It’s setting up to be a wild German Grand Prix (9 a.m. ET/ESPN) on Sunday. The Mercedes duo have been lacking pace due to the unseasonal temperatures in Europe right now. Lewis Hamilton said that the high heat doesn’t bode well for their power units.
In practice, Hamilton was third, third and sixth respectively. His teammate Valtteri Bottas was fifth, fourth and fourth respectively.
But, rain is in the forecast for Sunday. That could close their gap. Plus, Sebastian Vettel will start last after having a power unit failure in qualifying. More on all of this later.
How To Watch
Coverage – 9 a.m. ET
Lights Out – 9:10 a.m. ET
TV – ESPN
Country – German
Track – Hockenheimring
Race Distance – 67 Laps/190.424 Miles
Defending Winner – Lewis Hamilton
Will Rain Help Mercedes?
As I stated above, the Mercedes duo needs it to rain or have an overcast day with cooler temperatures. Record high temps have hit Germany and that doesn’t bode well for Mercedes. They’ve struggled in practice all weekend and in the only other race run in high heat this season, it’s the only race that Mercedes didn’t win. In fact, they finished third (Bottas) and fifth (Hamilton) respectively.
While they start 1-3 on Sunday, can they hold off the Red Bull’s?
But, if the weather cooperates, then they reenter Sunday’s race as the favorites.
Since 2014, the German Grand Prix has been hosted on the F1 schedule three times – Mercedes drivers have won them all. Furthermore, they’ve won nine of the 10 races run in 2019 as well.
Last year, they finished 1-2 in this race. This year, Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas have placed 1-2 seven of the 10 races run including the last race in England.
Also, this is a weekend of celebration for the manufacturer.
Normally, the Mercedes team would be celebrated at a race in Germany. But, they also cheer on their countryman Sebastian Vettel and his Ferrari team. It makes it kind of an awkward weekend for a German crowd cheering for their home driver who drives for an Italian team. Meanwhile, there’s a German team in the series who thrives and is Vettel’s rival.
This weekend, the team (Mercedes) will host a large presence at the German track as this season marks their 125th year in racing. Since Mercedes is made in Germany and the race being sponsored by the car manufacturer, you get why the big foray that they’re going to be hosting.
Ferrari’s Have Winning Chances Likely Thrown Away In Qualifying
All weekend long it looked like a Ferrari would win Sunday’s race. The Mercedes duo were slower in every practice session than the Ferrari two some as the Prancing Horses looked like the clear cut favorites.
They were quickest in all three practice sessions. But, in qualifying, it all went down hill.
First, it was Sebastien Vettel with problems. He was first, second and third respectively in practice. While he’s never won on this track before, he had high hopes to finally get a win in front of his home fans.
Unfortunately, the German driver had a power unit failure on his No. 5 Ferrari in Q1 which leaves him with a last place starting spot. That essentially ends and shot of him winning on Sunday.
That’s a shame for him as it’s another example on how bad this season has gone for him.
Same thing happened to Charles Leclerc in Q3. He looked like the favorite for the pole but he had to climb out of his car on his opening lap in the third and final round and will start 10th too.
As a result, this essentially ends any shot of Ferrari winning on Sunday afternoon.
If Race Is Hot…
We already said that the Mercedes duo needs it to be cooler ambient temps and/or rain on Sunday. But, what if it’s neither and remains hot? With both of them sure to struggle then and Vettel starting last, that opens the door for someone new.
Charles Leclerc would inset himself as the favorite if not for his power unit failure in Q3 as he was second, first and first respectively in practice. He has four straight podiums on the season and is eyeing his first career win. But, I don’t know if he can pass nine cars.
Then there’s Max Verstappen. He was fourth, fifth and second respectively in practice and has finished third and fourth respectively in his past on this track. He also has a top five finish in every race run in 2019 and is the only other driver not of Mercedes to have won this season too.
Could his teammate Pierre Gasly get it done? He was sixth, 15th and eighth respectively in practice and is getting better and better now on the season. He went from 10th to seventh to fourth to…first? The trend say yes and the race is now wide open.
What about anyone else?
Mercedes, Red Bull Or Ferrari Will Win
It sounds counter productive to give any other team in F1 a shout out for a race win and this weekend isn’t any different. Since the hybrid era came around in 2014, only Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull have won literally every race.
In Germany, these three teams have combined to win the last 10 races there too. The last time a non “Big 3” team won in Germany came back in 2005 when Fernando Alonso took his Renault to victory. That’s the only time since 2004 that someone not of Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari won in the German country.
While the race is back to being wide open, I don’t think anyone new will win still.
