Lewis Hamilton wins despite strategy blunder (2008 German GP review)

Posted on | Author Keith Collantine

Lewis Hamilton scored his fourth win of 2008 in the German Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton scored his fourth win of 2008 in the German Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton was dominating the German Grand Prix until a safety car appearance threw his race into disarray.

His McLaren team made a clear mistake by failing to bring him into the pits – leaving him to fight his way back to the front of the field the hard way.

After taking his delayed stop Hamilton hunted down and passed first Felipe Massa then surprise leader Nelson Piquet Jnr in the closing stages for another memorable victory.

Hamilton takes an early lead

Lewis Hamilton beat Felipe Massa to the first corner
Lewis Hamilton beat Felipe Massa to the first corner

From pole position Hamilton shot into an early lead – pulling out 1.8s over Massa in the first lap alone. Massa had spent the first few corners fending off the attention of Heikki Kovalainen, who had a run at the Ferrari into the Spitzkerve hairpin but backed off.

Robert Kubica made an exceptional start from seventh to take fourth. He passed Kimi Raikkonen off the start line and took advantage of Jarno Trulli and Fernando Alonso racing each other to pass the pair of them.

David Coulthard made a poor start from tenth, however, plunging down the order to 15th.

There was no stopping Hamilton in the early stages as he quickly stretched his lead over Massa. By lap four he had a 3.7s lead, seven seconds by lap ten, and 11 by lap 18.

Kovalainen was not able to lap anything like as quickly, and actually fell to 4.3s behind Massa on lap eight.

Raikkonen made some progress on lap three when Alonso tried a very optimistic pass on Trulli at turn one. Trulli brushed Alonso aside and the Renault driver lost momentum, allowing Raikkonen through with ease. But Raikkonen could do nothing about Trulli.

Massa’s strategic switch

Kimi Raikkonen fell to seventh at the start
Kimi Raikkonen fell to seventh at the start

In an effort to get on terms with Hamilton, Ferrari switched Massa onto the softer compound tyres at his first stop. Hamilton had come in on lap 18 and Massa followed two laps later. Massa’s brief period in the lead allowed him to take a couple of seconds out of Hamilton, and he was further helped by Hamilton getting stuck behind Trulli on his out-lap, before the Toyota pitted.

Kovalainen came in on lap 21 and resumed right in front of Nick Heidfeld. The BMW had fuelled heavily after qualifying outside the top ten.

Raikkonen’s pit stop enabled him to leap ahead of Trulli and he now found himself fifth behind Kubica.

But Massa’s switch onto softer tyres didn’t help his race pace and Hamilton was quickly able to extend his lead again. By lap 30 it was back up to 11s with Kovalainen, third, chipping away at Massa’s 7.2s advantage.

By now some of the drivers who had started outside the top ten were making their first stops. Timo Glock briefly ran third before pitting on lap 30. Kazuki Nakajima, who had spun on lap 17, came in at the same time.

The last two drivers to pit were Rubens Barrichello on lap 32 and Nelson Piquet Jnr on lap 36. It proved to be perfect timing for Piquet.

Glock crash changes race complexion

Just as the German Grand Prix was starting to look settled it took a sudden and dramatic twist. While Piquet was making his final stop Glock’s race came to an end in the barrier on the pit straight. Coming out of the final corner his right rear suspension seemed to give way, and Glock was a passenger as his car spun backwards into the pit wall (video).

Glock escaped injury in the crash but the safety car was summoned while the debris was cleared up. With only 24 laps until the finish anyone who still needed to pit could do so under the safety car and make it to the end of the race.

Yet bafflingly McLaren chose not to pit Hamilton. Afterwards Ron Dennis admitted they underestimated how long the safety car would stay out for, as the field reorganised itself while lapped cars got their places back. But even so it was a completely unnecessary gamble.

Practically everyone else pitted, with Raikkonen falling to 12th as he had to queue behind Massa, and Kubica getting ahead of Kovalainen. Sebastian Vettel came out of his pit box alongside Alonso, forcing the Renault driver to cross the white line at the exit of the pit lane, although he did not incur a penalty.

Hamilton’s fight back

Mark Webber retired when the oil cooler failed on his RB4
Mark Webber retired when the oil cooler failed on his RB4

When the race resumced on lap 42 Hamilton had eight laps to build as large a gap as possible. Behind him were Heidfeld, Piquet Jnr and Massa. As the safety car headed for the pits Mark Webber came to a smoky stop, pulling up with a broken oil cooler after debris had gotten into his car.

