F1 Debrief: Vettel's error, Hamilton's controversy, silly season explodes

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F1 Debrief: Vettel's error, Hamilton's controversy, silly season explodes
Jonathan Noble
By: Jonathan Noble
Jul 23, 2018, 6:02 AM

Good morning. Welcome to the morning after a thriller in Germany – as Lewis Hamilton pulled off an emotional but controversial win on a day that Sebastian Vettel got it all wrong in front of his home fans.

If you missed any of the news or action from what could be Hockenheim’s last ever F1 race, here is your F1 Debrief from all that happened.

HAMILTON’S EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, in parc ferme
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, in parc ferme

Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Lewis Hamilton described race day at the German Grand Prix as one of the most emotional of his career – after a lowly start, a brilliant charge to victory and then a stewards investigations that put all his efforts in doubt for a while.

But in the end, it all ended just as he wanted: having pulled off one of his best race victories on a day when title rival Sebastian Vettel got it all wrong with a small mistake in wet conditions having big consequences.

For Hamilton, the most tense time was late on Sunday evening when he faced a lengthy stewards hearing for having crossed the white pitlane entry – which is against the rules.

In the end the stewards elected to only hand him a reprimand, as they accepted the confusing nature of the situation and the fact Hamilton had posed no danger to other cars. 

Speaking about the events afterwards, Hamilton said: “It's been an emotional, the most emotional day, up and down.”

VETTEL: NO LOST SLEEP

Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H crashes out of the race
Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari SF71H crashes out of the race

Photo by: Hasan Bratic / Sutton Images

It was a bad day of the office for home hero Sebastian Vettel. But the German reckoned he would not have too much trouble going to sleep last night, despite throwing away victory in the German Grand Prix

The Ferrari Formula 1 driver appeared on course to extend his championship lead over Lewis Hamilton with a victory on home soil at Hockenheim, but he slid off the road and collided with the barriers in the stadium section at the end of lap 52 when a brief rain shower hit.

Asked by TV crews how he could process such a disastrous outcome, Vettel said: “I was in the barrier, and I realise I don’t get out from there, so how do you process that?

“I don’t think it was a huge mistake, it was a huge impact on the race because we retired.

“But it’s not like tonight I will have difficulties to fall asleep because of what I’ve done wrong.

“It’s disappointing because up to that point everything was sweet. We didn’t need the rain.”

ROSBERG NOT IMPRESSED

Nico Rosberg, Mercedes-Benz Ambassador
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes-Benz Ambassador

Photo by: Sutton Images

While Vettel was pretty sanguine about events, former world champion Nico Rosberg was pretty outspoken about the opportunity Vettel had thrown away

For having been in dominant form throughout the German GP weekend, Vettel appeared to have everything under control before the rain came.

But even amid mounting pressure from Lewis Hamilton who was on quicker ultrasofts, Rosberg reckoned Vettel had had no need to push so hard that he risked an accident.

“Such a big one – unbelievable!” said Rosberg. “He threw it away.

“Yes, the conditions were difficult, we know that, and they are horrible as a driver, because it’s so tough.

“But he still had a gap to the guys behind, he could have just taken out a little bit more, gone a little bit slower and taken it a bit more easy, and he just chucked it into the wall. It’s so bad.”

NO RISK APPROACH

Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport
Toto Wolff, Mercedes AMG F1 Director of Motorsport

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Sutton Images

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said the team imposed team orders on Valtteri Bottas at the German Grand Prix because it didn't want to risk throwing away a lucky 1-2 finish.

After the late-race safety car period, Bottas and teammate Lewis Hamilton briefly battled it out – getting side-by-side as they disputed the lead.

But three-quarters of the way around the lap, Mercedes strategist James Vowles came over the radio and told Bottas to hold position.

Speaking about the reasoning for calling off the fight, Wolff said that the team did not want to risk throwing away valuable points at a time when it needs to respond to Ferrari’s ever-growing pace.

"First of all we didn't have the quickest car here and we need to progress for the next races because that is the most important," Wolff told Sky.

"It was still raining at the time and the fight was so intense. There was all to lose with the bad luck that we had in the last races, and we wanted to keep it calm at that stage."

DRIVER MARKET TAKES SHAPE

Esteban Ocon, Force India, with Lance Stroll, Williams Racing
Esteban Ocon, Force India, with Lance Stroll, Williams Racing

Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

In case you totally missed all the developments earlier in the weekend, the German GP was a big weekend for the driver market.

Mercedes ended months of speculation about its 2019 line-up when it confirmed that Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas would be staying on board.

That effectively closes off Daniel Ricciardo’s only final hopes of finding a competitive seat outside of Red Bull, with Ferrari not believed to be interested in the Australian.

It means that Ricciardo will now almost certainly sort his new Red Bull contract out over the next few days.

Ricciardo’s deal should help move on Carlos Sainz’s future at Renault, although the Spaniard is now being linked to McLaren.

A Sainz departure from Renault could open the door for Esteban Ocon, which would then leave a seat at Force India potentially for Lance Stroll

Perhaps the biggest uncertainty right now revolves around Ferrari. Will it keep Kimi Raikkonen or take Charles Leclerc? And could Raikkonen actually end up at Sauber? Intriguingly, team boss Fred Vasseur didn’t dismiss the idea over the weekend. 

Asked about the pressure of taking a world champion like Raikkonen, Vasseur said: "I don't care, I want to have the best guys into the car, this is the most important for the team, and no sacrifice with performance.

"It is much better to have a world champion than someone who won nothing."

FERRARI'S MAJOR CHANGE

Sergio Marchionne,, Ferrari President and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles
Sergio Marchionne,, Ferrari President and CEO of Fiat Chrysler Automobiles

Photo by: XPB Images

While it was a bad weekend for Ferrari on track, it was tumultuous for the company off it too when news emerged of its president Sergio Marchionne suffering serious health problems.

The Italian had undergone shoulder surgery recently, but complications afterwards have left unable to return to work.

As a result, Ferrari and parent company Fiat have implemented a succession plan.

A proposal has been put forward for Mike Manley, head of the Jeep company, to become the new Fiat CEO at the next shareholder's meeting.

In the meantime, Manley has been given full authority to act with all the powers of the CEO in Marchionne's absence.

At Ferrari, Fiat heir John Elkann has been named as the new chairman and the Maranello company has it has said that he will propose to shareholders that former Philip Morris chairman Louis Carey Camilleri become the new CEO.

Camilleri has already been given the powers to ensure the company's operations continue until he has been formally appointed to the role.

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