Thursday 22 August 2019

Verstappen keeps cool to triumph in frenetic race

Verstappen: German delight. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters
Verstappen: German delight. Photo: Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Philip Duncan

Max Verstappen won a frenetic, rain-hit German Grand Prix after Lewis Hamilton crashed while on course for victory.

Hamilton appeared set to claim his eighth win of a dominant season before drama struck on lap 29 of 64 in a race which featured four safety car periods.

The British star, who had just stopped for dry rubber, ran off the road at a final corner which had claimed Ferrari's Charles Leclerc one lap earlier.

Hamilton had to stop for a new front wing and was stationary for more than 50 seconds as his Mercedes crew dashed around for spare parts.

He finished 11th, having also been hit with a five-second penalty for entering the pits on the wrong side of the bollard, and also spun in the final stages on a day to forget.

Verstappen, who stopped five times in the most topsy-turvy of races, took the chequered flag to claim his second win of the campaign.

The Dutchman finished ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel, who fought back from last, and Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat. Racing Point's Lance Stroll finished fourth.

On a miserable day for Mercedes at their home race, Valtteri Bottas crashed out at the first corner with eight laps left while in the hunt for the podium.

Bottas's spin brought a furious reaction from Toto Wolff, the Mercedes team principal banging both his fists on the table.

Hamilton held a commanding 35-second lead when he stopped to change on to the dry tyres. But the last corner of the Hockenheim circuit was still damp, and after it caught Leclerc out, the young Monegasque crashing from second, Hamilton hit the barriers too.

While Leclerc retired, Hamilton was able to limp back to the pit lane, falling back to fifth following a comical pit stop, before gaining two places to third.

But then Nico Hulkenberg also crashed out at the final corner, resulting in a third safety car period.

Hamilton pitted a lap late, leaving him way down the order. Running in 12th, Hamilton said: "How has it gone this bad?"

"Copy that, Lewis," came the reply from his engineer, Pete Bonnington. "That is something we are going to have to review."

There were then huge cheers from the grandstands as Hamilton fell off the road again, spinning at the opening bend. He pitted for new tyres, dropping to last place and finished outside of the points, 11th of the 13 classified runners.

There were no such concerns for Verstappen, who kept his cool to win by more than seven seconds.

Vettel, who had started from the back of the grid after his engine broke in qualifying, made several moves in the final laps to seal the runner-up spot.

"It was about trying not to make mistakes," said Verstappen. "It feels amazing to win."

Stroll took fourth ahead of McLaren's Carlos Sainz with the London-born Alexander Albon a career-best sixth.

Vettel added: "It was a long race. At some stage it felt never-ending. It was very tough with the conditions."

Irish Independent

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