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

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

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

  1. Mick said on 21st July 2008, 8:13

    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.

  2. 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!

  3. Jian said on 21st July 2008, 8:49

    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.

  4. Peter Boyle said on 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.

  5. AndyWolf said on 21st July 2008, 11:04

    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..

  6. Jean said on 21st July 2008, 11:27

    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.

  7. Toby said on 21st July 2008, 11:31

    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?).

  8. sChUmAcHeRtHeGrEaTeStEvEr said on 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

  9. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st July 2008, 13:52

    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…

  10. AndyWolf said on 21st July 2008, 14:14

    Keith, i was joking….

  11. Number 38 said on 21st July 2008, 14:28

    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?

  12. Nirupam said on 21st July 2008, 14:29

    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?? ;)

  13. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st July 2008, 14:54

    Andy – Ah, OK! But I think some people might think you weren’t.

    Number 38 – I don’t understand your comment – are you saying Massa is doing well or badly?

    Nirupam – Might be because it’s been so long since we saw a dry race decided by an overtaking move. I think Suzuka ’05 is the last time that happened.

  14. Nick said on 21st July 2008, 15:13

    @ 20 Paul – Everytime Kimi is on pole, whether he has Hamilton or Massa behind him, he has outpaced them considerably. Also, whenever he has been 2nd, and Hamilton or Massa on pole he has outpaced them to win most of the time. Lewis and Massa always qualify light, since their race pace is garbage compared to Kimi. Same with Kubica, he is always light.

  15. AndyWolf said on 21st July 2008, 15:15

    Wow, calm down Number 38…

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