Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2018

Vettel holding all the cards in Hockenheim

2018 German Grand Prix pre-race analysis

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Sebastian Vettel is on pole position for his home race for the first time in eight years. A first-ever F1 victory at the Hockenheimring beckons if all goes to plan on Sunday.

He has plenty of reasons to be confident: His Ferrari makes the best starts, has great straight-line speed and his closest championship rival is starting outside the top 10. Vettel is holding all the cards, but Hockenheim hasn’t always been kind to him.

“I have a bit of a mixed relationship with this track,” Vettel admitted after qualifying. “It seems sometimes we were really close in the past then for some reason it didn’t come together.

“So far this weekend it’s been great. The car is behaving well. I think we improved it for today.”

He looked at the top of his game in qualifying. Vettel seemed to keep more in hand for Q3 than his rivals, finding half a second more than anyone else as he swept to his fifth pole position of the year. Though the question remains what kind of contest we might have seen had Lewis Hamilton made it to Q3.


Regardless, Vettel has the chance to inflict serious damage on Hamilton in the championship. His first job will be to beat Bottas to turn one. This has been a Ferrari strength of late, as Hamilton pointed out on Thursday. “Ferrari have pretty good starts for the last three or four races,” he said. “They’ve been doing something different.”

“There’s a list that we have knowing where we are in terms of starts through the year,” he explained. “Ferrari have always been very strong. I think I had the best starts last year. We are now behind and that’s an area we can improve. We will.”

Hamilton did a series of practice starts during practice on Friday. Whatever Mercedes may have found won’t be as much help for him from 14th on the grid, but Valtteri Bottas in the other Mercedes will start alongside the Ferrari. The run to turn one at Hockenheim is short, however, and as Vettel showed in 2010 he knows exactly how to keep a fast-starting rival behind from pole position here.

Given that, Bottas may be more concerned about keeping Kimi Raikkonen’s third-placed Ferrari behind than worrying about taking the fight to Vettel. The long runs to turns two, six (the Spitzkehre) and six will give Ferrari plenty of opportunities to deploy their prodigious grunt.

Race day looks increasingly likely to stay dry but temperatures are expected to be cooler than on Friday, when several drivers experienced blistering. Even if it does get as hot as it did on Friday, that is unlikely to tip drivers into considering two-stop strategies. With all of the top 10 drivers starting on the same tyre, there will be little room for manoeuvre as far as tactics are concerned.

The only likely question is going to be whether those starting on the ultra-softs find it quicker to run on softs or mediums for their final stint. Those who start outside the top 10 – notably including Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo – will have fresh rubber and therefore the opportunity to run a longer first stint.

Mercedes say they aren’t concerned about Hamilton’s engine or gearbox after his loss of hydraulic pressure, so a penalty looks unlikely. Therefore he is expected to start 14th and should make his way up to fifth very quickly – after his first-lap clash at Silverstone he was back among the ‘big three’ teams within 10 laps. How successful his day is will hinge on how quickly he makes it through those cars at the start – and, of course, if there is a Safety Car or Virtual Safety Car.

For Ricciardo the climb through the field could be harder. However the Red Bull is very strong through the fast turn one, which should set them up nicely for the long straights, DRS zones and overtaking opportunities which follow it.

From fifth and sixth on the grid the Haas pair have a shot at a good result if they can keep out of each other’s way at the start. Fernando Alonso, on ‘new-tyre pole’ in 11th, should be a candidate for points in a McLaren which, for reasons which continue to puzzle the team, is more competitive over a race distance than a single lap.

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Qualifying times in full


Q2 (vs Q1)

Q3 (vs Q2)
1Sebastian VettelFerrari1’12.5381’12.505 (-0.033)1’11.212 (-1.293)
2Valtteri BottasMercedes1’12.9621’12.152 (-0.810)1’11.416 (-0.736)
3Kimi RaikkonenFerrari1’12.5051’12.336 (-0.169)1’11.547 (-0.789)
4Max VerstappenRed Bull1’13.1271’12.188 (-0.939)1’11.822 (-0.366)
5Kevin MagnussenHaas1’13.1051’12.523 (-0.582)1’12.200 (-0.323)
6Romain GrosjeanHaas1’12.9861’12.722 (-0.264)1’12.544 (-0.178)
7Nico HulkenbergRenault1’13.4791’12.946 (-0.533)1’12.560 (-0.386)
8Carlos Sainz JnrRenault1’13.3241’13.032 (-0.292)1’12.692 (-0.340)
9Charles LeclercSauber1’13.0771’12.995 (-0.082)1’12.717 (-0.278)
10Sergio PerezForce India1’13.4271’13.072 (-0.355)1’12.774 (-0.298)
11Fernando AlonsoMcLaren1’13.6141’13.657 (+0.043)
12Sergey SirotkinWilliams1’13.7081’13.702 (-0.006)
13Marcus EricssonSauber1’13.5621’13.736 (+0.174)
14Lewis HamiltonMercedes1’13.012
15Daniel RicciardoRed Bull1’13.318
16Esteban OconForce India1’13.720
17Pierre GaslyToro Rosso1’13.749
18Brendon HartleyToro Rosso1’14.045
19Lance StrollWilliams1’14.206
20Stoffel VandoorneMcLaren1’14.401

