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Vettel was in control of his home race and looked set to take a major championship advantage over Lewis Hamilton, but shunted his Ferrari into the wall on Lap 51 and now trails his race-winning title rival by 17 points in the standings.

"The rain has come down and washed away all the negativity and its a glorious day", Hamilton said, his voice wobbling. I always do, but I managed to have more and bigger today.

There was further drama after the race had concluded with Hamilton summoned to the stewards for crossing the pit lane entry line when he opted not to pit at the last moment after a series of conflicting messages from his team. I just wanted to stay collected, stay calm, " said Hamilton, adding defiantly: "For those who don't know me, now you do". "It has been up and down, back and forth, but the mistake from Sebastian has been a benefit for us and Mercedes".

"He gives me that feel-good feeling since 2013", he said.

"It's very reminiscent of how I started out", he explained to reporters at Hockenheim, whose present layout has been likened to a glorified go-kart track by those who miss the bygone blast through the forest.

HOCH ZWEI  Global Look Press
HOCH ZWEI Global Look Press

"Miracles do happen, mate", Hamilton's race engineer Pete Bonnington told him over the radio after a slow-burner that turned into one of the great comebacks of the Briton's already stellar career. "I love working with this team, I love the team spirit, the atmosphere in the team and everyone is pushing so hard for the results". "And we need to progress for the next races because that is the most important". The weird thing is that I was really happy about it.

"It was a small mistake but big disappointment". If the stewards find him guilty, he will lose the top position to Bottas and his championship lead margin on Vettel will come down to 10 points instead of current 17points.

Asked why he tried to PUSH his Mercedes auto, Hamilton said: "I didn't really understand exactly what had happened so in my mind I was thinking, "Get the vehicle back to the track", but they asked me to turn the vehicle off".

As Hamilton, in fourth place and on fresher tyres, began to close his deficit to Vettel, the Ferrari skated off the track at the Sachs Kurve hairpin. But it's much too early in the season to do this.

The luckless Vettel, still seeking his first victory on his "home" track 30 kilometres from his birthplace, was left to reflect on a near-perfect weekend wrecked by one split-second mistake on lap 52.