Hamilton’s win in Germany was against the run of play as McLaren did not expect to be competitive.
|Lewis Hamilton||Jenson Button|
|Qualifying time comparison (Q3)||1’30.134 (-1.154)||1’31.288|
McLaren drivers’ lap times throughout the race (in seconds):
Practice gave little indication of McLaren’s potential around the Nurburgring. Then in Q2 Hamilton suddenly appeared at the top of the times sheets.
He split the Red Bulls to start from the front row for the first time since the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Hamilton grabbed the lead at the start but couldn’t pull away from Mark Webber initially. On lap 11 he ran wide at the chicane and lost the lead to Webber – Hamilton was briefly heard telling his team not to communicate with him while he was fighting for position.
Hamilton hit back immediately, diving between Webber and the pit wall (with greater success than when he tried a similar move on his team mate in Canada). That put him back in the lead.
He fell to second through his first pit stop as Webber came in first. They held position during the second stint but during the next round of pit stops Hamilton emerged in front of the Red Bull once again.
Webber tried to pass Hamilton around the outside of turn two but the McLaren driver wasn’t having any of it, firmly pushing Webber towards the track’s boundaries.
Fortunately for Hamilton, Fernando Alonso didn’t have that move in his repertoire when he came out of pits in front of the McLaren on the very next lap. Hamilton used the ‘Webber line’ to great effect, taking the lead back.
Hamilton quickly pulled out a three-second lead over the next four laps. Although Alonso cut back into his lead as they prepared to make their final pit stops, he wasn’t able to get close enough to cause McLaren any problems during the final stint.
Hamilton admitted he was surprised by the team’s pace at the Nurburgring: “We didn’t really think we would be so fast and not quite sure what we’ve done, because we’ve not really brought much here.
“I don’t know if it’s the conditions. I think we were competitive in Montreal and in Monaco and in Valencia, in hot temperatures, we are less competitive.
“We obviously went to Silverstone with the rule changes which was a big problem for us, and then we come back here to where we were, really, in cool conditions.
“I think we’re there or thereabouts but I do still feel that the overall performance of the two guys here, particularly the Red Bulls’, is slightly better than ours.
“You can see this weekend, I was quickest in the first sector and the last sector, but we lose a lot in the middle sector, and that’s because we don’t have a DRS system as efficient as theirs, so I think that we will lose at least half of those four tenths in the middle sector.
“If we can improve in that area, then I think we could definitely eke ahead of them, so that’s what we need to work on.”
While Hamilton revelled in the MP4-26’s performance, Button did not. Having generally been closer to Hamilton in qualifying this year than last, he was over a second behind at the Nurburgring
It got worse at the start as Button had wheelspin at the start and lost three places, ending up stuck behind Vitaly Petrov.
He got past the Renault on lap 17 and ran until lap 24 on his first set of tyres.
This surely would have paved the way for Button to use a two-stop strategy to gain some places back, possibly putting him in contention with Felipe Massa and Sebastian Vettel.
But shortly after passing Adrian Sutil and Nico Rosberg he was called into the pits with an hydraulic problem.
“I’d just overtaken Nico for sixth when my power steering started to get heavy,” he said. “Soon after, we retired the car on safety grounds because we had a hydraulic issue.”
2011 German Grand Prix
Image © McLaren