The 2019 Formula One German Grand Prix will go down as one of the craziest races in the modern era of F1 and by the far the best race of 2019.
First, there was some rain, followed by dry conditions. There were seven DNFs in the race, multiple safety cars, top drivers making mistakes and no Mercedes scored points.
In the end, it was about surviving as Max Verstappen came up big and scored his second win of the season and seventh of his career. He was the most consistent of all the cars and was in the right place to score the win.
“It was amazing to win in the end. It was really tricky to make the right calls. To come out on top it was all about not making mistakes. It’s amazing to win here,” Verstappen said as he outlasted the field for a huge victory.
Sebastian Vettel overcame engine issues in qualifying, putting him last on the grid at the start. With the changing conditions and some crashes, he went from 20th to finish second.
“I’m just happy,” Vettel said after the race. “I think before the last safety car, I realized I was quite a bit faster and I had some good moves on the back straight. It was about getting the next car, and the next car, and the next car.”
All of the mistakes and crashes led to only two of the top-three teams finishing in the points-earning position, leaving third place up for grabs and in the end, it was taken by Daniil Kvyat in the Toro Rosso. It is the third podium of his F1 career and first podium for Toro Rosso since Vettel won for them in Italy in 2008. For the Russian, it’s a positive result after getting his second shot at F1 racing this season after being replaced last season.
“It’s amazing to be back on the podium,” Kvyat said. “And to bring one back for the team after so many years is special. It was a horror movie with a bit of black comedy out there.”
Lance Stroll and Racing Point made a great strategy call to pit for dry tires before anyone else under the final safety car and came home in fourth. He held third for a while before Vettel passed him on the pursuit for second. But it is still a great strategy call for Racing Point to get some points.
Carlos Sainz overcame an off track excursion of his own to come home fifth, ahead of Alex Albon in sixth. Seventh was Kimi Raikkonen, who ran third at one stage, ahead of Alfa Romeo teammate Antonio Giovanazzi, who finished eighth to earn his second points finish of the season. The Haas team ended the weekend with points as Romain Grosjean finishes ninth ahead of Kevin Magnussen in 10th.
Before lights out on the race, the skies opened up during the Driver’s Parade, which set the tempo for the day, all of the teams started the race on full wet tires for the first time in the 2019 season. Lewis Hamilton pushed for the race to start under the safety car after the formation lap was behind the Safety Car but after a few formation laps the cars lined up on the grid for a standing start.
At lights out, the Red Bull cars had an awful start, as Gasly fell to the bottom of the top 10. Bottas went wide in the first corner but recovered to stay second off of the line. Raikkonen had a great start and ran third through the first couple of laps as the rest of the pack battled through the wet in what seemed like low speed chaos. Vettel moved up to 12th after two laps, when Sergio Perez spun and hit the wall, bringing out the safety car.
Vettel and Alex Albon jumped on pit lane to change into intermediate tires before everyone else could on the next lap. Kevin Magnussen was the only driver not to change to intermediate tires and restarted the race in second position as did Lance Stroll, who restarted fifth. The cars on the full wets got swallowed up by the front runners quickly after the restart.
Hamilton sped off into the lead ahead of Bottas and Verstappen, Leclerc got past Magnussen and held place in fourth. Seven laps into the race Vettel was up into eighth running through traffic quickly but could not get past his former teammate Raikkonen. Gasly started fourth but had an awful start to the race, running wide on the the hair pin after the Safety Car restart and fell all the way to last of the running cars at a point, not making life easier for the struggling Frenchman.
There were some potential problems for Ferrari as Leclerc was under investigation for an unsafe release ahead of Grosjean. There was no driver time penalties given, just a Ferrari team fine. Vettel had a potential engine issue that stalled his pace.
Bad luck came for Daniel Ricciardo as his engine exploded on lap 14, suffering similar fate as he did last season with Red Bull. The virtual safety car came out allowing Leclerc to get a free pit stop for fresh intermediate tires. After the VSC ended Leclerc was three seconds faster than the leaders with his fresh tires.
