Hamilton was fortunate to avoid crash with safety car
Tuesday 22 July 2008
Lewis Hamilton's magnificent victory in Germany on Sunday almost failed to happen. Without question it was a great performance, but the margin between success and failure is small indeed. The TV cameras failed to spot it, but he very nearly came a cropper behind the safety car on the 41st lap, just before the race was restarted.
He was following safety car driver Bernd Maylander through the stadium section of the track. At the exit of the Sachskurve Hamilton backed off a little to create some space between his car and the safety car as the latter was naturally unable to negotiate the kink before the final two corners at the same speed as the F1 machinery.
Hamilton then put his foot down again and accelerated just as Maylander slowed down – and eyewitnesses report that Lewis just managed to avoid impact with the rear end of the Mercedes-Benz. It was very close indeed, and those same witnesses report that there were literally only inches to spare.
Given what happened in Canada it would have been a very different story if the McLaren had run into the back of a Mercedes in front of the German marque's home crowd.
Hamilton's subsequent drive to victory was so totally assured that it left the distinct impression that after a few hiccups this year he is now operating on a level clear of his rivals. Ferrari's Felipe Massa struggled all afternoon with his car and his team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was far off his usual pace.
Hamilton now leads the World Championship by four points and McLaren are closing fast on second place in the Constructors' Championship, which is currently held by BMW Sauber.
Hamilton is too smart to be drawn into a debate whether he is now the man to beat, such is the way the tide can change so quickly in F1. He said: "We're in control and looking good, but last year chopped and changed who was quickest and we will see that again in coming races. If we can challenge for wins that's great, but we need to keep on pushing and I'm sure everyone else will be doing just that too."
Meanwhile, there were suggestions on Sunday evening that the FIA will investigate the manner in which German driver Timo Glock was treated after a heavy crash which brought out the safety car in the first place.
Glock's Toyota had a rear suspension failure in the final corner, spun out of control and impacted heavily with the concrete pit wall before sliding down and across the pit straight and ending up on the grass on the other side of the track. It was clear that the crash had shaken Glock and in such circumstances it is normal for specially-trained crews to go into action, using systems created specifically to ensure that no further damage is done to drivers after big accidents.
These procedures include the innovative rescue seat which is designed so that, if necessary, it can be taken out of the car with the driver still strapped to it, thus minimising the risk of increasing any spinal injury during the tricky extrication process. This is not what happened in Glock's case. He was helped from the car by marshals and walked unsteadily away rubbing his lower back. He was then presented with a canvas chair until an ambulance took him for precautionary checks in hospital. He was unharmed, but the procedures were created for a reason.
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