Hamilton makes hay on “crap day” for Rosberg

2016 German Grand Prix review

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If the German Grand Prix was the final scene before the intermission in the 2016 season, the scriptwriter did a serviceable if unimaginative job of reprising the main themes of the season so far.

Nico Rosberg squandering an early advantage over Lewis Hamilton? Check. Red Bull replacing Ferrari as the biggest threat to Mercedes? Check.

Squabbling over rules changes which ultimately make little difference to the on-track action? Yes, there was plenty of that too.

Hamilton starts well again

The Red Bulls pounced on Rosberg’s slow start
Hamilton’s starts were a significant weakness at the start of the season. But for the second race in a row in Germany he lined up second behind his team mate and immediately fired into the lead.

This was at least as much because Rosberg made a poor start as because Hamilton made a good one, but the championship leader has clearly addressed this particular weakness. “I think the last two races the procedure’s been spot-on, pretty much,” said Hamilton. “Today was definitely the best one I would say.”

The two Red Bulls fell in behind Hamilton, Max Verstappen audaciously navigating around the outside of Daniel Ricciardo at turn one on the exit kerb. Ricciardo found his mirrors full of Rosberg on the run to the Spitzkehre but – unlike in Hungary – he positioned his RB12 perfectly to ensure Rosberg did not retake the place he had just lost.

Behind them the Ferraris, which started from row three, swapped places at the start, Sebastian Vettel getting ahead of Kimi Raikkonen. Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg held their positions but the McLaren of Jenson Button appeared behind them having made up three places.

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Red Bull stay ahead

Rosberg made a few more attempts to get by Ricciardo before being reminded by his race engineer to treat his super-soft tyres with care for the opening laps. The teams are now able to listen in on all of their rivals’ radio messages, and Verstappen’s engineer soon told his driver Hamilton had been given the same instruction.

Hamilton stretched his lead as the first round of pit stops approached, leaving Verstappen behind at well over half a second per lap. But the three second gap covering Verstappen, Ricciardo and Rosberg meant Mercedes had a strong chance of recovering at least one place by bringing their driver in early.

Sure enough Rosberg followed Verstappen into the pits on lap 11. Ricciardo had to stay out, but his chances of keeping his position improved when a slow left-rear tyre change for Rosberg cost the Mercedes around a second. Rosberg’s plight worsened when he came out of the pits behind both McLarens.

Red Bull wasted no time bringing Ricciardo in to secure his position ahead of Rosberg. They also covered their strategic options: with Verstappen and Rosberg both on super-softs, Ricciardo switched to the longer-lasting soft tyres.

Verstappen clash earns Rosberg penalty

Rosberg did apply full lock – eventually
Hamilton had the luxury of being able to wait until lap 14 to make his first pit stop. He rejoined with a six-second lead which he continued to gradually extend, particularly when Verstappen’s super-soft tyres began to go off.

Mercedes anticipated Verstappen’s troubles well and had Rosberg in the pits on lap 27 to gain the benefit of the undercut. While Verstappen’s in-lap was quick, his previous tour was not, and the result was Rosberg was right on his tail as lap 30 began.

With the Mercedes at full song and DRS on the approach to the Spitzkehre, Rosberg was gaining on Verstappen quicker than the Red Bull driver appeared to realise. Rosberg dived for the inside at the last moment – and Verstappen jinked towards him in defence even later than that.

What followed looked like an action replay of the last lap in Austria, with Verstappen in the role of Hamilton and Rosberg committing much the same offence for much the same outcome. Despite later insisting he had been “on full lock” it was clear from the replays he waited a long time before turning in at all, obliging Verstappen to take to the run-off as he claimed the position. The stewards handed Rosberg a five-second time penalty and endorsed his licence.

More grief for Rosberg

Ricciardo ran until lap 34 on his soft tyres. While Verstappen hadn’t enjoyed the super-soft rubber early in the race Ricciardo preferred it. “The super-soft worked a lot better,” he said, “I was happier with that tyre the last two stints.”

