German Grand Prix: Vettel gaffe gifts Hamilton victory

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Lewis Hamilton took an unexpected victory at the expense of his teammate Valtteri Bottas as Mercedes capitalised when Sebastian Vettel made mistake and slithered off the track into the barriers and out of the race – victory was thrown away by the four time s Formula 1 World Champion.

A stalemate of a race burst into life when about 20 laps from the end rain started spitting down over Hockenheim, rendering some sections of the track wet. The rain lifted but then returned during the final stages of the race shattering Vettel’s dreams of victory on home soil with the finish in sight.

He simply miscalculated how slippery the track was when he hit the brakes, the car sliding unto the gravel and tapping the wall. His race was run.

Nevertheless, Hamilton was made to work hard all afternoon after starting from 14th on the grid – he has never won from so low on the grid before in his F1 career. His first stint was impressively long and aided by Mercedes works power was able to scythe through the field.

When the dice fell he found himself following his teammate who was leading the race, then the call came and Hamilton was handed his 66th grand prix victory. He now leads the championship by 17 points with 11 rounds run.

The Briton said afterwards, “It’s obviously very difficult from that position but you’ve always got to believe. I just wanted to stay calm and collected. I’m so grateful, I kept pushing and kept believing and it happened. I really manifested my dream today For those who don’t know me – now you do.”

A couple of hours after the race Hamilton was reprimanded after a visit to the FIA race stewards’ for an incident where he cut across the grass, from pitlane to main track, when aborting a pit stop late in the race.

Bottas was second, but could have won the race had he not been ordered by his team to hold station when attacking Hamilton after the safety car period late in the race. Bottas, quicker at that point, obliged and Hamilton was left unchallenged.

The Finn summed up: “When Seb went off I thought now was a good chance. We had a bit of a battle on Lap One after the Safety Car and I didn’t get past there, and then they told me to minimise the risk which I understand.”

Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff Explained the thining behind the team orders, “We didn’t have the quickest car here and we just need to progress for the next races. It was still raining at the time and the fight was so intense – it was all to lose with the bad luck we have had in the last few races. We wanted to keep it calm at that stage.”

Kimi Raikkonen provided some consolation for Ferrari with third place, at one point he was leading but too was a victim of a call by his team to allow Vettel past when the pair were running nose-to-tail and battling for position on track.

At first, Raikkonen feigned misunderstanding until he told his engineer to tell him exactly what he wants, and was told: “Seb is capable of going quicker.”

Verstappen stayed out of the limelight for most of the race but simply did not have the firepower to match the top two teams. Fourth place was probably better than they expected.

Nico Hulkenberg’s experience told in a challenging race in which small mistakes were punished, the Renault driver endured to finish fifth, his best result of the season.

Haas showed good pace all weekend and both capable of finishing in the points, this time Romain Grosjean brought home the points with sixth place. Teammate Kevin Magnussen was 11th.

Sergio Perez survived some moments early on in the race, including a spin, to finish seventh, ahead of Force India teammate Esteban Ocon in eighth.

Marcus Ericcson finished ninth in the Sauber and Brendon Hartley claiming the final point for Toro Rosso.

FIA Blow-By-Blow Report

At the start Vettel made a slower getaway than Bottas but the German took up a good defensive position into the first corner and held his lead. Behind them Verstappen attacked Räikkönen, but again, the Ferrari driver held his never and third place as the field swept across the line to begin the second lap. Further back Hulkenberg passed Grosjean to steal sixth place.

Hamilton, meanwhile, was beginning to charge and by lap six he was up to tenth place and into the points. That became P8 by the start of lap nine as he worked his way past Sainz and Grosjean who was struggling with his rear tyres.

At the back Ricciardo, the only man to start on medium tyres, was also scything his way through the pack and by lap 11 the Australian had climbed to 13th place. He now sat half a second off Alonso.

Hamilton’s drive forward continued, and after 14 laps he was in fifth place. Räikkönen then made his first stop, taking on soft tyres. The Finn emerged in fourth place, directly ahead of the Mercedes man. Räikkönen was in control, however, and within a few laps he had pulled out a 3.5s gap over the Briton.

At the front, Vettel was controlling the race perfectly and on lap 19 the home favourite was 4.6s ahead of Bottas with Verstappen a further 5.8s back.

Hamilton was now locked in fourth place behind Räikkönen. Ricciardo, however, was still on the move and by lap 20 he was up to 10th place having powered past Alonso and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc.

Vettel made his first stop from the lead on lap 25 and took on soft tyres. He re-joined the action in fourth place, just ahead of Hamilton, who had yet to make his pit stop. There was no threat though and Hamilton, on 27 lap-old starting softs, could not keep pace with the German and he had soon eked out a 3.0s gap to the Mercedes driver.

On lap 28 Ricciardo, who had enjoyed a productive run to sixth place suddenly as he went through Turns 9 and 10. “Losing power, something’s wrong,” he said before pulling over and stopping at Turn 11.

Verstappen then pitted to take on soft tyres and after 31 laps the order had Räikkönen in the lead, 1.3s clear of Vettel with Hamilton, who had yet to stop, in third ahead of team-mate Valtteri Bottas. Verstappen was fifth ahead of Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Grosjean, with Perez now ninth ahead of Sainz.

Vettel soon began to complain that Räikkönen was holding him up and that he was not only losing time but also destroying his tyres. After a lengthy conversation with Ferrari chief engineer Jock Clear the Fin moved aside and Vettel resumed in the lead.

Hamilton made his pit stop on lap 42 and took on ultrasoft tyres for his final stint, hoping that added performance would allow him to close on the leaders.

The race then took a hugely dramatic turn as rain began to fall at the hairpin. It grew in intensity but with forecasts predicting a rapid end to the shower the leaders chose to stay on slick tyres – and it cost Vettel dearly.

The German lost control in the stadium section and slid off track and into the barriers. What had seemed like a comfortable march to a sizeable points lead over Hamilton had gone disastrously wrong.

The SC was immediately deployed and under the caution, Mercedes pitted Bottas. The crew weren’t ready, however, and the Finn was left sitting on his marks for almost 16 seconds as the team found a set of ultrasofts for him.

Räikkönen, too, pitted and like Bottas he fitted a new set of ultrasoft tyres for a final blast, if conditions allowed.

The SC left the track at the end of lap 57 and despite a strong attack from his team-mate Hamilton held the lead ahead of Bottas and Räikkönen. Bottas was then told to hold position and 10 laps later Hamilton crossed the line to take his 66th career win ahead of his team-mate and Räikkönen.

Verstappen then took fourth place ahead of Hulkenberg, Grosjean, Perez and Ocon. Ericsson was ninth and the final point went to Hartley.

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