Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

Joy for Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso and Williams amid drama: German Grand Prix talking points

While Max Verstappen won the chaotic Hockenheim race, there were small victories for other teams and drivers as well

Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat celebrates with his teammates after the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on Sunday. Getty
Toro Rosso's Daniil Kvyat celebrates with his teammates after the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on Sunday. Getty

Toro Rosso’s joy is infectious

There was a great video doing the rounds on Formula One’s official Twitter account on Sunday. It showed joyful Toro Rosso employees, some close to tears, celebrating after their driver, Daniil Kvyat, finished third at the German Grand Prix.

It was an excellent performance from the Russian driver as he earned the team their first podium in 11 years.

It was also the first time in two years, going back to the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix, that a car had finished in the top three that was not a Mercedes, Ferrari or Red Bull.

The big three have for years dominated F1 and it is refreshing to see new faces challenge the hegemony at the top, as well as the ecstasy of the likes of Racing Point’s Lance Stroll for finishing fourth. Hopefully, the wait won't be as long to see another midfield runner on the podium.

Hockenheim was the best of F1: unpredictable, emotional, full of good racing and also plenty of mistakes. But races like this should be seen for what they are – a rare one-off where conditions make for a great equaliser and an opportunity for drivers further down the grid to make a name for themselves.

Sunshine is the early forecast for Sunday’s Hungarian Grand Prix, the final round before the summer break, so a return to the status quo at the front is likely.

But Germany showed what could be on offer if the FIA, F1’s ruling body, can find a way of levelling the playing field in terms of performance when the regulations are changed in 2021.

The weather played its part on Sunday, but it also demonstrated how fun things can be when there are variable strategies at play, limited grip is available and the field is well matched.

Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel celebrates on the podium after finishing second at the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. AFP
Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel celebrates with the trophy on the podium after the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim. Andrej Isakovic / AFP

Vettel’s German GP redemption

Hopefully Sunday can be a turning point in 2019 for Sebastian Vettel. The German has had a tough year: making mistakes, being out-paced by his younger Ferrari teammate Charles Leclerc, and watching his hopes of a fifth world title fade as Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes dominate.

Out-braking himself and smashing into the back of Max Verstappen’s Red Bull at Silverstone two weeks ago was a low point and there has been media speculation that he may retire at the end of the season.

So, you could have forgiven him for sighing when the rain arrived pre-race at Hockenheim. Vettel crashed out 12 months ago at the same track, while leading, in damp conditions in what was arguably the start of the collapse of his 2018 championship challenge.

But Vettel put in one of the best drives of his career on Sunday. Starting last, he drove through the field to finish second, beaten only by Verstappen.

On a day when mistakes proved costly (just ask Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas, Nico Hulkenberg and Leclerc) Vettel didn't put a wheel wrong.

It was good to see him smiling again afterwards and looking like someone who enjoys what he does.

He has not had a great season but he has not become a bad driver overnight. He is still a four-time world champion after all.

This season’s title is almost certainly gone, unless Hamilton and Mercedes suffer a stunning implosion, but if Sunday can give Vettel the confidence to find his best again then the second half of 2019 could still be a good one for Ferrari.

Robert Kubica's 10th-place finish in Hockenheim gave Williams their first point of 2019. Getty 
Robert Kubica's 10th-place finish in Hockenheim gave Williams their first point of 2019. Lars Baron / Getty Images

Williams deserve their luck

The announcement came almost five hours after the race that the Alfa Romeos of Kimi Raikkonen and Antonio Giovinazzi, who had finished seventh and eighth respectively, had been demoted to 12th and 13th after incurring time penalties for technical infringements on their clutches.

Championship leader Hamilton was moved up to ninth and scored two points, actually increasing his championship lead to 41 points, but the real interest was in Robert Kubica and Williams being promoted to 10th.

It is the first point of 2019 for Williams, who it is fair to say have had a dreadful time in an underfunded car that has often been two seconds off the pace of the rest of the field.

Races like Sunday were realistically the best chance of Williams scoring points. Seven drivers failed to finish and two were given time penalties.

Credit where it is due though. Both Kubica, and teammate George Russell, stayed out of trouble and that was enough to get the Pole a point for 10th place. It ended a run of 17 races without a points-scoring finish for the British team.

It is a sign of how far the team have fallen that a point is an achievement.

Williams used to dominate in Hockenheim, winning seven times there in the past, including three in a row between 1991 and 1993.

Days of victory are long gone but Claire Williams and her team have impressed this year with their determination despite the limited means at their disposal.

They earned their luck on Sunday and hopefully it can be the catalyst for better times ahead.

Updated: July 29, 2019 10:03 PM

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