Lewis Hamilton knows how to apply the pressure to Sebastian Vettel | Giles Richards

Ferrari appear to have the edge in terms of engine speed but something was lost over the radio for Kimi Räikkönen

Hamilton earned the win

The rain played its part in Hockenheim, as did good fortune and Sebastian Vettel’s very costly mistake but there was no doubt that by t,he time Lewis Hamilton took the flag, he had deserved it. He opened with a piece of clinical driving to move up to the front-runners, careful at the start where any contact could have ended his race and then passed 10 cars within 14 laps, all cleanly. He did so while managing to make his tyres last 42 laps – while in dirty air – an achievement that put him on the ultrasofts at the end, which was key to being able to stay out in the wet. When he took the new boots, he charged. He was 24 seconds behind Vettel after the stop – seven laps later he had halved the gap, pressure that may well have contributed to Vettel’s error. Then in the closing stages his defending against Bottas, before the team orders, was immaculate and tenacious. A superb day at the office by any standards and he rated it as one of his best.

Ferrari still on front foot

Vettel was furious with overcooking it into the Sachskurve but quickly calmed down, buoyed by the fact that, regardless of the result, Ferrari comprehensively appear to have a quicker car than Mercedes. “I don’t think it was a huge mistake,” he said. “It was a huge impact on the race because we retired there but it’s not like tonight I’ll have difficulty falling asleep because of what I’ve done wrong.” The Scuderia had made their mark in qualifying, where Bottas admitted he could not catch Vettel and the strength of Ferrari’s power unit could be seen with five Ferrari-engined cars in the top 10. The Mercedes team principal, Toto Wolff, acknowledged that the Scuderia now had the edge, noting that they were up to five-tenths quicker on the straights. “If we want to win this championship, or stay in the hunt in this championship, we’ve got a severe warning,” he said. Vettel’s error was costly but he has the tools to come back.

Sublime and ridiculous

A few expletives over team radio is nothing new from Vettel, but there was some hugely entertaining team communication in Germany. Certainly Peter Bonnington’s 14-long string of “ins” to Hamilton is unlikely to be ever heard again. But most intriguing was Räikkönen being given the instruction to let Vettel past. The senior performance engineer Jock Clear told him: “Kimi, this is Jock – you’re aware we need to look after tyres, both cars need to look after tyres and you two are on different strategies. Your strategies are slightly different and we’d like you not to hold up Seb.” Räikkönen did not grasp it, so Clear elaborated: “Losing as little time as possible obviously, but where you can, Seb is capable of going quicker but he’s hurting his tyres and you are as well, we need to look after them.” Raikkonen still wanted more: “So what do you want me to do? Let him go? Just tell me.” Of course they did but what was fascinating was Ferrari, of all teams, performing verbal gymnastics just to avoid being seen to give a perfectly legal team order. Räikkönen was not the only one unsure as to quite what was going on.

Germany looks for new deal

Hockenheim hosted a full house for the first time in years, with 71,000 fans attending on Sunday, the grandstands at capacity and an extra one being erected to meet demand. Which is a good sign after only 57,000 came to the last race held here in 2016. But it still seems highly unlikely to be on the calendar next year. Liberty want to retain the German Grand Prix but Hockenheim is owned by local authorities and they want to ensure they have a hosting fee with which they can at least break even, when sales are not at their maximum. Their talks with Liberty are continuing but it seems that the focus will be on 2020 rather than next year. The proposed race in Miami for 2019 was cancelled on Monday due to local disquiet, with Liberty now targeting a race in 2020. They have said the calendar for 2019 will be released before Spa in late August.

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Driver market on the move

With Mercedes and Hamilton finally renewing their contract for a further two years, the logjam in the driver market – basically everyone waiting for Hamilton – has cleared. The team promptly announced that Bottas, too, had been given an extension and with the decisions made at Mercedes it has focused other minds. It is understood Ferrari do not want Daniel Ricciardo and the Australian has confirmed he will almost certainly re-sign with Red Bull, potentially before Hungary this week. This in turn will impact on Carlos Sainz’s future, to stay at Renault or potentially a move to McLaren. If he leaves, Esteban Ocon could switch to Renault leaving a Lance Stroll-shaped hole at Force India, who would definitely appreciate the sacks of lolly Stroll brings to the table. Leaving only the biggest question of all – who will be in the Ferrari next season, Räikkönen or Charles Leclerc. The Finn insists his future is still to be discussed.


Giles Richards

The GuardianTramp

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