Britain’s Lewis Hamilton overcame a team tactical blunder to win the German Grand Prix and snatch the lead in the world championship.
Hamilton’s procession to a fourth win of the season was jeopardised by McLaren’s failure to pit the Stevenage driver during a safety car period. When he finally did re-fuel Hamilton re-entered the race in fourth place, with only 17 laps to regain his lead.
But the 22-year-old produced a perfect final few laps, quickly passing team-mate Heikki Kovalainen before squeezing past Ferrari’s Felipe Massa and then Renault’s Nelson Piquet to reclaim the lead.
“I nailed it this afternoon,” Hamilton said. “In the final stint I had to work. I questioned whether I should pit but trusted the team. It didn’t quite work out, but I knew we had the pace to keep pushing.”
Hamilton’s first back-to back win for more than a year earned him a four-point lead over Massa in the drivers’ championship. But his race at Hockenheim almost unravelled because McLaren underestimated how long the safety car would stay out following a heavy accident to Toyota’s Timo Glock.
It left Hamilton fewer laps to open up a lead between the race resuming and his second stop, and meant he had work to do when re-joining the race. “You can’t get it right all the time,” said McLaren boss Ron Dennis. “We expected the safety car to come in early.”
Victory moved the Englishman a step closer to the title that narrowly evaded him in his rookie year, with Hamilton holding a seven-point lead over defending champion Kimi Raikkonen with eight races left.
Raikkonen had to settle for sixth place, behind Kovalainen and BMW’s Nick Heidfeld, after a disappointing weekend for the Finn.
As well as being outshone by Piquet’s career-best effort, two-time champion Fernando Alonso could only finish 11th after a late spin.