Hamilton takes hard-fought victory in Germany

Lewis Hamilton Germany Winner 2008

Lewis Hamilton scored his fourth Grand Prix victory of the season with a sensational drive at Hockenheim.

The McLaren driver was clearly the fastest around the German circuit after setting the pace all weekend. Even though he missed the opportunity to pit during the safety car period – as a result of Timo Glock’s crash on the main straight – Lewis was able to showcase his supreme race craft by overtaking his fellow championship rival Felipe Massa and surprising race leader Nelson Piquet, in the final stages to take the chequered flag in style.

It was a great drive by Lewis, as he had to fight hard for the win. In the first half of the race, it was so easy for the McLaren star. He made a clean getaway off the grid and was steadily pulling away from second-place man Felipe Massa at a rate of a second a lap.

But then the race took a dramatic turn on lap 35. Exiting the final corner, Timo Glock suffered a right-rear suspension failure on his Toyota and he slammed hard into the pit wall backwards. The German escaped unharmed but the safety car was summoned while the debris was cleared up.

While the field was running under the full course yellow, the pit lane was opened and practically everyone came into the pits for a change of Bridgestones and fuel. Well, apart from Lewis, BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Renault’s Nelson Piquet. Suddenly the easy Sunday drive for Lewis became a tense affair as McLaren decided not to pit the race leader during the caution period.

McLaren team principal Ron Dennis admitted later they underestimated how long the safety car would stay out for. It was a big mistake by the team but Lewis had the speed and confidence to regain lost ground.

By the time Hamilton pitted for his final stint, he lost track position to Heidfeld, Piquet, Massa and team-mate Heikki Kovalainen. If he wanted to win the race, Lewis would have to drive hard to reclaim it from his fellow rivals.

This he did with fine style. First Lewis was let through by his McLaren team-mate Kovalainen. He was up to fourth. This became third when Nick Heidfeld made his pit stop on lap 53. Only Massa and Piquet stand in his way of claiming this German Grand Prix victory.

Lewis was catching the Ferrari at an alarming rate, over a second per lap and on the 57th tour; the McLaren was in the slipstream of the red car. Lewis dived down the inside of the Brazilian into the hairpin and second place was his! Next up was race leader Piquet in the Renault.

Nelson Piquet was driving a beautiful race in the R28. Even though he started from a lowly seventeenth on the grid, the Brazilian benefited significantly during the safety car period. He made his only pit stop at half distance and when Timo Glock slammed into the pit wall, Piquet gained track position from the others.

Piquet did well to defend his race lead but against the mighty McLaren from his old GP adversary, the Brazilian didn’t stand a chance. Lewis was in a determined mood and made the decisive pass down the inside at the hairpin. Still, second position is quite an achievement for Nelson, especially after a difficult start to his Formula One career this season.

Ferrari was outclassed by archrival McLaren on race day and Felipe Massa was the best finisher for the Scuderia. He had the opportunity to win during the safety car period but the F2008 wasn’t fast enough to challenge Lewis. Third was the best for Massa while team-mate Kimi Raikkonen had a dismal weekend. The world champion struggled with the car’s balance throughout the German Grand Prix and to finish sixth was another disappointing result.

Nick Heidfeld finished fourth for BMW Sauber, edging out the Finns of Kovalainen and Raikkonen. Team-mate Robert Kubica was down in seventh.

The final point went to Sebastian Vettel after a feisty run for Toro Rosso saw him see off the likes of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and Renault’s Fernando Alonso, who were ninth and eleventh after the latter spun at the hairpin late in the race (it was a frustrating race for the double world champion). Nico Rosberg finished tenth for Williams.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais took twelfth, with David Coulthard finishing thirteenth after a poor start and a later tangle with Rubens Barrichello that ended the Honda’s race.

The only non-finisher was Mark Webber, whose Red Bull expired in a cloud of smoke while running behind the safety car.

What had looked set to be a low-key race literally exploded into life due to Glock’s crash and McLaren’s gamble in keeping Hamilton out when everyone else pitted. Luckily for McLaren, Lewis had the ability to make sure the gamble paid off and he now leads the championship with 58 points.

Race results from Hockenheim – 67 laps:

1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h31:20.874
2. Piquet Renault +5.586
3. Massa Ferrari +9.339
4. Heidfeld BMW Sauber +9.825
5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes +12.411
6. Raikkonen Ferrari +14.403
7. Kubica BMW Sauber +22.682
8. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari +33.299
9. Trulli Toyota +37.158
10. Rosberg Williams-Toyota +37.625
11. Alonso Renault +38.600
12. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +39.111
13. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault +54.971
14. Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1:00.003
15. Sutil Force India-Ferrari +1:09.488
16. Button Honda +1 lap
17. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari +1:24.093*

*Received a 25-second penalty for unlapping himself when he was not allowed to, demoting him from 14th to 17th.

Fastest lap: Heidfeld, 1:15.987

Not classified/retirements:

Barrichello Honda 52 laps
Webber Red Bull-Renault 41 laps
Glock Toyota 37 laps

World Championship standings, round 10:

Drivers’

1. Hamilton 58
2. Massa 54
3. Raikkonen 51
4. Kubica 48
5. Heidfeld 41
6. Kovalainen 28
7. Trulli 20
8. Webber 18
9. Alonso 13
10. Barrichello 11
11. Piquet 10
12. Rosberg 8
13. Nakajima 8
14. Vettel 6
15. Coulthard 6
16. Glock 5
17. Button 3
18. Bourdais 2

Constructors’

1. Ferrari 105
2. BMW Sauber 89
3. McLaren-Mercedes 86
4. Toyota 25
5. Red Bull-Renault 24
6. Renault 23
7. Williams-Toyota 16
8. Honda 14
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 8

Next race: Hungarian Grand Prix, Hungaroring, August 1-3