x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

McLaren are now in charge

Sunday's German Grand Prix triumph was the most significant of Lewis Hamilton's quartet of victories this season.

The lights are red as the grid prepares for the start of the German Grand Prix.
The lights are red as the grid prepares for the start of the German Grand Prix.

Undeniably Sunday's triumph in Germany was the most significant of Lewis Hamilton's quartet of victories this season. Yes, it puts him back on top of the world championship standings with a four point lead, but it was the first time he has beaten Ferrari in 2008 on pure pace and in normal conditions. The Briton's previous triumphs in Australia, Monaco and Britain had either been won with Ferrari suffering mechanical problems or there being wet conditions, in which Hamilton thrives.

But Hockenheim saw McLaren enjoy a genuine speed advantage over Ferrari, with Hamilton having between five to seven tenths of a second a lap gap over Felipe Massa in the early stages. Hamilton and McLaren could even overcome the tactical blunder that was failing to pit behind the safety car after Timo Glock had crashed heavily in his Toyota on lap 36 of the race. It was a bizarre decision by the British team. You could understand the likes of Nick Heidfeld in the BMW gambling by staying out and trying to make up time on those who had pitted, but as the race leader there was no need for McLaren to have gambled as they already had the race won.

But Hamilton's sheer pace overcame the mistake, as having dropped to fourth after the pit-stop, he blitzed past Massa and the one-stopping Nelson Piquet to win after teammate Heikki Kovalainen had helpfully moved out of the way. Certainly the early season Ferrari dominance seems a long time ago. Massa drove maturely and is a genuine contender, but the world champion Kimi Raikkonen continues to struggle.

Since his last victory in Spain he has picked up just 22 points from a maximum 60 and has been on the podium just twice. To his credit he is still battling and his superb late overtaking secured three points, which could prove precious for the Finn if he can launch a late push for the title as he did so successfully last year. The next race is in Hungary on Aug 3 at Budapest. Hamilton won there in 2007 and, on current form, will be confident of repeating that result.

But you can be sure that Ferrari will not take their German demolition lying down. @Email:gcaygill@thenational.ae