Lewis Hamilton drives from tears to triumph at German Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton raced from 14th to first to seize a “miracle” German Grand Prix victory in a Mercedes one-two on Sunday and retake the Formula One championship lead from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who crashed.

other sports Updated: Jul 24, 2018 14:03 IST
Lewis Hamilton,German Grand Prix,Lewis Hamilton Formula One
Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates after winning the German Grand Prix.(REUTERS)

Tears on Saturday, rain and champagne on Sunday. Lewis Hamilton went through a lot at the German Grand Prix, including a tribunal of stewards who threatened to strip him of his victory. The image of Hamilton, crouched over a car with wrecked hydraulics on Saturday, was in utter contrast to Sunday, where he finished a highly unlikely winner. He had mastered chaos and rain to emerge victorious in Sebastian Vettel’s home race.

There was a time it was said Vettel wasn’t great at overtakes. From 2010 to 2013, he would start nearly every race in front in his unassailable Red Bull, and even though he stormed to four consecutive championships, much of the credit went to his wheels. Over the last few years with Ferrari in catch-up mode, Vettel has been scything through the field, scrapping for points and wins. In the last two seasons, he has overtaken everyone.

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On Sunday, he spun out while leading a race he controlled, and would likely have won if not for the rain. It was a disaster — commentators fell over themselves asking whether this had cost him the world championship as he handed Hamilton a giant lead — but Vettel was calm afterwards, calling the crash “a small mistake and a big disappointment.”

Even on Saturday, when Hamilton was adrift, his German rival had extended his sympathies. Where is this equanimity coming from?

Perhaps, it is the purple sectors. Earlier in the race as Vettel pulled away, his teammate Kimi Raikkonen pitted from fourth place and started hammering laps a second and a half faster than the race leaders. Not only did he obliterate the gap to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas — the cars running in front of him — but he made up such excellent time that, after the first pitstops, he was ahead even of Vettel, and moved over only when this was made absolutely clear to him. “If you want me to let him go,” said Raikkonen, known for no-nonsense radio communication, “just tell me”.

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This Ferrari eventually did, and Vettel was through, but the pace the red cars had already shown was brutal.

Ferrari has not been behaving like its win-at-all-costs self. They chose not to impose team orders in Austria, were reluctant about imposing them in Germany, and, as Hamilton swerved sloppily across the pit-lane exit behind the safety car and was called to a stewards hearing, one of the reasons the FIA did not take stricter action was because Ferrari did not lodge a complaint.

Right now the team is doing its talking on the track, with startling straight-line speed. There are ten races in which to catch and battle Mercedes. The red team will hope it doesn’t rain.

NOTE: Raja Sen is a film critic who has been writing on Formula One since 2004.

First Published: Jul 24, 2018 14:03 IST