On lap 21, Verstappen began reeling in Bottas as Leclerc was reeling Verstappen in when more rain was reported on the pit lane. Yet it did not rain hard enough as Magnussen took another gamble and was the first to pit for dry soft tires. But then the track became very dry as Magnussen showed strong pace on the dry. Red Bull then brought Verstappen in for the medium tires to try to undercut the Mercedes and potentially go to the end of the race if it stays dry. But that did not work for Verstappen as he had a spin in the final corner while Bottas pitted for mediums.
The VSC came out again for Lando Norris retiring after losing power, Leclerc pitted for the soft tires on lap 28 and was able to stay in front of Bottas and Verstappen to keep second place. Lewis Hamilton tip toed to pit road to take on soft tires but suffered a long stop ad the VSC ends.
Leclerc was in position to give the fight for Hamilton as he exited the pit lane but then the young Ferrari drivers lost control of his car on the second to last corner, then lost grip and slid into the barrier, ending his race.
The next lap is when it turned chaotic. The rain fell as Hamilton went off at the same corner as Leclerc, damaging his front wing. He came onto pit road but his team was not ready for the car to come in. 40-plus seconds later, Hamilton came back out on intermediate tires in fifth position. Verstappen boxed that lap for inters, Bottas pitted the next lap giving Verstappen the lead ahead of Nico Hulkenberg who looked to be in position for his first podium halfway through the race.
This had been the most chaotic half of a race in all of 2019. The safety car came in and Hamilton was then given a five-second penalty because when he went off. He then entered pit lane on the wrong side of the commitment bollard, adding an extra wrinkle to the race as Hamilton could not get past the Toro Rosso and was stuck in fifth until lap 36.
Hulkenberg ran a strong pace after the race restart, pulling away from Bottas for second position for a bit, but Bottas eventually reeled the Renault in on lap 37. Then, Hamilton got past Hulkenberg for third on the next lap. Bottas then found himself under ten seconds behind the leader Verstappen.
Heartbreak eventually struck for Hulkenberg in his home race, falling victim to a dangerous final corner and sending the Renault into the barrier, ending his race from what looked like a potential podium. Renault went from a potential double point scoring race to a double DNF.
The safety car came out again. Verstappen pitted for new inters and kept the lead. Vettel did as well, but everyone else stayed out, giving Verstappen an advantage with fresher tires. There was more chaos on the restart Albon ran wide falling the eighth. Then, it became dry on the track, and Stroll pitted for dry tires under the safety car. Three laps later, the rest of the field pitted for the dry tires, giving Stroll the lead of the race for a lap before Verstappen took the lead back and sped into the distance for the victory.
Stroll and Kvyat ran well after the safety car and held on to the podium places as they approached 15 laps to go. Kvyat held a four second advantage over Bottas when Kvyat got past Stroll under the DRS straight. Botttas was catching Stroll and Kvyat. Hamilton was in 12th after taking the five-second penalty, when he then spun in turn 1. His race had gone down the toilet as he does not score points for the first time in 22 races.
The battle was then for the podium places. Bottas hunted down Stroll for third with Sainz not far behind in fifth. Bottas just could not get past Stroll, and as these two battled, Kvyat sped off in second position and was about three seconds up with less than 10 laps, when Bottas surprisingly spun and crashed at turn one ending his race. When the safety car came out the top five were Verstappen, Kvyat, Stroll, Sainz and Vettel the top five, something we have not seen in 2019. It became almost certain that a non-top-three team would stand on the podium.
The highly anticipated restart came on lap on lap 60, Vettel got past Sainz for fourth as he ended up having a podium fall on his hands. When DRS came back on lap 62, Vettel got past Stroll for third and Kvyat for second as Gasly made contact with Albon ending his race.