Round 11, 2018: Germany
Apologies to usual readers for the tardiness of this post, I had numerous work related endeavours this weekend and only caught a replay on Sunday night. So this might be a shorter post in some areas. It was an incredibly hectic race though and many mad events over the weekend as a whole, so there is much to describe and discuss in what lies below. With HAM and Mercedes now re-taking the lead of the championship due to Vettel's woes this is turning into a great season; a bad result for either team has consistently caused a big swing. In short, no-one is running away with it and that is exactly how it should be...even if for my liking I'd like almost all cars/drivers being able to win a race. But this one, in Germany, was won with epic and unforeseen events...
Race Result: Lewis Hamilton (1st) & Valtteri Bottas (2nd) Points Total (after this round): 310 Grid(Qualifying): BOT: 3rd (1:11.416) & HAM: 14th (1:13.012) Events & Analysis: Hamilton had to start in 14th after making a huge error in qualifying (which it was, despite what he and the team said) when he opted to keep his foot pinned to the floor and rode over two aggressive kerbs, thus breaking the hydraulics. But, much like Silverstone, he was up in 6th by lap 10 or so with a lot of ground to make up on Seb Vettel. Bottas was left to contend with the Ferrari's at the start and managed to until the pit-stop phase, where he was in 4th behind his team-mate. He had stopped though. Merc were left with trying to hunt down the Ferrari's 2-1 until Vettel crashed & Kimi pitted. Then, for the first time in 54 laps they held a 1-2 instead. A rare present for both the Mercedes men in the week when they signed new deals. There was upheaval when Hamilton controversially cut across the pit-lane entry in quite a ridiculous fashion when the team gave him very flustered, contrary radio messages from the usually unflappable Bono...in the end the result stands for Hamilton as he gets revenge on Vettel. They have now both won at the others' home race.
Race Result: Kimi Raikkonen (3rd) & Sebastian Vettel (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 302 Grid(Qualifying): VET: 1st (1:11.212) & RAI: 3rd (1:11.547) Events & Analysis: Sebastian Vettel made a very good start to this race, being over 3 seconds ahead of the following Bottas by lap 10. Raikkonen stopped early (only 5 laps later) perhaps being pitted to hold up Hamilton or to threaten Bottas with undercut. If the former is true it would be a huge insult to Raikkonen, especially as he was basically told "Fernando is faster than you" on lap 40 as he moved aside for Vettel. Furthermore, his sacrifice really didn't work out in the end. When the rain did arrive, Vettel didn't handle it well and ended up tragically crashing out of the lead and into the barrier after a clumsy lock-up; thus handing Hamilton the lead under resulting safety car. It was pretty hard to hear him crying over the radio through his curses. Although Raikkonen managed a podium (despite being blocked by Magnussen) this was a huge missed opportunity for Vettel's first win on home soil and for Ferrari to extend leads in both titles...There is a long way to go though. Half a season. So Vettel will bounce back. I hope it goes right to the wire with Hamilton for the good of the sport.
Race Result: Max Verstappen (4th) & Daniel Ricciardo (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 211 Grid(Qualifying): VER: 4th (1:11.822) & RIC: 19th w/penalties (1:13.318) Events & Analysis: Daniel Ricciardo was always going to start last regardless of his quali performance due to penalties. The team introduced new PU elements & went over their allocation for the season at this meeting, rather take penalties in Hungary where they do expect to be competitive. BUT...that didn't work out with Daniel's retirement on lap 27 from MORE power issues. Verstappen found it hard to get past Raikkonen early on, despite a jump off the line and never really threatened for the podium thereafter, even with the emergence of the safety car. If Red-Bull had called their strategy better, or were in a better place on track to make certain calls they could have been on the 3 steps. Hungary is usually a great race for the dynamics of their car, so although RIC will have more penalties, VER could be in for a wonderful race if things go their way.
Race Result: Nico Hulkenberg (5th) & Carlos Sainz (12th) Points Total (after this round): 80 Grid(Qualifying): HUL: 7th (1:12.560) & SAI: 8th (1:12.692) Events & Analysis: Sainz had a weird outing today, despite a decent qualifying...he had already slipped down the field in the early stages and was far off Hulkenberg's pace. But he had the chance to make up for that with the strange rain splashes hitting the circuit. Yet, with 10 to go he was wrongly on the intermediate tyres when the safety car pulled out. Everyone else was on the ultra-softs and so Sainz had to stop again, dropping down positions to 11th. He also picked up a 10 second penalty for over-taking under the SC. Not a good handful of laps to say the least! The Spaniard later reported it was starting to rain again; but it was too little too late for him to change his own fortunes. Hulkenberg meanwhile got his best ever finish at his home Grand-Prix, a strong P5.
