Lewis Hamilton never thought he could be so lucky Sunday (July 22) at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. But the Briton emerged an unlikely winner on what was a catastrophic day for rival Sebastian Vettel.
Starting 14th, the Briton quickly moved up the grid. After a speedy start, late rain showers and a spin by series leader Vettel gave him the lead. Running 4.5 seconds ahead of his Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the finish, Hamilton took the checkered flag with the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen taking third, just under six seconds behind.
The win now puts Hamilton 19 points clear in the drivers’ championship ahead of Vettel and places Mercedes eight points in front of Ferrari in the constructor’s race. It’s also the first time that the silver arrows have placed 1-2 in their home race at this circuit.
For Hamilton, 24 hours after becoming upset when his car stopped on track during qualifying, the victory was a complete surprise.
“It is great to be here on Mercedes’ home ground, and their home, my second home, 1-2 for Mercedes,” Hamilton stated to the press. “Particularly when they re-signed us and confirmed their confidence in us, it was just a tremendous day. I have never had a race like this.”
Vettel started out well, leading Bottas by three seconds by lap 11. But both Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo, who began the race from the back were gaining on the grid. Hamilton moved up to fifth in the first few laps while Ricciardo jumped to where the Briton started in 14th.
However, luck ran out for Ricciardo with a power unit failure on lap 29, stopping his Red Bull at turn 11. By this point, Raikkonen had the lead. Vettel, who was in second, complained on the radio for Raikkonen to pull aside. The Finn complied, allowing Vettel to regain control as Raikkonen checked his rubber.
After threats of rain all race long, Mother Nature finally unloaded on Lap 44. That pushed many drivers into the pits for intermediates, which were not needed laps later as the rain decreased. But Hamilton threw the dice and opted for ultra-soft tires, which kept him out on the track while some were changing back to the same compound.
Vettel remained in front of the race as patches of rain continued. But suddenly, the German approached Sachs Curve on lap 52 and lost control, slamming into the wall. That ended his chances for a victory on home soil in a disappointing end result.
Hamilton attempted to pit but was radioed to stay out after Vettel’s incident. However, the Briton had already approached the pit entry. He chose to swing out towards the track and continued. This incident is a violation of the F.I.A. and will be investigated after the race. It was decided hours later that Hamilton would keep his win but was reprimanded for the incident.
The accident by Vettel brought out the only safety car period in the race. A few laps later, Hamilton found himself challenged by Bottas. But the Finn, as the other driver for Ferrari with the same nationality, was told to hold back by his technical advisor James Allison. That paved the way for Hamilton’s victory.
The American Haas F1 Team finished in the points with Romain Grosjean surging to a strong sixth. Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon took seventh and eighth, respectively. Marcus Ericsson finished ninth for Sauber and Brendon Hartley placed his Toro Rosso in tenth. Kevin Magnussen, in the other Haas, just missed out on the points and finished 11th.
Hamilton’s smile was evident in the press room after a disappointing start to the weekend. Indeed, he admitted that no driver ever knows what the outcome may be until the checkered flag drops.
“After racing for so many years, you never know when you are going to have a good race,” he said. “I think this [surprising victory] is up there with [his biggest surprises].”