UNDER DAMP CONDITIONS MOST OF THE RACE WITH A DRYING TRACK AT TIMES, GERMAN GP WAS ALL ABOUT STRATEGY… AND KEEPING THE CARS ON TRACK.
Racing Point F1 brought some upgrades to the German GP this weekend in trying to close the gap of the ever tight midfield teams.
And those changes seemed to have had a positive effect on the time sheet as both cars were in the top 10 in Friday practice.
Following Friday practice, Stroll commented on the improvements. “I felt happy with the car. It is early days, but it looks like we have made a step forward with the upgrade. You can see the car looks quite different and it’s encouraging to be in the top ten for both sessions. It’s only Friday, though, and there is lots of work to be done to carry this performance through until Sunday. Track temperatures were very hot, but looking at the forecast we could see a big change for the weekend.”
Saturday ended a little different for Lance Stroll although he was able to finally make it out of Q1. With a time of 1:13.256, it was good enough for 15th place just over 1s off the fastest of the session Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc.
Q2 did not work as anticipated as Stroll mentioned following qualifying as he will start tomorrow’s race in 15th having posted a time 1.3s form fastest in Q2 Lewis Hamilton. “My qualifying was far from ideal, and it’s a shame because the car had the pace to make Q3 today. The car felt good in Q1 and we were competitive, but Q2 fell away from me. Yesterday we were looking really strong but we didn’t really get the balance right in Q2 and if anything took a step backwards compared to where we were. I’m a little bit frustrated, but tomorrow is another day. We know we always race well and maybe we will get some wet weather. It won’t be easy from P15, but I still think we can target some points.”
Wet weather they did get as the formation laps started under the safety car to give a chance to drivers in assessing track conditions while everyone had chosen the full wet compound. The race then started with the usual standing start and as the red lights went off, Red Bull Max Verstappen had a poor start as everyone tiptoed to make it trough corner one.
Then strategy came into play as engineers and drivers were continuously monitoring the constant rain threat. At times, the drying conditions were calling to change form full wet to intermediates. Then it was a gamble putting on the slicks as the track was drying quickly enough to make the difference. Mind you, drivers still had to deal with keeping the car on the dry patch of asphalt.
The top contenders found it the hard way with Leclerc and Hamilton making just a slight mistake and, although it ended Charles Leclerc’s race, Lewis Hamilton was able to rejoin the pits while cutting across the grass to change the damaged nose and tires. It is rare to see Mercedes struggling but definitely they were taken by surprise as Hamilton pitted and were not ready at all to service the Mercedes driver. Hamilton later receiving a 5s penalty for not entering the pit lane correctly.
While ahead, Max Verstappen kept his nose clean expect for a brief spin where he was able to keep it on the track and continue on his way.
All the while, Lance Stroll was the only Racing Point F1 driver still in the race, mind you well done the order for most of it, as Sergio Perez unfortunately lost control of his F1 machine ending his race in the wall.
But then, in a late safety car period, Racing Point called in Stroll to put a set of the softest slick compound to gamble on the end of the race.
This made it for a brilliant call from the pit wall as Stroll was the first to do so and gained several position has everyone else ahead dove in to the pits after him to do the same thing.
For a brief moment, Stroll lead the race until a charging Max Verstappen who had just pitted for slicks himself passed the Canadian driver.
Lance tried to hold on to second place as Daniil Kvyat was gaining on him. A couple of mistakes on a treacherous drying track was enough for Kvyat to pass Stroll for second. After that, Lance fought off Bottas as much as he could until Bottas made a mistake and lost control of his Mercedes which ended his race.
Things looked promising for a podium finish with only a handful of laps left to the race, but a charging Sebastian Vettel who started from 20th place was now behind Stroll within striking distance. There was not much Lance could do about it as Vettel also got ahead of Kvyat after to finish in second place.
Lance Stroll and Racing Point F1 finally crossed the line in fourth place only six tenths behind third place finisher Kvyat as Max Verstappen won the German GP for Red Bull Racing Honda.
“I’m really happy with that. What an amazing day! Fourth place feels great considering everything that happened this afternoon,” mentioned Lance after the race. “I was running at the back for most of the race; I spun a couple of times and we pitted five times! As special as it is to finish fourth, I am disappointed that the podium slipped away from us. I think a critical moment was the mistake I made in turn eight on my second or third lap on slicks, which is when Daniil [Kvyat] managed to get ahead of me. We tried our best to keep the quicker cars behind, but the podium was just out of reach. Today’s race shows why you should never give up because it’s never over until it’s over. It’s great to see how much this result means to the team and it was so special to see the crew celebrating on the pit wall when I crossed the line. This important result is for everyone in the team and we will enjoy this moment.”
The Hungarian GP next week is the last before summer break for F1.
Images: Motorsport Images / Racing Point F1
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