Defending champion Lewis Hamilton was jumping for joy on Sunday after winning the German Grand Prix – and it was easy to see why…
After his fourth win in a row, he knew he was heading to the beach for his European summer holidays with a clear lead in this year’s F1® title race.
The 31-year-old Englishman was in flawless form at Hockenheim where he increased his lead to 19 points in emphatic fashion.
The three-time champion took full advantage of a poor start by his pole-sitting Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg, who also received a five-seconds stop-go penalty for an aggressive passing move, to grab his sixth win in seven races.
It was the 49th victory of his career and one of his most crushing.
German Rosberg, relishing a chance to reclaim the lead on home soil, came home fourth behind the two Red Bulls of second-placed Australian Daniel Ricciardo, in his 100th Grand Prix, and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen, who was third.
It was only Hamilton’s second win at the Hockenheim circuit where he previously won in 2008 on his way to his first championship triumph.
“I had a great start and my engineers gave me a perfectly balanced car,” said Hamilton. “I am so happy to be here and to win for Mercedes Benz – I have been with them since I was 13 so it matters a lot.
“Today it was about staying cool and I didn’t make any mistakes and in my heart I felt I did a great job. For me, yesterday wasn’t perfect, but you learn from those things.”
Ricciardo and Verstappen delivered Red Bull’s first double on the podium for more than a year as the their team leapt ahead of rivals Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.
“That’s our first double for over a year,” said a beaming Ricciardo, who greeted his parents who had travelled from Perth in the crowd. “And it is my dad’s birthday!
“It was a race of strategy at first and really close at the first corner between Max and me. And then, on the super-softs, I was much more comfortable.”
Verstappen said: We chose to use two different strategies today so I let Daniel go by me, as he was faster then, and then we played really well as a team. It’s a great result and I’m sure we’ll enjoy it tonight.”
For Rosberg, who was seeking to repeat his 2014 triumph, it ended up as a day of disappointment similar to that of his world champion father Keke won took his final pole at Hockenheim in 1986, but finished fifth after running short of fuel.
“That was a really tough one,” said Rosberg. “I had so much wheel-spin at the start and I don’t know why because it was so different to the practice starts. After that, it was very difficult for me…”
The home fans had another German to cheer in fifth place as four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished fifth ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Finn Kimi Raikkonen and compatriot Nico Hulkenberg who was seventh on home turf for Force India.
Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 champion, finished eighth for McLaren Honda, ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India, a fine result after a topsy-turvy weekend in which he had to go to hospital to have a piece of carbon brake taken out of an eye.
“I can enjoy myself on the beach now without feeling guilty,” joked Button afterwards. He was happy, but he knew the day belonged to another British driver.
“Get in there, Lewis,” said his race engineer Pete ‘Bono’ Bonnington on team radio at the end of the race.
“Great work mate, a beautiful start and fantastically managed.”
The champion responded: “As always thanks to you all, brilliant pit stops and now go have a well-deserved summer break. I hope you enjoy it.”
Rosberg had faced a challenge to pass the Red Bulls and he admitted that the penalty left him struggling. “I’m not sure I could get past them even without the penalty,” he admitted.
To make matters worse as he contemplated the break until the next race, the Belgian Grand Prix, on August 28, Rosberg’s third pit stop -- when he took his five-second penalty, handed out for pushing Verstappen wide and off the track at the hairpin – was longer than required due to a stop-watch problem.
“It was one of those days,” said Rosberg. “Very tough to take. A bad start when I had so much wheel spin… and the penalty. Everything happened at once….”
As life moved into gear for Hamilton, who was 43 points adrift of leader Rosberg after four races, so it fell apart for his Mercedes team-mate.
The Briton found, for him, life’s a beach – but for Rosberg, it’s something else entirely…
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