Esteban Ocon rolled into the pits with a hydraulic issue one lap before Albon, making it four retirements in 11 laps, before Lando Norris – at this point running third – reported his own loss of power and lost pace.
Norris was closest on the road but turned out not to be the biggest threat to Daniel Ricciardo’s hopes of the podium at that point. It had looked set to be another strong run to P4 for the Australian after he pulled a beautiful move around the outside of Charles Leclerc on lap nine, but then Bottas’ issue promoted him to third.
“It was critical to get Albon and Leclerc,” Ricciardo said. “Leclerc held on for a few laps and defended well, but then I got him. That set us up, then Valtteri had a problem so that gave us the track position. But we knew Norris and [Sergio] Perez were going very well on the soft.”
Norris was running in third before power unit gremlins
Joe Portlock/Getty Images
When Norris slowed, he was eventually overtaken by Perez and the true pace of the Racing Point was unleashed, closing in on the Renault that had been into the pits much earlier. So it was perhaps slightly lucky that all of the frontrunners got the chance to take on fresh tyres when Norris’ McLaren finally gave up and caused a safety car 16 laps from the end.
It was a long stint that resulted in plenty of driver complaints about cold tyres, but when racing resumed with 11 laps to go the top five of Hamilton, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Perez and Carlos Sainz all held position. Just. And that’s how they’d finish.
“The Safety Car restart at the end, I was very close to getting Max, but us tussling meant that Perez got very close and I thought that he was going to get me into Turn Four,” said Ricciardo. “So it was pretty stressful, but it’s been two and a half years since I’ve had a podium and [it’s] really nice.
Ricciardo took aim at Verstappen’s second place at the restart, but quickly found himself defending against Perez
Antonin Vincent / DPPI
“When we signed on the dotted line, this Renault contract, it was to be up here and get a podium by year two. We achieved that. Next year is another story, I am moving on but I think this really does still cap a pretty cool story we’ve had and shared for these two years. The good news is it’s not over yet.”
For Verstappen it was a brief moment of excitement in an otherwise lonely race, as he couldn’t quite hang on to Hamilton but was streaking clear of the rest of the field.
“It was good,” Verstappen said. “I tried to follow Lewis around and I think he was a bit faster throughout the whole race. From our side, overall it was a positive weekend. Very pleased with that. We just keep on working to try and close the gap further.”
Pierre Gasly pulled a good move on Leclerc for sixth in the final ten laps while Nico Hülkenberg deserves immense praise for a faultless drive to eighth from last on the grid, gaining 12 places. But there was a far more notable number to focus on when the chequered flag greeted Hamilton first for the 91st time.
“It’s not sunk in, that’s for sure,” Hamilton said of matching Schumacher. “I don’t know how it is for other drivers when they have these wins it takes time to analyse, realise what it actually means.
“Like all of us I grew up watching Michael win all those grands prix and I couldn’t even have fathomed equalling him. Getting to F1 was the first step of the dream, emulating Ayrton [Senna], but Michael was so far ahead.
“It’s beyond my wildest dreams to be here today and I feel really humbled by the moment and the opportunity I was given when I was 13, by Mercedes to join this team, I feel proud to have joined them and brought this record to Mercedes, hope we have more records to break and make – they know it’s a good investment hopefully!”
After his 70th win for the German marque, and this one on German soil, you’d imagine so.