Thursday 18 January 2018

Nico Rosberg claims German Grand Prix as Lewis Hamilton fights his way to the podium

Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany cuts a curve during the German Formula One Grand Prix in Hockenheim
Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg of Germany cuts a curve during the German Formula One Grand Prix in Hockenheim
Williams driver Felipe Massa of Brazil crashes in the first curve of the German Formula One Grand Prix in Hockenheim
Williams driver Felipe Massa of Brazil crashes in the first curve of the German Formula One Grand Prix in Hockenheim

Ian Parkes

Nico Rosberg completed the week of his life with victory in the German Grand Prix on a day when Lewis Hamilton produced a backs-to-the-wall drive to limit the damage to his team-mate and title rival.

From 20th on the grid at Hockenheim, following a qualifying crash and five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change due to the damage sustained, 29-year-old Hamilton was third in his Mercedes behind Williams' Valtteri Bottas.

Rosberg's triumph was the first for Mercedes on home soil since 1954, with five-times champion Juan Manuel Fangio taking the chequered flag that day.

Married nine days ago, Rosberg then watched Germany win the World Cup final before signing a new long-term contract earlier this week, and has now recorded a lights-to-flag success in front of his own fans.

All the action unfolded behind him, with the spotlight on Hamilton given his lowly grid position in the wake of a smash in the first part of qualifying following a front-right brake disc failure.

Initally 15th for the start, Mercedes announced the gearbox change and subsequent penalty on Sunday morning ahead of the race, leaving him down in 20th and with a mountain to climb to even clamber onto the podium.

But Hamilton produced a rousing performance, limiting the damage as best as possible with third, with the gap to Rosberg now 14 points.

Over the opening laps it was captivating stuff from Hamilton, the kind of situation on which he loves and thrives.

Just 10 seconds into the race he received one helping hand when, for the second consecutive race, Williams' Felipe Massa was involved in an accident that brought his grand prix to a swift conclusion.

Unlike at the British Grand Prix when Massa was taken out following an horrific smash involving Kimi Raikkonen, on this occasion his turn into McLaren's Kevin Magnussen resulted in his own shock moment.

The Brazilian was flipped up and over, landing on the roll hoop on top of his car, which then somehow managed to right itself again.

Williams driver Felipe Massa of Brazil crashes in the first curve of the German Formula One Grand Prix in Hockenheim

It immediately brought the safety car into play for two laps, with Hamilton 17th upon its release, following which he can began the process of picking off those ahead of him.

By the end of lap 10 Hamilton was in the points in 10th, albeit with one moment of consternation, while former friend Adrian Sutil in his Sauber ran into the sidepod of the Briton's Mercedes, but without damage.

Then on lap 13 came a breathtaking overtake on Raikkonen and the Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo into the hairpin, with the Finn squeezed as Hamilton legally edged him out of the way.

With pit stops, by the end of lap 16 Hamilton was up to second and 7.7 seconds adrift of Rosberg, who had already made his first stop.

It was another 10 laps before Hamilton finally made his run into the pits, taking on another set of soft Pirelli tyres - he was one of only three drivers to start off on the harder of the two compounds this weekend.

That dropped Hamilton back to eighth, but from there he began another charge, although there was again contact at one point, this time with former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button.

It proved slightly more costly as Hamilton lost his left front-wing endplate, exposing his left-front tyre to degradation.

It forced Mercedes into switching Hamilton from a planned two-stop strategy to a three, at that stage potentially scuppering his hopes of finishing runner-up to Rosberg.

It was not long before Hamilton was back up to second as those ahead pitted prior to the Brit switching to the far quicker supersoft tyres on lap 42, dropping him to fifth.

When Adrian Sutil spun his Sauber on lap 50, leaving his car on the start-finish straight, it appeared a safety car would be called.

Mercedes, perhaps expecting as such, immediately brought in Hamilton for a longer-than-planned run on a final set of supersofts.

It was not long before he was on the tail of Bottas, on fading soft-compound tyres, but as his own rubber in turn lost its initial pace so it became apparent he would be unable to pass, settling for third.

Behind the lead trio were two other world champions in Sebastian Vettel in his Red Bull and Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, who endured a titanic struggle with the second Red Bull of Ricciardo over the closing stages, just holding sway.

Force India's Nico Hulkenberg was seventh, followed by McLaren duo Jenson Button and Magnussen, with Sergio Perez in his Force India completing the top 10.

A thrilled Rosberg said: "It's fantastic. "It's an amazing feeling to win at home. It's a very special day."

As for Hamilton, he was obviously delighted after claiming only his second podium finish from outside the top 10 when he was also third in Brazil in 2009 after starting 17th.

"I had great fun," said Hamilton. "I did as good as I could.

"It was hard to get through the pack safely and I had a little bit of a collision with Jenson.

"I thought he was going to open the door, which he has done a couple of times lately, but that was my bad judgement.

"It was hard to overtake so I'm glad to get some points today."

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