Lewis Hamilton regained the Formula One championship lead in unexpected and dramatic fashion on Sunday, winning the German Grand Prix after race leader Sebastian Vettel crashed and then surviving an investigation into his own driving.
Hamilton was summoned to speak to stewards to explain a move late in the race, where he went to the pits and then aborted his move. He escaped with a reprimand and so kept his win, his fourth this season and 66th overall.
“It’s been the most emotional day, up and down. No one ever wants to go see the stewards because they have the hardest job,” a relieved Hamilton said. “I was just 100 percent open with them. They could see how confusing it was.”
The incident came while the safety car was deployed following Vettel’s sudden crash. Hamilton decided against pitting at the last second and crossed the grass to rejoin the track — which is prohibited.
“I just slowed down and trundled over some grass, and tried to join the track as safely as I could,” said Hamilton, who finished ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Governing body FIA said it cleared Hamilton — who faced a 5-second time penalty which would have handed Bottas the victory — because “driver and the team candidly admitted the mistake” and “at no time was there any danger to any other competitor.”
Earlier, heavy rain played havoc at the Hockenheimring as Vettel misjudged a basic entry into a turn and slid over the gravel into the barriers with 15 laps to go.
The four-time Formula One champion started from pole position and seemed in control. He kicked the gravel in frustration as he stepped out his car.
“I threw it away. It was my mistake,” Vettel said. “I was a tiny bit too late on the brakes, locked the rears and I couldn’t turn. It wasn’t the biggest mistake I’ve done, but one of the most costly ones.”
His mishap opened the door wide open for Hamilton, who is 17 points clear of Vettel after trailing by eight beforehand.