Max Verstappen took the seventh victory of his Formula 1 career at the end of a topsy-turvy, incident-packed German Grand Prix that saw Mercedes miss out on a podium finish for the first time in over a year, Sebastian Vettel rise from 20thplace on the grid to second place, and Daniil Kvyat score Toro Rosso’s first podium finish in almost 11 years.
With steady rain falling in the run-up to the race, the decision was taken to begin with four formation laps in order to assess the wet conditions and to clear any standing water.
The Safety Car then left the track and a standing start was decreed. And when the lights went out Lewis Hamilton held his pole position advantage top take the lead of the race. Fellow front-row starter Verstappen failed to make a clean getaway, however, and he was immediately passed by Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas and Alfa Romeo’s Kimi Räikkönen.
Further back, Vettel made a superb start from 20thon the grid, taking an inside line at lights out to pass a flotilla of cars before the first turn. By the end of the first lap he’d risen to 12th
It was at that point that the conditions claimed the first of several victims. Racing Point’s Sergio Pérez lost control as he headed towards the stadium section and after he slide off into the trackside wall, the safety car was deployed.
Vettel was the first to react and the Ferrari driver dived into the pits for intermediate tyres. He was quickly followed by Toro Rosso’s Alex Albon and both profited from the decision vaulting into the top 10 as others followed suit.
Once those who moved to inters rejoined and the order had been ararranged Hamilton led from Haas’ Kevin Magnussen (who had not pitted), Bottas and Verstappen.
When the SC left the track, Bottas and Verstappen immediately breezed past Magnussen to take second and third respectively. It was Vettel, though, who profited most and when the German eased past the fading Magnussen he found himself in seventh place behind Alfa’s Kimi Räikkönen.
With light rain continuing to fall and with little chance of making a move to slick tyres, the race then settled somewhat. On lap 21 Magnussen became the first driver to make the switch to slicks, with the Haas driver taking on soft tyres. Vettel, followed suit almost immediately.
Magnussen’s first tour was not quicker than leader Hamilton’s but the next lap was a second under the leader’s time and on lap 25 Verstappen pitted, taking on mediums.
That sparked a general move to slick rubber, but when the rain began to intensify over the following laps the risks heightened. On lap 27 Charles Leclerc made a mistake and slid off track at the final corner. The safety car was deployed and the field began to switch back to the green-banded tyres.
Hamilton’s switch was enforced, however. The race leader lost control in the same place as Leclerc and slid into the barrier. He damaged the left side of his front wing and immediately dived for the pit.
Unprepared, the Mercedes mechanics had no intermediate tyres ready, and overall, Hamilton’s visit for a new front wing and fresh tyres took more than a minute.
The long delay dropped Hamilton to fifth. And when new Bottas pitted for inters, Verstappen claimed the race lead for the first time.
There was more woe for Hamilton soon after. In arrowing across track to the pits he had gone in on the wrong side of the bollard at the pit entrance. The offence earned the champion a five-second time penalty.
When racing resumed on lap 33, Verstappen powered away from second-placed Nico Hulkenberg and quickly opened up a five-second gap to the German. Bottas and Hamilton were soon past Hulkenberg but the gap from the lead Mercedes to the Red Bull stood at nine seconds.
However, the Dutchman’s advantage was soon erased. On lap 40 Hulkenberg also went off in the final corner and with his Renault deep in the gravel the safety car was once again released.
During the cautionary period the conditions began to steadily improve and though racing resumed on lap 46, it was the cue for a flurry of pit stops as drivers moved to exploit the improving conditions and take on slick tyres.
Verstappen was first in, at the end of lap 46, and the race leader switched to soft compound tyres. Hamilton, too, pitted during this third safety car phase and also took his time penalty during the stop to emerge in P11. At the front, after the stops had taken their effect, Max led from second and third place men Lance Stroll of Racing Point and Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso. Bottas lay fourth ahead of McLaren’s Carlos Sainz and Vettel, who was running well on his new soft tyres.
On lap 51, Kvyat made a bid for a Honda-powered one-two finish, with the Russian powering past Stroll to claim second place.
Behind them, though, Bottas was beginning to apply pressure and the expectation was that Verstyappen would have the Mercedes driver for company in the closing stages.
It wasn’t to be, though. On lap 56 Bottas carried too much speed into Turn 1 and the Mercedes driver lost control on the exit of the corner, he slid left into the gravel trap and hit the barrier hard. The incident brought out the safety car for the fourth time. Once again, though, Verstappen was in control and when racing resumed on lap 60 he simply powered away from Kvyat.
In the final few laps, it was Vettel who made the biggest moves. The Ferrari driver powered past Sainz as if the McLaren wasn’t there into Turn 6 on lap 60. Stroll and Kvyat were dismissed over the following two laps and Vettel settled into P2 on the final lap, having climbed from dead last at the start.
There was no denying Verstappen though and the Red Bull driver duly crossed the line to take his seventh career win. Vettel took a superb second and behind him Kvyat hung on to claim his third career podium finish and Toro Rosso’s first podium finish since Vettel won the 2008 Italian Grand Prix for the team. Fourth place went to Stroll, with the Canadian driver finishing ahead of Sainz and the second Toro Rosso of Alex Albon.
The Alfa Romeos of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi finished the race in seventh and eighth places but after the race both were handed 10-second stop and go penalties due to issues over the team’s clutch torque application at the race start.
The ruling meant that Haas’ Romain Grosjean and Kevin Masgnussen took seventh and eighth places respectively, while Hamilton jumped to ninth place to maintain a 23-race long record of points finishes stretching back to last year’s British Grand Prix. The final point on offer thus went to Williams’ Robert Kubica. The point is Williams first since last year’s Italian Grand Prix and Kubica’s first since the 2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
2019 FIA Formula One German Grand Prix – Race
1 Max Verstappen Red Bull
2 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 7.333
3 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso 8.305
4 Lance Stroll Racing Point 8.966
5 Carlos Sainz McLaren 9.583
6 Alex Albon Toro Rosso 10.052
7 Romain Grosjean Haas 16.838
8 Kevin Magnussen Haas 18.765
9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 19.667
10 Robert Kubica Williams 24.987
11 George Russell Williams 26.404
12 Kimi Räikkönen Alfa Romeo 42.214
13 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo 42.849
14 Pierre Gasly Red Bull