Front to back: the German Grand Prix

Reviewing every F1 team and driver from a great day for Red Bull at Hockenheim.


Lewis Hamilton:
qualified 2nd, finished 1st
Nico Rosberg: qualified 1st, finished 4th
Rosberg led all three practice sessions and took pole with a superb lap after an electronics glitch wrong-footed him on Saturday, but it’s on Sunday that the world championship points are handed out, and the German came up short again, this time in front of his home fans. Hamilton was ahead by the time the silver cars negotiated the 310 metres to the first corner and was never troubled, upping the pace when he needed to and taking a fourth win in succession, and a sixth in the past seven races. The reigning world champion’s 43-point deficit to his teammate after they clashed in Spain in round five seems like an eternity ago, with Hamilton taking a 19-point lead into the summer break and with momentum on his side. His 49th career victory saw him draw within two of Alain Prost’s 51 for second on the all-time win list. Rosberg’s dreadful start saw him fourth by the second corner, and while he fought on, a five-second time penalty for pushing Verstappen off track at the hairpin as he tried to overtake on lap 29 thwarted any chance of a revival, especially when Mercedes kept him stationary in the pits for closer to eight seconds rather than the required five when he took his final pit stop on lap 45. The gap to third-placed Verstappen at the finish? Just 2.432 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel:
qualified 6th, finished 5th
Kimi Raikkonen: qualified 5th, finished 6th
Vettel and Raikkonen were in a race amongst themselves for much of Sunday’s 67 laps, too slow to challenge Red Bull, let alone Mercedes, and comfortably ahead of the rest. Vettel finished 32 seconds off the win at his home GP, and any doubts as to who is running the show at Ferrari came when he was asked to pit on lap 44 and flatly refused, asking “who do you want to undercut?”, and staying out when the answer came back that he was supposed to be sneaking past Verstappen, who was well up the road ahead of him. The four-time world champion pushed past his Finnish teammate on lap one and stayed there for the rest of the race, Raikkonen finishing four seconds adrift, but under no pressure from behind. Red Bull’s charge of late has placed Ferrari’s second place in the constructors’ championship – which it has held since Australia – in increasing peril, and it was finally demoted to third on Sunday after a lacklustre performance.

Front to back: what happened in Budapest?

Felipe Massa:
qualified 10th, did not finish
Valtteri Bottas: qualified 8th, finished 9th
Things seem to go from bad to worse for Massa, who was baulked by Sainz in qualifying (which earned the Spaniard a three-place grid penalty), and then hit by Palmer’s Renault on the first lap at the Turn 6 hairpin, damaging his car and condemning him to a frustrating race largely outside of the points before he retired with suspension damage on lap 38. Bottas rolled the dice with a two-stop strategy, but tyre wear brought him undone in the latter stages, and he only barely held on to ninth from a fast-closing Perez on the final lap. With Force India scoring seven points to Williams’ two, Williams maintained fourth in the constructors’ race, but for how much longer?

Red Bull Racing
Daniel Ricciardo:
qualified 3rd, finished 2nd
Max Verstappen: qualified 4th, finished 3rd
Red Bull’s first double podium of the season showed just how far the team has come since its start, and owed nothing to reliability misfortunes or woes of others. Verstappen made a bold move around the outside of Ricciardo at the first corner and slotted into second place, but Ricciardo had far superior pace on supersoft tyres in his third stint, setting up what looked to be a big Bull fight for second place with Rosberg’s time penalty eliminating him from contention. Ricciardo then set the fastest lap of the race on lap 48, the second lap of his final stint after his third pit stop, to quickly end that discussion and solidify his third place in the drivers’ standings. Verstappen was content enough with his third podium in the past four races, and the team enjoyed having two drivers finish on the podium for the first time since last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Better still, Red Bull now leads Ferrari by 14 points in the ‘other’ world championship – the one that’s for ‘best of the rest’ after Mercedes. Consider team principal Christian Horner happy. “It was a great team effort, they worked with each other to ensure they both cleared Rosberg with his five-second penalty,” he said. “To move ahead of Ferrari before the summer break was our target.”

Force India
Nico Hulkenberg:
qualified 7th, finished 7th
Sergio Perez: qualified 9th, finished 10th
Bit by bit, inch by inch, Force India is catching Williams as it chases its best-ever finish in the constructors’ championship. It wasn’t the smoothest weekend for the team, Hulkenberg being penalised one grid spot after what amounted to an elementary clerical error over tyres that weren’t supposed to be used in qualifying, but the German had the best of the battle with the Williams drivers and scored points for the sixth time in the past seven Grands Prix. Perez got shoved back from ninth on the grid to 16th on lap one after some mid-pack scuffles at the first corner, but pushed his way past Alonso’s McLaren at the hairpin with three laps left to give Force India its fifth double-points finish this season, matching its total from all of 2015. Perez’s future created as many headlines as anything he did on track at Hockenheim, with the Mexican and his wealthy backers being linked with a move to Renault or even Williams, despite team principal Vijay Mallya saying at Silverstone two races ago that the Mexican would be staying at Force India in 2017.

