Wednesday 25 April 2018

Hamilton continues to find extra gear

Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Jens Meyer/AP Photo
Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton. Photo: Jens Meyer/AP Photo

Daniel Johnson

Lewis Hamilton was able to check in for his summer holidays a little earlier than planned yesterday - about three seconds and 100 yards into the German Grand Prix.

By then, with title rival Nico Rosberg fourth, the race was inevitably his. Perhaps this world championship is his too, despite the expected trials and tribulations to come.

Hamilton capped possibly the finest run in his entire career - he has won six of the past seven races, transforming a 43-point deficit into a 19-point lead - with a supreme lights-to-flag win. Imagine a cruise down one of Germany's Autobahns when the odd bit of traffic simply moves out of your way.

The Briton and his Silver Arrow has become an irrepressible combination, particularly now that his impeccable reliability - which disappeared alarmingly at the start of the season - has returned. Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, a strong second and third for Red Bull, flattered to deceive. Hamilton was in total command.

No one could begrudge him the victory. The past couple of months have been a slog, with four races in July, all of which he won. His holiday, however, will in all likelihood be just as frenetic as his normal life is. The argument that his lifestyle is a distraction is becoming harder and harder to sustain these days. Hamilton is not one for statistics, but even he was a little gobsmacked when the vital figures were relayed to him.

Before long, one even more remarkable statistic will go his way, as he is just two victories behind Alain Prost in second place on the all-time list of grand prix wins. (Hamilton has 49 to Prost's 51.) Since he and Rosberg collided on lap one of the Spanish Grand Prix in May - incidentally, the last race that Dr Dieter Zetsche, the chairman of Daimler, attended - the turnaround has been astonishing. It mirrors almost exactly the sequence he had after these two crashed at Spa-Francorchamps in 2014.

That run powered Hamilton to the championship and there is every sign this one will do the same. "Crazy that it's gone by so quickly," the three-time champion said. "Only a few weeks ago we were in Barcelona and I was 43 points behind thinking, 'Jeez, I might come away 50 points behind'. I was finding it hard to find a way through the trees. But I kept going and kept believing.

"My mechanics have shown no signs of giving up and that's inspired me to do the same. The result shows to never give up. I didn't know I was 19 points ahead, that's crazy. I was 43 points behind and now it's swung the other way. I'm very happy with that."

On the other side of the Mercedes garage, these are bleak times for Rosberg. A fine driver, as his superb pole lap here on Saturday demonstrated, he is being made to look ordinary by the extraordinary Hamilton. The one glimmer of hope for the German is that Hamilton will have to start at least one race - possibly in Spa or Monza from the very back (for exceeding the number of permitted power unit components). That should give him the chance to close the gap.

This day promised much for Rosberg and delivered little, right from lights out. Two enormous black tyre marks on the Hockenheim tarmac pointed to a disastrous getaway, in which he fell behind Hamilton, Ricciardo and Verstappen. Hamilton's start was true, an indication that this weakness has been banished.

The two Red Bulls then showed the Mercedes pair how to duel without colliding. Verstappen flew around the outside of his team-mate into second. Hamilton was already gone, not to be seen again. Ricciardo defended hard on lap one and Rosberg's inability to get by ended his hopes of victory. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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