Monday, July 21, 2008

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton wins German GP in Hockenheim

Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix twice, once at a canter, the second time in a blaze of insane wizardry. Ferrari must be wondering what they have to do to keep him in check. The answer might be to test Hamilton for EPO.
If this were the Tour de France fingers would be pointing at the drugs cabinet. But this is Formula One and underneath him Hamilton has a serious piece of kit. What alchemy McLaren have worked to deliver a machine as potent as this. Felipe Massa looked like he had seen a ghost after going under the Hamilton hammer.

Lewis Hamilton made good use of his ninth start from pole
For half the race Hamilton was coasting to victory. Then, after been shot in the foot by what looked a poor call from the McLaren pit wall not to come in under the safety car, Hamilton ripped back the initiative as if those in front were not there.
A lazy Sunday afternoon was passing without incident at the half way stage, at which point Hamilton had coasted from pole into an 11-second lead. He has worked harder on the Playstation. Then on lap 36 Timo Glock introduced himself to the German audience with a heavy shunt at the entry to the start finish straight.
Toyota were unable to determine the cause in the immediate aftermath. As Glock powered through the final turn he drifted slightly wide then a vicious spin took him backwards into a wall. The impact was fatal for his car and left the driver limping awkwardly from the wreckage. Thankfully his discomfort was temporary. A visit to the medical centre revealed no damage to Glock's personal chassis.
The incident took us back to Canada, where Hamilton last lost a commanding lead as a result of an accident and the introduction of the safety car. In Montreal he was jumped in the pits and clattered expensively into the stationary Kimi Raikkonen at the pit exit.
On this occasion Hamilton stayed out. Who knows by what mathematical matrix the McLaren number-crunchers had reached that conclusion? It was not the best decision ever made. His front running rivals shot in to refuel to the end of the race. When the safety car retreated five laps later with 26 still to negotiate, Hamilton was left needing to make up at least 23 seconds, sufficient time to refuel and come out with his lead in tact. He could not have pulled that off in Concorde.
Massa, who dropped to sixth from second, had sacrificed places but gained vital time as the cars bunched behind the safety car. Hamilton was lapping more than a second quicker at the restart but stayed out only nine laps, time to build a lead of 13 seconds. When he returned to the track he was running fifth and behind Massa's Ferrari.
Nick Heidfeld, another unfortunate who opted not to come in under the safety car, refuelled to give Hamilton one place back. On the three left in front, Hamilton went to work. He transformed the hairpin at turn six into an execution site. First team-mate Heikki Kovalainen gave way leaving 15 laps to claim Massa and Nelson Piquet, a random beneficiary of the safety car lottery.
Massa capitulated ten laps out, Piquet with seven to go. It was glorious stuff for Hamilton lovers; painful for the massed ranks of Ferrari followers, for whom this was telling evidence of a performance advantage shredded.
The chequered flag signalled the eighth victory of Hamilton's career, his second back-to-back haul and conferred a four-point advantage over Massa in the race for the championship. With eight races remaining Ferrari appear relatively at sea. Massa could make no impression on the Renault of Piquet, who benefitted form a welcome slice of luck when the safety car co-incided with his scheduled stop. The result, the first podium of his career, marked the only time that two Brazilians have finished in the top three since his father shared the honour with Ayrton Senna 17 years ago.
Massa complained of a lack of speed. His team-mate Raikkonen struggled all weekend to find anything like the right balance and finished sixth. Despite the shortfall to McLaren, were it not for the safety car Massa would have had too much for the rest of the field.
A month ago in Magny-Cours it was Ferrari who had everyone else scratching heads. McLaren have happened across a Eureka moment somewhere. Hamilton had pace to burn and powers towards the season's climax the man to beat.
Next up is Hungary, where Hamilton posted a controversial win a year ago and with it buried Fernando Alonso's short McLaren career. Before that the teams repair to Jerez for the next round of testing; a time for Ferrari to regroup and fathom a response to Hamilton.

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