NUERBURGRING, Germany, (Reuters) – Lewis Hamilton was almost speechless yesterday after producing a stunning lap to bounce Sebastian Vettel off the front row at the German’s home Grand Prix.
The McLaren driver has not made life easy for himself this season, from being hauled in front of the stewards to idle chat with Vettel’s Red Bull team, but there was nothing controversial about his qualifying performance.
The Briton predicted on his arrival at the Nuerburgring that he had no chance of being close to the top slot on the grid and then stunned everyone with second place next to Red Bull’s polesitter Mark Webber.
Even more impressive was the fact that Hamilton relegated runaway overall leader Vettel to third — the first time the 24-year-old Formula One world champion has missed the front row in 15 races.
Hamilton, 95 points behind Vettel with 10 races left, looked competitive again with his surge from 10th to fourth in Britain two weeks ago also helping.
“I wasn’t expecting the car to feel so great,” beamed the 2008 champion, pleased that the engine controversy which hit Silverstone has been put to bed and seemingly boosted his chances.
“I don’t think anyone in the team imagined we’d be this close to the Red Bulls and split them. A fantastic job from the guys. I feel incredible.”
He later told reporters: “I’m kind of speechless. It really just felt so comfortable. I don’t know where I found the time. I was just thinking I’m going to get a recording if I can of the on-board footage because I’d love to see the lap.
“I think my lap was above and beyond the limit.”
Hamilton has had numerous visits to the stewards this year over collisions, controversial comments and was fined for speeding in the pitlane on Friday.
A more high profile visit was his trip to talk to Red Bull team principal Christian Horner at the Canadian Grand Prix, sparking speculation about his McLaren future.
He had said after Silverstone that he needed a break to recharge his batteries and he did that.
Team mate Jenson Button, down in seventh on the grid, was less content about his afternoon.
“I really struggled actually,” Button said. “It was very strange the car couldn’t find the grip out there. It was pretty terrible. Something isn’t working.”