Race Result: Sergio Perez (7th) & Esteban Ocon (8th) Points Total (after this round): 59 Grid(Qualifying): PER: 10th (1:12.774) & OCO: 15th (1:13.720) Events & Analysis: A rare bad qualifying from Ocon gave him a tough job to keep up with Perez at the start of the race; but over the course of the afternoon he did enough to finish just behind by playing his cards right in the chaos of the sweeping moments of rain. But it wasn't all that calm for the pink-panthers, especially with a spin into the grass for Perez when he was on completely the wrong tyres. In the end they climb up above Haas, if only on a technicality of Sergio's finish of 3rd in Azerbaijan. With Hungary being far less suited to their car with it's tight corners and lower speeds, they will be very happy to have made the most of this race and keep themselves just about in the hunt for 4th if things go their way in the future.
Race Result: Romain Grosjean (6th) & Kevin Magnussen (11th) Points Total (after this round): 59 Grid(Qualifying): MAG: 5th (1:12.200) & GRO: 6th (1:12.544) Events & Analysis: Grosjean had a wonderful late surge after pitting for a third time after the rain fell; rising back up to the 6th place he had started at thanks to a great qualifying run. The Frenchman has not had his fair share of luck or good fun this season so it must have been a very happy outing today. Kevin Magnussen, meanwhile ran in P6 for almost the entire race after his own strong Saturday. But his own strategy calls were not so beneficial. He just about missed out on the points for the first time in 4 races. With parent team Ferrari usually enjoying the Hungaroring, Haas will now also be looking forward with great glee at the coming weekend. At times they have had a great season this year, so need to go into the summer on their best form for their morale. Another year of this improvement and the Americans will be a formidable fixture in F1.
Race Result: Stoffel Vandoorne (13th) & Fernando Alonso (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 48 Grid(Qualifying): ALO: 11th (1:13.657) & VAN: 18th (1:14.401) Events & Analysis: Vandoorne really needs to sort qualifying efforts out soon, otherwise he'll be out of a drive next season...Whilst Alonso said there was a fundamental issue in Stoffel's car, compromising his Saturday...perhaps the errant component is actually the two-year old fleshy element in the middle of the chassis...think it's called a Belgian driver? Alonso's car seems fine at most races but I think he has an upgrade fitted in that area....Jokes aside, Stoffel's P13 today actually came after he had some very strange power issues around the half-way mark. So it is hard to judge his real race outing. What is true is that his 13th place was majorly granted by retirements. One was Alonso, who probably retired because he was a lap down after taking a big chance by going onto the inter tyres early. He has done that on many occasions before to save engines. But weirdly, he wasn't as feisty behind the wheel this weekend; letting drivers through to focus on his own race.
Race Result: Brendon Hartley (10th) & Pierre Gasly (14th) Points Total (after this round): 20 Grid(Qualifying): HAR: 16th (1:14.045) & GAS: 20th w/penalties (1:13.749) Events & Analysis: Should Red-Bull be scared for next year? The Honda engine didn't perform well all weekend and is now perhaps showing it's inherent problems in straight-line speed, highlighted by the long straight here. Brendon Hartley's second point of the year came through a large slice of luck and strategy calls. Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, was madly told to go in for full wets during barely intermediate conditions! That really messed up his race with an extra pit-stop despite the opportunity of the late safety car. He finished 2nd last of the runners in 14th. No real heart-break, because engine penalties after qualifying meant he had started at the back in the first place. It can only go up from here for Gasly, whilst Hartley will be hoping to get some more points at the less power-dependent Hungaroring. It was a happy hunting ground for McLaren-Honda; giving that awful car it's best ever finish. So maybe it'll be the same for STR-Honda.
Race Result: Marcus Ericsson (9th) & Charles LeClerc (15th) Points Total (after this round): 18 Grid(Qualifying): LEC: 9th (1:12.717) & ERI: 13th (1:13.736) Events & Analysis: Another excellent qualifying for Charles LeClerc. If he moves to The Scuderia and thus becomes an underdog in his team to boot, then he will become my favourite driver as long as Alonso retires. I think he is the best talent on the grid...YET today he had a pretty awful outing whilst Ericsson finished up in 9th. This is partially due to the Monegasque gambling hard on intermediate tyres even though half the circuit was still dry. This resulted in an extra pit-stop. He then spun AND took a trip across the gravel whilst trying to make up lost time in the tricky conditions. This then left him down in dead last after the safety car. Marcus Ericsson clung onto rare points, despite threat of even later rain in the closing laps. Sauber-Romeo, who have proven very handy this year, will hope to jump STR-Honda at the next race. Just in time for the summer break!
Race Result: Lance Stroll (DNF) & Sergey Sirotkin (DNF) Points Total (after this round): 4 Grid(Quali): SIR: 12th (1:13.702) & STR: 17th (1:14.206) Events & Analysis: An impressive qualifying session from Sirotkin threw some serious doubt over Force-India's decision to apparently court Lance Stroll! But the Russian's race was almost over before it started with a body-work issue on the grid. He did make the start, but slipped quickly from his lofty 12th to 16th by lap 10. A double DNF for the two Grove boys followed in due course in the crazy conditions. They did look slightly better at certain moments over this weekend; in both race and qualifying. But Hungary is up next and it is an aero-dependent track. Given the many sheer handling difficulties this car suffers from, I don't back them to have a repeat performance from this weekend.