Nurburgring, Germany, July 25, 2011 (AFP) - Lewis Hamilton's stunning triumph in Sunday's German Grand Prix not only breathed new life into this year's Formula One world championship, it also eased the pressure on McLaren and his team chief Martin Whitmarsh.
An emotional Hamilton departed the cold and damp Eifel mountains with a smile on his face after an inspired performance that left two-times champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso of Ferrari chasing him home in second place.
Their duel at the front was too much for the Red Bull team to cope with and Australian Mark Webber, who started from pole, was left in third ahead of his team-mate defending champion and runaway leader German Sebastian Vettel.
For Hamilton, it was a relief as much as a cause for celebration to see Vettel vanquished and his own team dancing in champagne-soaked joy at the finale of a furious and thrilling race.
"That was not just one of my best race wins, it was also one of the most satisfying and most important," he said, having drawn level with the legendary Stirling Moss in the British record books on 16 Grands Prix wins.
"We had taken a lot of criticism, plenty of pressure and there were big doubts going on - people were writing a lot of stuff that was negative," said Hamilton. "I knew we had to respond and I remember what my dad always told me to do - 'do you talking out on the track' - and I did it.
"That was for everyone in the team and they did such a great job. If we can perform like that again and keep the pressure on the others who knows what can happen. We can still do a lot - we are only at the half way stage this year."
Hamilton, 26, is a driver who wears his emotions on his sleeve and this showed inside and outside the cockpit during an assured and exemplary performance of aggressive racing at the Nurburgring. On this form, as many seasoned observers noted, he is the top racer in F1 along with Alonso, but he needs a car to give him the performance to fight at the front of the field - and that is the challenge facing team boss Whitmarsh.
"He has been under so much pressure and it is not fair," said Hamilton. "We all feel it for him. We are a team and we stick together and perform together."
The presence in Germany of former team boss and McLaren group chairman Ron Dennis only added to the poignant nature of the day and the importance of Hamilton's win. "I am not using this result for anything," said Whitmarsh, when asked if he
felt he and his team had answered the critics who said he was in danger of losing his job.
"I think we are a pretty resilient team. We have good people and we don't pay too much attention to outside. We are tough on ourselves, and we don't like not winning. "I think all that stuff that I enjoyed two weeks ago - remember that at that point we were second in the world championship, more than 50 points ahead of Ferrari, and ahead of some pretty good teams..well, we lapped some pretty big teams here.
"I think we believe in ourselves, and we believe we can be better, but at the same time we also know we are not too bad either. It proves the resilience and the toughness of this team. "We can't bring about Sebastian's failure. All we can do is put the
pressure on him. He made a couple of mistakes here.
"We have to just concentrate on our own act and improve our performance, improve our reliability and improve everything that we do. That is all you can do. If that turns out to be good enough to win races then that will be great."