Euphoric at Silverstone two weeks ago when he pulled the gap back to just 4 points, Lewis Hamilton’s mood dimmed once again on Sunday as he deficit blew back out to 14.
But after the Briton limited the damage of his back-of-the-grid start at Hockenheim by racing through the field to the podium, boss Toto Wolff advised him to not be too glum. “I would be very surprised if it (the title battle) didn’t come down to Abu Dhabi and to the famous double points,” said the Mercedes chief. “Even if you are behind 30 points, you can turn it around in Abu Dhabi. But the driver who loses on double points will need some psychological treatment,” he smiled.
Still, Hamilton thinks a result better than third might have been possible in Germany, after seeing Adrian Sutil’s stricken car. A safety car would have ended championship leader Nico Rosberg’s huge race lead. “I definitely got a bit worried,” the German driver admitted, “because I was sure there was going to be a safety car and that would have obviously made it a lot more difficult.” Rosberg wasn’t the only one surprised, particularly in a sport that, in the name of safety, is prepared to delay a race for an hour to fix a damaged barrier. “I was really concerned for the marshals — really concerned,” said Hamilton, referring to Sunday at Hockenheim. “It felt like the closest thing I have seen for a long, long time.”
He said whizzing past marshals who ran across the racing line to recover Sutil’s Sauber reminded him of footage of the 1977 South African grand prix, when a marshal and Tom Pryce were killed in a gruesome collision. “That was the first thing I thought about,” said Hamilton. “I couldn’t believe it. How on earth a car can be sitting in the middle of the road for a couple of laps and not come out? I think you know why.” The Briton would not expand on what he meant by his final remark, but there was probably no conspiracy to protect Rosberg’s race lead for a sure home win.
Mercedes’ Wolff said not putting the safety car out was surely the result of a new effort by F1’s authorities to reduce interference in the racing. “Under the old spirit of the FIA,” he told Auto Motor und Sport, “the safety car would have come out. But I think Charlie’s decision was deliberately taken not to turn a race on its head with 15 laps to go.” But the lack of a safety car was not the only argument Hamilton found himself in after the German grand prix. He also infuriated former McLaren teammate Jenson Button for their collision, for which Hamilton immediately apologised. “The problem with Lewis is he expected me to let him past,” said Button. “I don’t think I’m the only person he drove into today. “With his car being so much quicker you’d think he wouldn’t get into so many fights, but there you go.” Later, after watching the replay, Button admitted he might have “overreacted”.
Image: Mercedes GP