Hamilton finds 'perfect' retort for his critics
Lewis Hamilton is given to superlatives; with him it is always the best or worst of times. The best qualifying session he has ever had, the most delicious cuisine he has ever tasted, the worst weekend of his life.
After taking a magnificent victory at yesterday's German Grand Prix -- in which he started second on the grid, led by the first corner, barely put a wheel out of place and yet still had to produce a number of daring overtaking manoeuvres to secure his prize -- no one was quibbling with Hamilton's assessment that this was "as perfect" a race as he has ever produced. It was breathtaking.
Hamilton's ecstatic celebration afterwards hinted that this one meant more to him than the 15 which had preceded it. Not only did it resurrect his slim championship hopes -- with Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth at his home Grand Prix, Hamilton now lies 82 points behind the German -- it was vindication of his talent, of his aggressive style.
Hamilton (below) has copped a fair amount of criticism in recent months, much of it warranted, some of it over the top. This was two fingers up at the detractors. More than that, it was simply a huge relief.
"I am buzzing," he said after changing into McLaren's traditional fluorescent orange victory top. "I can't express the feeling inside when I win. I cannot imagine anything else could feel like this.
"It is a mixture of lots of things -- not expecting to win, the ups an downs, the things said against you and then the win. That is a victory for the whole team and I feel the energy from them."
No one could feel much at all earlier in the day; numbed by the unseasonably cold weather and grey spitting clouds hovering menacingly above the Eifel mountains, the pre-race grid featured more ski-wear than race-wear.
But from the moment the lights went out Hamilton -- like his overalls for the weekend which featured flames licking up his legs -- was on fire. He profited from yet another poor start from Mark Webber, beating the Red Bull man to the first corner, and thereafter fought a running battle with the Australian and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, their three cars almost perfectly matched in terms of pace.
All three led at different moments but Hamilton's determination and aggression proved decisive.
He won a skirmish with Webber to lead after the second round of pit-stops midway through the race and then another almost immediately with Alonso, brilliantly passing the Ferrari around the outside at Turn Two after the Spaniard had undercut his rivals to seize the lead. Hamilton never looked back, putting in lap after lap right on the edge.
"Through the race, my consistency was amazing," he said. "It was probably the best I have ever had apart from one moment in the chicane. It felt amazing to hit the same sweet spot and hit the apex everywhere the same time every lap. This race was as perfect as I have ever had."
Behind him, Hamilton's team-mate was not having nearly as much fun. Jenson Button dropped from seventh to 10th on the first lap alone and after painstakingly clawing his way back up the field to sixth, despite being held up by Renault's Vitaly Petrov, he was then forced to retire for the second race running with a hydraulic issue.
"Fourth was definitely possible," he said. "I had a terrible first lap and then I couldn't get past Petrov, who was very difficult to pass, moving when we are not supposed to move in the braking zone.
"I don't think we are fighting for the championship any more," he added. "I'm just going to go out there and do the best I can."
The next race, in Hungary this weekend, will be Button's 200th. Perhaps the scene of his first victory in 2006 will inspire him to think otherwise.
Certainly McLaren appear to be back in contention. The change to the engine regulations following Silverstone has clearly helped them, as well as the raft of upgrades flung at the car since then.
It should be remembered, however, that Red Bull reigned supreme at the Hungaroring last year and the warmer weather in Budapest is likely to peg McLaren back still further since they -- and specifically Hamilton -- appear to be particularly good at getting the tyres up to operating temperature in the colder climes.
For now, Hamilton will justifiably bask in the warm glow of redemption.
"My dad always told me when I was growing up to do my talking on the track," he smiled. "It is very difficult to stick with that because sometimes you want to let off steam, which I have this season. Today I did all my talking on the track." (© Daily Telegraph, London)