HOLLYWOOD could not have produced a thriller to come within cooee of the German F1 Grand Prix.
A series of stop-start downpours turned the fast, tricky Hockenheim circuit into an ice rink that produced the most amazing spectacle in years.
It was eventually won by Holland’s Max Verstappen, who spun his Red Bull Honda 360 degrees – but still won.
Sebastian Vettel, who started stone last in his Ferrari, put in a terrific drive to grab second spot, while Daniil Kvyat was third in his Toro Rosso.
On the podium, the young Russian accurately summed up the 68-lap race.
“It was like a horror movie, with some black comedy thrown in,” he said. “The race was crazy, an incredible rollercoaster — a bit like my career.”
The race on the 4.57km circuit provided endless surprises.
It knocked both Mercedes out of contention, it had Racing Point’s Lance Stroll in the lead for a while, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg looked pretty secure in second place and the two Haas cars crashed into each other — again — but still finished in the top 10.
McLaren’s Carlos Sainz ran off the track three times on the opening lap and again on lap 24, yet recovered each time and put in a classy performance to claim fifth, behind Stroll’s Racing Point.
Sergio Perez, Stroll’s teammate, was an early retirement, skidding into the barriers on the first lap.
Hamilton appeared unassailable after he zoomed out to an eight-second lead from pole position, but, much to the delight of the partisan crowd, slid off on lap 29 and lost part of his Merc’s front wing.
He made no fewer than six pit stops after that, the first causing comic panic scenes in the Mercedes pit as his mechanics scurried around trying to find a new wing, but didn’t quite recover and finished 11th.
Teammate Valtteri Bottas seemed certain of second place until he whacked into the barriers on lap 56.
Renault too had another miserable day, with Daniel Ricciardo’s car suffering an exhaust problem that stopped him on lap 14, and Hulkenberg, in his best race of the season so far, slid into a barrier on lap 39.
Max Verstappen, who ran fourth for much of the race, kept his composure and brought the huge orange-clad Dutch contingent to its feet with a steady drive — and one hairy spin.
“After that race, I can say that I did it for the crowd,” he said.
“It was really tricky out here to make the right calls. It was all about trying not to make too many mistakes. Very happy with the whole performance today.”
Tyre choice was critical in the changing conditions and some made the mistake of using mediums or slicks, among them Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who was poised for a win until he also slid off.
Two laps from the end Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly drove straight into the back of Alex Albon’s Toro Rosso, and Vettel managed to squeeze past Kvyat.
Albon went on to claim 6th.
Seventh was Kimi Raikkonen in the Alfa Romeo, with teammate Antonio Giovinazzi 8th, Haas’ Romain Grosjean 9th and teammate Kevin Magnussen taking 10th and the final championship point.
Hulkenberg was devastated.
“It’s a tough one to take,” he said.
“I’m upset for myself, the team and for Renault because they deserved an excellent result today. It’s one of those days where you have to make it stick, and I’m just gutted with how it ended especially in front of the home crowd.
“We were doing a phenomenal job, strategy was very difficult so it hurts and it will hurt even more tomorrow.”
Daniel Ricciardo said his race was a shame.
“It’s a tough overall result for the team, but hopefully Hungary (next week) will be better for us.”
|1||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||64||1:44:31.275||26|
|3||26||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||64||+8.305s||15|
|4||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||64||+8.966s||12|
|6||23||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||64||+10.052s||8|
|12||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||64||+42.214s||0|
|13||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||64||+43.849s||0|
|14||10||RED BULL RACING HONDA||61||DNF||0|
|NC||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||1||DNF||0|
Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Raikkonen and Giovinazzi had 30 seconds added to their race times for use of driver aids at the start.
CHECKOUT: Hamilton brings it home for the Poms