Hamilton and Mercedes put themselves firmly into contention
Vettel was leading the race with only 15 laps remaining but was caught out by a late rain shower and skidded off the circuit at the Sachskurve stadium section, in front of his adoring home crowd.
The German driver’s misfortune was to the benefit of the British Mercedes driver, Vettel’s main contender for the F1 drivers’ championship.
Red Bull’s Max Verstappen however, was quick to play down any claims of sloppiness levelled against Vettel, saying that the conditions were unforgiving.
“It was super tricky out there, especially in that corner,” said Verstappen, who finished fourth.
“Even if you experience the slightest lock up there, you immediately go off.
“These were very difficult circumstances. So things like this can happen.”
Asked to comment on the fact that it was not Vettel’s first error of the 2018 F1 season, Verstappen replied: “Well, mistake… these were difficult circumstances.
“It could have happened to someone else just as easily.”
“You just try to find good grip everywhere, but you don’t want to take too many risks because you already have some good points in the bag,” said Verstappen.
“You don’t want to risk losing those by going off. Dealing with that risk is very difficult.
“If you lock up for just a moment, you fly off the track.”
Verstappen was among those to pit for intermediates (pictured) and then had to change back to slicks just two laps later, but his margin over those behind him was such that the two extra stops did not cost him fourth.
“It just didn’t go our way,” he said. “Normally I pray for rain, but this time it didn’t help me. Fourth was the best possible.
“It really started to rain heavily. The rain spread towards Turns 8 and 10, so I thought, ‘if it continues like this, then it’s also going to come to the third sector’.
“Unfortunately that wasn’t the case. So then I had to pit again. I took a gamble and it didn’t work out.”