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GP Week : Issue 20
F1 GERMANY >> L EWIS Hamilton took his second win on the trot to take the championship advantage at the German Grand Prix. But the talk of the race was his former nemesis Nelson Piquet, whose faultless drive was rewarded with the Brazilian’s first podium. Hamilton won the German Grand Prix in breathtaking style after his McLaren team gambled on not bringing him in to the pits during a Safety Car period which had jumbled up the order of what had looked set to become a fairly humdrum race. The Briton led home former GP2 rival Nelson Piquet for the Brazilian’s first ever F1 podium, which came courtesy of a risky one-stop gamble and some very clean and impressive driving. Felipe Massa came home third, unable to catch or pass his rookie countryman. By the middle of the race the entire field bar Piquet, who had started 17th, had made their first pitstop and the race was becoming something of a bore… so much so that a number of journalists had already fallen asleep, while those who had not were consuming large mugs of coffee. Pole-sitter Hamilton had built up a steady lead over fellow front row starter Felipe Massa, with Heikki Kovalainen third from Robert Kubica, a struggling Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno Trulli, Sebastien Vettel and Timo Glock eighth. It was Glock who would cause the race’s pivotal moment. His Toyota’s rear right suspension collapsed as he hit the rumble strips on the 36th lap, pitching him into a high speed rear end shunt into the pit wall which obliterated his Toyota. With the German helped from his car and taken to the medical centre, the Safety Car was deployed. Renault’s strategy for Piquet had played out well, for the Brazilian had pitted literally as Glock had shunted, thus seeing him emerge with enough fuel to finish the race. Almost the entire field pitted, bar leader Hamilton, BMW’s Nick Heidfeld and Piquet. It was they who led the field around, while the revised order after the brace of stops saw Massa fourth, Kubica fifth, Kovalainen sixth, Trulli seventh and Vettel eighth. The race went green four laps later and the man on a mission was Raikkonen. He blasted past the uncharacteristically flustered Fernando Alonso for ninth, before taking Vettel and Trulli in quick succession. Ther questions were, did Hamilton have the pace to eke out a gap before his stop and how would the McLaren go on the soft option Bridgestone? Hamilton took his second and final stop on with 16 laps to go and emerged behind team-mate Kovalainen who had passed Kubica a few laps earlier. The Finn kindly moved out of Hamilton’s way, allowing the Briton a clear run on Massa and Piquet. When Heidfeld took his final stop, Piquet had 13 laps left to try and hold his shock lead. As Hamilton blasted past Massa, who put up little defence, he pulled Piquet in at a rate of a second a lap and easily dispatched him with seven tours remaining. With Heidfeld looming large in Massa’s mirrors, Piquet would not be troubled by his countryman and so the podium was set. Hamilton completed his second win in a row, with Piquet second and Massa third. Heidfeld took fourth position, with Kovalainen fifth, Raikkonen sixth, Kubica seventh and Vettel eighth after passing Trulli a few laps from the end. While Hamilton was left questioning his team’s decision not to pit him under the Safety Car, the man with the biggest smile on his face was Nelson Piquet. The Brazilian had come in for some pretty heavy flak from his detractors in his debut F1 season, and his podium, albeit one created by luck, had been taken with confidence and a faultless drive to the flag. Hamilton now leads the championship on 58 points, four ahead of Massa, with Raikkonen third on 51 and Kubica just behind the trio on 48. In the team title, Ferrari breaks through the 100 point mark to sit on 105, with BMW on 89 and Mclaren on 86. But while it is Hamilton who leaves Germany with the championship lead and some championship momentum, it is Piquet who goes to Hungary with the monkey off his back, and the deafening silence of his critics providing sweet music to his ears … 25