As decisions by the race stewards once again took centre stage, I rate the heroes and zeroes from a pretty dull 2016 German Grand Prix.
German Grand Prix heroes 2016
Hero – Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton was not pressed on Sunday afternoon. After his teammate Nico Rosberg gifted him the lead off the line, Hamilton simply needed to execute clean laps for the rest of the afternoon.
In F1 history no driver has ever lost the first 3 races of the season and gone on to win the world title. Hamilton looks set to break another record in 2016.
Hero – Jenson Button
McLaren-Honda headed back down to earth with a bump in Germany. Not really looking like Q3 contenders they were back to fighting on the fringes of the top 10.
Jenson Button made big gains off the start and offered impressive speed despite having to fuel save for most of the race. The 2009 world champion also enjoyed out performing teammate, Fernando Alonso. After a run of races where the team was chasing the tails of the big three, Hockenheim was a timely reminder of the work still to be done.
Hero – Daniel Ricciardo
Red Bull were gifted second place by Rosberg’s awful start from pole, setting up a fascinating intra-team battle. Verstappen nicked 2nd from Ricciardo on the opening lap but the Australian did not let his head go down.
Fed up coming off second best on race day to his much-vaunted junior team mate, Ricciardo ran smooth and fast when it counted. Finishing ahead of Verstappen was a welcome result for the ever popular Aussie.
Hero – Nico Hulkenberg
The 2015 Le Mans winner has had a difficult 2016. Of late his Mexican teammate Sergio Perez has been scoring consistent points, and grabbing headlines about where he might race in 2017.
Hulkenberg of course has not lost any of his speed or ability, demonstrated by securing a 7th place finish behind the anonymous Ferraris. At his home race this was a much needed confidence boost. Expect to see more of Hulkenberg in the second half of the season if Force India’s performance development can keep up with Williams and McLaren.
Zero – Nico Rosberg
I wrote a piece recently about how frustrating it must be for fans of Nico Rosberg. The German Grand Prix was just another example: epic in qualifying with more fuel than Hamilton and one less run to play with, he completely fluffed the race.
In such a tight title fight with Hamilton mistakes like this will pretty much assure him of a runner-up place in the championship. It simply feels like Rosberg is back to the mistakes and errors that were such a feature of the second half of his 2014 season.
In F1 history every driver that has won the opening 3 races of the season has gone on to be world champion. At least Nico is likely to break one record this season.
One saving grace was a bit of measured aggression – what he needs when he goes wheel-to-wheel with Hamilton – from Rosberg in passing Max Verstappen. But of course, the race stewards decided to punish that bit of exciting and daring overtaking…
German Grand Prix zeroes 2016
Zeroes – race stewards
After having a nightmare last week in Hungary, the stewards were at it again. The penalty for Nico Rosberg on passing Max Verstappen was a shocker. The path the stewards are taking F1 down is not one many fans will want to see – sanitized, heavy on safety and devoid of excitement. This is not what made generations fall in love with the sport.
F1 has a problem in the highly inconsistent decision-making by the race stewards. From double waved yellows, to track limits the fact a different driver steward manages each race is not helping. The drivers are consistent race to race but the decisions on what constitutes fair racing is being reinterpreted each race.
Zeroes – Mercedes pit crew
Mercedes are sponsored by IWC Schaffhausen – a manufacturer of precision time-pieces that retail for several thousand dollars a piece. The team appeared to be using a $1.99 stop-watch to time Nico Rosberg’s 5 second penalty to over 8 seconds.
In the end it made no difference to the end result but if the roles had been reversed between Rosberg and Hamilton, the cries of conspiracy would have been deafening.
Zero – Max Verstappen
It is astounding how Verstappen’s weaving in the braking zone remains unchecked by the FIA. It is only a matter of time before a serious accident occurs as a result of his approach to defending his position. With the high speeds of Spa and Monza, and the confines of Singapore still to come, there are likely to be more incidents with Verstappen.
Zeroes – Ferrari
Another race, another strategy blunder from Ferrari. This time it was of a different kind as Sebastien Vettel’s patience appeared to finally wear out.
Advised by the team to pit to try and undercut Max Verstappen, Vettle openly disagreed and effectively told the team he was not pitting. Ferrari do not have their problems to seek right now but this was just rubbing salt in the wounds.
Rumours have circulated for a while that Vettel is losing patience with the team. The enforced departure of James Allison has not helped and neither has the axe hanging over Maurizio Arrivabene’s head.
For the 4-time World champion it is a puzzle what to do next to get his team back on track. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso must have had a good chuckle to himself post-race if he listed to the Ferrari team radio.
F1 German Grand Prix 2016 Race Rating
2 out of 5 – once again the activity off the track with race stewards featured more heavily than the racing. And it was never going to be a classic when the stewards penalized the best overtake of the race.