After switching back to the softer rubber Ricciardo was immediately a second per lap faster than Verstappen. Red Bull, knowing Rosberg’s penalty meant they had a chance to get both cars home in front of him, made sure Verstappen didn’t hold Ricciardo up.

“Once I caught Max I had the DRS but he made life easy for me,” Ricciardo confirmed. “That was, let’s say, a good little bit of teamwork for us.”

Rosberg again initiated the final round of pit stops when he came in on lap 44. However he would have to wait before being furnished with four new tyres – and not just because of his five-second time penalty. Mercedes mis-timed how long they needed to hold the car in the box, costing Rosberg another four seconds.

For the final stint Rosberg had a set of the soft tyres – which had been widely expected to be the better tyre for the race – while both Red Bull drivers had to run at least 21 laps on the super-soft tyres. However Ricciardo continued to find good performance from the softer rubber, and though Verstappen’s lap times began to drop off towards the end of the race it wasn’t enough for Rosberg to mount an attack.

Two-stoppers struggle

A 33-lap stint proved too much for Bottas
Most teams quickly gravitated towards three-stop strategies in the race and those who stuck with two-stoppers largely regretted it. First among those was Bottas, was who passed by Hulkenberg and Button during his final stint. The Force India driver therefore followed the Ferraris home – Raikkonen confined to sixth after a slow first pit stop.

Fernando Alonso was on course for the final point with four laps to go before a pressing need to save fuel allowed Sergio Perez and Esteban Gutierrez through. The Haas driver was the only one to start the race on the soft tyres which allowed him to be one of the more successful of the two-stop runners.

His team mate Romain Grosjean came 13th after being forced to slow with a braking problem mid-way through the race. He was followed by the Toro Rosso pair, Carlos Sainz Jnr another driver who lost time in the pits.

It was a race of what might have been for Renault. Jolyon Palmer made a slightly too aggressive start and made contact with Felipe Massa – the Williams driver later retiring. Kevin Magnussen was another driver who lost out after trying to run a two-stop strategy. The two yellow cars were separated at the flag by Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, while Rio Haryanto brought up the rear.

Hamilton never threatened

Hamilton took it easy on his W07
Eight days ago Rosberg was leading the championship. He now lies 19 points off the lead after what he described as an “absolutely crap day, crap race”.

For Hamilton, after a troubled start to the year he enters the summer break with a fourth world championship title looking increasingly likely. The lack of pressure from behind even allowed him to protect his diminished supply of power units.

“Generally I was looking after the engine up front and never felt like I was under threat,” Hamilton admitted.

“Hopefully I’ve saved enough of my engine today hoping that I would be able to use it at the next race. It will either be the next race or Monza, because I’m going to run out of engines soon.”

That penalty may be inevitable, but Hamilton’s bonus haul of points today will put him in a stronger position when it finally comes.

Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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35 comments on “Hamilton makes hay on “crap day” for Rosberg”

  1. Final nail in the coffin for Palmer, I fear. Nice guy, but not quite F1.

  2. And we’re back to where we were last season. Hamilton takes the lead and the momentum going into the summer break and pretty much seals the deal with three races to spare.

    Rosberg had the perfect opportunity today and he bottled it. There’s no shame in loosing to a driver like Hamilton but he’s making it far too easy.

  3. @keithcollantine, Freudian slip! the 2 renault cars described as 2 yellow flags, oops, but fairly apt actually.

    1. Yeah I’ve had enough of yellow flags after Hungary! Fixed now, thanks.

  4. EVEN though Hamilton will probably suffer penalties in the later part of the season because of his engines didn’t last long at the beginning of the year, and 1 more reprimand would mean a 10 place grid penalty, this is Hamilton’s to lose.

    You’re 43 points ahead and by virtue of your own mistakes or lack of pace, now you’re sitting 19 points adrift… that must be quite a hard pill to swallow for Rosberg. It’s looking like 2014 all over again. A great points advantage (and advantages behind the scenes… Hamilton looked miserable after Spain) gone, puf, just like that.

