The German Grand Prix 2018 was a classic. This is the kind of races you would never forget as a Formula 1 fan and Lewis Hamilton was there to leave his mark on this memory of ours forever. We analyze the performance of Hamilton, Vettel and Bottas in order to explain how Lewis won the race.
Hamilton climbing up the grid
Lewis was rather careful during the first lap. He was squeezed at Turn 1 and opted for the conservative approach, ending up just one place higher (13th) entering Lap 2. From then on he ended up 5th after Lap 14. At that point, he was 25.6 sec behind Sebastian Vettel, who was leading the race.
Clear track, reducing the gap
Lewis had nobody in front now but he had to fight his way up with his starting tyres. Ferrari pulled Kimi in, right after Lewis was finally on the loose. Kimi came out just in front of Lewis, at 2.3 sec. Vettel pitted on Lap 25 and in the previous lap Lewis had cut down the gap to 21 sec. Seb came out in front of Lewis, at a gap of 2.7 sec. At that point, Kimi was 5.061 sec ahead of Lewis.
Holding the gap on old tyres, waiting for the rain
Mercedes and Hamilton opted to stay out as long as possible, hoping to combine their pitstop with the forecasted rain. What is remarkable is that Lewis kept performing well on his old tyres, the ones he also used to climb up from P14 to P5 in 14 laps. From Lap 25 to Lap 41, he averaged just 0.2 sec per lap slower than Seb (Lewis tyres were 25 laps older) and was faster at -0.1 sec from Kimi (Lewis’ tyres were 14 laps older). This may not seem crucial at first, but this was what kept Lewis in the game in case of a safety car or a wet race.
This left Lewis at a gap of 3.8 sec to Kimi and 6.2 to Seb. Just after Lews came into the pits, the rain arrived. And then, there was the most impressive stuff…
Flying on the wet
It only rained over about the 1/3 or half of the circuit, but this was enough to cause chaos. Just after Lewis came out of the pits he started lapping like crazy compared to the rest of the field. He started out with a gap of 23.7 sec to Sebastian Vettel, who was leading the race, and 20.6 sec to Kimi, who was second.
In Lap 51, that is just 8 laps after, Lewis had cut the gap to 12.2 sec (to Vettel) and 2.2 sec (to Kimi). Bottas was now at 3.2 sec while he was at 16.3 sec after Lewis came back from the pits. Seb was doing better than most drivers, but Lewis did even better. Actually, the last live timing tables suggest that Hamilton had cut the gap to Vettel to 11.1 sec before the German crashed, near the end of Lap 52.
All of the above is broken down and simply illustrated in the chart below.
The rest of the race is of lesser importance to analyze since the safety car helped everyone drive slower on the wet track and allowed enough time to go back to a dry race. Bottas, on fresher tyres, did attack Hamilton and Mercedes’ team orders came just after their two cars had just avoided crashing onto each other in front of the Mercedes grandstand.
Lewis fought hard to stay in the game while climbing fast up the grid. He stayed as long as possible, performing great with old tyres. He wasn’t even favored by the rain timing, which came after his delayed pit stop and then he demonstrated supreme driving skills on the wet with slick tyres. He pointed out to the team that Kimi was not pitting under the safety car and ultimately this was the reason he stayed out. He fended-off Bottas before team orders were applied and won the race.