Local hero Lewis Hamilton delighted the large and enthusiastic crowd at Silveretone as he powered to a thrilling victory in the British Grand Prix for the third time and with it his fifth of this season and 38th of his career.
He also became the first British winner from pole since Damon Hill in 1994, and the first back-to-back winner since David Coulthard in 1999 and 2000.
The key moment was when Hamilton made a crucial call to pit for intermediate tyres, when it appeared he had lost his home race, as rain came down over Silverstone turning an already exciting race into a proverbial nail-biter.
Mercedes boss Toto Wolff revealed, “It was Lewis’s call to come in. We gave him the option. He did it at the perfect time and that gave him the edge.”
But prior to the game changing moment Hamilton had to work hard all afternoon. First he could only watch as Felipe Massa rocketed off the line and took the lead with Valtteri Bottas in tow. The world champion managed to muscle his way past Bottas before the end of lap one.
But a first lap melee which saw Romain Grosjean collide with Lotus teammate Pastor Maldonado in Turn 2, which in turn forced Jenson Button into avoiding action, but to no avail as he was slammed into inadvertently by his McLaren teammate Fernando Alonso. For the Lotus lads and Button it was race over.
This brought out the safety car, and at the restart Hamilton was a tad too feisty as he attacked Massa, got it wrong, watched Bottas squeeze by and spent the rest of the stint in third with Rosberg in his mirrors.
At this point Williams appeared in control, although Bottas was quicker Massa stubbornly resisted his attacks which prevented them from maximising their advantage at that stage when they were faster than the chasing Silver Arrows pair.
Hamilton was first of the leaders to stop for medium tyres, and it proved to be an inspired move as the undercut handed him a comfortable lead and with Williams fluffing their lines, Nico Rosberg squeezed past Massa to take second after spending most of the first stint in fourth.
But with the skies threatening and rain spitting, Hamilton succumbed the lead to Rosberg on lap 43, and immediately decided to plunge into the pits and change to Pirelli inters. The timing was perfect for the Briton as the thick clouds unloaded themselves and serious rain came down to render the slick tyres hazardous and substantially slower.
Although Rosberg at this point took the lead, after reeling in Hamilton at almost two seconds a lap, he had to complete a lap on a much slower wet track – all his hard work was rendered to naught, because by the time he stopped and changed to inters, Hamilton was up the road and gone, victory in the bag.
The double F1 world champion was clearly delighted and emotional as he spoke afterwards, “It doesn’t seem real. I have to pinch myself. An incredible day. I didn’t know how it was going to go. I thought when it started to rain the heavens was not going to make it easy to me.”
“Nico was catching me and I chose to come in and change the tyres and thankfully it was the right choice. It would be great if the trophy was solid gold but to be up there with Brabham, Stewart, Clark. It is just crazy and to think that way past my time Hamilton will be on there makes me proud,” grinned the Briton.
Second placed Rosberg said, “It was not nice at one point. I could not get by the Williams but then it was cool, it was a great race when it started to drizzle, that gave me the opportunity to pass both Williams and then hunt down Lewis.”
“I was believing I was going to get him but then the rain came more and Lewis made the right call. I thought it was wrong at first. It was exciting at times, a lot going on, if you ask the 140,000 people around the track if F1 is exciting they would give a big cheer,” added the German.
After the first stops, Massa and Bottas were no longer top step of the podium contenders, but at least one of them looked sure to be on it. But it was not to be as fate had other ideas.
With lady luck smiling on Hamilton and not on Rosberg, in terms of timing for the change to inters, Ferrari made an error in bringing Kimi Raikkonen too early. What looked like a top five finish for the Finn turned into eighth place and he did himself no favours spinning late on in the race.
But the Reds did get it spot on when they brought in Sebastian Vettel – also at the end of lap 43 – which enabled him to leap-frog Massa and Bottas – Williams got their sums wrong when decisive calls had to be made from the pit wall. Vettel literally stole third from the Martini boys.
What at one stage looked like a possible win for the Grove outfit, and even a couple of podiums, turned into fourth for Massa and fifth for Bottas.
Massa reflected, “It was a fantastic start but the second stop we made was the worst. We lost the opportunity then to be on the podium and also the rain showed we are not so competitive in the wet.”
Bottas added, “We really struggled in the wet, I could not any grip or heat in the tyre. Not easy in the end. It was a big struggle in the end. Another weekend to learn from but the pace at the beginning was a real positive.”
Behind the scrap for the top four positions, Daniil Kvyat in the Red Bull was having an inspired afternoon slugging it out with the Ferrari pair, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg thrown in the mix to spice things up.
Kvyat scored a well deserved sixth place even chasing Bottas until the very last corner, ahead of Hulkenberg in seventh, Raikkonen eighth, Force India’s Sergio Perez ninth and Alonso recovering to score his first point of the season.
Alonso said, “I am not so excited. I know it is important for the team morale and motivation for everyone. The team is focused on the job, it is a long-term project but there are no magic solutions.”
“It was an unbelievable start. The two Lotus were far too aggressive at Turn 3. I ended up in a spin and touched Jenson Button. Common sense [needed] I think,” added the Spaniard.British Grand Prix, Silverstone – Sunday, 5 July 2015
|6||Daniil Kvyat||RUS||Red Bull||+63.955s||8|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||GER||Force India||+78.744s||6|
|8||Kimi Räikkönen||FIN||Ferrari||+1 Lap||4|
|9||Sergio Perez||MEX||Force India||+1 Lap||2|
|10||Fernando Alonso||ESP||McLaren||+1 Lap||1|
|11||Marcus Ericsson||SWE||Sauber||+1 Lap||0|
|12||Roberto Merhi||ESP||Marussia||+3 Laps||0|
|13||Will Stevens||GBR||Marussia||+3 Laps||0|
|Rt||Carlos Sainz||ESP||Toro Rosso||Dnf||0|
|Rt||Daniel Ricciardo||AUS||Red Bull||Dnf||0|
|Rt||Max Verstappen||NED||Toro Rosso||Dnf||0|
Fastest Lap – Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m 37.093s (Lap 29)