    Now it’s Rosberg who’s under pressure. Not just on track but also outside. Contract renewal or not, he now has points in his license, reprimands, 4 consecutive weekends of controversial moments (crashes, yellow flags, team radio, forcing someone off track), and the results are not there. Nico’s never looked like someone able to overcome such pressure.

    Only once Rosberg showed the upper hand and that was when Hamilton had sealed his championship last year. I’m hoping he surprises us all after the summer break… I want a fight until the end. But I’m not holding too many hopes…

    1. “I’m hoping he surprises us all after the summer break… I want a fight until the end. But I’m not holding too many hopes…”

      Then dont even get a hope, despite all the hype of ros might challenge ive never felt the same despite his wins he just doesn’t have that extra bit in every area which lewis has. So after summer break unless a big miracle happens Lewis will just increase the lead significantly and the wdc will be sealed alot earlier.

      1. MG421982 (@)
        1st August 2016, 7:44

        You’re right, but let’s not exagerate either. Did not see anything spectacular/extra bit from HAM yesterday. It was ROS that messed up big time at the start, not HAM bringing on that “little extra”. The Mercedes is the best car anyway, HAM probably the best driver overall in F1 at the moment… so, nothing shocking when looking at the race results. Had it been the other way around, I mean ROS 1st and HAM 4th in the first corner, very probably the race would have ended the same: ROS winning, HAM finishing 4th. The RBRs were pretty strong this race, so I don’t think HAM would have had it much easier than ROS if caught behind them.

        1. “Had it been the other way around, I mean ROS 1st and HAM 4th in the first corner, very probably the race would have ended the same: ROS winning, HAM finishing 4th. The RBRs were pretty strong this race, so I don’t think HAM would have had it much easier than ROS if caught behind them.”

          I disagree. Rosberg had an exceptionally slow stint on the soft tyres, which is evident from the lap time charts. Also Hamilton is highly unlikely to have have pushed another driver off the track before turning into the corner…. he would have waited till the exit!

    2. geoffgroom44 (@)
      1st August 2016, 7:50

      “4 consecutive weekends of controversial moments (crashes, yellow flags, team radio, forcing someone off track)”, and now we are treated to faulty stopwatches (I have never heard of that in my life before) and other such stuff. Sorry Nico, but it’s starting to look like the most exciting thing we can expect is which new variation on the theme of not managing it will appear next(and I actually wanted to see him win the German GP for sentimental reasons, good for the sport, good as a means of extracting the absolute best out of Lewis for the rest of the season).

      “.. he just doesn’t have that extra bit in every area which Lewis has” sums it up exactly.

    3. Even with grid penalties and whatnot, I would be more surprised if Hamilton didn’t get on the podium whenever he chooses to take it. He has the starts nailed now it seems, he could make up a lot of places at the start and lap one, which he has done before. With safety cars or changing weather, the win could even be on. He won’t lose much to Rosberg.

  5. And Nico joins that long list of good but not great F1 drivers. Webber, Irvine, Barrichello, Coulthard, Reutemann, Massa, Berger, Arnoux, Laffite, Patrese, Regazzoni, Watson,…

    No shame in being on that list; not everyone can be a World Champion. If “everyone” could then it wouldn’t be special.

    1. I don’t quite agree. None of those guys beat Schumacher, like Rosberg did. Several of them were Schumacher’s footstools. None of those guys is close to Rosberg’s totals of poles, which he earned against Schumacher and Hamilton. Rosberg is in a kind of no-man’s land between good and great, which is worse in a way, because it suggests under-achievement.

  6. “Most teams quickly gravitated towards three-stop strategies in the race and those who stuck with two-stoppers largely regretted it.”
    I thought before the race the two-stop strategy was predicted to be the fastest strategy, but tire wear was huge and with the short pitlane it is easy to understand why three stops was the preferred strategy. Did anyone use the medium-compound tires, by the way?

