Hamilton wins enthralling German Grand Prix
Sunday 24 July 2011
Lewis Hamilton reignited his Formula One championship challenge with a much-needed victory in the German Grand Prix.
Hamilton led on four separate occasions throughout the race at the Nurburgring, the most important of which was naturally at the end to dispel all the negativity that has surrounded him of late.
The 26-year-old brought home his McLaren 3.9 seconds ahead of Fernando Alonso in his Webber, with Red Bull's Mark Webber third, a further 5.8secs down.
With Alonso pulling to one side on the cooling-off lap after the chequered flag had come down due to a fuel problem, he was then given a lift back to the pits on Webber's car.
However, the fuel issue may be one for the stewards to look at if they feel a competitive advantage was gained.
Reigning champion Sebastian Vettel was forced to settle for fourth after a dramatic last-lap pit stop battle with Ferrari's Felipe Massa, with the Red Bull crew getting their man ahead.
Although his lead has been cut for the first time this season, he still holds a 77-point cushion to Webber, with Hamilton 82 points down and Alonso 86.
It was another epic encounter, one that ultimately turned in the second round of pit stops, and one that for the first time this season did not include Vettel.
Off the front row for the first time in 15 races, from third on the grid the reigning champion immediately lost a place to Alonso into the first corner.
Although soon regained at the start of lap two courtesy of Alonso running slightly wide at turn two, it was lost again on lap eight as the Spaniard squeezed down the inside of the German on the run down to turn one.
Two laps later and Vettel made a hugely uncharacteristic mistake, putting his right-side tyres marginally onto the artificial turf on the approach to turn 10.
It was enough to send Vettel into a spin onto the vast run-off area at that section of the circuit, losing seven seconds all told, but not a place as he held onto third.
However, from that moment Vettel was never in the running, dropping further and further off the pace, and even losing fourth in the initial round of pit stops to Massa.
Ahead of him a three-way battle for the lead unfolded, and a captivating one at that, between Hamilton, Webber and Alonso.
At the start, and from his first front-row grid slot since the second race of the year in Malaysia, Hamilton snaffled the lead ahead of Webber.
It was not until the end of lap 12 that he was first threatened as a small mistake allowed Webber through on the inside around the final corner.
But following in Webber's slipstream, Hamilton brilliantly cut down the Australian on the inside of the pit straight, the pit wall inches away to his right, to regain the lead into turn one.
As the first stops unfolded a few laps later, strategy allowed Webber to leapfrog Hamilton, with Alonso hot on his heels.
At that point, though, it was Massa who had edged ahead as the quartet converged at turn one at the start of lap 17, although he had yet to pit.
The Brazilian at least held up Webber for a lap, but once he came in for new tyres, the 34-year-old held sway up until the halfway point of the 60-lap race.
Red Bull brought Webber in first, only for Hamilton to leapfrog him as he emerged from his second stop on the following lap, the Briton just doing enough to keep his nose in front as he came under attack
That minor duel was enough to slow them enough for Alonso to take advantage as he passed both with the undercut from his second stop.
But Hamilton, on warmer tyres, pulled off another breathtaking move around the outside of turn two to reclaim the lead through to lap 50.
At the final stop, switching to the harder, slower, medium compound there was the danger he could again be leapfrogged by Alonso and Webber behind, but it never materialised.
Instead, he is now the only man other than Vettel to have won two races this season, but he needs so much if he is to have any hope of overhauling Vettel.
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