Kovalainen went straight for Kubica on the restart, drawing along the outside of the BMW at the left-hander in front of the Mercedes grandstand. He hung on around the outside of the corner and took advantage as the track bent to the right, seizing the position.

Alonso and Vettel’s battle went on and as Alonso tried to pass the Toro Rosso driver Raikkonen was able to take advantage on lap 43 and Nico Rosberg also passed the Renault. Raikkonen then made rapid progress, passing Vettel on the next lap and Trulli on the lap after that.

Meanwhile Hamilton had pulled out 15.7 seconds over Massa before his final pit stop on lap 50. He came out fifth, behind Heidfeld (still to pit), Piquet Jnr, Massa and Kovalainen.

Kovalainen wasted no time in letting his team mate past. Hamilton quickly went by – and Heidfeld shortly emerged from the pits behind Hamilton, showing the McLaren driver would have had an even tougher time had he not passed his team mate so quickly.

But when Hamilton caught Massa on lap 57 the Ferrari driver hardly made it any harder for Hamilton than Kovalainen had. Hamilton tucked into Massa’s slipstream on the run towards to Spitzkerve and must hardly have believed his luck when Massa took his usual racing line, allowing him to pass down the inside with ease. Massa tried to fight back at the next bend but Hamilton defended his position and left him behind.

Piquet Jnr was next in Hamilton’s sights and on lap 59 he was dispensed with too, having put up no more resistance than Massa had, but not really having a car to fend Hamilton off with anyway.

Second place was extremely useful for Piquet Jnr and Renault, as it moves the latter ahead of Williams in the constructors’ championship. Massa took third ahead of Heidfeld and Kovalainen.

Raikkonen started where he finished – sixth – with Kubica seventh and Vettel scoring a point in his home race.

But after the double whammy of this battling win at Hockenheim, and his dominating drive in the wet at Silverstone, Hamilton must be feeling invincible. He heads to the Hungaroring with a narrow four-point advantage over Massa, and the comforting knowledge that his MP4/23 is now the car to beat.

2008 German Grand Prix result

Win number four for Hamilton gives him the championship lead
Win number four for Hamilton gives him the championship lead

1. Lewis Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h31:20.874
2. Nelson Piquet Jnr Renault +5.586
3. Felipe Massa Ferrari +9.339
4. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber +9.825
5. Heikki Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes +12.411
6. Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +14.403
7. Roibert Kubica BMW Sauber +22.682
8. Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari +33.299
9. Jarno Trulli Toyota +37.158
10. Nico Rosberg Williams-Toyota +37.625
11. Fernando Alonso Renault +38.600
12. Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari +39.111
13. David Coulthard Red Bull-Renault +54.971
14. Kazuki Nakajima Williams-Toyota +1:00.003
15. Adrian Sutil Force India-Ferrari +1:09.488
16. Jenson Button Honda +1 lap
17. Giancarlo Fisichella Force India-Ferrari +1:24.093*

*Received a 25-second penalty for unlapping himself when he was not allowed to, demoting him from 14th to 17th.

Not classified

Rubens Barrichello Honda 52 laps
Mark Webber Red Bull-Renault 41 laps
Timo Glock Toyota 37 laps

Championship positions after the German Grand Prix

69 comments on “Lewis Hamilton wins despite strategy blunder (2008 German GP review)”

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  1. Well, I’m also disappointed by the way Massa let Hamilton pass, but it sounds strange that the same people who said that Massa was too hard on Alonso on Nurburgring last year are saying he was too smooth on Hamilton today… in both cases, he didn’t have the pace to hold the one trying to pass him…

    But I think who should really be ashamed is Kovalainen… today he wasn’t unlucky, his pace simply wasn’t there, and he finished fifth, while Hamilton, with the same machinery, was phenomenal, I can almost say he won the race TWICE, since the “first” race was ruined by his team…

    You british must be really proud of Lewis… Today he was worth of all the hype, all the buzz around him…

  2. I am not sure if you are intresting about this but here some news from finnish F1 journalist.

    Kimi said that he lost extra 5 sec in pitstop in safety car situation because screw of his front tyre was stuck. At least that explain a little bit why he was so low after that pit stop.

    Heikki was angry after race and been kicking walls and said in finnish that howcome he can win races when McLaren do not let him race. and after that a lot of finnish svear words like “perkele”. Poor Heikki. Ron Dennis said that team did not ask Heikki let Lewis go, that it was Heikkis own choice.
    But Heikki told to finnish newspaper that team told him by radio. Not by excatly those words but telling him that Lewis is behinde him and that he is much much faster. So Heikki said that he just open door to Lewis and did not try hold him.

    Well that makes sense ofcourse.

