HOCKENHEIM: Max Verstappen took full advantage of his rivals’ calamities on Sunday to win an epic, rain-lashed and wildly-spectacular German Grand Prix for Red Bull ahead of Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari.
The 21-year-old Dutchman secured his second win of the season and seventh of his career, finishing ahead of four-time world champion Vettel, who had started 20th and last on the grid.
New dad Daniil Kvyat of Toro Rosso was third as he secured only his third Formula One podium.
The race was a disaster for champions Mercedes who were celebrating their 200th Formula One start of the modern era and 125 years of motorsport, both defending five-time champion Lewis Hamilton and his team-mate Valtteri Bottas crashed and failed to score any points.
Hamilton eventually finished 11th after making six pit-stops as he missed out on a points finish for the first time in 23 races while Verstappen continued his rich streak of consistency.
Lance Stroll of Racing Point came home fourth to deliver his team’s best finish ahead of Carlos Sainz of McLaren, Alex Albon of Toro Rosso and Kimi Raikkonen of Alfa Romeo.
Romain Grosjean was eighth for Haas ahead of Antionio Giovinazzi of Alfa Romeo and Kevin Magnussen who was 10th for Haas.
“It was amazing, but really tricky out there,” said Verstappen, who made four pit-stops and survived a complete 360-degrees spin.
“To make the right calls, you had to be focussed. We put on the slick tyres and we had a 360! But it was alright.”
Vettel, for whom the result brought redemption after he had crashed out while leading in heavy rain last year, said: “It was a long race and at some stages if felt like it was never-ending. I am just very happy.”
Kvyat confirmed that he became a father on Saturday night when his partner Kelly gave birth to a daughter.
He said: “It is amazing to be back on the podium and incredible for Toro Rosso, after so many years.”
After the record-breaking heat, the race began in steady rain with the field on full wet tyres behind a Safety Car through four formation laps before a standing start.
The conditions did nothing to deter Hamilton who made a near-perfect start from his 87th pole position.
The race distance was reduced to 64 laps as the spray rose high in plumes throughout the pack, Vettel romping forward from 20th to pass six cars in the first five corners. Leclerc, in the other Ferrari, rose to sixth from 10th on the opening lap.
Hamilton led by two seconds from Bottas after lap one, Verstappen having made a poor start, as the field jostled for space and grip, Sergio Perez spinning backwards into the stadium entry wall and damaging his Racing Force.
That required a Safety Car intervention for three laps, during which the leaders pitted for intermediates, before racing resumed.
After 25, Verstappen pitted for medium compound slicks, a gamble by Red Bull. The Dutchman complained vigorously about his tyres before spinning at the final corner and recovering.
Another Virtual Safety Car was then deployed briefly, as Hamilton pitted for softs from the lead, before Leclerc went off at Sachs Curve.
The Monegasque screamed aloud as Vettel pitted, returning to ‘inters’, before Hamilton went off, snapping his front wing.
The Englishman recovered, cutting across the circuit into the pit lane. He was repaired and fitted with ‘inters’ before re-joining fifth behind Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Bottas and Albon.
Hamilton was given a five-second penalty for missing a bollard at the pits entry, but he was soon back to third behind the Dutchman and Bottas.
Hulkenberg slid off at the final corner to instigate another Safety Car outing that heralded Verstappen, and Vettel, in 10th, pitting for fresh inters.
Racing resumed on lap 46, Verstappen pulling clear before pitting for slicks, followed by Bottas, Sainz, Gasly and Albon.
Hamilton led before he pitted on lap 47, leaving Stroll, who pitted for slicks under the Safety Car, to lead before Verstappen passed him. Hamilton fell to 12th, having taken his penalty.
“How’s this gone so bad?” asked Hamilton.
Mercedes’ nightmare was not over and their anniversary weekend ended with Bottas spinning at Turn One.
Out came the Safety Car for a fourth time as Hamilton pitted again — leaving him to make a failed bid for a top ten finish.