team has struggled in recent races and brought several updates to their car for the German Grand Prix. They were almost rewarded with a podium. The twelve points Stroll scored keeps the team in touch with the other teams in the midfield battle.

Robert Kubica – Williams Mercedes

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.118s (Q1)

Race margin to team-mate:  -1.417s

Robert Kubica scored the first point since his comeback to Formula 1 as Williams opened their account in a miserable season for the team so far. On a slippery track with rain coming down intermittently, the fact that the two Williams drivers finished the race in their low downforce car was remarkable.

Kubica has been out-raced and outqualified by his team-mate George Russell in the first ten races. The Polish driver finished in front of his team-mate on merit in the mixed conditions to finish in twelfth position.

When the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers were given a thirty-second penalty for a clutch infringement, they were knocked out of the point scoring positions. Kubica was promoted to tenth position to score a precious point on his return to Formula 1 after an eight-year hiatus.

The Williams teams has been at the back of the grid, well behind the other teams in pace. The team has brought recent updates to the car that Kubica termed “fragile”. But through the gloom and doom the team has kept going and the drivers have finished the races, even if it is mostly in last place.

“It was a crazy race today and track conditions were very slippery. I managed to bring the car home with no mistakes which is the most important thing. Although racing in wet and changeable conditions isn’t new for me, it’s been nine years since I last experienced it in a Formula One car and it certainly refreshed my memory”, said a relieved Kubica.

Homework to do…

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  -0.362s

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Lewis Hamilton endured a miserable race as he led the race for the first thirty laps, but finished in eleventh position. Hamilton was later promoted to ninth position as the two Alfa Romeo Racing drivers who finished in front of him were demoted due to a post-race penalty.

How did it all go so wrong for Hamilton? The Briton was off-colour the whole weekend and was sick enough on Saturday that the team was thinking of replacing him with Esteban Ocon in the third free practice session. But Hamilton pulled it all together to take a remarkable pole position.

He made a good start and led the drivers into Turn 1. He was showing his usual prowess in the rain as he comfortably stretched his lead in front to Bottas and Verstappen. Hamilton pitted a lap later than the other leading contenders to put on the soft compound tyres.

The rain resumed shortly afterwards and on the new slick tyres, Hamilton slid into the barriers at Turn 16. The glancing blow broke his front-wing and he was able to make it back to the pits, albeit on the wrong side of the bollard. The Mercedes team was unprepared for the sudden pit stop and chaos ensued as they fitted a new front-wing and a set of intermediate tyres.

Hamilton was given a five-second penalty for the wrong pit entry. He made it back to third position but had to take the penalty at his next pit stop. Another spin dropped him to fifteenth position behind the two Williams drivers.

After six pit stops, his miserable race ended out of the points that also brought to an end his twenty-two race point scoring streak. But the late promotion to ninth position kept the streak alive for the reigning World Champion. Hamilton has to make a quick recovery from this miserable weekend as the Hungarian Grand Prix is scheduled to take place in one week.

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.362s

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Valtteri Bottas crashed into the barriers late in the race and threw away a great chance to cut the gap to Hamilton in the drivers’ championship. Bottas started in third position but managed to gain a position at the start.

The Finn kept Verstappen at bay for twenty-nine laps before being overtaken. As Hamilton hit trouble, Bottas was in second position again. After the final pit stop for the soft compound tyres, Bottas was in hot pursuit of Stroll for third position.

But an unfortunate crash at Turn 1 with seven laps to go ended all the good work. On a day when his team-mate Hamilton was in the wars, a podium finish could have helped Bottas close the 39-point gap to Hamilton.

But all the good work ended in grief and to rub further salt into the wounds, Hamilton’s post-race promotion helped him score two points and extend his lead to Bottas by 41 points in the drivers’ championship.

Bottas has Verstappen breathing down his neck just 22 points behind him in the drivers’ championship. Mercedes marked their 125th anniversary in motorsport with great pomp this weekend at their home race. But it ended in an unmitigated disaster in more ways than one.

Credit: @f1

Charles Leclerc – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate:  N/A

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Charles Leclerc had yet another opportunity to score that elusive first win in Formula 1. The Monégasque driver had the measure of team-mate Vettel and the Mercedes drivers in the free practice sessions.

He seemed on course to take pole position when disaster struck the Ferrari team. Even as Vettel did not set a timed lap, Leclerc did not take part in the final qualifying session with a reliability issue and started in tenth position.

In the race, Leclerc made good progress by making it to sixth-place by the end of lap 1. After his third pit stop and putting on the soft compound tyres, Leclerc was in second position and was on course to challenge Hamilton for the race lead. But he steered off the track at the penultimate corner and across the slippery ice rink like run-off area into the barriers.

What could have been a great podium finish ended with Leclerc’s agonizing cry of “Noooooo” over the team radio. As Vettel’s grandstand finish showed, in the drying conditions Leclerc would have been a handful in the fast Ferrari SF90 in the final laps.

But it was not to be and Leclerc has to wait for that first win. Leclerc termed the slick run-off area in the penultimate corner as unacceptable, but took blame for the crash as his mistake.

Pierre Gasly  – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.409s

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Pierre Gasly endured yet another miserable Grand Prix as he did not finish the race. It was a good recovery in qualification after the heavy crash he suffered in Friday practice. But Gasly went backwards in the race after he started in fourth position.

The Frenchman suffered heavy wheel spin and dropped to eighth position at the start. Gasly made progress in his final stint and was dueling with Alexander Albon for sixth position. As he tried to overtake Albon with two laps to go, Gasly tagged him and suffered a puncture that ended his race.

Even as team-mate Verstappen is laying down the marker and is providing serious competition to the Mercedes drivers, Gasly is languishing in the midfield. The fact that the two Toro Rosso drivers from the junior Red Bull team performed so well in this race adds more misery to the struggling Gasly.

The rest…

The Alfa Romeo racing team had a good race as Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished in seventh and eighth positions respectively. The thirty-second penalty for a clutch infringement relegated them from the point scoring positions. It was a bitter blow for the team and they will appeal the decision.

This promoted the two Haas drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen to seventh and eight positions respectively. This was a good result for the Haas F1 team and ended their four race non-point scoring streak.

Carlos Sainz flirted with the barriers after skating across the slippery tarmac at Turn 16, but still managed to finish in fifth position. The Spaniard in seventh position is “best of the rest” in the drivers’ championship, just seven points away from Gasly.

Alexander Albon finished in sixth position to claim his best finish in his short Formula 1 career. It was a strong weekend for the Toro Rosso team as both their drivers excelled in the mixed conditions.

The Renault team came away with no points as both drivers did not finish. Nico Hulkenberg was running in as high as second position and it looked as if that elusive podium position might materialize in his home race.

But he was overtaken by the two Mercedes drivers and was still running in a strong fourth position when the penultimate corner claimed yet another victim. It was a disappointing end to a strong weekend for Hulkenberg.

All the teams will assemble for the Hungarian Grand Prix at the Hungaroring in one week (August 2-4 2019).

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