Sebastian Vettel seemed destined for his first ever victory at Hockenheim but dramatically hit the barriers in the final stages. Lewis Hamilton seized the chance to claim victory, confirmed after a steward's enquiry.
Lewis Hamilton triumphed in a frantic German Grand Prix, climbing from 14th to finish first after Sebastian Vettel threw victory away after a crash 15 laps from the end.
Heavy rain played havoc late on at the Hockenheimring as Vettel misjudged a basic entry into turn 52 and slid over the gravel into the barriers in a potentially pivotal moment in the championship race.
Vettel, a four-time Formula One champion, seemed in control for a large part of the race. He was livid with himself, kicking the gravel in frustration as he stepped out his car.
His mishap opened the door wide open for Hamilton. The British driver was fourth at the time of the crash, having started from 14th on the grid because of a hydraulic problem in qualifying.
Vettel's incident led to a safety car coming out for several laps. There was confusion at Mercedes, even with Hamilton out in front, as the Briton ignored orders from his team to pit. But Hamilton's gamble paid off as he secured a victory that sees him regain the lead in the driver's championship.
"You've always got to believe. I just wanted to stay collected, stay calm," said a delighted Hamilton. "For those who don't know me, now you do."
But Hamilton's victory was in doubt after the race when he was summoned to the stewards to explain an aborted pit stop.
Hamilton was first instructed by his team to pit in chaotic circumstances as rain fell late in the race before he pulled out at
the last second, cutting across a grass verge. But Hamilton escaped punishment to keep his victory.
For Vettel, who finished ahead of Hamilton at the British Grand Prix two weeks ago, his dream of winning a first Grand Prix at Hockenheim turned to a nightmare. He now has 171 points to Hamilton's 188, with next weekend's Hungarian Grand Prix set to be another vital one for both drivers.
As it happened:
Lap 67/67 LEWIS HAMILTON WINS THE GERMAN GP!
Lap 65/67 Hamilton has the protection of Bottas then, so the Briton simply has to guide his Mercedes safely through the next three laps. It's been a great drive by Hamilton, with some luck along the way. And of course perfect tactics by Mercedes.
Lap 63/67 Mercedes technical director James Allsion to Bottas: "Valtteri, it's James. Please hold position. I'm sorry."
Lap 60/67 Hamilton ruling this race now. He extends his lead over teammate Bottas to over 2.3 seconds.
Lap 56/67 Some heartbreaking team radio from Vettel. The German sounds like he is in tears as he apologizes to his team with his car mangled in the barrier.
Lap 54/67 Raikkonen leads but he pits and comes back out behind Bottas, meaning Hamilton is the new race leader! What a race this has turned out to be. Mercedes have got their strategy bang on today.
Lap 53/67 Huge moment in this race and possibly the season. Vettel makes an error heading into the Saxe Turn, going in too wide and unable to correct. He crashes into the barriers and the German, the race leader, the championship leader is OUT!
Lap 52/67 Vettel is out and the safety car is out!
Lap 48/67 Vettel has lost some of his front wing running into a kerb. The Mercedes cars are in far better shape going into the final stages of the race in the current conditions.
Lap 46/67 Here comes the rain and Hamilton is absolutely flying! He’s fifth at the moment, 20 seconds behind Vettel, but making up a second or so a lap and there are 20 laps left...
Lap 43/67 Hamilton dives into the pits and moves on to the ultrasofts. If it rains, he's in great shape.
Lap 40/67 Raikkonen reluctantly moves aside. "If you want me to let him go, just tell me..." he says down the team radio. They do.
Lap 37/67 Raikkonen still leads from Vettel. At what point will Raikkonen be orderd to step aside and make way from his Ferrari teammate?
Lap 34/67 Kimi Raikkonen now leads, having pitted on Lap 15 — far earlier than any of his main rivals. Vettel is in hot pursuit in second though.
Lap 30/67 Ricciardo is out! The Red Bull driver reports a loss of power and his race is done. That's the Australian's fourth retirement of the season after also failing to finish in Bahrain, Azerbaijan and Austria.
Lap 28/67 Bottas pits and rejoins behind Hamilton, who is gaining ground on Raikkonen all the time.
Lap 24/67 Hamilton is fifth and closing on Raikkonen, whose move to the softs appears to have been the wrong one. The threat of rain has lifted and that doesn't help the Finn.
Lap 20/67 Vettel puts his foot on it, widening the gap by 0.5s to just over 4.5 seconds. He's absolutely flying out there in front of his home fans.
Lap 15/67 Raikkonen, in fourth, goes in early onto softs. A strategic move by the Ferrari driver?
Lap 12/67 Hamilton climbs to sixth, with Hulkenberg his latest victim.
Lap 6/67 Vettel is already 2.5 seconds clear of Bottas and cruising at the front.
Lap 3/67 Hamilton is already up to 11th from 14th after darting past Alonso.
Lap 2/67 Vettel holds off Bottas on the opening bend to maintain the lead. A clean start for all of the leaders.
Lap 1/67 It's GO GO GO in Hockenheim!
15:05 The warm-up lap is underway. Almost time for lights out...
15:00 The final preparations are being made in Hockenheim ahead of the warm-up lap. We're almost ready...
14:55 Welcome to live coverage of the German Grand Prix in Hockenheim. Here's how the front of the grid looks...