On Sunday Nico Rosberg raced around the final corner of the Hockenheim circuit over 20 seconds ahead of Williams’ Valtteri Bottas to claim victory in the German Grand Prix. The headlines, however, undoubtedly belong to his teammate Lewis Hamilton, who recovered from 20th place on the grid to finish a triumphant third and keep his Championship hopes intact.
Mercedes have displayed a striking dominance in this year’s Formula One calendar; a Mercedes driver has won every race bar Canada, where Red Bull newcomer Daniel Ricciardo (replacing fellow Australian Mark Webber) truly announced himself as a talent to look out for. However, so dynamic is the rivalry between drivers Rosberg and Hamilton that, far from the monotony of Sebastian Vettel’s string of procession victories, that spectators have had plenty to cheer about. While Rosberg, currently ahead in the standings, has had the best of the results it is Hamilton’s performances which have caught the eye. His own results, however, have been beset by a series of reliability issues and racing incidents, leaving him 14 points shy of his rival.
Having taken a sumptuous victory from his home Grand Prix at Silverstone, Hamilton had aimed to carry that momentum into a strong performance at Hockenheim, and at first his weekend appeared to be going to plan. Turning in a satisfying lap for Q1 which saw him comfortably through to the next stage of qualifying, Hamilton’s good work was undone by a brake malfunction on his right front wheel which sent him careering off the track and hard into the barrier. Visibly shaken, the otherwise unhurt Hamilton returned to the paddock knowing he would start from15th, promoted one place higher than usual by Esteban Gutierrez’s three place grid penalty. Already with it all to do, Hamilton’s hardships were compounded when the repairs to his car necessitated a gearbox change, a breach of regulations which led to a five place grid penalty, leaving him starting from 20th.
As the cars lined up for the start of the race Hamilton, clearly prepared to demonstrate the determination and tenacity that made him World Champion at just 24 (the second youngest Champion in history after Vettel), utilised the excellent launch and pace of his car, markedly superior to the slower runners around him, to instantly climb to 17th before his ascension was briefly halted by a safety car, the result of Felipe Massa’s dramatic flip following contact with McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen on the first corner.
His progress continued, reaching 10th by lap 10 and pulling off a stunning double overtake through the hairpin on Kimi Raikkonen and Danield Ricciardo to take 6th in lap 13. Utilising the one advantage of his low grid position Hamilton started on the harder compound tyres, and so was able stay longer on track than those in the top ten and make up places as the lower durability of their softer grains forced them into earlier pit stops, and so was able to make his way as high as second before his first pit stop in lap 27.
Clearly buoyed by his previous success on the hairpin, Hamilton attempted a dive from deep behind the McLaren of Jenson Button on the same corner, making contact with his unexpecting former teammate and losing a portion of his front wing. The incident affected Hamilton’s downforce, leaving his tyres degrading faster than expecting, and compelling him into a three-stop strategy which left him finishing third, just short of overcoming the straight-line speed of Bottas’ second-placed Williams. Hamilton, to his credit, showed an admirable sense of fair play and sportsmanship, raising a hand of apology to Button after a clean overtake and conceding in his post-race interview that the contact was of his own making.
With another eventful addition to this Formula One season, including another podium finish for the resurgent Williams team (a testament to the legacy and successes of legendary British team boss Sir Frank Williams who, at 72, remains an F1 mainstay), Hamilton’s resolve showed a laudable determination which keeps his Championship dreams alive.
How can Williams, following another successful weekend, build on their resurgence to ensure future success?