20 July 2008
Germany 2008: Hamilton beats the clock.
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.
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.
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