Mercedes stamped their authority all over the place already in the first session of the qualifying; they opted to run on the soft tyre while the rest of the field were on supersofts, and they still emerged as the fastest! In Q1 and Q2 the race seemed very tight between Ferrari and Red Bull. There was a moment of scare at the end of the second session as Sebastian headed out for his second run, but the timing didn’t quite work out, since Sebastian didn’t manage to start his flying lap in time. In spite of missing out on his second run, he, luckily, made it among the top ten.
Hamilton took provisional pole in the final Q3 shootout, as Rosberg had to abandon his first flying lap due to an electrical failure. Rosberg came out for his second run three minutes from the finish and set the fastest lap time! Hamilton was even up in the first sector but ended up locking up at the hair pin and didn’t manage to match his teammate’s time. Red Bull proved Mercedes’ closest challengers, edging Ferrari to lock out the second row of the grid (Ricciardo 3rd and Verstappen 4th). Ferrari were therefore confined to the third row, Kimi getting the better of the home hero Sebastian this time. When it came down to the decisive last segment, Ferrari simply didn’t have the pace.
During the Hungarian GP weekend there was a lot of talk about the rules concerning team radio communication. Before the German GP weekend, the Strategy Group had agreed to free up team radio restrictions immediately. Already this weekend there was no limitations on messages sent to their drivers either by radio or pit board, except the period between the start of the formation lap and the start of the race. This was definitely the right decision, especially in terms of the safety of the drivers!
The start was once again extremely thrilling. Rosberg on pole got a poor start and lost three positions immediately. Hamilton utilized this opportunity with no hesitation and took the lead. Red Bull teammates Ricciardo and Verstappen had a battle of their own going into Turn 1; the flying Dutchman went in the outside and passed his teammate in a bold way. It was a risky move, but this time it paid off. Sebastian in his Margherita managed to get past Kimi at the start, and the Ferrari teammates were left driving in P5 and P6. Rosberg was putting serious pressure on Ricciardo, but the Australian had gone to "Verstappen mode" and held off the German.
In terms of Ferrari, the race left a lot to hope for. Unfortunately, there was no chance for the red team to challenge either Mercedes or Red Bull for a podium place this time. Once Hamilton got the lead, he had no intention to give it up. And there was no-one, who could have threatened the Briton’s victory. After the second pit stop there was an entertaining battle between Verstappen and Rosberg. The German seemed determined to get past the Dutch teenager - rather sooner than later. Verstappen made a defensive move at the braking; Rosberg took the inside line when turning in but left no room for Max, who was forced to go off track! Stewards took the incident into investigation and Rosberg was given a 5-second time penalty for forcing Verstappen off track. In my opinion this was the right call; Rosberg would have been able to turn in earlier, had he only decided to do so! Naturally, Rosberg himself couldn’t understand, why he had been penalised for "a good fight".
When Rosberg came in for his third pit stop and to suffer his penalty, everything didn’t go as planned. Instead of five seconds, Rosberg ended up standing untouched for at least 8 seconds, which cost the German valuable time! After the race, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff stated that the delay was caused by the team’s broken stopwatch! It seemed quite unbelievable, considering the high technology of the modern F1 cars... However, the penalty and the delay meant that Rosberg was irrevocably out of the podium fight.
To my disappointment, there were no thrilling battles for positions in terms of the top ten. Hamilton took victory on German soil and stretched his championship lead into 19 points. Ricciardo had been able to get past his teammate due to different tyre strategy and was the runner-up. Verstappen made it a double podium for Red Bull, who now moved ahead of the red team in the constructors’ championship standings by 14 points! Home hero Rosberg had to settle for P4 after a problem-filled race. Ferrari aces Sebastian and Kimi drove to the chequered flag in modest P5 and P6, so no steps forward from the starting positions. Williams’ Bottas was the only top ten driver having opted for a 2-stop strategy instead of a 3-stopper, which turned out to be the wrong call. The Finn, whose tyres were totally gone on the closing laps, got overtaken by both Force India’s Hulkenberg (P7) and McLaren’s Button (P8).
To be honest, I have to say that I’m a bit worried about Ferrari’s performance, as they seemed absolutely toothless against their rivals in Germany. Red Bull has obviously taken a significant leap forward in terms of developing their car. What definitely hasn’t helped Ferrari is losing their Chief Technical Officer James Allison, who left the team recently for personal reasons. Despite being a bit worried, I will never stop believing in the red team! Through hard work, they will bounce back step by step. Obstacles are meant to be overcome. And I always support Sebastian and Kimi, for better or worse!
Now it’s time for the torturing 4-week summer break... I´m suffering from the withdrawal symptoms already! However, the drivers and the teams definitely deserve their summer holiday! Round 12 will take place at the legendary Spa at the end of August. That’s definitely the venue where the Iceman -King of Spa - will shine without a doubt!
With passion for racing red,