F1 German GP: A Hockenheim Classic when Hamilton roared to victory in 2016.
Amid the serene greens of the Rhine valley in the heart of Baden-Wurttemberg, the pinnacle of motor-sport racing is going to give company to strong German lager this weekend.
Can Formula 1 unravel another thriller as racing returns to the land of the Autobahns?
It won’t be wrong to suggest fireworks will be expected of the German Grand Prix as it returns to the F1 roster having skipped the 2017 Formula 1 season.
While at Silverstone, Vettel spoiled Hamilton’s party, winning the race ahead of him at the latter’s home-turf, Hamilton will look to return the compliment as he arrives in Vettel’s home race. The likes of Ricciardo and Verstappen would want to continue their strong run at Hockenheim.
Both Red Bull drivers were on the podium in 2016, to secure Red Bull's first double-podium finish in more than a year then.
That said, Raikkonen, a social-media villain following the events of the 2018 British Grand Prix will be hoping to enjoy a clean, error-free racing weekend.
Chances are, by this time, you may have gone through the countless number of poles that end up favouring the old Hockenheimring vis-à-vis the current track, marked by a 4.75 km-long layout and checkered by 17 corners.
With its long straights and sharp corners, cars run at the maximum speed of 310 k/hr. and that’s pretty much what everyone will expect from the likes of Vettel and Hamilton as they’ll go all out to outrun one another in the 67-lap contest.
But back in 2016, with the Hamilton-Rosberg show in its full might, the Hockenheimring unfurled a titanic racing fest, ultimately clinched by the 4-time world champion, Lewis Hamilton.
But how did the 2016 German Grand Prix pan out?
Outpacing his teammate Nico Rosberg, the pole-sitter for the German Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton stormed to a fiery win amidst stunned crowds at the Hockenheimring. But Hamilton’s win, clinical that it may have seemed, was dependent on his supreme charge inside the opening lap even before the 20 cars headed for the first right-hander soon as racing went green at Germany.
Thanks to Rosberg’s poor getaway, the Mercedes driver all over the shop inside the first lap allowed the two Red Bull drivers to leapfrog him into Turn 1. At this time, Williams’ Bottas locked a wheel under breaking in a failing attempt to pass Kimi in the stiff right-hander.
Hamilton charges ahead
The fiercest move, however, was already made in the opening lap by eventual race-winner, Lewis Hamilton, who’d moved up on Rosberg and would extend a lead of around 1.3 seconds in the relatively short-run to Turn 1.
An ailing Rosberg was fighting with Ricciardo, and their battle in the opening lap would dominate the early headlines of the 2016 race.
As the duo battled for the next 3 laps, Rosberg fought bravely for third but only to concede the position to Ricciardo.
Brilliant from Red Bull
Despite getting a decent exist at the hairpin on Lap 2, Rosberg struggled to hold off Ricciardo as the duo fought their way through into the right-hander and by the time they’d approach the next corner, Rosberg would yield and Ricciardo blasted past to move ahead.
From thereon, until the checkered flag, Rosberg couldn’t find the pace to reel in the twin Red Bulls, however, the Mercedes had just enough power to keep the two Ferrari’s led by Sebastian Vettel, at bay.
Imperiously quick, the biggest talking point of the 2016 German Grand Prix was Lewis Hamilton, who, despite putting down his engine power output on Lap 3, crossed the checkered flag sevens seconds earlier than Daniel Ricciardo.
From thereon, he’d lead every single lap since overtaking his teammate at the start.
Vettel and Raikkonen had to contend with P5 and P6, respectively and lacked the race pace to challenge the stronger force of both Mercedes and Red Bulls in a rather forgettable Hockenheim run.
Horror for Rosberg
By lap 29, Rosberg, then on sixth was trying to emerge better of Verstappen, P5.
It was during these middle stages of the race, that an aggrieved Rosberg tried to mount a serious charge over Verstappen, eventually seeing his race his race go from bad to worse. The Dutch driver came under attack of the Mercedes who tried to overtake the Red Bull around the hairpin bend, resulting in Verstappen sliding off the track.
The worst was to come for Saturday’s pole-sitter. Rosberg fell foul of the stewards and was handed a 5-second penalty, a move that would be debated endlessly.
Bizarrely, on lap 34, Rosberg into the pits to take his penalty would evidence horror. The punishment was then increased to eight seconds after Mercedes' stopwatch failed.
Domination by Hamilton
At all this time, Hamilton stayed clear at the front and virtually unchallenged with the Red Bulls trying to play catch-up.
The two Red Bulls would even brush wheels with the daring Dutchman having overtaken his teammate into Turn 1.
Meanwhile, by Lap 38, Ricciardo was fighting his teammate for second, Max enjoying the lead over the Australian by over 1.2 seconds.
On Lap 40, however, Ricciardo who was registering quicker middle sector times would surge past ahead of Max on the main straight as the Dutch driver would struggle for grips, his brakes already overheating.
There was no dearth of drama in the midfield though.
In the middle of the grid, midway through the race, Vettel overturned a team-order to pit and stayed out for 3 more laps exacerbating Ferrari’s apparent loss of direction, following the exit of James Allison. But little would it help Ferrari to pose any real threat to the cars ahead.
Although, Vettel would still keep Raikkonen behind as the front of the pack remained unchanged with Hamilton leading from Ricciardo and Verstappen by Lap 45.
Massa, meanwhile, retired owing to a mechanical problem in his Williams as and Nasr in his Sauber would follow suit on Lap 45.
Some thrilling moves in the final stages
Thankfully, there were some thrills in the closing stages even as Hamilton had put curtains for any other driver challenging him for a track position right at the front.
At the back of the field, Fernando Alonso in a highly un-drivable McLaren would find a way past the Force India of Sergio Peres on Lap 65, clearly proving why they call him a Samurai producing magic with a lean machine.
However, on the penultimate lap of the German Grand Prix, the Force India, clearly with better race pace would surge ahead and claim the solitary point for tenth.
Meanwhile, Lewis would blast past the checkered flag, ahead of the Red Bulls, and take his sixth victory of the season. He’d eventually lose the title that year but ensured there was no chance for local-hero Rosberg to claim a victory in front of home fans.
Published 20 Jul 2018, 13:02 IST