The unconquerable has been matched at the Nürburgring as Lewis Hamilton equalled Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 Formula 1 Grand Prix victories.
The incumbent world champion took advantage of a costly lock-up by teammate and erstwhile race leader Valtteri Bottas on Lap 17 to snare the lead. He would then command the rest of the race, surviving a late safety car restart and stretching his points lead to 69 as Bottas ultimately retired.
It meant Max Verstappen clung on to second with Daniel Ricciardo finally clinching his maiden Renault podium on his swansong season with the team in third.
Initially, Bottas looked to have made the perfect start from pole. Fending off Hamilton into Turn 1, the Finn had established a healthy margin over the field by the end of the opening lap.
The race then ran relatively steady for the first 13 laps before Bottas made an unforced error into the first hairpin.
The lock-up immediately flat-spotted his front tyres, and Hamilton swept into the lead, driving around the outside of his Mercedes stablemate as Bottas limped home to the pits.
Any chances of a miraculous comeback drive by Bottas then ended when he retired with an MGU-K issue just a few laps later.
Verstappen fell as much as ten-seconds behind Hamilton during the middle phase of the race. But a late safety car as McLaren’s Lando Norris pulled off the road with a suspected power unit issue put the Red Bull back on the tail of his rival with ten laps to go.
However, Verstappen butchered the restart, and instead of applying pressure to the race leader, he fell into the clutches of Ricciardo. Behind, Sergio Perez also joined the scrimmage for the final podium spot.
The trio then let Hamilton off the hook as he duly eased home for his seventh win in 11 races – his 91st career triumph which places him equal alongside Michael Schumacher for the most wins in history.
Verstappen did at least pinch the fastest lap from Hamilton on the race’s very last lap.
Ricciardo also claimed his first non-Red Bull podium and scored the first for the current Renault project.
Carlos Sainz Jr resisted Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri to complete the top five. At the same time, there was a symphony of retirements late in the race. Alex Albon clashed with Daniil Kvyat at the final corner to earn himself a ten-second penalty before stopping with an engine drama.
Esteban Ocon was on for a robust top-five result, but his race concluded in the pitlane with a gearshift issue.
Charles Leclerc fell back from his fourth on the grid to seventh, while Nico Hulkenberg put in a sublime call-up performance, charging from 20th to eighth.
|Carlos Sainz Jr.