• INSIGHT: Extra Bits from Germany

Delving a little deeper into some of the Hockenheim headlines...

Thanks for the Memories...

With only six circuits visited by Formula One more often than Hockenheim - and one of them being Nürburgring - it seemed strange to contemplate the absence of Germany once again from a draft 2019 calendar.

With Michael Schumacher, Mercedes winning the past four Constructors' Championships and Sebastian Vettel a four-time world champion, Germany does seem to have a valid claim to 'classic' status

Mercedes has a rich and diverse German GP history. Rudolf Caracciola won the race five times for the Silver Arrows between 1926 and 1939, at Avus and Nürburgring. Otto Merz - whose party piece was hammering nails through wood with his bare hands! - was another pre-war Mercedes winner, as was British driver Richard Seaman.

The great Juan Manuel Fangio won the 1954 German GP in a Mercedes W196 and, 44 years on, it was a Mercedes-powered McLaren that took Mika Häkkinen to victory at Hockenheim en route to the Finn's first world title.

A decade later, it was déjà vu as Lewis Hamilton took the same car / engine combination to a Hockenheim win as he, too, closed in on his first World Championship.

Lewis also won the German GP at Nürburgring in 2011 before taking his third German victory at Hockenheim once again with the works team in 2016 and a splendid 14th to first win last Sunday.

"You could see how many attended, it was a full house," Toto commented. "I'm really happy to see that after the last couple of events. People came and saw a great racing spectacle. I hope that it's going to continue and that between the promoter, the state and (F1 owners) Liberty, they can find a solution to keep the German Grand Prix."

Niki's German Grand Prix Legacy

Non-executive chairman Niki Lauda can look back at the German Grand Prix with very mixed feelings.

Back in 1975, he became the first man to lap the formidable 14-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife sub seven minutes. Niki, in fact, had done it the year before in a test - but when he took pole for the 1975 German GP in 6m58.6s, this was the first officially timed lap under the magic mark.

He was the only one, too. Second place man Carlos Pace was 1.4s slower in his Brabham and Ferrari team mate Clay Regazzoni was fully 3s slower than Niki.

Such a long circuit, dubbed 'the green hell' by multiple race-winner Sir Jackie Stewart, with its 1,000ft of elevation change in the Eifel mountains, was impossible to cover adequately with marshals and rescue services, had little or no run-off area, was narrow and bumpy.

It had already missed one year in 1970 while modifications were made, which brought Hockenheim onto the F1 calendar for the first time.

By '76 Niki had taken over Stewart's F1 safety mantle to a large extent and, feeling that Nürburgring's standards were now unacceptable, tried to organise a driver boycott. He was voted down by just one vote and the race went ahead.

Niki was badly burned and his life hung in the balance after a second lap accident. The fact that it was his fellow drivers rather than rescue crews who freed Niki from his burning car, rather proved his point... It was the last German GP held on the Nordschleife.

Before it happened, callous spectators with short-term memories after Niki's '75 pole lap, had called into question his commitment and bravery. Niki, ever the pragmatist, said that had nothing to do with it, it was merely the practicalities.

He had the perfect answer for them when he turned up at Hockenheim the following year and won the German GP - his second of three wins that year on the way to his second world title.

Fourteenth to First - How Did He Do It?

Having swallowed the disappointment of arch-rival Sebastian Vettel winning at Silverstone, Lewis took revenge at Hockenheim with a truly remarkable drive.

Hydraulic issues in qualifying meant starting 14th. After the opening lap sort-out, Lewis crossed the line 13th. He passed Esteban Ocon on lap 2, Fernando Alonso on lap 3 and Charles Leclerc on lap 4 to put himself into the points.

Carlos's Sainz's Renault fell to the flying Mercedes on lap 6, Romain Grosjean's Haas on lap 8 and Sergio Perez's Force India on lap 9.

Two laps later and Lewis was past Nico Hülkenberg in the second Renault and into the top 6. That became fifth four laps later when he demoted Kevin Magnusssen's Haas.

