The first half of the 67-lap German Grand Prix was a walk in the park for pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton as he quickly established a comfortable lead over Felipe Massa. However, the deployment of the safety car on lap 36, combined with some strange decision making, made Hamilton’s eighth career win rather more dramatic than McLaren would have thought. With Nelson Piquet finishing second in the Renault, it is a day to remember at Hockenheimring.
Hamilton made a solid start from the pole position and was able to pull a ten second advantage in the first 15 laps from Massa who was unable to put together consistent laps in his Ferrari. The first round of pitstops came and went and nothing really changed with Hamilton backing off by a second a lap at the front to keep the gap to Massa consistent.
Timo Glock had made best use of a long first stint before pitting and ran in eighth position when the right rear suspension failed on his TF108 exiting the fast final turn. The Toyota spun and made very heavy contact with the inside retaining wall on the pit straight before rebounding across the circuit and coming to rest on the grass. As ever, Glock seems to have little luck, but thankfully he seems not to have sustained any serious injury.
With the safety car deployed and the pit lane opened on lap 38, nearly everyone headed to the pits for a second round of pit stops.Hamilton however did not pit and at the restart, had a clear aim of extending his advantage over Massa to more than 20 seconds, the time needed for his second and final stop.
The McLaren driver pushed hard but could however only get the gap out to 15 seconds before pitting and exited the pits behind team-mate Heikki Kovalainen, Massa and Piquet.
Kovalainen did not make much of an issue letting Hamilton ahead and soon Hamilton was right on the back of Massa’s Ferrari. Heading to the hairpin on lap 57, Massa did not protect the inside line and Hamilton was though. The procedure was repeated three laps later on Piquet and the race victory was there for Hamilton.
The McLaren Mercedes in the hands of Hamilton was the class of the field today in Germany and even an error on strategy did not stop Hamilton from taking the victory.
Piquet has been under pressure to perform at Renault this year and after qualifying 17th and then running 18th in the early stages, it seemed that there would be little he could do from that position. However, using a one stop strategy compared to the two of every other runner, plus the timing of the safety car, gave him a chance to shine.
Piquet grabbed the opportunity with both hands and ran at the front of the field for the first time in his short Formula One career. The Brazilian may not have had an answer to the pace of Hamilton, but his excellent second position is a very timely boost for Renault and his own career prospects.
It was a disappointing race from Massa who never had the pace to stay with Hamilton but it was a surprise to see him making it so comparatively simple for Hamilton to take the position from him ten laps from home. Third position however adds to his championship tally and he now trails Hamilton by four points.
A typical canny race from Nick Heidfeld saw him make best of the situation to finish in fourth position in his BMW Sauber ahead of Kovalainen in the McLaren and Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari. Neither Kovalainen nor Raikkonen looked particularly racy and the former really is now out of realistic championship contention.
Robert Kubica finished in seventh position in the second BMW Sauber in what was a difficult race for him while a spin in the final laps from Jarno Trulli promoted Sebastian Vettel to eighth position and into the final points scoring position at his first German Grand Prix.
Toyota will be disappointed to see Trulli out of the points in ninth position after starting from an impressive fourth position, but will need to look at the reasons for Glock’s dramatic exit from the race with the suspension issue on his TF108.
Nico Rosberg picked up tenth position in the leading Williams Toyota, gaining the position from Fernando Alonso late in the race following a spin from the former champion. With Piquet finishing a sensational second, it was a less stellar performance from Renault team-mate Alonso who slipped back through the field.
Sebastien Bourdais finished 12th position in the second Toro Rosso, less than half a second behind Alonso while David Coulthard lost ground early on and would finish 13th in the Red Bull Renault after some rather unnecessary contact with Rubens Barrichello.
Giancarlo Fisichella took 14th position in the Force India Ferrari ahead of Kazuki Nakajima in the second Williams and Adrian Sutil in the second Force India. Jenson Button was the final classified runner in 17th position in the Honda. The second Honda of Barrichello was unable to continue after contact with Coulthard at turn four while Mark Webber’s Red Bull Renault suffered an engine failure mid-race.
Hamilton now has 58 points, with Massa on 54 and Raikkonen on 51. It was quite a race at the front and next up is Hungary and that has in recent times been a McLaren track….
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