German GP - Sunday - Race Report

When it counted...

Lewis Hamilton, German GP 2016

Lewis Hamilton, German GP 2016 

 © Active Pictures


By Dan Knutson in Hockenheim

Nico Rosberg had the edge over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton all the way through practice and qualifying for the German Grand Prix. But when it counted - in the race itself - Hamilton was in control as he jumped into the lead at the start, led every lap and went on to win for the time this season and the 49th time in his career and to extend his points lead over Rosberg to 19.

Rosberg faded back to finish fourth while Red Bull drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen placed second and third.

All the drivers opted to start the 67-lap race on Pirelli's super soft compound slicks except for Esteban Gutierrez who had the soft compound tires fitted to his Haas.

As in Hungary, Rosberg started from the pole after he beat out teammate Hamilton in qualifying. But Hamilton just drove away as he led into the first corner. Verstappen swept around the outside of Ricciardo to take second place while Rosberg dropped to fourth place.

"There was too much engagement on the clutch and that is a bad start," Rosberg related. "It got me by surprise and I didn't expect that at all, especially after the formation lap when it felt good."

By lap 2 Hamilton already had a 1.5 second lead over Verstappen.

After making some serious side-by-side charging moves on Ricciardo, Rosberg settled back to conserve his tires. Other drivers were doing the same.

"The start initially felt quite good," Ricciardo said, "and obviously Nico's was quite poor so we got past him, and then I covered the inside in Turn 1. But then Max had a good run on the outside and it was very close with us. We obviously kept it on track, much to my disappointment he pulled off the move at Turn 1. Then it was trying to keep Nico back on the first lap. It was a good little battle there for a few corners and that was quite important for my race, to then keep him behind and focus on what I needed to do."

On lap 10 Hamilton led by 4.8 seconds over Verstappen, Ricciardo, Rosberg, Ferrari teammates Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas (Williams), Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), and McLaren's Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

Verstappen and Rosberg came in the next lap for another set of the super softs. It was a slow stop for Rosberg. Ricciardo pitted on lap later for the soft compound Pirellis. Bottas and Hulkenberg also pitted. Vettel pitted at the end of lap 13.

Hamilton stayed out until the end of lap14 when he came in for the soft Pirellis. He kept the lead. Raikkonen stopped as well.

And so, on lap 15 after all the front runners had pitted, the order was: Hamilton by 6 seconds over Verstappen, Ricciardo, Vettel and Raikkonen.

Ricciardo had been doing the same lap times on the soft tires as most of the guys around him were doing on the super softs. But now Rosberg was creeping up on Ricciardo.

"This is definitely not the race tire," Verstappen radioed about the super softs.

Rosberg pitted at the end of lap 27 and the Mercedes mechanics fitted a set of the soft Pirellis. Verstappen did the same a lap later. He came out ahead of Rosberg, but Rosberg pushed him wide and off the track and passed him.

Lap 30: Hamilton was 11.4 seconds in front of Ricciardo. Next came Vettel and Raikkonen. The top four had all pitted just once. But Vettel then pitted a lap later for the super softs. Raikkonen came in for a set of the super softs at the end of lap 32.

Rosberg was under investigation for the Verstappen incident, and he got a five second time penalty to be served at his next pit stop. At the end of lap 33 he was 1.4 seconds ahead of Verstappen.

"Explain to them I was full lock on the steering wheel and he moved under braking, that was the problem," Rosberg asked his crew to tell the stewards.

Ricciardo came in after 33 laps for a set of the super softs. Hamilton did the same a lap later. Hamilton kept the lead, but now Rosberg was second ahead of Verstappen, Ricciardo, Vettel and Raikkonen.

Ricciardo, on the super softs, closed in on Verstappen, on the softs, and Verstappen let him go by on lap 40.

"We had a good start and from there on I think the pace was pretty good," Verstappen said. "I was enjoying it and then we chose to do two different strategies on the cars so I let Daniel by, and from there on I think we played really well as a team. To get a double podium out of it was the main target and to score more points than Ferrari and that's what we definitely did today."

Setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 40, Ricciardo now chased after Rosberg. The latter's engineer warned him and told him to speed up.

Verstappen, meanwhile, said he was struggling with oversteer on this set of tires.

Rosberg came in at the end of lap 44 (led by Hamilton in car #44), did his five second penalty, and got a set of the soft Pirellis.

"At the time it wasn't frustrating because I didn't know," Rosberg said of his penalty. "It just felt like I was sitting there forever. Now in hindsight, it's not that frustrating either. There were so many things that went wrong today that it was just one more small thing that actually didn't make a difference in the end because I wouldn't have been able to get the Red Bulls anyway. They were on the super-softs and they lasted quite well in that last stint, so that didn't make a difference."

