Monday 09 December 2019

Raining champion Max Verstappen narrows gap in Formula One title race

Max Verstappen in his Red Bull car during the Hockenheim Grand Prix of 2019, which he won

Verstappen went into a 360-degree spin during the race. Photo: firo Sportphoto/Christopher Neun via HH

Max Verstappen overcame a poor start and heavy showers in Germany to record his second Grand Prix win of the season and close the gap at the top of the Formula One standings.

The Dutchman made five pit stops during a race dominated by the weather and survived a 360-degree spin on his way to victory in Hockenheim. ‘It was mainly a question of making as few mistakes as possible,’ he said afterwards.

Verstappen, who started in second place, and his Red Bull team-mate Pierre Gasly both lost places at the start as they struggled with grip in the wet conditions, but the Dutchman soon passed Kimi Räikkönen to move back up to third.

At that point Lewis Hamilton seemed on course for his eighth win in 11 races this season, but his chances drained away when he spun into the gravel, damaging his Mercedes’s front wing. The ensuing pit stop lasted 50 seconds and meant the Briton finished outside the points in 11th place.

Verstappen’s biggest scare came as he emerged from a pit stop on lap 22 and went into a 360-degree spin before regaining control. He admonished his pit crew for fitting the wrong tyres as the rain began to fall, but was in more conciliatory mood after the race. ‘It all turned out fine,’ he said.

Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas were among the high-profile casualties of the rain, both running off the track. Sebastian Vettel fought his way from the back of the grid, following technical problems in qualifying, to finish second in the other Ferrari.

Verstappen claimed a bonus point for driving the fastest lap as well as 25 points for victory, leaving him 22 points behind Bottas and 61 behind Hamilton in the drivers’ standings with 10 of the 21 Formula One races to go.

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