Lewis Hamilton has driven home his Formula 1 World Championship credentials by coming from behind to triumph in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim, after a bold strategy from his McLaren-Mercedes team left him with a job to do - a job he fulfilled to perfection.

What had been billed as a head-to-head between Hamilton and fellow front row starter Felipe Massa in the Ferrari ultimately turned into a head-to-head between Hamilton and the clock - and whilst both he and Massa were present up on the podium at the end of the race, Hamilton's day was completed by having an unexpected 'joker' in-between them.

A textbook getaway from pole-sitter Hamilton preserved his lead when the lights went out, with a feisty Heikki Kovalainen twice getting a run on Massa over the course of the race's opening lap.

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Indeed, as the Brazilian was forced to defend, Kovalainen had to brake early into the hairpin first time around, allowing a fast-starting Robert Kubica - who had already breezed by defending world champion Kimi Raikkonen off the grid, the Finn's Ferrari, in the words of ITV-F1 commentator Marin Brundle, 'understeering like a supermarket trolley on the way into corners and oversteering like an airport trolley on the way out' - to pass the delayed Jarno Trulli and the wide-running Fernando Alonso in one go and move up to fourth.

As Hamilton streaked away at the head of the field - more than two seconds clear of anyone at the end of lap one and some 1.5 seconds a lap quicker than third-placed team-mate Kovalainen in a dominant display - the action was all taking place behind, as Kubica almost lost fourth place by running wide.

Just behind, an aggressive attempt to get past Trulli cost Alonso a spot to Raikkonen, with future Red Bull Racing team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber scrapping hard over the final points-paying position, and home-grown hero Timo Glock rounding out the top ten in the second Toyota.

As Kubica began to edge clear in the battle over fourth and Raikkonen piled the pressure on Trulli ahead of him, Hamilton had extended his advantage to some 3.7 seconds at the end of lap four, a full eleven seconds clear of the delayed Raikkonen - and was continuing to set fastest lap after fastest lap...

A slow-starting David Coulthard - who lost five places off the grid in his final German Grand Prix - was forced to go wide into the hairpin as he almost ran into fellow Brit Jenson Button, the pair already sharing a history from Bahrain earlier in the year and going on to tussle over 13th position, the Scot finally getting the verdict 14 laps in and leaving the Honda ace at the mercy of Nico Rosberg's Williams behind.

Toyota made it clear that they believed Trulli was racing eighth-placed Vettel by telling the Italian over the team radio that he needed two more seconds over his German rival in order to be safe from attack, whilst up at the front Hamilton just kept on pulling away - nigh-on ten seconds clear 16 laps in and turning the grand prix into something of a one-horse race, with not so much as a prancing one in with a shout.

Kazuki Nakajima rejoined following a spin from a lowly 17th position as Williams' woes continued, with both Nelsinho Piquet and Giancarlo Fisichella nipping past for good measure to leave the Japanese ace in penultimate place.

Hamilton was unsurprisingly the first driver to blink at the end of lap 18, with Kubica doing likewise, and as the former rejoined he did so critically just ahead of Trulli, who got past the McLaren when the erstwhile race leader made a small mistake. Happily for the Briton, however, both Trulli and Alonso were in together at the end of the following tour.

Those stops freed Raikkonen up at last, whilst Massa was the next to make a pit visit, with Kovalainen in a lap later still, rejoining between the duelling Glock in the Toyota and the BMW-Sauber of a combative Nick Heidfeld. The latter got a run on the McLaren around the outside of the hairpin but could not make the move stick as his Finnish rival held his nerve, with Scuderia Toro Rosso's S?bastien Bourdais retaining a watching brief behind.

Raikkonen's later stop enabled the joint world championship leader to leapfrog Trulli, whilst Vettel did likewise to a clearly frustrated, soft-rubbered Alonso, with Webber not far behind the pair. Amongst the top eight, third-placed Glock and Heidfeld two spots behind were the only drivers still yet to pit for the first time - and both having been able to choose their own strategy after lining up respectively eleventh and twelfth on the grid on Saturday.

Heidfeld was the first of them to make his stop, with Glock going almost 20 laps in before following suit, handing third place back to Kovalainen and rejoining not far behind team-mate Trulli and narrowly in front of Vettel and Alonso, demoting the Spaniard a further place - and, crucially, out of the points. Though the former - no doubt spurred on by the support of his home fans in the grandstands - nipped back past Glock before the lap was out, still it was an impressive gain for the Toyota ace, and comfortably validated his long first stint.

Further down the order, Rubens Barrichello put a move on Honda team-mate Button in their own private internecine battle, whilst Raikkonen began to slowly gain ground on Kubica in fourth, and Vettel was informed that he was running three laps longer than Trulli just ahead of him.

With 32 laps remaining - just after half distance - Glock suffered a heavy shunt in the Toyota, as his right rear suspension failed coming out of the final corner and sent the German smashing heavily into the pit wall, his TF108 disintegrating as bodywork flew everywhere and bringing out the safety car.

