A slight technical hitch.
Those toiling within the globe-trotting FIA Formula One World Championship earned a three-week reprieve following the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. The mandated summer shutdown allowed crew members to reacquaint themselves with their families and recharge prior to the stretch run of this year’s 21-race calendar which resumes on 26 August with the Belgian Grand Prix at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
Measuring in at 7.004 km (4.352 miles), Spa is the longest venue in Formula One, outdistancing the series’ second-longest track, the 6.003 km (3.730-mile) Baku City Circuit by 1.001 km (.622 of a mile, keep up!).
As well as its length, Spa is known for its reputation of being a driver’s track, thanks in large part to the addition of the signature Eau Rouge and Raidillon corners in 1939 which created a fast and sweeping uphill, left-right-left combination that drivers view with reverence and attack with gusto.
Spa has hosted Formule One since 1925, with this year’s Belgian Grand Prix serving as the venue’s 49th grand prix. The 19-turn circuit is a favorite of Haas F1 team drivers Romain Grosjean and Esteban Gutiérrez. Before securing his most recent podium when he finished third in last year’s Belgian Grand Prix, Grosjean clinched the 2011 GP2 Series title at the venerable track. And Gutiérrez, with two Formula One starts at Spa, has enjoyed some fine drives in the wet when he visited the circuit during his junior career in GP2 and GP3.
A wet track is common at Spa, but it’s also common for other portions to be completely dry, as its vast layout means late summer showers can drench some parts of the track while leaving others untouched. Slicks obviously won’t work in the wet, and intermediate tyres and full wet tyres obviously won’t work in bone dry conditions. It’s a conundrum that has often greeted drivers at the Belgian Grand Prix.
Valtteri Bottas finished 9th whilst Felipe Massa retired from the German Grand Prix. Massa started P10 but was clipped on the opening lap by Palmer’s Renault which affected the car’s pace. The issue couldn’t be identified or resolved during the race, therefore he was forced to retire on lap 36.
As a result of Hulkenberg’s one-place grid penalty, Bottas started today’s race from P7 on the supersoft tyre. He moved up to P5 in the early stages of the race, benefiting from his competitors pitting, before dropping back to P7 ahead of Hulkenberg. Following Hulkenberg’s final stop Bottas was 15 seconds clear of the Force India but with severely worn tyres he wasn’t able to hold on to the position and fell to P9, ahead of Perez, in the closing stages of the race.
Both drivers retain their positon in the Drivers’ Championships with Bottas in seventh and Massa in ninth, while the team stays fourth in the Constructors’ Championship, 15 points clear of nearest rivals Force India.
Valtteri Bottas: “The race was going OK until Force India managed to get in front of us with the undercut. They did a three-stop and we tried a two-stop. There was definitely something wrong with our tyre calculations, because there was no way to get to the end on that set of tyres. The stint was just way too long and that really cost us some points today.”
Felipe Massa: “It’s such a shame that someone hit my rear right tyre on the first lap because it felt like something definitely happened to that area of the car. Perhaps a toe issue or something, because the car felt undriveable. Although I tried to carry on with the race, I was suffering massively. The pace was just so slow to the point where it was better to retire than carry on. Now, I’m going to take the summer break as an opportunity to relax with my family and prepare for the second half of the season to make it much better than the first half.”
Rob Smedley, Head of Performance Engineering: “Felipe was hit in the rear in Turn 6 on lap one and there wasn’t a great deal we could do from then on. We were trying to understand what the problem was as Felipe was completely off the pace and complaining about the car. There was no alternative other than to retire because he was towards the back of the field and struggling.
“With Valtteri, we tried a strategy which clearly didn’t work. We deployed the wrong tactics in the race, which is something we’ve got to learn from. As a group of people, we get it right most of the time, but today we didn’t. We thought the tyres would go to the end but they didn’t and so ninth was the best we could achieve, unfortunately.
“It hasn’t been a great day but this is where we see the mettle of everyone moving forward and make sure we don’t let our heads go down. We’ll carry on improving and trying to do the absolute maximum that we can do with the car that we’ve got. We’ll keep pushing on.”
Force India scored seven points in today’s German Grand as Nico Hulkeberg raced to seventh place and Sergio Perez finished in tenth place.
Nico Hülkenberg: Strategy: Used SuperSoft (12 laps) – New Soft (20 laps) – Used SuperSoft (12 laps) – New Soft (23 laps)
“Seventh was probably the best result available to us today, so it feels good to get the maximum from our race and score some important points. The team did a great job with the strategy because we went into the race believing a two-stopper was possible, but then made an early decision to switch to three stops.
“It was definitely the right way to go and allowed me to take seventh place in the final few laps. The tyre degradation was very high so most of the race was about managing the tyres. It was also quite a lonely and straightforward race because my main fight was against Bottas and we were running different strategies.
“So it’s a happy Nico and a happy team. We can look forward to the summer break and aim to carry this momentum forward in the second part of the season.”
