German GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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And so ends another grand prix weekend. Just like that, we’re already halfway through the 2014 Formula 1 season, and we’re still no closer to knowing who will be crowned world champion at the end of the season.

Today, Nico Rosberg capped off a near-perfect two week period by winning his home grand prix in Germany, but the real star of the race was Lewis Hamilton. His charge from 20th to third was a joy to watch, but going by his reaction on the podium and in the post-race press conference, you would have been forgiven for thinking he’d crashed out. Clearly, losing more ground to Nico has perturbed him.

Here’s the final round-up from the paddock at the Hockenheimring.

RACE REPORT

  • Nico Rosberg was the man to clinch victory in the German Grand Prix today, but it was a very entertaining and interesting race away from the front. Bottas, Hamilton, Alonso, Ricciardo and Vettel all gave us some great action on track.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

It’s quite hard to believe that we’re now closer to the end of the season than we are to the beginning. Ten races down, nine to go, and just 250 points left on offer (and yes, that does include Abu Double – I mean, Abu Dhabi).

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are set to continuing tussling at the top of the standings until the end of the year, and the internal battle at Mercedes is certainly an interesting one. Both drivers have the bit between their teeth, but Rosberg has the slender points advantage. Lewis called his crash in Q1 a “gift” for Nico, and maybe he was right; maybe it did gift him the win.

However, Lewis shouldn’t been disheartened by his performance today. He was in supreme form, and it is probably one of his best ever drives. His overtaking moves reeked of desperation – ‘you will move or we will crash’ – but it was still mightily impressive. Damage well limited.

Mercedes’ strategy in the final stages of the race with Lewis was interesting. The decision to go option-option and pit three times instead of going with one prime third stint at the end was a surprise, but it did have the effect of piling the pressure on the leaders. Come the end of the race though, he didn’t have enough life left in the Pirellis; Bottas had done 40 laps on his tires, and was fine. Anticipating the safety car in that fashion – which Lewis of course lamented not doing in Monaco – backfired.

But then again, it should have been a safety car. Had it come out, Lewis could have won the race; it would have essentially been a 15 lap race to the flag against Nico. Adrian Sutil’s Sauber was in a dangerous position, and seeing the marshals running across the track to recover it was bizarre. Of course, the cynics will cry conspiracy and note that a German driver was leading the German GP at the time. (For the record, the driver steward was Danish this weekend).

We were also treated to another fine Red Bull versus Alonso battle. Fernando went into battle with both Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo; it was a masterclass of wheel-to-wheel racing. Sheer joy for the F1 fan.

And to finish, a big well done to Valtteri Bottas for another fine performance. There is no doubt that we’re watching a future grand prix winner, if not a future world champion.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).