By Abhishek Takle
(Reuters) - Triple champion Lewis Hamilton is no stranger to speed but the rapid turnaround in his title prospects has left even the blindingly quick Briton stunned, as he heads into Formula One’sannual summer break firmly in control of the race for the championship.
Hamilton goes into the four-week holiday having extended his lead over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg to 19 points, after sweeping to a dominant victory, leading from the first corner in his rival’s home German Grand Prix on Sunday.
The win was Hamilton’s sixth from the last seven races, matching the hottest streak of his career so far, and his fourth in a row.
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The speed at which Hamilton has caught and overhauled Rosberg has been remarkable.
The 31-year-old trailed his former childhood friend by 43 points following May’s Spanish Grand Prix, yet just over a week ago, in Hungary, he seized the overall lead.
“Kind of crazy,” said Hamilton after Sunday’s race at the Hockenheim track. “It’s gone by so quickly.
“It was almost like it was only a couple of weeks ago that we were in Barcelona and I was 43 points behind thinking, jeez, I might come away 50 points behind.”
Hamilton has scored a total of 160 points from a maximum 175 on offer since claiming his maiden win of the year in the sixth race of the season in Monaco, following a difficult start to his bid for a third straight title.
By contrast, Rosberg, who won each of the opening four races, has scraped together just 98 points and finished on the podium only three times in the seven races since Hamilton hit his purple patch of form.
“Lewis doesn’t just seem strong in the recent grands prix,” Rosberg said after his latest defeat. “Lewis is strong -- a big difference there. It’s always going to be a battle against him.”
Despite the rate at which Hamilton has caught and passed Rosberg, the Briton cannot afford to ease off and needs to put more distance between him and his rival.
He is set to collect a grid penalty or start in last place, most likely in next month’s Italian Grand Prix, after breaching rules on the number of engine components used during the season.
A race win is worth 25 points and victory in the next grand prix in Belgium would give him enough of a cushion to stay in front in the event of such a scenario, putting him 26 points clear and just tantalisingly out of reach of Rosberg, even if the German finishes second.
“Do I feel like I’m properly ahead? Still not enough because I’m not a race win ahead yet,” said Hamilton, who won at Belgium's iconic Spa-Francorchamps circuit last year and has got to be the favorite to repeat the feat when the season resumes on Aug. 28.
“So I need to hope that I get the chance to get a race win ahead. I think then I would feel like I was ahead.”
(Reporting by Abhishek Takle,; Editing by Neville Dalton)