Sergio Perez: Strategy: Used SuperSoft (8 laps) – New Soft (19 laps) – Used SuperSoft (16 laps) – New Soft (23 laps)
“It’s safe to say today was the worst start in my whole career. I had a lot of wheelspin at the start and dropped back to P16 – so it was a long fight back through the pack. The team had to think on their feet and tweak the strategy to get me back into a competitive position. Degradation was quite high, especially when following other cars, and I spent a lot of time in the middle of the race fighting with Fernando (Alonso).
“In the last few laps I was running out of tyres, but I knew Fernando was in a similar situation, so when I saw an opportunity I knew I had to take it. I honestly didn’t think we would score points after turn one, but we did it. We go on holiday now, proud of the incredible work we have done as a team in the first half of the season. I am confident we have a lot of good days ahead of us in the final nine races, but for now it’s important to get some rest.”
Daniel Ricciardo: Finish Position: 2nd, Start Position: 3rd
“I’m very pleased with today obviously. To beat one Mercedes is nice but for both cars to beat one Mercedes and the pole-sitter was really good. In the first part of the race I was sitting in third and the pace was okay but I think I really came to life in the second half of the race and that’s when I was able to show a bit more speed and capture second place.
“It was the best we could do today and I’m now happy to go into the summer break with another podium in the bag. For me the strategy worked very well, I was comfortable on the supersofts and it worked out my pace was better in the end with that tyre. Drinking out of the shoe on the podium is an Australian thing. It’s called a ‘shoey’. I said if I win a race this year I’ll do it, but just in case, I thought I’ll do it next time I’m on the podium.
“The last few races I got a bit more out of the race weekends and it’s nice to get a bit of momentum now before the summer break. Just to stand up there on the podium is the best feeling in the world.”
Max Verstappen, Finish Position: 3rd, Start Position: 4th
“The start was very strong and during the race we had good pace. We didn’t expect it to be that good this weekend so we definitely maximised the result. Strategy doesn’t always work for you but I took one for the team today and we still finished second and third and in front of Ferrari, which was the main aim.
“Rosberg just braked very late and then didn’t turn into the corner. That incident cost me a lot of time, he pushed me wide and put me in a bad situation. I then let Daniel go by as was the strategy of the team. In the end the most important thing was to score the points and move up in the Constructors’ Championship. Finishing only 10 seconds back from Mercedes is very good.
“It is still too early to say how close we can get by the end of the season as I think they may have some in reserve. It’s good to go on a little break now and spend some time with family and then be ready to go again in Spa and see all the Dutch fans.”
Christian Horner, Team Principal: “A fantastic team performance today, particularly from the drivers starting from the second row of the grid. After they both made strong starts, Daniel gave Max just enough space at turn one, though it looked pretty tight and from there on the drivers settled in to their race.
“We elected at the first stop to split the strategies, putting Daniel on to the soft tyre and Max on to the supersoft, so they were both running slightly different races. When we pitted Max to cover Rosberg he did manage to get a run on him and then obviously Rosberg picked up a time penalty down at turn six, so the objective thereafter was for both drivers to clear him at the pit stop.
“With Daniel being on the faster supersoft tyre, he quickly closed on Max who allowed him to pass after the request from the team, to not lose any time, allowing them both to get out ahead of Rosberg at the final pit stop. To finish up second and third on the podium here at Hockenheim, to have outscored Ferrari and go into the summer break with a 14 point advantage over them in the Constructors’ Championship is a great end to a really strong first half of the year.
“Time for a well-earned break for all of the team, to recharge their batteries and come back for the final nine races, where there are circuits on the calendar that will hopefully suit us. We’ve exceeded all of our expectations in the first half of the season. I don’t think pre-season any of us could have imagined to have been second in the Constructors’ Championship after 11 rounds.”
Lewis Hamilton made the perfect start, managed the whole race it seemed with the perfect car.
He took his 49th career victory – his second at the Hockenheim Circuit and sixth of the 2016 season so far. Nico Rosberg fought back from a slow start to reach P2 before a five second penalty dropped him back to P4 at the flag. Hamilton (217) leads the Drivers’ Championship by 19 points from Rosberg (198) in P2, and he’s going to need a lead if he’s to take the awaited engine penalty.
MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS (415) now leads Red Bull (256) by 159 points in the Constructors’ Championship.
Lewis Hamilton: “What a day! Just awesome! I wasn’t expecting to be as strong as I was today. I had a great start. We have been working really hard to get off the line faster and more consistently and that hard work has clearly paid off. A big thanks also to the guys in the garage, I’m glad they get a well-earned break now as they really deserve it.
“I’m super happy with today – especially after yesterday. When I personally fail, knowing from 23 years of experience that I could definitely have done better, I really kick myself. Today, I have the opposite feeling. I delivered the way I’m supposed to. I know that I had the pace, I worked the tyres just right and I was never under threat from the guys behind. No mistakes this time either, so I’m very happy with that.
