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

  1. Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 21st July 2008, 15:39

    DG – I really don’t agree – especialy in the light of the total balls-up Ferrari made of Raikkonen’s race at Silverstone.

    Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely want to see wheel-to-wheel racing like we had – it’s what I watch motor racing for! But that’s not what the teams are trying to do, they’re trying to win races. And McLaren compromised Hamilton’s effort to do that yesterday.

  2. Number 38 said on 21st July 2008, 15:44

    Hi Keith,

    You don’t understand where a “close second” is in the drivers standings?
    Hamilton is First, Massa is second, Kimi is third …..
    That would put Massa on the “doing well” end of the scale.

    The “ZERO-Massa” remark was clipped from #35 above. He’s the chap who thinks Massa is awful. I must admit in the Hochenheim race Massa did make an error that let Hammy inside, that set up the great maneuver that thrilled the world, blah, blah, blah. A closer review indicates
    some contact, apparently Hamilton’s left front tyre touched Massa’s right rear, there’s a small bobble to the Ferrari, but then Hammy just drove Massa off the road………TWICE ! You reported the second ‘off’ as “defending his position” but both moves on Hammy’s part were clearly OFFENSIVE, he forced all four wheels of the Ferrari off. This level of driving is usually reserved for go-karts. Had Massa spun out Hammy would have improved his lead further, a fact that I’m sure someone was thinking about at the time, do I have to suggest WHO?

    I get a kick out of reading F1 blogs, yours and others, as there are so many STRONG opinions, many of the ‘hate’ variety and Massa does draw the ire of many. WHY?
    Hamilton and Massa have been the talk of the town for the passed couple weeks but I like ALL F1 drivers and often find myself watching lesser ‘races’ ….. i.e. Trulli/Webber/Alonso or the Rosberg/Nagajima duel.

    two weeks to go …… Hungary

  3. Keith – I just think we have possibly seen THE move of the season, even if it appeared misjudged at the time, and you will be kicking yourself later for not recognising it!
    Jolene – I think Brundle gave Driver of the Day to Nelson for the same reason I would – he actually stayed on track for a whole race and kept it together for once, unlike Alonso who threw it all away.
    So we had a race with slow Ferraris for once – how come the other teams didn’t manage to take advantage?

  4. Keith, if McLaren called Lewis in, he still has to overtake Piquet on track.(If he did’t get overtaken in the pit lane by Massa, it happened in Canada)

    Either way Lewis is going to lose the lead, which strategy would be better/right, we will never know. McLaren appolized to Lewis, because it’s the hard way they chose, not necessarily the wrong way.

  5. Nirupam said on 21st July 2008, 17:04

    @Number 38
    Come on man! Dont you think that Massa could have done much better had he not done the mistakes? He is “close second” still, but how can you justify his race in Silverstone (by spinning 5 times!) and two DNFs he had against his name in the halfway mark?
    Had he not done that, he would have been where Lewis is now. In other words, he could not simply capitalise the mistakes made by Lewis, neither did Kimi.
    @Keith
    Baring that overtaking move by Lewis(that too would not have been required unless the SC period), was there really any good at all compared to other races of the year? And the new circuit also spoiled the chance of some more entertainments, i guess.

  6. I am amazed at the excellent demonstration of selective memory by some people… it was just two race ago when everyone was calling Lewis Cross Eyed and what not… and today he is the darling just because he has won two races on the trot…

    all said and done (or as Keith loves to say) Felipe is not as gifted (good) as half the grid… but he tries harder than anyone else to be up there with everyone else… it is easy to support the guy who is winning it all… try saving a thought for the underdog or the dark horse…

  7. Nick said on 21st July 2008, 17:56

    47 – Silverstone?!? The race where Kimi was catching Lewis a second a lap before the team didn’t change his tires?!?

    You’ve obviously bought into the lewis hype huge.

  8. verasaki said on 21st July 2008, 19:53

    blunder or not i have to say that i really don’t like that closed pit thing. that is so cart/champ car and holding them closed until they’re bunched up so everyone and their granny come plowing in and out may make good viewing but it’s just a needless gamble that no one collides or takes out a mechanic. i originally thought maybe they were just weighing that risk in since the car (and driver, yeah) were the class of the day. it happened more than once in cart.

    ook at what happened to alonso on the way out of the pit. a really strict adherence to the rules book if hamilton were in his place might have cost a win. what actually are the rules about being forced over the blend line, anyway?

  9. Internet said on 21st July 2008, 20:13

    @Nick: Kimi only started catching him up when the track started drying since Ferrari was a better car in the dry. If you look a the lap times you will find that once Kimi got the new intermediates, Lewis was still lapping faster than Kimi in the same wet conditions.

  10. Toncho said on 21st July 2008, 21:01

    I really hate the guy (specially his PR side) but LH proved yesterday that he is really hungry for victory. Some other would have sit on the third place and blame the team… These points may be worth a WC
    The downside of the weekend was ferrari. At this point of the season I have to admit that I am completely lost. Just when I though they got by far the best car, they stop winning… I specialy disapointed with Kimi, he had some back luck at the begining of the season, but he also has a clear Q3 problem, I really hope he can fight back in Hungary, otherwise we are set for a MCL parade.

  11. Brett M said on 22nd July 2008, 5:20

    Dissapointing also was the BMW weekend – hope they can close the gap again and spice up the championship….
    Vettel was impressive – had the equal or the measure of the RBR cars for the most of the weekend ; will be great to see him and Webb together nxt year

  12. Jolene said on 22nd July 2008, 7:01

    @Nick, I’m actually not a Hamilton fan but can be unbiased and give him the credit he deserves. That was a brilliant drive on sunday from him. What freaks me out about Kimi is his lacklustre performances. I want to see drivers hungry to win, no matter who they are but he is wasting his talent. So yes, I could become a huge fan of Lewis coz man, did he remind me of Schumi on sunday.

  13. Antifia said on 22nd July 2008, 13:42

    Everybody is saying that Lewis drove brilliantly. I don’t know about that. He certainly drove well, but his car was way ahead of the rest. The moment he caught Massa, he was running close to 2 secs per lap faster than the Ferrari. There was no way Massa could keep him behind (if he had defended the possition in the place where the overtake took place, it would have happened somewhere else). And for those who do not rate Massa highly…well..just look at Kimi’s performance to see the difference between the Mclarens and the Ferrari. Furthermore, also for those who don’t think much of Massa, if you are right, what is so wonderful about overtaking a bad driver who is driving an highly inferior car?

  14. Antifia said on 22nd July 2008, 13:53

    Just one more thing: Blatant team orders are currently forbiden. It, however, did not keep Kovi from unmistakenly giving a position to Lewis. Shouldn’t they have been both penalised?

  15. michael counsell said on 22nd July 2008, 13:55

    If another safety car had come out in those 8 laps following the safety car, Hamilton and Heidfeld would have finished way down the order. I’m pretty sure that the laps followin ga safety car tend to be the ones most likely for another incident requiring a safety car to occur.

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