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The German Grand Prix was a wet and wild epic

July 31, 2019 11:08 IST

'The phenomenal Max Verstappen was both sloppy and superb in Germany, getting caught out during the first two starts, and even spinning his car around to give the crowd something to gasp at with a Batmobile-esque 360 degree turn.

'After Hamilton crashed and Verstappen sniffed victory, though, he pounced hard, put his foot down, and took a deserved race win,' says Rediff's F1 columnist Raja Sen.

Image: Red Bull's Max Verstappen lifts the winner's trophy on the podium alongside second placed Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari (left) and third placed Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso. All Photographs: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

With a soaked track, the German Grand Prix this Sunday began with racecars carefully circling behind the Safety Car. "I don't understand why we are not racing," growled a restless Max Verstappen, keen to get on to slingshot past the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton next to him.

Hamilton had unsurprisingly taken pole position during a dominant season, but having the feisty Verstappen on the front row promised some drama. As did a race with a Ferrari starting tenth and a Ferrari starting last.

It began with drama Verstappen wouldn't like. The Dutchman had a calamitous start, his Red Bull slipping not only behind Hamilton but also the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas and the Alfa Romeo of Kimi Raikkonen.

The grandstands were sufficiently orange in support of the Dutch hero -- who considers this a home race -- but Verstappen had a mountain to climb.

It was the Ferrari drivers who were going hiking: Charles LeClerc leaped from tenth to sixth and Sebastian Vettel went from twentieth to fourteenth in the space of the first lap. 

Image: Red Bull's Max Verstappen crosses the line to win the race as Red Bull engineers celebrate.

As drivers slipped around on intermediate tyres with some dry corners and some wet sections, the race leader appeared not to notice the rain.

Lewis Hamilton was so unperturbed by the conditions, so unquestionably leading the pack of squabbling racers, he may as well have been driving the Mercedes-AMG GT R, the Safety Car they aren't allowed to overtake.

This has become a common sight. Mercedes is the obscenely dominant constructor in F1 today, and this weekend they decided to celebrate in style.

Commemorating 125 years of motorsport, the entire team was kitted out in tribute clothing -- '50s outfits to mark their first F1 race in 1954 -- with team principal Toto Wolff wearing a hat and suspenders.

They even finally allowed the crew of the Netflix documentary F1: Drive To Survive a look behind their otherwise forbidden curtain.

 

We did not, alas, get to see if Mercedes had stuck to the retro theme and forked out $42,000 for a rare 1959 bottle of Dom Perignon for their podium triumph, as the team imploded in catastrophic fashion.

Lewis Hamilton -- who, for the record, was irked by the vintage driving gloves his team asked him to wear -- made a massive mistake in the rain, sliding off Turn 16 and crashing his front wing straight into a hoarding toasting Mercedes-Benz's 125 years. You can't make up that kind of irony.

Image: Mercedes's Lewis Hamilton in action ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas during the race.

The stage was thus set for Bottas to get a significant points haul and eat into Hamilton's championship lead, but the Finnish driver slid out as well, making a title-sized error.

It was surprising to see the Mercedes cars caught out so amateurishly, as was Ferrari's young sensation Charles Le Clerc, all of them bottling it like they'd never raced in the rain before.

Meanwhile 23-year-old Alex Albon, actually driving his first wet race, did beautifully to bring his Scuderia Toro Rosso to sixth place. Bravo.

The drive of the day came from Sebastian Vettel. Starting dead last, the German driver appeared to play PacMan with his Ferrari, gobbling up the cars ahead and finding a bottleneck only in Kimi Raikkonen, who drove superbly and repeatedly held up the Ferrari driver.

The two used to be teammates, with Vettel the preferred pilot, which may be why he had trouble getting past -- up until a year ago, Kimi would simply be radioed to move over.

Vettel provided a wet-weather masterclass, flawless and precise, aggressive and dominant but never foolish. Look at the way Bottas simply couldn't get past Lance Stroll for second place, and see how imperiously Seb stormed ahead. Truly a thing of beauty.

Michael Schumacher -- called 'regenmeister' for his peerless wet-weather racecraft -- who reportedly watched the German race on television this year, would approve.

There is a sign near the podium at Germany's Hockenheimring with a Schumacher quote that says, 'I always thought records were there to be broken.'

The line is apropos, with Lewis Hamilton standing a couple of seasons away from eclipsing Schumacher's once-insurmountable records, and a truly interesting statistic is under development right now.

The phenomenal Max Verstappen was both sloppy and superb in Germany, getting caught out during the first two starts, and even spinning his car around to give the crowd something to gasp at with a Batmobile-esque 360 degree turn.

After Hamilton crashed and Verstappen sniffed victory, though, he pounced hard, put his foot down, and took a deserved race win.

Which brings us to the statistic I'm thrilled about: Max Verstappen, 21, won his seventh Grand Prix on Sunday. This is despite never, ever starting from pole position.

One day, he'll get those poles. One day, he'll have a genuinely fast car. In anticipation of that, commiserations to every other Formula One driver.

RACE RESULT:

PosNoDriverCarLapsTime/RetiredPTS
1 33 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda 64 1:44:31.275 26
2 5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 64 +7.333s 18
3 26 Daniil Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 64 +8.305s 15
4 18 Lance Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes 64 +8.966s 12
5 55 Carlos Sainz McLaren Renault 64 +9.583s 10
6 23 Alexander Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda 64 +10.052s 8
7 8 Romain Grosjean Haas Ferrari 64 +16.838s 6
8 20 Kevin Magnussen Haas Ferrari 64 +18.765s 4
9 44 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 64 +19.667s 2
10 88 Robert Kubica Williams Mercedes 64 +24.987s 1
11 63 George Russell Williams Mercedes 64 +26.404s 0
12 7 Kimi Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 64 +42.214s 0
13 99 Antonio Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari 64 +43.849s 0
14 10 Pierre Gasly Red Bull Racing Honda 61 DNF 0
NC 77 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 56 DNF 0
NC 27 Nico Hulkenberg Renault 39 DNF 0
NC 16 Charles Leclerc Ferrari 27 DNF 0
NC 4 Lando Norris McLaren Renault 25 DNF 0
NC 3 Daniel Ricciardo Renault 13 DNF 0
NC 11 Sergio Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes 1 DNF 0
RAJA SEN / Rediff.com
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