“It’s awesome to go into the break on such a high. I was 43 points behind at one stage, so to keep working on the gap and turn it around like that is great. Lastly, I just want to say a big thank you to the fans. So many of them have turned up here in Germany and they’ve been so supportive. That positive energy really drives me on, so a big thank you once again to them and I hope they have a great holiday. I’m definitely going to!”
Nico Rosberg: “It was a difficult and disappointing day for me. I had a lot of wheel spin at the start. That was strange, because my start during the formation lap was good. That cost me the lead and then the next two places as well, which meant it was always going to be a difficult race from there.
“I was happy to fight back to P2 after a tough battle with Max and was very surprised that I got penalised. We also lost a lot of time in the pits, so a lot of things went wrong today. But that didn’t count really at the end. The penalty made it impossible beat the Red Bulls. In general, I didn’t feel as comfortable in the car as I have done in the past – especially with the rear tyres. I had some problems with them today, so I need to get my head down and find out with my engineers what went wrong. I look forward to the summer break now and want to come back stronger. I hope everybody in the team can charge the batteries. It’s very well-deserved.”
Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport: “First of all, what a fantastic drive from Lewis and a great feeling to win the German Grand Prix once again with Mercedes. This has been a very special weekend for the team and Lewis delivered a pretty perfect drive today: great start, great speed, great management. He’s gone from a big deficit to now leading the championship, so it’s been a very good streak.
“We have seen these waves of momentum in both directions and he is riding the crest right now. But as well as the sweet part of the afternoon, for Nico it was more bitter. The start didn’t go well for him with big wheel spin but then he struggled for pace in the race, too. There were two big talking points. First the penalty. I think you will find lots of opinions but what we really look for is consistency in the decision making. Sometimes you see cars battling and there is no consequence, other times penalties are handed out. Today’s felt tough because I think the fans want to see hard racing – and that’s what it was.
“Then there was the pit stop to serve the penalty. In such a high-tech sport, we don’t often have to use a stop watch in a manual process. Today, it didn’t start, so we had to take the safe option to make sure Nico observed the right amount of time. Sometimes these things happen.
“Overall, I think we can be very pleased with our first part of the year. 11 wins from 12 is a nice statistic to take into the summer break – but we know that our rivals are continuing to improve, too. We will take the break, recharge the batteries and come back with fresh energy in Spa.”
Paddy Lowe, Executive Director (Technical): “First, huge congratulations to Lewis and the team for a great victory at our home race here in Germany in front of our very supportive colleagues from Mercedes-Benz. It was enormously important to us to do a great job here, representing the 280,000 Mercedes employees worldwide.
“Lewis managed the race faultlessly from start to finish – delivering pace when necessary and saving the tyres when required. The pit crew, too, did a great job on all three of his stops, allowing him to maintain the gap he had worked hard to build to those behind. For Nico, it was a less straightforward afternoon. His clutch was over-engaged at the start, leading to excessive wheel spin and an instant drop to P4. That gave us some work to do to get him back up to second – which we managed through a combination of a good strategy and some bold overtaking on Nico’s part.
“Unfortunately, he was then given a five second penalty for the latter – which dropped him back once more. We did lose some time in the box as we took more safety margin than was required. But, as it turned out, this didn’t affect the result. It became clear quite soon into the final stint that we didn’t have the pace to compensate for the penalty. We were hoping that, with no soft tyres remaining, we would manage to catch and pass the Red Bulls at the end once they ran out of rubber on the super soft – but to their credit they managed it very well, so all respect to them.
“As they say in motorsport, you’re only as good as your last race – so it’s good to have something to savour over the next month, as that’s something we hadn’t managed in either of the previous two seasons. A very nice way to pick up the holidays, which will provide everyone with a very well-earned break before we come back even harder in the second half of the season.”
A strong performance from Force India saw Nico Hulkenberg qualify in seventh place for his home Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Team mate Sergio Perez was close behind and will start the race from ninth.
Nico Hulkenberg: “I’m feeling pretty happy to qualify in seventh for my home race – it’s best of the rest behind the top three teams and a good effort by the whole team. Our objective is always to maximise our potential and it feels like we achieved that today. Most of my laps in the session came together nicely and my final effort in Q3 was spot on.
“We can expect a tough fight for good points tomorrow, but we are in a good starting position and we’ve looked strong here in all the sessions. The long run pace is competitive, too, so we’ve got every chance of getting a great result this weekend. There is talk of some rain tomorrow and to be honest I would not mind a shower during the race, but let’s wait and see what happens.”
Sergio Perez: “It was a fun and very intense fight with Nico and the two Williams cars throughout qualifying, and in the end it was really close between the four of us. It was crucial to get through Q1 on one set of tyres because some other teams had to use two sets and this gave us a small advantage in Q2 which helped us make the top ten.
“On my last lap of Q3 I struggled a bit through some of the right-hand corners; I think I may have picked something up on my front wing – maybe some debris – and that cost me some time, but it’s something I will analyse with the team. In the end, it was so close and just a few hundredths of a second made the difference. Tomorrow is going to be interesting. We are starting on the supersofts on which we qualified and we will need to work well as a team to make the strategy work and score some important points.”