Verstappen stopped on lap later and the Red Bull guys gave him a set of the super soft Pirellis. Ricciardo did the same a lap later, while Vettel pitted for the softs.

In came Hamilton after 47 laps for a used set of the soft Pirellis. Raikkonen also pitted.

Now the leaders had all pitted three times, and Hamilton led over Ricciardo, Verstappen, Rosberg, Vettel and Raikkonen.

With 10 laps remaining, Hamilton was 6.9 seconds ahead of Ricciardo who in turn was 2.6 seconds in front of Verstappen. Rosberg trailed Verstappen by 6.1 seconds. Vettel, Raikkonen, Bottas, Hulkenberg, Button and Alonso rounded out the top 10.

On lap 61, Hamilton put his former teammate Alonso one lap down. Ricciardo had cut the gap to Alonso to 5.7 seconds, but Hamilton had everything under control.

"Today I saved my engine a lot which is why they closed up as much as they did," Hamilton said of the Red Bulls. "I only needed a six second gap; really, they wanted me to keep six seconds. It went from eleven to seven quite quickly and then I had to get back on it, but generally I was looking after the engine up front and never felt like I was under threat.

"Without a doubt, they were fantastically quick this weekend. I think naturally it wasn't a problem for me but obviously I assume Nico (Rosberg) struggled behind them so it's looks like it's going to be close."

In the end, the Ferrari had a lackluster race with Vettel finishing fifth and Raikkonen sixth.

"Unfortunately we were a bit far from the cars in front, especially after the first two stints," Vettel said. "For sure we're trying to push on and trying to stay as close as possible, you never know.

"I'm certainly not happy. Racing at home is always something special and in that regard it wasn't a special race. We, like yesterday, struggled a little bit to get the balance right and the car was sliding a little bit too much which cost us life on the tires and ultimately performance at the end of the stint. To sum it up we were not quick enough today."

The team had expected the tires to last longer than they did.

"We would lose out the front tires or the rear tires quickly depending on what we were doing in the pit stops," Raikkonen said. "But we really need more downforce to go faster and that will also make a big difference for the tire life. Here tire degradation was not a strong point for us: we were lacking overall speed too."

Hulkenberg finished seventh in his home grand prix.

"The team did a great job with the strategy because we went into the race believing a two-stopper was possible," he said, "but then made an early decision to switch to three stops. It was definitely the right way to go and allowed me to take seventh place in the final few laps.

"The tire degradation was very high so most of the race was about managing the tires. It was also quite a lonely and straightforward race because my main fight was against Bottas and we were running different strategies."

Button passed Bottas, who had pitted only twice, to take over eighth place.

"I made a very good start and made up most of the places there," Button said. "After that, it was just about looking after the tires, which were degrading faster than we'd expected. We also had to do a fair amount of fuel-saving, too, particularly in the last 10 laps. In fact, I went off the circuit towards the end, just because I was doing so much fuel-saving that I hit the brakes and they were just stone cold. I hadn't even been braking hard.

"At the end, I was able to pick off Valtteri, who was struggling on his tires. It feels satisfying to have beaten both Williams, but eighth was as good as it was going to get today."

Bottas ended up ninth.

"The race was going okay until Force India managed to get in front of us with the undercut," he said."They did a three-stop and we tried a two-stop. There was definitely something wrong with our tire calculations, because there was no way to get to the end on that set of tires. The stint was just way too long and that really cost us some points today."

Sergio Perez rounded out the top 10 to give Force India a double points finish.

"It's safe to say today was the worst start in my whole career," Perez said. "I had a lot of wheel spin at the start and dropped back to P16 - so it was a long fight back through the pack. The team had to think on their feet and tweak the strategy to get me back into a competitive position.

"Degradation was quite high, especially when following other cars, and I spent a lot of time in the middle of the race fighting with Fernando (Alonso). In the last few laps I was running out of tires, but I knew Fernando was in a similar situation, so when I saw an opportunity I knew I had to take it. I honestly didn't think we would score points after turn one, but we did it.

"We go on holiday now, proud of the incredible work we have done as a team in the first half of the season. I am confident we have a lot of good days ahead of us in the final nine races, but for now it's important to get some rest."

Formula 1 now heads into its summer break with no races until the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of August.

As with the German Grand Prix, Hamilton is going to make sure he makes his holidays count.

"I'll definitely be relaxing," he said. "I'll have my dogs with me and with family and friends. I think the whole team - everyone back at the factory and everyone here - have worked so hard this first half of the season and they all need a break, so I think it's really well earned by everyone, so thank you."

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