Hamilton stays winner despite stewards summons

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Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton celebrates with the trophy after winning the German Formula One Grand Prix at the Hockenheim racing circuit in southern Germany Sunday. — AFP

HOCKENHEIM, Germany — Lewis Hamilton kept his victory in the German Grand Prix Sunday despite being summoned to the stewards for an aborted pit stop during the safety car period of the race.

The world champion received a reprimand but was not stripped of his spectacular win.

The stewards had summoned the Mercedes star to investigate a possible breach of the International Motoring Federation (FIA) Sporting Code when he crossed a line between the pit entry lane and the race circuit.

Hamilton stormed from 14th on the grid to win the rain-hit race and regain the leadership of the world championship after title rival Sebastian Vettel crashed out in the treacherous conditions.

Hamilton chose to stay out on his ultra-soft tires during the safety car period that followed Vettel's accident, swerving away from pitting and crossing a patch of grass to re-join the straight.

Hamilton thus regained the lead in the world drivers' championship.

The defending four-time champion took full advantage of a heavy downpour during which title rival and fellow-four-time champion Vettel crashed out of contention to produce a master-class of technical and tactical racing in treacherous conditions.

His teammate Valtteri Bottas came home second, 4.5 seconds behind the Englishman, ahead of fellow-Finn Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari to deliver Mercedes' first one-two finish at a German Grand Prix.

It was Hamilton's fourth win this year and the 66th of his career, the triumph lifting him to the top of the drivers' title race and putting Mercedes back on top of the constructors' championship — no wonder Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche embraced him.

"Get in there, Lewis," said Mercedes on team radio. "Miracles do happen mate." Hamilton said: "What an amazing job by you guys. Love conquers all."

"That was highly unlikely, but you've got to believe," Hamilton added. "I said a long prayer before the start...I kept pushing, kept believing and I manifested my dream. So, thanks to God."

Dutchman Max Verstappen finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of German Nico Hulkenberg of Renault, Romain Grosjean of Haas, Sergio Perez and his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon.

Marcus Ericsson was ninth for Sauber and New Zealander Brendon Hartley 10th for Toro Rosso.

The race began in sweltering conditions with an air temperature of 27 degrees Celsius, or 80 Fahrenheit, and the track at 43 with humidity at 50 per cent and rainclouds looming all around.

Vettel made a clean start from his 55th pole position and resisted Bottas as Raikkonen fought off Verstappen, but most attention was on Hamilton.

The Englishman was swiftly up to 12th from 14th and then reeled off a series of measured passes to climb to sixth by lap 11, when he passed Hulkenberg.

At the front, Vettel was content to stay 3.8 seconds clear of the chasing Bottas before Raikkonen was first to pit, on lap 15, switching to softs and rejoining fourth.

Ricciardo, who had started at the back of the grid, climbed as high as sixth before engine failure on lap 29 ended his race.

A series of pit stops saw the lead pass from Vettel to Bottas to Verstappen and finally to Raikkonen, at which point Vettel was second.

With dark clouds swirling around, Mercedes told Hamilton they were extending his first stint "as much as we can."

Vettel, trapped behind Raikkonen, complained to his team.

"This is just silly — I'm losing time and destroying my tires," he told Ferrari. "I'm losing everything I got in the first stint."

Eventually, the team asked the Finn to allow Vettel to retake the lead.

Hamilton, finally, pitted for ultra-soft tires on lap 43 — Mercedes guessing that the rain would not be too heavy — and rejoined in fifth.

"You'll have the best chance on this tire, you've got the best rubber," they told Hamilton.

When the patchy rain started it created mayhem, Vettel losing part of his front wing after hitting a kerb, but hanging on in the lead ahead of Raikkonen.

Hamilton then reported heavier rain as Bottas passed his fellow-Finn for second.

After 52 laps, Vettel crashed, sliding straight into the barriers.

A safety car came out and while his rivals pitted for fresh tires, Hamilton inherited lead, albeit with tires 10 laps old.

When racing resumed on lap 57, Bottas attacking his Mercedes teammate, but Hamilton held on.

On lap 60, Hamilton posted a near-phenomenal lap in 1:15.7, nine-tenths quicker than Bottas.

"Valtteri, it's James, please hold position, I'm sorry," Mercedes strategist James Vowles told Bottas. "Copy, James," he replied. — AFP


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