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Wesley Branton | July 28, 2019 @ 11:18 am
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The drivers had their first wet race of the 2019 season at the FORMULA 1 MERCEDES-BENZ GROSSER PREIS VON DEUTSCHLAND 2019. This was the second consecutive rain race in Germany. It was the race of a million pit stops and lots of drama in the final corner.
Under the wet conditions, the safety car led the cars off the grid for a few formation laps, which counted towards the race distance. After the drivers began to tell their teams the conditions were good enough for a start, the safety car returned to the pit lane for a proper standing start.
Both Red Bull drivers had a horrific start, dropping multiple positions off the line. The track was slippy in the wet conditions, with many cars running wide and sliding. Sebastian Vettel had a strong start to the race, advancing to P12 by the end of the second lap.
The safety car was deployed after just a few laps to recover Sergio Perez’s car on the exit of turn 11. The Racing Point driver was struggling for grip through the preceding corners and finally spun around, slapping the rear of the car into the barrier.
The safety car created chaos in the pit lane, with a lot of drivers diving into the pit lane to change from the full wet tyres to the intermediate tyres. All of the top drivers did that. Charles Leclerc cut off Romain Grosjean in the pit lane. The stewards looked at the incident and imposed a team fine instead of a traditional penalty.
With just over 10 laps completed, Ferrari began to speak Italian over the team radio to Sebastian Vettel about his turbocharger, suggesting a potential mechanical issue.
On lap 15, a brief virtual safety car was deployed to recover Daniel Ricciardo’s stranded Renault. His day ended with a puff of smoke. The VSC prompted some drivers to pit for new sets of intermediate tyres.
When the race resumed, the DRS was enabled for the first time in the race. With some assistance from the DRS, Verstappen caught onto the back of Valtteri Bottas. He looked to the inside at the hairpin to try and gain track position, but he lost the rear under braking, losing a lot of time.
On lap 23, Kevin Magnussen was the first driver to venture out of the pits on the soft slick tyres, despite the light rain that appeared at the circuit. Vettel did the same the following lap. These drivers appeared to show promising pace on their slick tyres.
Max Verstappen as the first of the lead cars to pit for slicks, taking the medium tyres, a few laps after Magnussen and Vettel. Other drivers mirrored the strategy, including Lando Norris, Lance Stroll, Pierre Gasly and Valtteri Bottas.
But the grip didn’t appear to be there. Verstappen spun in the final sector, which was still very damp. Norris had to stop in the same spot with a loss of power and Stroll spun at the end of the lap. The virtual safety car was deployed.
Leclerc took advantage of the cheap pit stop under the VSC, pitting for new soft tyres. Lewis Hamilton dove into the pit lane for soft tyres, but it was just as the VSC was ending, so it was not as cheap as he would have wanted.
But drama struck Leclerc. He ran wide into the penultimate corner, skating across the drag racing strip on the outside of the corner and into the barrier on the outside. He beached his car. The safety car was deployed.
Under the safety car, Hamilton had a similar crash in the same corner under the safety car, but he was able to resume the race. He dove straight into the pit lane, missing the entry ballard. His pit stop lasted 50 seconds while the team rushed to get the intermediate tyres and a new front wing, he rejoined in P5. The incident was brought to the stewards since he missed the pit entrance, which earned him a five-second time penalty.
During the safety car, the rest of the drivers pitted to change back to the intermediate tyres, with the conditions clearly not dry enough for the slicks.
Hamilton again caught the attention of the stewards for an incident under the safety car. Although it wasn’t clear what incident the stewards were reviewing, it was for “driving unnecessarily slowly under the safety car”.
When the race resumed, Verstappen led the way with Nico Hulkenberg, who hadn’t changed to the slicks, right behind him. Bottas was the leading Mercedes, with Alexander Albon separating him from his teammate.
Hulkenberg lost his P2 position after a few laps, allowing Bottas to slip by at the hairpin. Once Hamilton was able to free himself from Albon, he quickly caught up to the Renault ahead and took the position.
The safety car was deployed once again, as Hulkenberg crashed out from P4 of the race after running a strong race. Like so many other cars in the race, he understeered into the final corner, hit the barrier and beached himself. Kimi Raikkonen nearly did the same a few laps before.
Under the safety car, some drivers pitted for new intermediate tyres. Verstappen and Vettel were two who did that. Verstappen maintained his lead. Stroll was the only driver brave enough to take the gamble and move to slick tyres.
At the restart, Hamilton fell into striking distance of Carlos Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Alexander Albon. None were able to get by the championship leader.
The drivers quickly dove into the pit lane for slick tyres. This allowed Stroll to have a brief lead over the race, thanks to his gamble under the safety car. Hamilton served his five-second penalty while pitting, dropping him outside of the top ten.
Hamilton had issues again, spinning in the high-speed first corner, lucky not hitting the barrier. He had to pit for new tyres, having flat-spotted his. He dropped to the rear of the field, behind the Williams cars.
With just ten laps remaining in the race, Bottas started fighting with Stroll for the bottom step of the podium. But things went from bad to worse for Mercedes when Bottas spun in turn one, colliding heavily with the barrier.
The race restarted with five laps remaining in the race. Vettel quickly disposed of Sainz on his hunt for a podium finish after starting the race from the rear of the grid. Once the DRS was enabled, he flew up into the second step of the podium.
Further back, Gasly and Albon collided during a battle for P6. Gasly attempted to get by on the right side of the straight, but Albon moved to the right, sheering off Gasly’s front wing.
But all eyes were at the front as Verstappen takes another win this season. Vettel did the impossible, scoring a podium finish starting from the back. Daniil Kvyat wrapped up the bottom step of the podium, earning his first podium since China in 2016.
The next race will be the final one before the infamous F1 summer break. The teams will be in Hungary next weekend, on August 4.
Above results table does not include any post-race penalties