    There is only one F1 journalist in Finland with who both drivers talk a lot of, even Kimi. And that is Heikki Kulta. He was there allready when Keke Rosberg won WDC. He allways tell to us what other journalist in press room talk : before race and during race.

  3. Daniel, I am no brit but the naysayers will always be here, if they cant criticise his driving they will disguise their discontent with some remarks about McLaren “teamorders” and so on. I thought I saw the same in Canada from BMW and in France from Ferrari, just the logic of letting the fastest go on racing. If Heikki really had some pace surely he’d have caught up with Massa and at least finished ahead of Heidfeld. I guess its good for the driver WC to have a nr1 driver but if Heikki doesnt up his pace he contributes nothing to the constructors WC.

  4. To use an old cliche, a true champion is a person who wins through adversity. Lewis Hamilton, love him or loathe him, has that determination and drive to win.
    Many drivers, seeing the laps wind down, and with a podium signed sealed and delivered, would have settled for second or third. Hamilton, just doesn’t believe in finishing second.
    This has been highlighted before, by his performance in Brazil last year. Hamilton had to finish fourth to be champion, but his desire to win outright, overpowered everything else.
    I can see why alot of people don’t like Hamilton, but you can not say that he is not good value for money. McLaren, not for the first time, almost shot themselves in the foot, and were lucky to get away with it. One thing is for sure, Lewis Hamilton was never a one season wonder.
    As for Felipe Massa, I believe he did a good enough job following his disastrous Silverstone race. He is still only four points behind Hamilton, and, most important of all, ahead of Raikkonen and Kubica.
    As for Raikkonen, he needs to really get to grips with things fast if he wants to maintain pressure on the leaders. The big danger for him, is not so much Hamilton, but Massa.
    If Massa maintains his pace, and Kimi does not manage to find his, Ferrari are going to be forced to choose.
    Its hard for a team to decide when their two drivers are so close on points, but when a gap emerges, and with the races running down, decisions will be made as to who Ferrari bank on to win for them.
    To be honest, I will be mightily surprised if Raikkonen allows this to happen, but on his current form, he has to be on his guard.
    Kubica does not have so much of a problem internally, but he needs to improve too. These last two events have dented his title ambitions to some extent, but there is still time.

  5. I think these last two races have rather firmly established Lewis Hamilton as the most talented driver in Formula 1. To beat your competition by over 1 minute in very wet conditions and then make up more than five seconds and pass three cars in the last 15 laps to win are pretty stunning and memorable drives. Furthermore, his car development skills should receive some high marks with the ground that McLaren have made up this year, as he surely has had a role in that.

    Other drivers to comment on:

    Piquet- Very nice job by him today. A combination of luck and strategy got him up front, but one he was there, he outran a driver in a superior car to hold him off, put distance on him, and then finish second. He redeemed himself today and bought himself some time.

    Vettel- Very nice job by him today. He qualified well, kept his car well into the points the whole race, and overtook Alonso. He has been very quick since Monaco in one of the worst cars in the field. This kid really has a ton of talent. Red Bull is going to see a nice improvement with him behind the wheel of their car next year, as well as with another year of Webber. With high praise from Schumacher, I’ll bet serious money that Vettel will be in a Ferrari seat within the next 2-3 years.

    Alonso- A truly pathetic race from him. He had a good starting position, but he dropped like a stone through the field, being passed by a number of drivers with inferior teams. For whatever reason, he is looking truly uninspired these days and definitely unhappy driving for Renault.

    Raikkonen- A very good performance by him today. He had a poor qualifying effort, but he make a couple of nice overtakes in the opening stages of the race. The Ferrari was off the pace today, but he made the best of it, charging through the field after the queue in the Ferrari pit set him back in the field. Despite being dealt a bad hand this weekend, he kept fighting until the end, showing very good resolve. He’s still very much in this title fight.

    Heidfeld- He had a poor qualifying effort, and the BMW was down this weekend. However, he had a characteristically solid, smooth drive characteristic. BMW made a great call to keep him out under the safety car, and he picked up enough time to come out ahead of Kovalainen and challenge Massa for the podium. He had a very good race. I hope that BMW keeps him on for next year, as he is a very good, quick, and consistent driver who is reportedly very good at working with engineers.

    Kovalainen- Circumstances conspired against him, but it was a very good day for him. He made a terrific overtake on Kubica to get into the top five. Without the safety car, he was headed for a podium finish, and he almost got by Massa for second today. As a McLaren fan, I hope he is kept on the team for next year. He is a very quick driver who has been consistent and has suffered from some bad luck this year, and if he keeps putting together good runs like this, he will soon get his first grand prix win. He’s fully capable of winning many GPs and challenging for a world championship.

