All signs pointed to a victory for Sebastian Vettel at last weekend’s German F1 Grand Prix as the Scuderia Ferrari driver, who started from first on the grid, led lap after lap at Hockenheim – a track just miles from where Vettel grew up, yet one at which he’d never won in his Formula 1 racing career. Yet conditions became treacherous around 44 laps into the 67-lap race as rain began to fall, making the track slick and granting an advantage to Mercedes-AMG driver Lewis Hamilton, who had pitted only two laps prior for a fresh set of Ultrasoft tires.
From the opening of the race, which saw Hamilton start from 14th on the grid after suffering a hydraulic failure during Qualifying, a win for the British Mercedes driver seemed out of the question, and even a podium finish seemed unlikely. But the four-time world champion worked his way steadily through the field at Hockenheim so that by the time he pitted for tires, he was running in the top five.
That meant that he was ready to pounce after rain got the better of Sebastian Vettel on lap 52, putting the German driver and race leader into the barrier, taking him out of the race. With his loss, Vettel has surrendered the championship lead back to Hamilton, and Ferrari has dropped back to second in the hunt for the Manufacturers’ title.
At the same time, Vettel’s teammate Kimi Räikkönen, who had been running in second after himself leading the race for several laps, surrendered a position to Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas, and one more to Lewis Hamilton a few laps later. Hamilton would go on to pass his teammate, preserving a one-two finish for Mercedes at the 2018 German Grand Prix, with the finishing order: Hamilton, Bottas, Räikkönen.
After his retirement from the race, Sebastian Vettel remarked: “I don’t think it was a huge mistake. It was a huge impact on the race because we retired there, but it’s not like tonight I will have difficulty to fall asleep because of what I’ve done wrong. I think it’s disappointing because up to that point, everything was sweet.. We didn’t need the rain.
“[Today] was just one of those moments and my mistake, so apologies to the team. They did everything right, I had it in my hand. Small mistake, big disappointment.”