Lewis Hamilton has won the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, beating the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen in 2nd and 3rd, and more crucially, team mate Nico Rosberg, who could only manage a disappointing 4th place at his home race.
For the second race in a row, Rosberg failed to get to the first corner first after a poor getaway, the German losing traction and spinning his wheels during the second phase of his start off the line. He was then powerless as first Hamilton, then the 2 Red Bulls went flying past into turn 1. This immediately set the German on the back foot, and he almost lost a further position to Sebastian Vettel at the turn 5 hairpin, but managed to hold on and start advancing on the Red Bulls. The top 4 remained within a few seconds of each other throughout the first stint, with Rosberg initial pressure on Daniel Ricciardo not making much headway.
Elsewhere, all cars managed to negotiate the first few corners without much incident, although Felipe Massa was the victim of contact which appeared to damage the rear of his car and he struggled throughout the first stint, and much of the race in fact, until he was eventually retired later on lap 38. The McLarens started well and were running 9th and 10th as the first stops approached. Ferrari were just about hanging on to the back of the leading quartet, but it was becoming clear that they were going to have to pick up their pace if they were to challenge the frontrunners.
The first stops failed to shake up the order, although Rosberg’s early stop on to supersofts implied he might be going for a 3 stop rather than an expected 2 stop, which looked to be his team mate’s strategy as he came in 4 laps later and changed to soft tyres. The Red Bulls split their strategies and Verstappen followed Rosberg whereas Ricciardo followed Hamilton on the softs. During this stint, only Rosberg and Verstappen were on the supersoft tyres and it was becoming clear that there wasn’t much to choose between the 2 compounds at this stage of the race, and so we saw Rosberg pitting again on lap 28, followed by Verstappen on lap 29 as he tried to cover the German’s strategy. This led to a very tight rejoining by Verstappen and he and Rosberg went wheel to wheel as they approached the hairpin. Rosberg dove down the inside from a long way back and only just made the corner, but pushed Verstappen off the track on the outside of the exit in the process. While there was no contact, Verstappen was vocally annoyed on the radio by Rosberg’s move, and the stewards seemed to agree with him, handing Rosberg a 5 second penalty to be taken at his next pit stop.
As news of Rosberg’s penalty was filtering through around lap 33, the rest of the field was pitting for the second time. Both Ferraris and Ricciardo pitted, fitting supersofts, implying that they too were going for a 3 stop race, and this strategy was all but confirmed for most of the field as the soft tyre runners switched to supersofts, with race leader Hamilton maintaining his lead over his team mate in second, followed by Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Red Bull were in a bit of an awkward position now as a much faster Ricciardo was all over the back of Verstappen, but they were spared any blushes as Max played the team game and released his team mate to hunt down Rosberg. Ricciardo then set about eating into Rosberg’s lead, setting a few fastest laps in the process, with the German powerless to really do anything about it, failing to do the times that the team was asking of him at that point in the race.
On lap 45, Mercedes brought Rosberg in to the pits, but before his car could be serviced, he had to serve his 5 second penalty. For some reason though, this became an 8 second penalty, with the mechanics stationary for a massive 3 seconds longer than they had to be. Maybe there was a reason for this, but it only served to drop Rosberg further down the order once the leaders had pitted for their final stops, with the top 6 going into the final stint standing as Hamilton, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Rosberg, Vettel, Raikkonen.
The final stint provided its usual mix of drivers charging to the line vs drivers conserving tyres/fuel, and led to song exciting battles as the race drew to a close. The Haas and Renault drivers had been fighting outside the points positions all afternoon, but in the end the Haas cars won out, with Gutierrez, then Grosjean passed Kevin Magnussen on laps 53 and 55. The McLarens were looking solid in 9th and 10th, but it became clear that they were both struggling a bit with fuel management as the laps ticked down, most obviously on Alonso’s car, and the Spaniard was powerless to defend his points finish from Sergio Perez on the penultimate lap. Button was less affected by this, and even managed to snatch 8th position from the Williams of Valtteri Bottas as the Finn struggled for grip after being one of the only cars to stick to a 2 stop strategy.
At the front, the final stint looked like it might hot up as Daniel Ricciardo charged towards the Mercedes of Hamilton with 10 laps to go. Any hopes of a heroic victory for the Aussie driver were soon dashed however when Hamilton cleared the traffic he was lapping and put in a few fast laps, just to demonstrate the pace that Mercedes still have in hand.
That was the way it finished, with Hamilton taking the win from Ricciardo and Verstappen. Rosberg will be devastated with 4th place, a finish that leaves him 19 points behind his team mate as F1 heads to the summer break. The Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen followed, then Hulkenberg, Button, Bottas and Perez rounded out the top 10.
1 Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
2 Daniel Ricciardo – Red Bull-TAG Heuer
3 Max Verstappen – Red Bull-TAG Heuer
4 Nico Rosberg – Mercedes
5 Sebastian Vettel – Ferrari
6 Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari
7 Nico Hulkenberg – Force India-Mercedes
8 Jenson Button – McLaren-Honda
9 Valtteri Bottas – Williams-Mercedes
10 Sergio Perez – Force India-Mercedes
11 Esteban Gutierrez – Haas-Ferrari
12 Fernando Alonso – McLaren-Honda
13 Romain Grosjean – Haas-Ferrari
14 Carlos Sainz Jnr – Toro Rosso-Ferrari
15 Daniil Kvyat – Toro Rosso-Ferrari
16 Kevin Magnussen – Renault
17 Pascal Wehrlein – Manor-Mercedes
18 Marcus Ericsson – Sauber-Ferrari
19 Jolyon Palmer – Renault
20 Rio Haryanto – Manor-Mercedes
21 Felipe Nasr – Sauber-Ferrari
22 Felipe Massa – Williams-Mercedes