Hamilton’s fearlessness pays off

Posted by topgear at 08:24 am on Sunday August 19, 2012

Lewis Hamilton won the German Grand Prix in emphatic fashion yesterday, after jumping pole-sitter Mark Webber off the line and clinging onto the lead with a gutsy drive. Fernando Alonso finished second and Webber third, while Sebastian Vettel was absent from the podium for the first time this season – he finished fourth after looking out of sorts and taking a spin in the early stages of the race. Felipe Massa grabbed some good points in fifth, Adrian Sutil scored a season’s best sixth, followed by the Mercedes of Nico Rosberg and Michael Schumacher. Jenson Button’s run of torrid luck continued as he retired with a hydraulics failure on lap 36.

True, today’s win only moves Lewis up to third in the championship, and he’s still 82 points (that’s more than three clear race wins) behind Vettel. So while today’s victory doesn’t change the fact that he’s having a lukewarm season, it did bring our attention back to one of the things that makes Lewis such a unique talent: his ability to turn his greatest weakness into his greatest strength.

Everyone on the grid has a weakness, of course. For Marko it’s starts – he’s been on pole three times this season but been passed at or before the first corner every time. For Vettel it seems to be over-taking – though his one-lap pace is blistering, he’s far less of a driver when he’s tasked with going and taking control of a race, and looks uncomfortable starting a race anywhere but pole position. Felipe Massa’s biggest problem, meanwhile, is simply being on the same team as Fernando Alonso.

Hamilton’s flaw, on the other hand, is his sheer, relentless tenacity. He takes risks that other drivers wouldn’t dream of – he always has. On a good day, the risks are pulled off and he’s called fearless. On a bad day (Monaco, Canada) it’s called impatience – or worse, recklessness – and he ends up smashing his front wing to pieces and giving awkward post-race interviews.

But it’s precisely this bold approach to racing that makes Hamilton the racer he is. Just like the late, great Ayrton Senna and pre-comeback Schumacher, the fear of wrapping his windpipe around a crash barrier or shattering his suspension virtually evaporates for Hamilton when there’s a snifter of a racing advantage to be had. He’ll go into a fifty-fifty overtaking opportunity ten times out of ten, which sometimes makes for frankly terrifying viewing. We saw a glimpse of this in Silverstone when he risked a messy DNF and a date with the stewards by wrestling fourth place back from Massa on the final lap, and again today when retaking the lead from Alonso on lap 33, pulling off a ballsy move at turn two that’d have other drivers soiling their fireproofs.

But is Lewis’ unrivaled sense of adventure enough to turn the season around? At this stage, probably not. Still, as long as the tenacity’s there, he’ll always remain a good shout for the greatest pound-for-pound driver in Formula One. We just pray that, unlike Senna, the sport’s safety regulations can keep up with him.

Anyway, here’s how they finished:
1. Lewis Hamilton
2. Fernando Alonso
3. Mark Webber
4. Sebastian Vettel
5. Felipe Massa
6. Adrian Sutil
7. Nico Rosberg
8. Michael Schumacher
9. Kamui Kobayashi
10. Vitaly Petrov
11. Sergio Perez
12. Jaime Alguersuari
13. Paul Di Resta
14. Pastor Maldonado
15. Sebastien Buemi
16. Heikki Kovalainen
17. Timo Glock
18. Jerome d’Amrosio
19. Daniel Ricciardo
20. Karun Chandok
21. Vitantonio Liuzzi
22. Jenson Button DNF
23. Rubens Barrichello DNF
24. Nick Heidfeld DNF


TAGS// f1, formula one, german gp

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