A reasonably pedestrian race roared into life after Vettel's crash as teams scrambled to pit with rain on the horizon, before a thrilling wheel-to-wheel scrap between Bottas and Hamilton. "That's why I said at the end that "love conquers all" (on the radio after the race)".
Having worked his way up to seventh from the back of a grid after a penalty from qualifying, the Australian driver lost power and was forced to stop the race.
"I am so grateful". It was so tough out there.
Pole-sitter Vettel had been in control of his home race, and looked destined to increase his title advantage over Hamilton before a late rain shower ensured a spectacular end.
'I should have done better but it wasn't the biggest mistake I have done.
The German swore repeatedly on the team radio as he sat in the vehicle in the barriers and apologised to the team both then and after the race.
As he sat in the gravel, a tearful Vettel slammed his fists on his steering wheel and apologised to his team. "I had it in my hands, small mistakes, big disappointment".
GETTY IMAGES Brendon Hartley claimed 10th spot in the German Grand Prix
On crashing out, an emotional Vettel was heard swearing on the team radio, although the four-time world champion told Sky Sports after the race that it "wasn't a huge mistake".
The Mercedes one-two finish, after Bottas finished behind Hamilton in second, has helped the Silver Arrows to reclaim top spot in the constructors' championship too.
But, at the team's home race, Mercedes called off the fight: "Valtteri, this is James (Vowles - chief strategist)".
Meanwhile his teammate Max Verstappen was hampered by a miscalculation with tyres that denied him the opportunity to challenge for the podium, finishing fourth.
Vettel said Ferrari, who appear to have made a decisive step forward in engine performance in the last two races, should still be confident about their title chances over the remainder of the year, starting in Hungary next weekend.
"What an unbelievable job from you guys", Hamilton replied. "Thank you so much".