German GP: Race Reflections

Lewis Hamilton goes in to the summer break with a 19-point lead over Nico Rosberg who failed to shine come race day

Formula One finally returned to Germany this weekend having been absent since 2014.

Incidentally, I was there that weekend and got badly burnt around my ticket lanyard. There was a fire engine hosing down fans in the village. It was something else. What struck me about the racetrack was how different the atmosphere was to Spa, Silverstone or Spielberg. The stadium-like section and natural amphitheatre creates a great buzz – though it’s very strange to walk through the campsite where fans are casually hanging out in their paddling pools.

#F1istZurueck

Formula One’s return to the Rhine valley held so much promise. There was barely anything separating the two Mercedes, and the Ferraris and Red Bulls were fighting for best of the rest.

In all three practice sessions, Nico Rosberg was the man to beat round the Hockenheimring. An electrical error on his penultimate run in Q3 meant he failed to set a banker lap, and had to go all out to pull pole position out of the bag.

However after the glory of Saturday came the misery of Sunday for Nico Rosberg. A poor start saw him drop to fourth behind the Red Bulls. After daring to pull an aggressive move on Max Verstappen in his battle back up to second place, he was handed a five second time penalty for forcing the Dutchman off the track.

A stopwatch failure saw him held for over eight seconds which dropped him back behind the Red Bulls. He finished in fourth and now has a 19 point deficit to teammate Hamilton, who cruised to victory unchallenged.

We need to talk about Ferrari

At the start of the season Ferrari appeared to be in prime position to mount a challenge to Mercedes.

In recent races, however, they appear to have fallen back down the order and right into the clutches of Red Bull. They’ve now fallen to third in the Constructors’ Championship, though comfortably clear of Williams who are now fighting Force India for fourth in the table.

Sebastian Vettel admitted on Thursday that the team are already focussing on the 2017 challenger. With the foundations in Ferrari starting to shake once again after technical chief James Allison’s departure, it’s difficult to imagine them fighting off the powerhouse of Ricciardo and Verstappen to reclaim second place.

Ferrari is no stranger to swapping out their top man when things get tough, but given the lack of success this has brought previously the scarlet team need to critically analyse its structure and operations to have any hope of finding a solution.

Nobody needs the holiday more than Kvyat and Rosberg

Both drivers have a psychological barrier to break before the Belgian GP in four weeks time.

Since his demotion to Toro Rosso, Danill Kvyat has been unable to keep up with his teammate Carlos Sainz. And who can blame him? The emotional blow that has been dealt him should not be taken likely, especially given the unspoken threat that if he doesn’t up his game his F1 career could be over. After a poor qualifying in Germany the Russian looked like a broken man, and in serious need of some TLC.

 

Rosberg on the other hand has seen a 43 point gap dwindle to a 19 point debt. Hamilton is on a role and could bulldoze through the rest of the season. A similar situation in 2014 saw Rosberg fail to fight back, and he too needs to find that extra something psychologically that is preventing him from mounting a challenge to Hamilton on race day.

Both Kvyat and Rosberg could benefit from a visit to Romain Grosjean’s psychologist. The Swiss-French driver was notorious for turn one incidents only a few years ago, but has credited this help with making him a better driver.

Formula One overhauls its rule book, but is inconsistent with penalties

The radio ban was lifted for this weekend for the most part, though teams are unable to coach drivers through the start of the race.

However a number of incidents over the course of the German GP have incurred the wrath of fans for their apparent inconsistency.

For example, Hamilton was investigated for an unsafe release in FP3. Arguably, this is a team error and the team should be penalised. However in the past, it is the driver that has paid the price: Rio Haryanto was given a grid drop, and Danill Kvyat a reprimand.

Hamilton already has two reprimands for this season, and a third would have won him a 10-place grid penalty. Yet stewards decided to punish the team – rightly so – but inconsistent with how the offence has been policed in the past.

Nico Hulkenberg was then in trouble for having used tyres in qualifying that should have been returned to Pirelli after free practice; yet again, an error made by the team. In this instance, Hulkenberg was handed a one-place grid drop.

In the race, Rosberg was investigated for forcing Verstappen off the track. He was given a 10-second penalty in Austria for a similar move on Hamilton. Hamilton, on the other hand, received no such penalty for an identical move on Rosberg in the US GP last year.

It’s bad enough the rules appear to be changing on a race-by-race basis at the moment, but the inconsistency on the policing of breaches – or the lack of clarity as to why the penalties differ case to case – risks fans becoming disenchanted and frustrated with off-track decisions appearing to decide the outcome of the race.

The summer break may have come at the perfect time for teams and fans alike. After all, you only realise how much you love something when you miss it.

Formula One returns in four weeks on 28th August for the Belgian GP

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