    Massa- Not a bad race for him. The Ferrari wasn’t good enough to challenge for victory today. He made no mistakes and brought home a podium finish, which is what he needed after a truly horrendous performance in the wet at Silverstone.

    Kubica- A pretty average race for him. The BMW wasn’t very competitive today, but he earned a points finish. He will for sure be one of the leading contenders for the WDC next year, as BMW has reportedly taken a strong initiative to prepare for the rules changes.

    Glock- He was having a great race until that terrible accident. He was well positioned for a points finish, and I believe he was on a one-stopper. I hope he has a speedy recovery and starts having some better luck, as he is a very talented driver who has yet to show his full potential. I believe he has two more years on his contract, and I hope Toyota keeps him on and gives him time to improve his results.

    Trulli- Not his best race. He gave up spots early in the race, and he failed to finish in the points. He did have an excellent qualifying performance this weekend, however.

  6. Missouri Mike- If you’re from Missouri, greetings from Pennsylvania! Indeed a good qualifying spot for Trulli, but not his best race. However, I think he has been very consistent during the entire season thus far, and while today was not his best, I think he’s got a great deal left in the tank.

    Snoopy- That is some serious stuff, and we will see if anything more comes out of it. If it’s true, my credit to you for spilling the beans on the incident. For what little part of the post-race interview that SPEED did show, I do give Lewis some credit for praising Heikki for “being a good teammate”>

    Overall, a good show this weekend. Hamilton drove a great race and deserved the win, in my view. Piquet has really pulled his tail out of the fire- am I the only one who is wondering how good o;’ Fernando is feeling after today’s results?

  7. BTW, I must put the question to keith and all of you more experienced folks: Many people talked about this circuit being good for Ferrari and their style of setitng up the car. If Lewis and McLaren look as dominant as they did today, how do you think Ferrari will bounce back in the later races?

  8. To me , there was actually not that much wrong with Ferrari , considering they finished ahead of one McLaren , and Massa was able to keep a resurgent and charging Heidfeld behind him for a number of the closing laps , even with some fading brakes , which maybe prevented him making a move on Piquet for second. Lewis Hamilton just seems to have moved up a gear into a world of his own from the wet Silverstone race , and now it’s looking like he is in control and the man to beat . Well done to him , and also Piquet for his first podium , some luck involved , but he kept the car on track with a reasonable pace for his strategy.

  9. The McLaren was truly dominant and at the hands of Lewis, even more so. Also, well done to Piquet. You take your luck.

    Special mention to Alonso… thanks for making the race entertaining. He was aggressive, but the machinery didn’t allow passing as easy as the top two. The car is still not as good as the Toyotas and Red Bulls I feel. He had a terrible race and needs to go back to the drawing board with his starts and passing.

    Keith, can we get some stats on the winners and loser off the line? Who has made the best and worst starts? Methinks Alonso has lost more places than he’s gained.

    Hamilton has won respect during the last two races.
    His arrogance has to go out the window, but you can’t help loving watching him drive.

  10. I’m sorry but I have to dispute the term ‘Blunder’ in the headline. Are we so used to the old ‘Perfection’ of Schuey/Brawn that when a team tries a different ‘Tactic’ which might suit the ‘Driver’ and the ‘Race’, we all cry ‘Wolf’?
    Lets see a little commonsense here, especially those of you out there in Medialand! You are criticising a dramatic chance taken by McLaren – who got it right, and not pointing the finger at Ferrari who played it by the book and got it wrong? Go and have a rethink before the next race! And in a race that was predicted by everyone (including me) to be a Ferrari walkover, we got amazing overtaking and a dramatic finish. I know the Safety Car was also a factor, but someone trackside was thinking it through…
    Lets see some fair reportage on the actual events and not just hot air from the armchair drivers, otherwise I will assume you are all working for ITV Sport!

  11. A quick comparison to the equivalent races of last year gives that Hamilton is -6p, Massa -9p, Kimi -4p. Even though Alonso is gone all the contenders have less points compared to last year, maybe due to more silly mistakes which the BMWs have taken advantage of.

    Anyway I feel Hungary is a splendid opportunity for Massa, he has never performed there and had a horrible race last year. Get a podium and he will be well poised for the finish, Ham and Kim hardly has anything to win there compared to last year when they finished 1 and 2.

  12. Peter Boyle
    21st July 2008, 10:51

    Yup, it is too much to claim blunder when Hamilton won,
    and we really don’t know what would have happend had he come into
    the pitlane.

