Motor racing: Verstappen wins crazy German Grand Prix, Vettel charges to second but Hamilton hits the wall

Red Bull's Max Verstappen during the Formula One German Grand Prix on July 28, 2019.
Red Bull's Max Verstappen during the Formula One German Grand Prix on July 28, 2019.PHOTO: AFP

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY (REUTERS, AFP) - Red Bull's Max Verstappen won a wet and crazily chaotic German Grand Prix littered with crashes and safety car periods on Sunday (July 28), with Mercedes' Formula One leader Lewis Hamilton failing to score.

In an extraordinary race of constantly changing fortunes, multiple pit stops and endless drama, Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel started in last place and finished second in his home race.

Russian Daniil Kvyat was an astonishing third for Toro Rosso.

Lewis Hamilton's closest rival and teammate Valtteri Bottas crashed out with six laps remaining, leaving the gap between the two unchanged at 39 points after 11 of 21 races.

Five-time world champion Hamilton eventually finished 11th after making six pit stops as he missed out on a points finish for the first time in 23 races, while Verstappen continued his rich streak of consistency. 

Lance Stroll of Racing Point came home fourth to deliver his team’s best finish ahead of Carlos Sainz of McLaren, Alex Albon of Toro Rosso and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo. 

Romain Grosjean was eighth for Haas ahead of Antonio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo and Kevin Magnussen, who was 10th for Haas. 

“It was amazing, but really tricky out there,” said Verstappen, who made four pit stops and survived a complete 360-degree spin. “To make the right calls, you had to be focused. We put on the slick tyres and we had a 360! But it was all right.”

Vettel, for whom the result brought redemption after he had crashed out while leading in heavy rain last year, said: “It was a long race and at some stages, it felt like it was never-ending. I am just very happy.”

Kvyat confirmed that he became a father last Saturday night when his partner Kelly gave birth to a daughter. He said: “It is amazing to be back on the podium and incredible for Toro Rosso, after so many years.” 

After the record-breaking heat, the race began in steady rain with the field on full wet tyres behind a safety car through four formation laps before a standing start.

The conditions did nothing to deter Hamilton who made a near-perfect start from his 87th pole position.

Safety car interventions

The race distance was reduced to 64 laps as the spray rose high in plumes throughout the pack, with Vettel romping forward from 20th to pass six cars in the first five corners.

Charles Leclerc, in the other Ferrari, rose to sixth from 10th on the opening lap. Hamilton led by two seconds from Bottas after lap one, Verstappen having made a poor start, as the field jostled for space and grip, Sergio Perez spinning backwards into the stadium entry wall and damaging his Racing Force. 

That required a safety car intervention for three laps, during which the leaders pitted for intermediates, before racing resumed. After lap 25, Verstappen pitted for medium compound slicks, a gamble by Red Bull. The Dutchman complained vigorously about his tyres before spinning at the final corner and recovering. 

Another virtual safety car was then deployed briefly, as Hamilton pitted for softs from the lead, before Leclerc went off at Sachs Curve. The Monegasque screamed aloud as Vettel pitted, returning to “inters”, before Hamilton went off, snapping his front wing. 

The Englishman recovered, cutting across the circuit into the pit lane. He was repaired and fitted with “inters” before re-joining fifth behind Verstappen, Nico Hulkenberg, Bottas and Albon. 

Hamilton was given a five-second penalty for missing a bollard at the pits entry, but he was soon back to third behind the Dutchman and Bottas.

Hulkenberg slid off at the final corner to instigate another safety car outing that heralded Verstappen, and Vettel, in 10th, pitting for fresh inters.

Racing resumed on lap 46, with Verstappen pulling clear before pitting for slicks, followed by Bottas, Sainz, Pierre Gasly and Albon. 

Hamilton led before he pitted on lap 47, leaving Stroll, who pitted for slicks under the safety car, to lead before Verstappen passed him. The Briton fell to 12th, having taken his penalty. 

“How’s this gone so bad?” asked Hamilton. Mercedes’ nightmare was not over and their anniversary weekend ended with Bottas spinning at Turn One.

Out came the safety car for a fourth time as Hamilton pitted again – leaving him to make a failed bid for a top-10 finish.