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German Grand Prix 2011: Lewis Hamilton wins at Nurburgring ahead of Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber

Lewis Hamilton is a given to superlatives; with him it is always the best or worst of times. The best qualifying session he has ever had, the most delicious cuisine he has ever tasted, the worst weekend of his life.


After taking a quite brilliant victory at Sunday’s German Grand Prix — in which he started second, led by the first corner, barely put a wheel out of place and yet still had to produce a number of daring overtaking manoeuvres to secure his prize — no one was quibbling with Hamilton’s assessment that this was “as perfect” a race as he has ever produced. It was breathtaking.

Hamilton’s ecstatic celebration afterwards hinted that this one meant more to him than the 15 which had preceded it. Not only did it resurrect his slim championship hopes – with Sebastian Vettel finishing fourth at his home grand prix, Hamilton now lies 82 points behind the German – it was vindication of his talent; of his aggressive style.

Hamilton has copped a fair amount of criticism in recent months, much of it warranted, some of it over-the-top. This was two fingers up at the detractors. More than that, it was simply a huge relief.

“I am buzzing,” he confessed after changing into McLaren’s traditional fluorescent orange victory top. “I can’t express the feeling inside when I win. I cannot imagine anything else could feel like this. It is a mixture of lots of things — not expecting to win, the ups-and-downs, the things said against you and then the win.

“That is a victory for the whole team and I feel the energy from them.” No one could feel much at all earlier in the day; numbed by the unseasonably cold weather and grey spitting clouds hovering menacingly above the Eifel mountains, the pre-race grid featured more ski-wear than race-wear.

But from the moment the lights went out Hamilton – like his overalls for the weekend which featured flames licking up his legs – was on fire.

He profited from yet another poor start from Mark Webber, beating the Red Bull man to the first corner, and thereafter fought a running battle with the Australian and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso; their three cars almost perfectly matched in terms of pace.

All three led at different moments but Hamilton’s determination and aggression proved decisive. He won a skirmish with Webber to lead after the second round of pit-stops midway through the race and then another almost immediately with Alonso, brilliantly passing the Ferrari around the outside at Turn Two after the Spaniard had undercut his rivals to seize the lead. Hamilton never looked back, putting in lap after lap right on the edge.

“Through the race, my consistency was amazing,” he said. “It was probably the best I have ever had apart from one moment in the chicane. It felt amazing to hit the same sweet spot and hit the apex everywhere the same time every lap. This race was as perfect as I have ever had.” Behind him, Hamilton’s team mate was not having nearly as much fun.

Jenson Button dropped from seventh to 10th on the first lap alone and after painstakingly clawing his way back up the field to sixth, despite being held up by Renault’s Vitaly Petrov, he was then forced to retire for the second race running with a hydraulic issue.

“Fourth was definitely possible,” he said. “I had a terrible first lap and then I couldn’t get past Petrov, who was very difficult to pass, moving when we are not supposed to move in the braking zone.

“I don’t think we are fighting for the championship any more,” he added. “I’m just going to go out there and do the best I can.” The next race, in Hungary this weekend, will be Button’s 200th.

Perhaps the scene of his first ever victory in 2006 will inspire him to think otherwise.

Certainly McLaren appear to be back in contention. The change to the engine regulations following Silverstone has clearly helped them, as well as the raft of upgrades flung at the car since then.

It should be remembered, however, that Red Bull reigned supreme at the Hungaroring last year and the warmer weather in Budapest is likely to peg McLaren back still further since they — and specifically Hamilton – appear to be particularly good at getting the tyres up to operating temperature in the colder climes.

For now, Hamilton will justifiably bask in the warm glow of redemption. “My dad always told me when I was growing up to do my talking on the track,” he smiled.

“It is very difficult to stick with that because sometimes you want to let off steam, which I have this season. Today I did all my talking on the track.”

Alonso evokes memories of Senna after unexpected lift

A funny thing happened on the way to the podium. Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso stopped on his in-lap after running short of fuel, whereupon he was picked up by Red Bull’s Mark Webber who gave the Spaniard a lift back to the pits on his side pod.

The unusual episode evoked memories of Ayrton Senna’s famous ride on the side pod of Nigel Mansell’s Williams following a track invasion at Silverstone in 1991.

It also prompted suggestions that one or both of them might be punished; such hitchhiking is technically illegal and Webber might have been punished for stopping on track. But in the event, both were let off.

Leading positions after race (60 Laps):

1. Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1hr 37mins 30.334secs
2. Fernando Alonso (Spa) Ferrari 1:37:34.314
3. Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:37:40.122
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Red Bull 1:38:18.255
5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:38:22.586
6. Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:38:56.542
7. Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP at 1 Lap
8. Michael Schumacher (Ger) Mercedes GP at 1 Lap
9. Kamui Kobayashi (Jpn) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap
10 Vitaly Petrov (Rus) Renault at 1 Lap
11 Sergio Perez (Mex) Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap
12 Jaime Alguersuari (Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
13 Paul di Resta (Gbr) Force India at 1 Lap
14 Pastor Maldonado (Ven) Williams at 1 Lap
15 Sebastien Buemi (Swi) Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap
16 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) Lotus F1 at 2 Laps
17 Timo Glock (Ger) Virgin Racing at 3 Laps
18 Jerome d’Ambrosio (Bel) Virgin Racing at 3 Laps
19 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) HRT-F1 at 3 Laps
20 Karun Chandhok (Ind) Lotus F1 at 4 Laps

Not classified:

21 Vitantonio Liuzzi (Ita) HRT-F1 37 Laps completed
22 Jenson Button (Gbr) McLaren 35 Laps completed
23 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Williams 16 Laps completed
24 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) Renault 9 Laps completed

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