    Maybe with Hamilton the best bet is to give him a really fast
    car and leave him on the track than to get too smart
    with pit strategy.

  13. Was the non-pit a blunder? I’m not so sure, I think McLaren simply gambled that Hamilton could get a big enough gap before his last pitstop. What didnt help was the safety car staying out so long (Ferrari influence?? ;) ).

    Hero = Hamilton – Best driver around at the moment…
    Zero = Massa – Has he finally been found out?? awful..

  14. The already much criticised “blunder” McLaren made by not pitting Lewis , in fact could have cost them the race if they had pitted him then. Think about it , it would have had to have been the second and final stop , meaning soft option tyres for 28 more laps – he would have been fuelled heavier at first and later end up running canvas by the end and losing 5 seconds a lap to Massa or even Piquet. While it ended quite comfortably in the end , but looked very close at one stage , I don’t think they had any other choice.

  15. Agree with a few comments. McLaren made the right call for the Constructor’s Championship. They made the right call for the WDC too when they gave Heikki a nudge. Kudos to them and Hamilton. He only managed to be beaten in the press room by Piquet’s rambling answers and Massa’s patriotism (or is that patronism?).

  16. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr
    21st July 2008, 13:48

    Hamilton is moving into a world of his own now, that was one of the best wins i have seen in the 11 years ive been watching. Abit miffed byu people praising kimi raikkonen, yes he made a few overtaking moves, thwe safety car didn help him, but he wasnt exactly doing well before it he couldnt get near trulli in the 1st part of the race he was terrible.

    about the team orders, if heikki really was complaining to the finnish media, he has no right too he was about 7/10ths slower than hamilton in the same car . i know hes had some bad luck this year but in my opinion hes been terrible hes not making the most of his car.

    well doine to piquet maybe thios result will see him get abit closer to alonso and take some pressure off him.

    Good race again even before the SC a bit of overtaking, as for the WDC i think your money has to be on hamilton now, absolutley unstoppable

  17. DG – I think you’re wide of the mark in your comments about ‘fairness’ on this site. McLaren not bringing Hamilton in was definitely a mistake. They admitted it themselves by apologising to Hamilton afterwards, many people at the time thought it was a msitake (there were plenty of people on the live blog who thought McLaren had thrown the win away) and much of the reportage of the race I’ve read today characterises it as a mistake.

    If Hamilton hadn’t been able to pass Massa and Piquet – which was by no means a given – we’d be sitting here talking about how another McLaren pit blunder ruined their race (see Shanghai ’07, Interlagos ’07 and more for other examples).

    AndyWolf – I don’t think there was a Ferrari influence in how long the safety car was out for. As we’ve seen before it takes a while to get the lapped cars unlapped and back onto the rear of the field. And there seemed to be some confusion about how it was supposed to work as Fisichella ended up getting a penalty because of it. As Dennis admitted afterwards, McLaren just underestimated how long it would all take.

    Alex & Toby – I know what you mean but if McLaren really did get on the radio and directly instruct Kovalainen to let Hamilton past they will have been taking an enormous risk. Just as we didn’t hear BMW instruct Heidfeld to let Kubica past at Montreal, or Ferrari arrange the pit stops that allow Raikkonen to pass Massa at Interlagos last year, these things are done rather more subtly (as Snoopy described). But they are done, of course. But remember Kovalainen had been running slower than Massa for much of the race and Hamilton didn’t have much difficulty passing Massa, did he?

    Gman – That’s a subject for another article I think…

  18. Keith, i was joking….

  19. A question for “internet’ comment #22 above states:
    “Actually, last season Massa made more passes on track than any other driver.”

    I have seen this ‘fact’ elsewhere but haven’t been able to verify it, do you know where you got the data?

    And a reason to read these blogs is the entertainment based on baseless OPINION:

    Hero = Hamilton – Best driver around at the moment…
    Zero = Massa – Has he finally been found out?? awful..

    I might remind the author of this remark that “ZERO-Massa” HAS been “found out”, he’s a fairly good driver and ranks second in the driver standings, a close second!

    This years Ferrari TEAM is not the Ferrari TEAM of the Schumacher era. The TEAM made some poor tyre decisions
    at Silverstone which scuttled their drivers chances, and both cars suffered grip problems at Hochenheim, again not a direct driver problem but a TEAM problem. I’m still undecided whether McLaren’s car has improved or Ferrari are merely loosing ground through mis-management. Anyone care to offer their opinion?

  20. I was surprised to see the percentage who voted the race as “Perfect 10” or 9.
    If I am to give 9 or 10 for this race what I would have given to Silverstone or Monaco? May be 14/15?? ;)

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