Sector times

DriverSector 1Sector 2Sector 3
Sebastian Vettel15.279 (1)34.159 (1)21.743 (4)
Valtteri Bottas15.419 (3)34.472 (3)21.525 (1)
Kimi Raikkonen15.461 (4)34.289 (2)21.728 (2)
Max Verstappen15.355 (2)34.733 (6)21.734 (3)
Kevin Magnussen15.506 (5)34.710 (5)21.984 (5)
Romain Grosjean15.558 (7)34.829 (10)22.098 (6)
Nico Hulkenberg15.538 (6)34.828 (9)22.104 (7)
Carlos Sainz Jnr15.685 (9)34.775 (8)22.232 (11)
Charles Leclerc15.747 (11)34.620 (4)22.229 (10)
Sergio Perez15.602 (8)34.744 (7)22.318 (12)
Fernando Alonso15.699 (10)35.331 (18)22.491 (13)
Sergey Sirotkin15.809 (14)35.324 (17)22.516 (14)
Marcus Ericsson15.791 (13)35.105 (12)22.584 (15)
Lewis Hamilton15.821 (15)34.947 (11)22.174 (8)
Daniel Ricciardo15.827 (16)35.268 (16)22.221 (9)
Esteban Ocon15.774 (12)35.122 (13)22.747 (17)
Pierre Gasly15.907 (17)35.239 (15)22.603 (16)
Brendon Hartley16.055 (20)35.228 (14)22.762 (18)
Lance Stroll15.956 (19)35.451 (19)22.799 (20)
Stoffel Vandoorne15.933 (18)35.548 (20)22.780 (19)

Speed trap

PosDriverCarEngineSpeed (kph/mph)Gap
1Sergio PerezForce IndiaMercedes326.6 (202.9)
2Kimi RaikkonenFerrariFerrari324.7 (201.8)-1.9
3Marcus EricssonSauberFerrari324.1 (201.4)-2.5
4Sebastian VettelFerrariFerrari322.6 (200.5)-4.0
5Romain GrosjeanHaasFerrari320.9 (199.4)-5.7
6Sergey SirotkinWilliamsMercedes320.8 (199.3)-5.8
7Valtteri BottasMercedesMercedes320.6 (199.2)-6.0
8Charles LeclercSauberFerrari320.1 (198.9)-6.5
9Esteban OconForce IndiaMercedes320.0 (198.8)-6.6
10Lance StrollWilliamsMercedes319.9 (198.8)-6.7
11Kevin MagnussenHaasFerrari319.5 (198.5)-7.1
12Nico HulkenbergRenaultRenault319.2 (198.3)-7.4
13Pierre GaslyToro RossoHonda317.9 (197.5)-8.7
14Carlos Sainz JnrRenaultRenault317.8 (197.5)-8.8
15Lewis HamiltonMercedesMercedes316.4 (196.6)-10.2
16Brendon HartleyToro RossoHonda314.1 (195.2)-12.5
17Stoffel VandoorneMcLarenRenault313.8 (195.0)-12.8
18Max VerstappenRed BullTAG Heuer312.2 (194.0)-14.4
19Fernando AlonsoMcLarenRenault311.6 (193.6)-15.0
20Daniel RicciardoRed BullTAG Heuer310.7 (193.1)-15.9

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Over to you

Can anyone stop Vettel from taking his first F1 victory in Hockenheim? And where will Hamilton and Ricciardo finish from their compromised starting positions?

Share your views on the German Grand Prix in the comments.

Quotes: Dieter Rencken

2018 German Grand Prix

    Browse all 2018 German Grand Prix articles

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    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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    10 comments on “Vettel holding all the cards in Hockenheim”

    1. Can anyone stop Vettel from taking his first F1 victory in Hockenheim? – Yes, but only Bottas really.
      And where will Hamilton and Ricciardo finish from their compromised starting positions? – If nothing unusual happens to the drivers on the first two rows on the grid then 5th and 6th respectively.

    2. One key thing is missing in this though. Mercedes race pace is better than Ferrari. Bottas was closing on Vettel before safety car.

      1. They only did training and quali sessions. When was there a safety car?

        Or are you seriously talking about a few laps of race pace from some other race?

        1. Silverstone 2018, before and after the pitstops.

          1. but this is a completely different track @Sumedh

      2. The Ferrari was 2 to 3 tenths faster than the Merc on long run pace on Friday

    3. Bottas will need a perfect start where somehow he gets inside of Vettel. I’m not sure if Mercedes’ race pace will be enough.

      To be honest I think Mercedes should’ve considered putting in new parts for Lewis. How many laps difference is 14th to 20th anyway?

    4. Probably the only thing that can stop Vettel is if Bottas does “a Ferrari” going into turn one.

    5. and as Vettel showed in 2010 he knows exactly how to keep a fast-starting rival behind from pole position here.

      Totally disagree, that didn’t work against Alonso who was as aggressive on the gas as hell. He didn’t even lift despite the fact that he nearly kissed the wall. Sebastian in that start didn’t only lost it to Fernando but also to Massa who took him from the outside while he was busy squeezing Fernando.

      1. Bottas is no Alonso, though.

    Comments are closed.