As the safety car stayed out, the teams prepared to pit, but as the drivers toured in en masse - and the Ferraris queued up - Hamilton continued on, with McLaren team-mate Kovalainen losing track position to Kubica in the BMW. Webber was even more unfortunate - the Renault engine in his Red Bull Racing spewing smoke out of the back upon leaving the pit-lane - whilst as Alonso and Vettel left literally side-by-side behind Trulli, the uncompromising young German pushed the Renault across the white line.

Behind Hamilton, Heidfeld and Piquet sat in second and third positions - both having similarly elected not to pit - whilst as the safety car prepared to come back in again, Webber pulled off, becoming only the race's second retiree some 40 laps in.

As the race got underway again, Hamilton was gone - in the knowledge he needed to pull out a massive 22 seconds over Massa in order to still rejoin ahead after his second stop - with Kovalainen getting alongside Kubica on the run down to the hairpin, but proving unable to get past.

Vettel and Alonso were still going at it hammer-and-tongs for the final points-paying position, with Raikkonen behind the pair of them after having to wait behind team-mate Massa in the pits. A supremely brave move around the outside of Kubica earned Kovalainen fifth place back again, whilst Alonso's aggressive style in his efforts to get by Vettel saw him lose places to both Raikkonen and Rosberg - and slip back down to eleventh spot.

Three laps after the safety car period, Hamilton had an advantage of almost eight seconds over Massa, whilst Raikkonen simply drove all the way around the outside of the similarly-engined Vettel - showcasing the benefit of his Ferrari's superior straight-line speed to great effect - and set off after Trulli ahead, with Massa critically still tucked up behind Piquet.

Raikkonen soon made easy meat of Trulli as the Finn finally seemed to wake up two-thirds of the way into the race, with Hamilton lapping regularly some 1.5 seconds faster than the chasing Massa.

Barrichello and Coulthard then came to blows in the battle over 13th, as the unsighted RBR ace simply squeezed his Honda rival off the road, the latter losing his nose cone and both having to pit for repairs - the Brazilian ultimately being forced into retirement.

Hamilton pitted with 18 laps left to run - but not with enough of a gap to emerge ahead - and rejoined behind not only Massa but also team-mate Kovalainen, and down in third position. That promoted Heidfeld into the lead in front of his home fans, whilst Kovalainen soon yielded to the sister McLaren, allowing Hamilton to set off in pursuit of Massa and Piquet, the Renault ace surprisingly still two seconds ahead of his compatriot.

Heidfeld, though, was delighting his fans by continuing to lead - albeit still with a stop to make - and when he did so he rejoined ahead of Kovalainen, who was already dropping back from the flying Hamilton. Behind them, Kubica was having to fend off the attentions of Raikkonen, whilst Hamilton had closed the gap to Massa to just 2.5 seconds with 13 laps left to run...and Piquet led.

Indeed, Hamilton was soon all over the back of his Ferrari rival - Massa just 1.5 seconds behind Piquet - as the tension mounted, and Renault's rookie was now nervously depending upon his countryman's resilience as the final ten laps approached and the grand prix neared a nail-biting conclusion.

Massa surprisingly kept to the outside as Hamilton dived by him into the hairpin - effectively opening the door to the Briton - and though he would attempt to get back past again a handful of corners later, it was all rather academic by that point, as Heidfeld came along to play too.

With ten laps to go, therefore, it was GP2 2006 all over again, as Piquet strived to fend off the rapidly advancing Hamilton. The pair were together with eight laps left to run, and the inside line into the hairpin would prove enough for Hamilton, as further back Raikkonen forced his way past the BMW of Kubica in the stadium complex.

Alonso's miserable afternoon continued as he spun tenth place away, whilst Heidfeld continued to harry Massa for the final podium position, the German however not benefitting from the same speed advantage that Hamilton had enjoyed earlier as Kovalainen behind sensed a sniff of a rostrum too with five laps remaining, and Raikkonen in sixth was homing in onto the back of his compatriot for good measure.

A lock-up from Trulli allowed Vettel past into the final points position, leaving the Italian to withstand the advances of Rosberg, Alonso and Bourdais behind him, whilst up front Hamilton sped serenely on to his fourth victory of the 2008 campaign - one that has driven him clear at the head of the drivers' world championship standings - in the presence of the last man to win for McLaren-Mercedes at Hockenheim ten years earlier, Mika Hakkinen.

Piquet held on to take a surprise - if thoroughly merited - second place from all the way down in 17th on the starting grid courtesy of his audacious one-stop strategy, with Massa finishing a lacklustre third, tracked across the line by Heidfeld, Kovalainen fifth and Raikkonen sixth.

Kubica and Vettel collected the final two points, ahead of the 'Trulli train' comprising Rosberg, Alonso and Bourdais at the close, and Coulthard, an impressive Fisichella, Nakajima, Adrian Sutil and the luckless Button completing the finishers.

The story that everyone was talking about, however, was how Lewis Hamilton is continuing to turn the 2008 Formula 1 World Championship on its head - and how his former GP2 Series title rival is finally beginning to find his feet in the top flight.

To see the race result in full, click here