HOCKENHEIM, Germany – Max Verstappen took Red Bull Racing to victory in Sunday’s German Grand Prix, after the Hockenheimring played host to one of the wildest Formula One races in championship history.
Verstappen was the beneficiary of a mid-race safety car period in the wet-to-dry thriller, after Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc crashed into the tire barriers at lap 28 and then leader Lewis Hamilton spun one lap later near the pit entrance, damaging the front wing of his Mercedes in the process after tagging the wall.
When Valtteri Bottas pitted to switch from medium-compound to intermediate tires at that point, Verstappen vaulted from fourth into the race lead, and the Belgian largely controlled the proceedings from there.
Despite a shift in strategy following a lap-41 safety car period, when Nico Hulkenberg crashed his Renault from fourth, Verstappen was still able to rally back and find a path to victory lane.
The running order was turned on its head when the race went back green with 19 to go, as Lance Stroll – who gambled on a set of slicks – started making up positions at a rapid pace from outside the top 10 and forced the hand of all the frontrunners to pit and bolt on similar Pirelli rubber.
When the stops cycled through, the young Canadian actually found himself briefly leading the race, but Verstappen charged back through coming to the hairpin with 17 to go and reclaimed the lead for good.
Even with having to endure a five-lap sprint to the finish, after Bottas crashed while trying to pass Stroll for the final position on the podium, Verstappen never faltered out front en route to the victory.
After five pit stops, and even a spin at one point before he took the lead, Verstappen’s masterful rebound produced his seventh career F-1 win and second in the last three races.
“It was amazing to win in the end, but it was really tricky out there,” said Verstappen, who also posted the fastest lap of the race. “To make the right calls, you really had to be focused. We pitted onto the slick tires a little too soon earlier on and had a little moment, but it made for a nice little 360.
“To come out on top here required not making too many mistakes, but it’s amazing to win again.”
Though he had to start last in the 20-car field due to mechanical woes in qualifying on Saturday, Sebastian Vettel put on a vintage drive through the field and came home second behind Verstappen.
Vettel soared past Stroll with four laps left to reach the podium and finally worked around Daniil Kvyat for the runner-up spot inside of two to go. He crossed the finish line 7.333 seconds adrift of Verstappen.
“It was a long race. At some stages it felt like it would never end, but it was a lot of fun,” Vettel noted. “It was very tough, as Max said, with the conditions. It was hard to read what the smartest move would be, but I’m just happy. We needed this result and it’s a good day. … We just had to keep getting cars.”
Kvyat completed the podium, marking Toro Rosso’s second podium finish in team history and the best finish for the Russian since his career-best in 2015, a runner-up effort in the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Stroll hung on for fourth, his best finish since landing on the podium in Baku in 2017, with McLaren’s Carlos Sainz ending up fifth despite a near-date with the tire barriers in his own right earlier on.
The second Toro Rosso of Alex Albon, the Alfa Romeo duo of Kimi Räikkönen and Antonio Giovinazzi, and the Haas F1 pair of Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen filled out the remainder of the points-scoring positions.
In their 200th grand prix, it was a day to forget for Mercedes in the team’s home race. In addition to Bottas crashing out, Hamilton’s woes near the midpoint of the race left him down in 11th – snapping a 22-race streak of finishing inside the points for the five-time and defending world champion.
Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Daniil Kvyat, Lance Stroll, Carlos Sainz, Alexander Albon, Kimi Räikkönen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Lewis Hamilton, Robert Kubica, George Russell, Pierre Gasly, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg, Charles Leclerc, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Sergio Perez.