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'What a race!' Lewis Hamilton wins to pull clear in championship

Rosberg surrendered his lead from pole to the Briton, who stormed away to claim his sixth win in seven races.

Image: Michael Probst

LEWIS HAMILTON EXTENDED his lead in the Formula One drivers’ championship to 19 points after winning the German Grand Prix with ease on Sunday, with Mercedes team-mate and title rival Nico Rosberg fourth.

Home hero Rosberg surrendered his lead from pole with a dreadful start to the Briton, who stormed away to claim his sixth win in seven races and strengthen his grip in the title chase.

Second was Daniel Ricciardo, with Max Verstappen, his young Red Bull team-mate, third.

Reigning world champion Hamilton took full advantage of the poor start by Rosberg, who also received a five second pit-stop penalty for an over-aggressive passing move, to deliver a flawless drive.

“I had a great start and my engineers gave me a perfectly balanced car,” Hamilton, who started second on the grid, told the Hockenheim crowd from the podium.

“I am so happy to be here and to win for Mercedes Benz -– I have been with them since I was 13.

Today it was about staying cool and I didn’t make any mistakes and in my heart I felt I did a great job. For me, yesterday wasn’t perfect, but you learn from those things.”

For Rosberg, who was seeking to repeat his 2014 triumph, it ended up as a day of disappointment on home soil.

The home fans had another German to cheer as four-time champion Sebastian Vettel finished fifth ahead of his Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen and compatriot Nico Hulkenberg, who was seventh on home turf for Force India.

Briton Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion, finished eighth ahead of Finn Valtteri Bottas of Williams and Mexican Sergio Perez of Force India.

- Rosberg toils -

In front of a big race-day crowd who had come to see Rosberg grab back the title lead, it was Hamilton who was to seize the initiative from the off.

As the lights went out, the 31-year-old produced a perfect departure to dash past his team-mate.

The German’s poor start also allowed both Red Bulls to surge past him with Verstappen squirming wide to the left to pass Ricciardo and take second as they rushed into the sweeping right-hander Turn One.

Down in fourth after the 320 metres rush down the straight, Rosberg battled to regain a place on lap one without reward as the field stretched and settled.

By the end, Hamilton led Verstappen by 1.3 seconds and Rosberg was back in fourth behind Ricciardo, 4.3 adrift.

After 14 laps, Hamilton was in for his first stop, resuming after a 2.5-second job with his lead intact.

For the championship leader, who has grasped the initiative in the title chase in recent weeks, it was a dream start to the race. For his team-mate Rosberg it was a nightmare.

Rosberg was soon tussling with Verstappen.

The Dutch teenager had to run wide and off the circuit as he attempted — and failed — to stave off a charging Rosberg.

Verstappen defended aggressively and retaliated, a characteristic that has earned him a reputation, but he lacked the pace needed.

“He pushed me off the track,” said Verstappen. The stewards investigated, agreed and handed Rosberg a five second stop-go penalty to be taken at his next pit stop.

Rosberg made his third and final stop, with his penalty, after 44 laps, Hamilton following three laps later.

Having bickered over strategy with their lead driver, Ferrari then pitted Vettel.

With 15 laps remaining, Hamilton led Ricciardo by 6.5 seconds, ahead of Verstappen, with Rosberg labouring in fourth.

The defending champion controlled the pace, nursed his lead and his car in the closing laps -– accelerating clear by eight seconds when necessary as Ricciardo closed the gap –- and not even a few rain stops could slow Hamilton down.

© AFP, 2016

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