Lewis Hamilton took a controlled German Grand Prix win to extend his championship lead over chief rival Nico Rosberg to 19 points as the German finished fourth behind the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and third-placed Max Verstappen.
Hamilton’s victory was largely sealed at the start when, from second on the grid, he made a much better getaway than polesitter Rosberg. The champion leader hugged the inside line as Rosberg dropped back and emerged from Turn One in the lead.
Behind him both third-on-the-grid Ricciardo and Verstappen, who started fourth, passed the hapless Rosberg. But as Ricciardo covered the inside line, Verstappen made a brave move around the outside of his team-mate through Turn One.
With only millimetres separating the Red Bull drivers the move was risky but Verstappen used as much of the kerb as legal and seized P2 on the exit.
The shape of the rest of the race for the podium places was defined by the first pit stops. Verstappen and Rosberg pitted on lap 11, replacing their opening supersofts with a second set of the red-banded Pirelli tyres. However, Ricciardo, who pitted on lap 12, and Hamilton (lap 14) opted for soft tyres and the split strategies would define the race.
The second stop saw Rosberg attempt an undercut on Verstappen. The Mercedes man pitted on lap 27 for soft tyres, leaving Verstappen to circle for one more lap before he too pitted for softs.
Verstappen emerged just in front of Rosberg but with cold tyres on board he was soon embroiled in a big battle with the German. In the middle of the lap Rosberg muscled his way past at the hairpin, but after Verstappen complained he had been pushed wide, the steward deemed the Mercedes driver’s move too strong and handed him a five-second penalty.
Hamilton, meanwhile, was in cruise control. His second stop saw him take more supersofts and he emerge in the lead once again, ahead of Rosberg, Verstappen and Ricciardo.
Ricciardo though had taken supersofts in his second stop and he quickly closed on his team-mate. With the Australian seeking to close down Rosberg, Verstappen ceded P3 to his team-mate on lap 40. Ricciardo arrowed in on Rosberg and the Mercedes driver, running slower and older soft tyres, gave up on the fight, headed for a final stop in lap 44. It was a painful one too. Mercedes opted to serve his five-second penalty during the stop but inexplicably they held the German stationary for well over the duration and he lost more time to Verstappen.
That promoted Ricciardo to P2 and after his final stop on lap 46, the Australian set about building a gap to third-placed Verstappen.
Ricciardo, pushing hard on his new supersofts, closed to within seven seconds of Hamilton but the Briton was always in control and after 67 he took his 49th career win, his sixth of 2016 and his fourth in a row to extend his champsionship lead over Rosberg to 19 points as the sport heads into its traditional summer break.
Ricciardo and Verstappen took second and third respectively. The result could prove to be a key one for Red Bull Racing as the double podium finish, their first since Hungary 2015, takes them ahead of Ferrari in the Constructors’ Championship standings. Red Bull are now in P2 with 256 points, 14 clear of Ferrari, for whom Sebastian Vettel was fifth today, with team-mate Kimi Raikkonen sixth.
Behind the Ferraris, Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh for Force India, ahead of McLaren’s Jenson Button.
The McLaren driver claimed P8 in the final laps as he breezed past Williams’ Valtteri Bottas who was struggling with old tyres. The final point went to Force India’s Sergio Perez who managed to get past the second McLaren of Fernando Alonso late in the final stint.
2016 German Grand Prix – Race
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 67 laps – 1h30m44.200s 3
2 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing +6.996 3
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing +13.413 3
4 Nico Rosberg Mercedes +15.845 3
5 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari +32.570 3
6 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +37.023 3
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India +70.049 3
8 Jenson Button McLaren +1 lap 3
9 Valtteri Bottas Williams +1 lap 2
10 Sergio Perez Force India +1 lap 3
11 Esteban Gutierrez Haas +1 lap 3
12 Fernando Alonso McLaren +1 lap 2
13 Romain Grosjean Haas +1 lap 2
14 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso +1 lap 3
15 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso +1 lap 3
16 Kevin Magnussen Renault +1 lap 2
17 Pascal Wehrlein Manor +2 laps 3
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber +2 laps 2
19 Jolyon Palmer Renault +2 laps 3
20 Rio Haryanto Manor +2 laps 3
21 Felipe Nasr Sauber DNF 4
22 Felipe Massa Williams DNF 3