    1. @f1infigures Not really, three stop is predicted to be the fastest strategy, but it has the risk of losing track position and possible stuck behind slower driver.

  7. Pole on Pole
    1st August 2016, 9:32

    Can anybody tell me Nico Rosberg’s best win?

    He has 19 of them, yet I can’t remember a single race win of his where he has had to fight through the field and overcome some adversity. He’s had a few race wins where he has had pressure from Hamilton and did well to stay ahead, but none where he has had to fight from behind.

    1. According to the sky coverage before the race the 3 stop was the quickest, though it would leave you with more traffic issues. The traffic issues disappeared however when most teams switched to the 3 stop anyway.

      1. Oops that was supposed to be to the above comment @f1infigures

    2. I am not sure… But probably Monaco 2013. He beat Lewis in quali fair and square and he got the race… Though most of his wins came when either his competitors had trouble or team strategy screwed to that particular driver… Also Brazil 2014 where Lewis was just on fire in the race. But you could attribute this to the track because the track prevents following.

      Otherwise… He is probably one of the luckiest drivers on the grid to be honest.. even I find this hard not to admit as Lewis and true f1 fan. We could enumerate his wins 1 by one…

      2012 China- Pole. Won the race comfortably.
      2013 Monaco- Clean race win
      2013 Britain- Vettel and Hamilton were forced to give up the lead. (gearbox and tyre blowout)
      2014 Australia- Hamilton retired from the lead due to 1 cylinder(engine) not working.
      2014 Monaco- Famously known for his quali incident.
      2014 Austria- Clean race win.
      2014 Germany- Hamilton retired from qualifying, allowing Rosberg to have a higher chance at pole.
      2014 Brazil- Clean race win. Just to add: Hamilton spun in trying to overcut Nico after setting the fastest lap of the race.
      2015 Spain- Hamilton’s bad start allowed him to race without any challenger. (Gap to ferrari massive)
      2015 Monaco- Famously known for Mercedes’ pitstop error.
      2015 Austria- Clean race win.
      2015 Mexico- Clean race win
      2015 Brazil- Clean race win
      2015 Abu Dhabi- Questionable: Mercedes made Hamilton stay out for super long after he closed to less than 1s allowing Rosberg to have a huge gap after Lewis made his stop.
      2016 Australia- Ferrari made an error to put Vettel on supersoft tyres after the red flag period allowing Rosberg to lead after Vettel’s 2nd stop.
      2016 Bahrain- Hamilton got hit by Bottas and was forced to drive with a damage floor.
      2016 China- Hamilton forced to retire in quali and start last. Again got damaged to his car after turn 1.
      2016 Russia- Hamilton forced to retire in Q3 and start 10th. Couldn’t catch Nico though…
      2016 European- Hamilton couldn’t get into a rhythm and forced to start 10th. Lewis encountered problems in the race whilst him too.

      Now remember everything that happend in each.

      1. If you want to analyse this further, it’s quite clear to see that Rosberg has never won in anything other than dry conditions.

        He’s never won when he hasn’t either a) lead into the first corner or b) inherited the lead due to a retirement of a rival.

        1. Rosberg is probably the worst driver on the grid in wet conditions.

          1. I think it’s unfair to say Rosberg is the worst driver on the grid in the wet. I mean at least while massa is still on it ;) Wasn’t it 6 times he spun in the British GP in 2008?

            Joking aside Rosberg has had a couple of uninspiring wet races this season, but has proved himself in previous ones, he’s not the worst by a long way.

      2. Point taken. +1

  8. Rosberg is excellent second driver for Mercedes. If Alonso, Riccardo or Verstappen driver second Mercedes car then Hamilton would have harder job to beat them, and there would be more close contacts and crashes. But F1 fans ( except Hamilton fans) do not won’t do see that Hamilton win all races till end of seasons.

  9. It seems if Rosberg is given the chance to shoot himself in the foot he takes it.

    The overtake on Verstappen could’ve been so straightforward with the over speed he had and inside line. He could’ve eased Verstappen off on the straight, taking his racing line, but he chose to keep the wheel straight until Verstappen was dealt with and then steer, needlessly losing himself a podium.

