Vettel crash sees Hamilton retake championship lead
Sebastian Vettel’s seemingly comfortable stroll to victory at the German Grand Prix ended in disaster on Sunday as he crashed out, handing Lewis Hamilton the win and the championship lead.
The Ferrari driver had seized pole on Saturday after posting a new lap record in qualifying, with his day boosted further as Hamilton suffered with a hydraulic problem, however it turned sour for Vettel 24 hours later.
Hamilton began Sunday’s race in 14th but made swift work of getting himself into the points, his Mercedes slicing through the field with ease in the early stages.
At the front, Vettel had beaten Valtteri Bottas to the first corner and began to open up a nice cushion to collect maximum points and extend his championship lead.
A brief rain shower caused chaos late on, though, as Vettel – who had just been let through by team-mate Kimi Raikkonen – went crashing out.
Vettel cautiously made his way towards Hockenheim’s hairpin due to the earlier rain but as he looked to turn in his Ferrari had other ideas, the SF71H careering into the barriers and ending his hopes.
That left Hamilton to take the race win, Raikkonen and Bottas having both pitted under safety car conditions following Vettel’s accident.
A brief drag race between the Mercedes pair threatened more drama but it was soon ended by team management, allowing Hamilton to retake the lead in the drivers’ standings.
HUNGRY HAMILTON GOES HUNTING
After his qualifying disappointment Hamilton vowed to give everything in Sunday’s race, and he duly delivered on his promise.
The Briton tore through the field and was quickly in the points, climbing as high as fifth by the 15th lap of the race.
Mercedes’ rivals used social media to beg for mercy, but the Silver Arrows were having none of it as Hamilton charged to a dramatic 44th victory of his career.
Vettel’s pit stop on lap 26 allowed team-mate Raikkonen to forge ahead and 13 laps later the two Ferrari colleagues were following each other around the Hockenheim circuit.
With a championship title in his sights Vettel complained over team radio the Finn was holding him up, “killing” his tyres and questioned what the bosses were waiting for.
Seconds later Raikkonen was reminded that Vettel needed to look after his tyres, as he was capable of going quicker, leading to a classic response from the Finn.
“If you want me to let him go, just tell me,” he replied. Ultimately it mattered little given Vettel’s late meeting with the barriers.
A change of engine had suggested Daniel Ricciardo could be in contention for a points finish despite starting in 19th after a grid penalty.
Everything was going swimmingly as he followed in Hamilton’s footsteps to surge through the field, but unlike his rival Ricciardo’s race came to an untimely end.
For the second time in three races the Australian was forced to retire as his new Renault unit lost power at Turn 10 on lap 29.
“Losing power, something’s wrong,” Ricciardo reported over team radio. “Ok Daniel, stop the car,” came the response.
IN THE POINTS
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +4.535
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +6.732
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +7.654
5. Nico Hulkenberg (Renault) +26.609
6. Romain Grosjean (Haas) +28.871
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +30.556
8. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +31.750
9. Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) +32.362
10. Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) +34.197
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 188
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 171 (-17)
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) 131 (-57)
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 122 (-66)
5. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 106 (-82)
1. Mercedes 310
2. Ferrari 302 (-8)
3. Red Bull 211 (-99)
4. Renault 80 (-230)
5. Force India 59 (-251)
Hungary awaits in seven days’ time and that will be music to Hamilton’s ears, the Briton having won there more than any other driver. Hamilton has triumphed on five occasions at the Hungaroring, but don’t discount Vettel who took the chequered flag at the venue 12 months ago.