In Germany on Saturday evening Lewis Hamilton spoke out against the rejection of the halo head protection device for 2017 – but perhaps he already has one. For in recent races there has been a nimbus hanging over his colourful helmet, a luminous cloud of stardust that sets him apart from his fellows.
He is scarcely in danger of crashing, it seems, while he is capable of putting so much daylight between himself and his opponents. He finished 6.9 seconds ahead of second-placed Daniel Ricciardo in the German Grand Prix – and that was with his engine turned down in order to make it last longer.
The pole-sitter Nico Rosberg appeared stuck in reverse gear when the lights went out and Hamilton streaked past him followed by the Red Bulls of Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, who then made a bold move to go round his team-mate on the outside. We did not know it at the time but that was about as good as it got.
There was some racing going on, such as that between Rosberg and Verstappen, and Fernando Alonso and Sergio Pérez, but up front Hamilton sat imperiously alone, like a monarch, his courtiers keeping a respectful distance.
This was his 49th victory, which leaves him only two behind Alain Prost in the all‑time list. But it is the Briton’s irresistible form that makes him such a tough adversary for Rosberg – and everyone else for that matter. This was his fourth win in as many races and his sixth in seven outings. And he controlled the race from the front with the manner of a man about to win his fourth world title.
The summer break is now upon us and Rosberg, tough though he is, might spend it reflecting that his holy grail quest for a first championship will probably have to wait for another year.
In a three-stop race Mercedes and Red Bull split their strategies. But whatever you do with Hamilton makes little difference, he increased his pace only occasionally when he felt he had to kick clear of Ricciardo once more.
The Mercedes head of motorsport, Toto Wolff, referring to Rosberg’s problems, said: “It seems that he did not have good setup and he was lacking grip. When he was trying to go faster and trying to attack he overheated the tyres and lacked pace.”
When asked whether Rosberg could recover Wolff said: “A big yes. We have seen him starting the season extremely well and he had a very good end to 2015. There are still nine races to go. There are more than 200 points to collect and recover, so everything goes.
“He is mentally very strong and nothing is done yet. He had a bad day but once he has recovered in the next couple of days I have no doubt he will come back very strong to Spa.”
Referring to the incident that resulted in Rosberg being given a five-second penalty for forcing Verstappen off the track, Wolff said: “People get pushed out of the circuit all the time. One is being penalised and the other is not, so this is what I mean by inconsistent penalties.What is the remedy? We want to see hard racing but I can sympathise with the penalty. It is not that I am saying it was completely wrong.”
Verstappen said he thought he and Rosberg would crash. “At one point I thought he was going to run into me, so I opened up. He didn’t turn in, he just kept driving straight, so I had to go off the track, otherwise he would’ve crashed.”
Meanwhile, the Red Bull team principal, Christian Horner, was clear where the fault was. “The problem is [Rosberg] did a pretty bad job of it,” he said. “It looked like he kind of stopped and then kept going as if he was off to Cologne, and that’s a bit naughty. So that’s what caught the stewards’ attention.”
Horner, though, looked delighted. This was the first time that Red Bull had achieved two podium positions since last Hungary last year and it led to them leapfrogging Ferrari in the constructors’ championship; Ferrari were fifth and sixth, which is about what they deserved. There is much work to be done there; too much to fit in a four-week break.
It was one of Jenson Button’s better days, with the McLaren driver finishing eighth. His team-mate Alonso, though, had a tougher time, finishing out of the points in 12th place. “We had to save a lot of fuel in the final part after all the battles we had in the first half of the race,” he said. “At the end I think we finished with 100 grams of fuel.”
Alonso is convinced that only his negative radio messages are broadcast on TV – and he certainly sounded fed up.
Felipe Massa looked unhappy, too, retiring halfway through the race after being hit by Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. The 35-year-old Brazilian looks all but finished with Formula One.
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