Lewis Hamilton will head into Formula 1’s summer holiday with a smile on his face after extending his lead in the championship to 19 points by winning yesterday’s German Grand Prix.
While his deflated title rival Nico Rosberg endured a miserable home race at Hockenheim, in which he crossed the line only in fourth, Hamilton sauntered to his sixth win in seven races.
Indeed having been 43 points behind Rosberg in May, Hamilton is now comfortably ahead of his Mercedes team-mate by virtue of an unbeaten July with victories in Austria, Silverstone, Hungary and here in Germany.
“It is kind of crazy that it’s gone by so quickly,” a jubilant Hamilton, whose defence of his third title had been fraught by a number of mechanical issues, said.
“It feels like only a couple weeks ago we were in Barcelona and I was 43 points behind thinking, ‘jeez, I might come away 50 points behind’.
“I was finding it hard to find a way through the woods, through the trees, having to navigate through that, not giving up, to keep going and keep believing the light is beyond the bushes.
“My mechanics have all stayed super focussed which has enabled me to do the same. They have shown no signs of giving up and that’s inspired me to do the same, and this result shows to never give up. So, I really owe it to them. This is the best way to go on holiday.”
Hamilton was left kicking himself on Saturday night after a mistake in qualifying paved the way for Rosberg to claim pole. But the defending champion vowed to bounce back with a victory in Rosberg’s back yard and he did not disappoint.
Just as in Hungary seven days ago, the Stevenage-born racer roared off the line to emphatically beat Rosberg on the short run down to turn one, and from there his victory never looked in doubt.
In contrast, Rosberg will be desperate to forget a race which turned sour from the moment the lights flicked to green.
The German was fourth after his sluggish start, and he spent much of the opening phase of the race behind the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.
Rosberg emerged from his second pit stop behind Verstappen and on the run down to the hairpin on lap 29 he dived underneath the 18-year-old Dutchman.
But as with the Austrian Grand Prix, in which he dramatically collided with Hamilton on the final lap, Rosberg appeared to leave little room for the Dutchman, and he was hit with a five-second time penalty for forcing his opponent off the road.
Rosberg will now head into the three-week summer break having seen a 43-point championship lead over Hamilton turn into a 19-point deficit in just seven grands prix. And with nine races left, Hamilton is now the overwhelming favourite to win title number four.
Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen crossed the line in fifth and sixth for Ferrari while Jenson Button finished eighth for McLaren after passing the Williams of Valtteri Bottas on the penultimate lap.
British rookie Jolyon Palmer started 14th and made three places off the start line, but a clumsy collision with Felipe Massa on lap one saw him drop to last, and he ended the race only 19th.
Rosberg was accused of being a “bit naughty” by Red Bull team boss Christian Horner following his illegal overtake on Verstappen.
The incident bore more than a striking resemblance to Rosberg’s dramatic last-lap crash with Hamilton at the Austrian Grand Prix earlier this month in which he was also penalised by the stewards. “The problem is Rosberg did a pretty bad job of it,” said Horner. “If he’d have locked up all four wheels and there had been a puff of tyre smoke, maybe he’d have got away with it.
“The golden rule in a job like that is to lock your fronts up and look as if you can’t stop. The problem was, it looked like he kind of stopped, and then kept going as if he was off to Cologne and that’s a bit naughty.”
Naturally, Rosberg protested his innocence following the incident.
“Can you explain to them that I was at full lock on the steering wheel,’’ the German said over the Mercedes team radio, but television replays suggested it was a rather implausible defence.
Later Rosberg, now 19 points behind Lewis Hamilton in the championship, added: “It was racing. I was really ecstatic at the time because I came from miles behind. I was very happy to get the position because that would have meant second at least, and damage limitation of that sort. I was very surprised to get a penalty for it.”
To make matters worse, Rosberg was then stationary for longer than the required five-second penalty following a faulty Mercedes’ stopwatch.