It has been a turbulent week for Lewis Hamilton after attracting criticism for being the only driver to miss the ‘F1 Live’ event in London. Faced with some booing spectators and tough media questions, Hamilton brushed away the storm and produced a masterful race to win the British Grand Prix.
That Hamilton could re-focus to easily take pole and then cruise to victory shows just why he is level with Scotsman Jim Clark and Frenchman Alain Prost with five wins.
Importantly in the context of the current championship, Hamilton also slashed Vettel’s lead to only one point after the German looked set for a podium finish but picked up a tyre puncture. He eventually crossed the line in seventh but remarkably the same issue also hit team-mate Kimi Raikkonen a lap earlier and he recovered to end in third.
A strong start and a wonderful drive saw Valtteri Bottas take advantage of Ferrari’s woes to finish in second for Mercedes.
Further adrift, Red Bull’s Max Verstappen held out for fourth without seriously fighting for a podium spot, while Daniel Ricciardo started in 19th and drove through the field to end in fifth. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg took sixth, with the top ten rounded out by the Force India’s – who again spent much of the race tussling with each other – and Williams’ Felipe Massa.
‘Legendary’ Hamilton Shows Class
It was a remarkable turnaround for Hamilton after beginning the weekend amid a barrage of scrutiny and ending in the arms of adoring fans.
The three-time world champion never looked under pressure and got away to good start leading Raikkonen, Verstappen and Vettel.
The race was quickly stopped for a safety car when Toro Rosso drivers Kyvat and Sainz went into the Maggots/Becketts complex side by side, but as they rounded Becketts Kvyat got onto the dirt and skipped into the side of Sainz.
After the re-start, Hamilton again hit the throttle to pull away from the pack gaining a 5 second advantage over Raikkonen by lap 18. Meanwhile, Vettel sat frustrated behind Verstappen unable to overtake despite some close wheel-to-wheel action. It was only after a pit stop that Vettel undercut the Red Bull but by that time he had little chance of hunting down Hamilton.
The race came alive again towards the end when both Ferrari cars suffered front-left tyre failures within a lap of each other. Raikkonen was overtaken by the charging Bottas but held on to third while Vettel slipped back through the field.
The win for Hamilton puts him alongside Formula 1 legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost but the comparison doesn’t sit well for the Englishman.
“Being thought of as a legend doesn’t resonate with me yet,” he said. “Maybe when I retire and time has gone by.”
Hamilton spent time after the race crowd surfing and revelling among the 139,000 spectators in a show of gratitude to his fans.
“It is almost impossible to describe how amazing it is the reception from the crowd,” he said.
“I did not expect to come away only one point behind, maybe seven or 10 or 12. We kind of needed this today.”
Ferrari Cautious of Mercedes Progress
Hamilton joked after the race that he ‘owned’ it. Probably more accurately, Mercedes owned the British Grand Prix with Bottas getting the fast lap times in practice and Hamilton taking pole by over half second and then cruising to victory in the race.
The win slashes Vettel’s lead in the championship to just one point and has the Scuderia cautious that Mercedes is starting to get momentum in the campaign.
“This year we have been, for the majority of the year, a match,” said Vettel.
“It has been probably true that in the last couple of races, Mercedes have been stronger but the real game changer is qualifying.”
“They are able to turn up the engine. They are gaining 0.6secs on the straights. Baku it was 0.7secs, Austria it was 0.5secs. We need to be fair with that. That is something we can’t do. We are working on it but it doesn’t happen overnight.”
“If you have the cars in front for the first lap, the race looks different. The car has been fantastic. There is no reason to panic or to worry. But for sure we need to be aware.”
The paddock now heads to Hungary – where Hamilton has also dominated in recent years – ahead of the mid-season break.