It appears that we’re heading to another Mercedes championship. It would be their eighth overall, six of which coming consecutively.
Right now, Hamilton leads his Mercedes teammate of Bottas by 39 points. Third place is now Max Verstappen who trails Hamilton by 87 markers himself. Charles LeClerc is fourth (-100) while his Ferrari teammate of Sebastian Vettel is fifth (-103).
Making up that many points for anyone other than Bottas on Hamilton will be tough.
Hamilton, won’t crack under pressure. He’s won five world championships and a sixth would move him out of a tie with Juan Manuel Fangio for second all time and make him one title short of tying Michael Schumacher’s seven for most ever.
Hamilton, has won the last two world titles and four of the last five overall.
Translation? He’s not going to make any mistakes as he’s not going to be fazed by the hype of an end of the season run by someone else.
Plus, Hamilton is just so darn good.
Since the start of last season (31 races), Hamilton has 18 wins and five runner-ups. That’s finishing in the top two on 74-percent of his races run over a 31 race period. This season alone, he’s finished in the top two 90-percent of the time (9-for-10) with seven wins. Over the last 22 races, Hamilton has 19 top two finishes, 15 of those being wins.
If you want to take this stat back to podiums, Hamilton has finished off the podium just 20 times in the hybrid era. In his last 110 starts, Hamilton has 90 podiums (82%).
He’s had 20 podiums in his last 22 starts (91%).
So, if you want to catch him by 87 or more points, you need to start knocking him off the podium and also need to be winning races too. There’s around a 10-percent chance of Hamilton not finishing on the podium. There’s a far less chance of a non Mercedes driver winning from there too, because if he’s not winning, Bottas likely is.
Who would have thought that the best team not of the Big 3 would be McLaren? Well, they are. They’re fourth in the constructors standings, 29 points clear of fifth (Renault). They’re another 13 points on top of that clear of Alfa Romero Racing (Ferrari).
Over the last three races, Carlos Sainz Jr. and his rookie teammate on Lando Norris have combined for five top 10 finishes between them.
Sainz, has scored in points in six of the last seven races in his No. 55 McLaren Renault. He’s moved up to seventh in the standings as the top non “Big 3” drivers.
Norris, has scored in points in two of his last three races as well and sits ninth in the points standings. The only other driver not of the “Big 3” better other than his teammate is Kimi Raikkonen.
While there’s a wide gap still from Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes, the gap between McLaren and the rest behind them is growing too. That’s a good outlook for the future for them.
Getting Close To Summer Break
Germany kicks off a stretch of two straight weeks of racing. But, these are the final two weeks before the annual summer break. After next weekend’s race in Hungary, F1 has a full month off between races.
Middle Of European String
Germany is the fourth race in-a-row on the F1 schedule on the continent of Europe. There’s three races left leaving Hockenheim too. All three races fall in Europe as well.
Since June, F1 has gone to France to Austria to England and now to Germany. Following this weekend, they’ll go to Hungary, Belgium and Italy. Even further, if you want to go back to April when they went to Azerbaijan and Spain and into May with Monaco, the F1 drivers have been in Europe every week with the exception of one when they went to Canada in early June.
If you throw in the summer break in a couple of week, from April through early September, there has been just one F1 race outside of Europe.
But, Italy (Sept 8) is it. The remaining six races following that event will all take place outside of Europe.
33 Verstappen – He’s good in the rain and not afraid to send it. The Red Bull driver has a better car than the Mercedes duo right now and was fourth, fifth and second respectively in practice. He also has a top five finish in every race in 2019 and starts second.
44 Hamilton – He will be able to hold off a charge from everyone else and earn his 10th top two finish of the season and fourth straight podium in Germany. Hamilton, finished third, first and first respectively in his last three German Grand Prix starts. He gets a runner-up on Sunday.
10 Gasly – He’s gotten better and better in each of the last three races. He went from 10th to seventh to fourth and now I think he gets his first career podium with Red Bull. Gasly, was sixth, 15th and eighth respectively in practice too.
77 Bottas – He just hasn’t had a much better car than fourth all weekend. He was fifth, fourth and fourth respectively in practice. While he has a top four finish in every race this season, I don’t think he gets better than that on Sunday despite starting third.
16 Leclerc – I do think the speed is there for him to make a charge but just how far? Leclerc, was second, first and first respectively in practice but a power unit failure cost him a pole. He starts 10th. I think he makes up half of those spots on Sunday. The problem is, if it rains, it’s going to be hard to pass. If it’s hot, he can’t push too hard or will risk another failure.