LEWIS Hamilton may have had a shocking start to his 2016 world championship campaign but having turned a large 43-point deficit to Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg into a 19-point advantage, the Briton is well on top mathematically and psychologically.
His win in the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim was Hamilton’s sixth in seven races. That’s serious momentum.
Rosberg’s self assurance has gone, while Lewis Hamilton has that stuff in abundance.
In a sign of the increased pace of the Bulls, and a recognition that the Mercedes cars are great when out front but less so when chasing in dirty air, Rosberg spent much of the race pursuing but not really getting a chance to try to pass.
He eventually got back to second after a dodgy move on Verstappen. However officials hit him with a five-second penalty for forcing a rival off the track.
A revitalised Ricciardo took second place ahead of Verstappen, both importantly ahead of the two Ferraris thast seem to have lost their way – again – and look close to implosion.
“I’m very pleased with today obviously,” remarked Ricciardo who beat both his teammate and the red cars, celebrating on the podium with a traditional Aussie "shoey". Only a victory would have been sweeter.
“To beat one Mercedes is nice but for both cars to beat one Mercedes and the pole-sitter was really good. In the first part of the race I was sitting in third and the pace was okay but I think I really came to life in the second half of the race and that’s when I was able to show a bit more speed and capture second place.
"It was the best we could do today and I’m now happy to go into the summer break with another podium in the bag.
“The last few races I got a bit more out of the race weekends and it’s nice to get a bit of momentum now before the summer break. Just to stand up there on the podium is the best feeling in the world."
Red Bull is now second in the constructor’s standings after 11 races.
Free speech also returned to F1 in Germany with the lift of its controversial – some say ridiculous – ban on radio transmissions between drivers and their teams.
The decision to overturn the ban, taken at a strategy group meeting last week, received unanimous support from FIA president Jean Todt, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and the six teams involved – Ferrari, Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Williams and Force India.
Jenson Button’s penalty for receiving a message from McLaren despite an impending brake failure in Hungary was the catalyst for change, with most of the paddock – and fans – up in arms.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner and Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene have been strident in their criticism of the radio ban, calling for an application of common sense.
Ever mindful of the impact on fans, Bernie Ecclestone also suggested the lack of radio traffic was "not good for the [TV] show".
A statement from the FIA read: "At the request of the teams and the commercial rights holder, the FIA has agreed to adopt a more liberal approach to the interpretation of article 27.1 (that a driver must drive the car alone and unaided).
"With the exception of the period between the start of the formation lap and the start of the race, there will be no limitations on messages teams send to their drivers either by radio or pit board.
"This approach is aimed at providing improved content for fans and spectators, as teams will now be required to provide the commercial rights holder with unrestricted access to their radio messages at all times their cars are out of the garage."
The only restrictions still in place relate to the formation lap when teams can’t pass info to drivers about clutch-bite points and mapping ahead of the race start.
Briton victorious in fastest WRC event ever
NORTHERN Ireland’s Kris Meeke – a mere part timer this season as he helps develop Citroen’s new world rally contender – has convincingly won Rally Finland on with a record-breaking drive that set a new mark for the fastest FIA World Rally Championship round ever.
His 29.1sec victory over Jari-Matti Latvala shattered the Finn’s hopes of a third consecutive success on home ground and established a new speed record of an average of 126.60km/h.Meeke, 37, became the first British driver to win the Finnish classic and only the sixth non-Nordic victor in its 65-year history.
He controlled the event from the outset, leading for almost every kilometre of the four-day gravel contest in a Citroën DS3.
It was Meeke’s first WRC outing since he won in Portugal in May.
Sealing a brilliant weekend for the Abu Dhabi Total team, which is tackling a restricted programme this season, Ireland’s Craig Breen scored a maiden podium in third.
After establishing a solid lead on Friday, Meeke took a firm grip on the Finnish classic with a stunning display in the legendary Ouninpohja stage on Saturday morning. He distanced Latvala by more than 13sec in the rollercoaster 33km test and thereafter had the margin o measure his pace to the Jyväskylä finish.
“It’s a little bit crazy!” said Meeke. “Finland is the home of rallying and Ouninpohja is the Holy Grail of stages and to win both the rally and that stage in the way we did is incredible.
"I enjoyed it like a little kid, just playing and having fun. It has been exceptional.”
Latvala was demoralised by Meeke’s Ouninpohja performance and settled for second to climb to third in the championship. His only error came on the first day when he punctured a tyre after swiping a bank with his Volkswagen Polo R.
Breen, a former WRC junior champion, netted a podium in only his fourth event in a headline World Rally Car.
Thierry Neuville held off Hyundai i20 teammate Hayden Paddon to take fourth by 2.3sec, both drivers unhappy with their car’s handling throughout the rally. Mads Østberg completed the top six in a Ford Fiesta RS.
World champ and this year’s points leader Sebastien Ogier went out of contention on Friday, ditching his Polo in the awkward road clearing role.
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