    He lost more points in Austria with this tactic. Canada he messed up again trying to get by Verstappen. Wrong engine mode in Spain after a good start. Even thinking back to 2014, Hungary and Belgium, where he struggled to make clean passes on much weaker cars.

    I actually thought the strong end to last year was the start of something and that was reassured when he won the first few races. Even though Hamilton had some bad luck I thought maybe Rosberg is stronger now than ever. But his failings have come back for all to see since Spain. He has made life hard for himself since then, he has had hardly any technical issues. He has got to be kicking himself. This is Hamilton’s to lose now. Unlikely

  10. Even though Hamilton had a good start, he’s was still poor compared to the Redbulls, as are the average Mercedes starts.

    1. Watch a replay, ideally the helicopter shot of the start. Hamiltons start was anything but poor, he actually pulled away from the redbulls too.

  11. Mercedes, can afford to take a two engine penalty at one of the next few races. That will reset engine parity,and perhaps the championship points for their drivers.

  12. HAM very much needed to win in Germany after his Baku qually mistake.

    HAM will most probably take 2 fresh PUs for Spa and start at the back of the grid.
    At best HAM may be able to climb to 3rd or 4th from the back at Spa.
    For ROS to have any chance at the WDC he MUST WIN in Spa.

    Taking 2 PUs at Spa could leave HAM with more fresh PUs for the rest of the season than ROS, but ROS would have a more upgraded PU for his fifth and final.

    My money is on HAM

    1. Toto said that they would try to minimize the engine penalty. He highly doubted that he will take 2 engines. Maybe there is something that they know that we don’t…. But in my view, SPA is the best because Monza is actually quite hard to overtake whilst in SPA you have a lot of opportunities and I am sure, unless they change the drs zones, that it will be a DRS festival there…

      Of course, my pic shows that I am a Lewis fan and I still predict that he will take #4. But it all depends on SPA, this is a huge race, actually this was a huge race that Nico failed to deliver. Last year, Lewis destroyed him in qualifying and in the race at SPA… And even Monza Nico needs to be there because Lewis has always been strong at Monza.

      Conclusion: It all depends on how they perform at SPA. If Nico wins and Lewis finishes in the top 10, then Nico has still a chance. However if Nico wins and Lewis finishes in 2-5, then that could be Lewis’ huge desire. NICO MUST WIN AT SPA. Otherwise, it’s all on luck…

      Off topic: I remember when I was watching then finals for EURO 2016 between Portugal and France since I used to play football and a huge fan, and my best friend asked me, who is your bet? I answered: “Whoever has more luck”. Both Hamilton and Rosberg had their lucks and misfortune this season… But it will go down to whoever has more luck and whoever can take advantage the most…

    2. “HAM very much needed to win in Germany after his Baku qually mistake”

      Given that coming into the German GP he had won 3 races on the trot post Baku and was leading the championship that is a very very odd statement to make.

      I think top 5 will be difficult without safety cars or retirements if Hamilton starts from the back of the grid. He will have trouble catching and passing Rosberg, the Red Bulls and the Ferraris if they have clean races.

  13. I have a question….if Hamilton is going to have to start from the back in one of the next 2 races can he not just bin qualifying for that race anyway and save tyres? I would.

    1. He need to set a time within the 107% rule. It is qualifying after all even if all they do nowdays is setting the starting order.

      1. He could spend the qualifying session testing some new parts and maybe get in the way of Rosbergs hot laps once in a while. :)

      2. While he does have to be within the 107 rule he could easily do that with 1 flying lap on the least favoured race tyre in Q1 and then park it in the garage, that would still leave him with more than enough brand new race tyres.

  14. It’s tough to take HAM’s flash but damn he’s strait up a better driver than ROS. Plus I’d rather be screwing Kaitlin Jenner’s daughter on occasion then changing diapers between races.

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