Lapping at the same pace as the leaders, Lewis was threatening Kimi Räikkönen's pit window, leading to Ferrari calling Räikkönen in for a relatively early lap 14 pit stop, making it highly likely that he would have to pit again as there were still 53 laps to go.

Lewis, starting outside the top 10, had freedom of tyre choice and had gone to the grid on Pirelli's yellow-walled Soft tyre as against the UltraSofts used by the top 10 starters.

The plan was to extend his opening stint as far as possible for two reasons:

First, rain showers were predicted later in the race and it would be advantageous to dovetail his pit stop with any swap onto intermediate tyres that might prove necessary.

Second, if it remained slick conditions, he could potentially do the race with a single stop onto the UltraSoft and be strong in the closing laps. The great skill in that opening stint was Lewis' ability to come through the field while still keeping his tyres in decent shape.

Vettel pitted on lap 26 to go onto the Softs, suggesting that he, too, would make it through on one stop. He re-joined just 2.5s ahead of Lewis, who obviously still had his stop to make.

Valtteri, who had never been within undercut range of the leading Ferrari, led the race for a couple of laps before making his own stop.

The team was indeed able to extend Lewis' opening stint and he eventually came in on lap 42, with a 25-lap run to the flag on UltraSofts looking perfectly feasible.

Clouds had looked threatening for a number of laps but, by this stage, rain had not fallen. Lewis re-joined 23s behind the leading Ferrari.

A couple of laps later there was rain at Turn 6, with Charles Leclerc and Fernando Alonso rolling the dice and coming in for Intermediate tyres.

Of the front-runners though, only Max Verstappen gambled on heavier rain at this stage, although Renault and Haas followed suit five laps later but all had to revert to slicks.

Lewis' UltraSofts may have allowed him some additional grip over the leading Ferraris and Valtteri on Softs - but make no mistake, it was the main in the cockpit making the difference. Over the next 5 laps he took 8.6s out of his deficit to Vettel, closing to within 12s.

Interestingly, since Lewis' pit stop, the only lap on which Vettel came close to matching him was lap 51 - the one before the Ferrari crashed out. With 16 laps still remaining and Lewis on the softer tyre, Vettel certainly knew he was in a race.

Like his hero Ayrton Senna, Lewis seems to have an instinctive feel for available grip in changing, slippery conditions.

"You see the difference between the best and the very good when conditions are difficult," Toto said. "Lewis won that race today when, in qualifying and on a dry track, Ferrari had better pace."

The ensuing Safety Car meant an opportunity to scramble into the pits for fresh UltraSofts. Amazingly, as the lapped cars were allowed through and the pack grouped behind the Safety Car, Lewis led with Valtteri second and Räikkönen third. Mercedes, against all odds, was heading for a 1-2.

The field was released again on lap 57 and Valtteri saw this as his opportunity. His UltraSofts were 10 laps fresher than Lewis' and, with more tread, would get back to temperature quicker.

Valtteri went straight onto the attack. The first racing lap, before Lewis got heat in his tyres again, would be crucial. But Lewis resisted and shortly afterwards came the pit message from strategist James Vowles to Valtteri: "Hold position."

"Copy, James..." said Valtteri who, although disappointed, obviously understood the team's position and has always been a team player.

"It was not a case of number one and number two," Toto elaborated. "It was simply that I didn't want to lose a car or two cars.

"We have had some bad luck in recent races through accidents and unreliability, and I didn't want to risk the 1-2. If Valtteri had been in front the decision would have been the same.

"We have said that if, with a third or a quarter of the season to go, if the situation warrants it, there could be instructions - but it is too early now and today was simply about protecting our situation and making the biggest gain."

Thanks to Lewis' brilliance and another fine drive by Valtteri, who had conserved his rubber in the opening stint and without the Safety Car would also have run a one-stop race, the team is back at the top of both the Drivers' and Constructors' Championships!