Jolyon Palmer:
qualified 16th, finished 19th
Kevin Magnussen: qualified 17th, finished 16th
Palmer made it through to Q2 for the first time since Australia and managed to finish ahead of teammate Magnussen again on Saturday, but any chance of scoring his maiden points went out the window on lap one when he hit Massa’s Williams, and an early pit stop for repairs left him towards the back for much of the rest of the race. Magnussen wasn’t shy in the many fights he found himself in for the majority of the 67-lap journey, but points remain a long way off for Renault at the moment.

Toro Rosso
Daniil Kvyat:
qualified 19th, finished 15th
Carlos Sainz: qualified 13th, finished 14th
A weekend to forget for Red Bull’s junior squad, with Kvyat cutting a forlorn figure on Saturday after being eliminated in Q1 and starting just 19th. “I had a s*** session. They weren’t good laps. I had a very bad lap with many mistakes. I was expecting to be out of Q1,” was his brutally harsh assessment, and 15th 24 hours later means he’s scored just two points in eight races (compared to 26 for Sainz) since returning to STR. Sainz was apologetic for blocking Massa in qualifying, and felt the year-old Ferrari power plant being used by Toro Rosso left his car with no answer on Hockenheim’s straights. After three consecutive eighth-place finishes, 14th was a low note on which to enter the mid-season shutdown.

Felipe Nasr:
qualified 21st, did not finish
Marcus Ericsson: qualified 22nd, finished 18th
The good news came early and was short-lived for Sauber, was Nasr making up five places off the start to be 16th after the first lap by brilliantly avoiding the inevitable first-corner Hockenheim contact in the midfield by jinking to the inside of Turn 1. The Brazilian was the subject of Vettel’s customary in-race rant over blue flags as he was being lapped, and he eventually stopped in the pit lane after being called in with six laps remaining. Ericsson started last, ran a long first stint, was lapped for the first time on lap 28, and finished ahead of only Palmer and Haryanto.

Jenson Button:
qualified 12th, finished 8th
Fernando Alonso: qualified 14th, finished 12th
Points for Button were just reward for a trying weekend for both driver and machinery – the Briton had a left-rear brake assembly problem hamper his running in Saturday practice, which came after he’d been forced to visit hospital after Friday’s second session when a carbon brake fragment managed to become stuck in his left eye. Button jumped into the top 10 on the opening lap and stayed there for most of the rest of the race, and dived past an ailing Bottas with three laps remaining to secure eighth. Alonso celebrated his 35th birthday on Friday in a country where he’s scored three Grand Prix wins, but couldn’t repel Perez for the final point on offer after an entertaining battle with four laps left.

Pascal Wehrlein:
qualified 18th, finished 17th
Rio Haryanto: qualified 20th, finished 20th
Manor would have been fine if the race had been held on the drag strip adjacent to the Hockenheim layout; Haryanto (349.9km/h) was fastest through the speed trap, while Wehrlein (343.4km/h) was fourth. But it was the corners that linked Hockenheim’s straights that were more of a problem for what is more than likely the least developed chassis in F1, and a clash at the hairpin between the teammates on lap six left the Indonesian without part of his front wing. Wehrlein’s Hockenheim experience from his DTM days and junior career at home in Germany was undoubtedly a factor in him finishing 48 seconds ahead of Haryanto, whose immediate F1 future seems uncertain, Renault tester (and Mercedes junior) Esteban Ocon discussed as his replacement for the next race in Belgium.

Romain Grosjean:
qualified 15th, finished 13th
Esteban Gutierrez: qualified 11th, finished 11th
Gutierrez looked like making Q3 for the first time all season on Saturday before being nudged out at the death, the fourth time in the past five races that a Haas has been 11th on the grid. The Mexican was the only driver to start the race on the more durable soft-compound Pirelli tyre in an attempt to run a very long opening stint, but a poor start saw him drop seven places on lap one. He passed Alonso on the penultimate lap of the race to finish – you guessed it – 11th. Gutierrez was seven seconds ahead of Grosjean at the finish, the Frenchman’s weekend taking a turn for the worse on Saturday after a gearbox change following final practice and subsequent five-place grid penalty.


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