Lewis Hamilton's Qualifying Crash in Germany Won't Prevent Podium Finish

Oliver HardenFeatured ColumnistJuly 19, 2014

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY - JULY 19:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP crashes during qualifying ahead of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring on July 19, 2014 in Hockenheim, Germany.  (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

What a disastrous result it was for Lewis Hamilton in qualifying for the German Grand Prix.

Less than two weeks after his stunning victory at the British Grand Prix, arguably the most important win of his Formula One career, he will line up in 15th position (due to Esteban Gutierrez's grid penalty) after a crash in the latter stages of Q1 at Hockenheim.

It must be a bitter pill to swallow for Hamilton, whose win at Silverstone a fortnight ago seemed to carry all the hallmarks of a pivotal moment in the 2014 title battle, with the British driver slicing the points advantage of championship leader Nico Rosberg, his Mercedes teammate, from 29 to four.

Hamilton, it was widely thought, would—with the memories of the niggles, the slight errors, which blighted his success in recent events now banished—return to the form which saw him enjoy a career-best winning streak of four consecutive races earlier this season.

But a brake failure, which led to him spinning and crashing hard into the barrier at the Turn 13 hairpin, has seen any momentum evaporate once again and left Hamilton—always doing it the hard way, always chasing—with yet another recovery job on his hands.

Yet it would be foolish to view Hamilton's crash, and Rosberg's pole position for the German Grand Prix, as the latest turning point of 2014.

Despite being set to start from the eighth row of the grid, the podium remains well within the 2008 world champion's reach at Hockenheim.

The dominance of Mercedes' W05 car, which has won all but one race this year, as well as a circuit that features at least two genuine overtaking spots, means Hamilton, perhaps the finest passer in F1, should comfortably pick off those who stand between him and Rosberg—and perhaps even Rosberg himself, depending on the speed of his progress—over the course of the 67-lap grand prix.

Hamilton has a good recent history of coming through the field, of course, charging from ninth to fourth on the the very first lap of last month's Austrian Grand Prix.

The 29-year-old went on to finish a close second to Rosberg at the Red Bull Ring, transforming a weekend of potential underachievement to a weekend of, well, achievement.

His win at Silverstone last time out, meanwhile, came only 24 hours after Hamilton had qualified in sixth, after slowing his pace at the start of his final qualifying lap on a drying track in the belief that he could not go faster.

The knowledge that Mercedes can claim a positive result from almost any position must surely give the Silver Arrows, Rosberg and Hamilton a psychological edge and perhaps even allow them to plan their race as normal, regardless of their starting position.

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND - JULY 06:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP celebrates with his team including Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP following his victory in the British Formula One Grand Prix at Silverstone Circuit on July 6, 2014
Drew Gibson/Getty Images

That, you see, is one of the less obvious benefits of having the fastest car on the Formula One grid by a large distance: you are not sufficiently penalised for your frailties and mistakes.

In years gone by, Hamilton's best hope from 15th on the grid at Hockenheim would have been a solid points finish, maybe in fifth or sixth position.

But in 2014, with the rocket that is the Mercedes V6 turbo power unit sitting in his car, a podium place is not just a fanciful prospect—it is the minimum requirement.  

The situation facing Hamilton in the German Grand Prix, in fact, is not entirely dissimilar to that encountered by Sebastian Vettel in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2012.

Vettel qualified third at the Yas Marina circuit, but was relegated to the rear of the field after his car ran out of fuel on his in-lap and elected to start from the pit lane.

His drive to third by the chequered flag was lauded as a heroic champion's drive but, with Vettel comfortably winning each of the previous four races, it was a result that was always plausible.

And that is what Hamilton must replicate at Hockenheim: to surprise everyone whilst surprising no one. 

Michael Probst/Associated Press

The effect on Hamilton's mindset if he were to stand on the German Grand Prix podium would arguably be greater than that of the race in Britain, where he absorbed the energy and the emotion of the home crowd.

And that would be nothing compared to the effect on Rosberg, whom after beating his teammate in three straight races in recent months would suddenly find himself taking on a resurgent, unstoppable force.

Rosberg is almost certain to leave Hockenheim with an extended lead in the drivers' standings—but it is Hamilton who has the most to gain from the German Grand Prix.