Lewis Hamilton stormed to a lights to flag victory to at the British Grand Prix and reduce the championship points deficit to a single point as Ferrari were plagued by astonishing bad luck when both their drivers suffered punctures late in the race, allowing Valtteri Bottas to make it a Mercedes one-two at Silverstone.
After delivering an out-standing lap to claim pole during qualifying 24 hours earlier, Hamilton was in inspired form as he delivered one of the most dominant performances of his campaign this year.
Pole, fastest lap and maximum points was a killer blow he needed to deliver on the day to recharge his title challenge, which had faltered in the previous two races.In the end he made it look easy.
But clearly it was not a cruise as he explained in the post race interview with Owen Wilson, “It’s never easy. That’s a feeling I can’t really describe. it feels amazing to be up here. I’m so proud to see these great flags everywhere. The support this weekend has been immense. I’m really proud I could do this for you all.”
“The team were faultless this weekend, Valtteri did an incredible job as well so it’s the perfect weekend for us. There’s a long, long way to go,” added the Briton to jubilant cheers from the home fans who got what they wanted on the day which ended with their hero crowd surfing as has become the tradition.
His teammate Valtteri Bottas stormed through the field from ninth on the grid to take second place, in what was arguably his best drive for the Silver Arrows team thus far.
Granted the Finn benefited from the late race bad luck that struck Ferrari, but he did the job to at least finish third and a dollop of good fortune ensured that he was second. No doubt his new contract will be awaiting his signature soon.
He said afterwards, “It was definitely not easy to start from P9 but the team did an absolutely perfect strategy. I kept my head down, kept going, and in the end the puncture with Kimi was a bit lucky for us.”
While Lady Luck smiled down on Mercedes, she obviously had a bone to pick the Ferrari.
Kimi Raikkonen looked set for second place and Sebastian Vettel fourth with a couple of laps remaining, when both suffered the exact same fate – tyres giving up on them.
First to be affected was Raikkonen who immediately pitted, costing him second place. Moments later it was a case of instant deja vu for Vettel, his front left tyre was punctured too.
He slowly made his way around to the pits for a tyre change, but what was a sure fourth place turned turned to seventh. The 20 points lead the German enjoyed at the top of the drivers’ standings, before the race, turned to one at the end of it.
Raikkonen was the picture of utter misery as he spoke about his race on the podium, “Mercedes were just a bit faster. And, unfortunately, unlucky situations seem to be following us at the moment.”
As for his puncture the veteran Finn added, “It’s an unfortunate situation with the tyre at the end but luckily the car stayed in one place. Not happy but we made the best of a bad situation. I didn’t hit anything. I don’t know what happened. I was lucky and l was unlucky.”
Vettel’s race got off to a bad start with flaming rear brake drum after the two formation laps. Off the line he was sluggish, but did manage to slot into fifth place. However from then on never he looked like challenging for a win and it became apparent at the end that a podium would be a tough ask too.
Because Bottas behind him was flying and Ferrari was not being kind to the soft front tyres. By the time the Mercedes driver started attacking, Vettel had no rubber left, and then when fourth looked certain the Pirelli’s cried enough.
One of the highlights of the race was Max Verstappen’s duel with Vettel as the Red Bull driver got the jump on the Ferrari at the start. The pair then slugged it out wheel-to-wheel with Vettel employing every trick in the book to get by the stubborn teenager who thwarted everything thrown at him.
He even quipped over the radio, “He wants to play bumper cars or something.”
Vettel’s frustration was evident as he complained over the radio and waved in frustration. At that point Ferrari wisely brought him for the undercut, which worked as Verstappen emerged from his own stop although he was aggrieved that the team fumbled his tyre change.
However when the Dutchman does the maths, even a two second stop, would have resulted in him rejoining behind the Ferrari. But in the end Vettel’s late race mishap promoted Verstappen to a earned fourth place.
Daniel Ricciardo deserved ‘Driver of the Day’ (as voted for by fans) for his superb performance from 19th on the grid. The Australian was in scintillating form, his race craft sublime and his overtakes a joy to watch on his rapid journey to fifth place.
Sixth place went to Nico Hulkenberg who stayed out of trouble in the Renault to claim his best finish since the Spanish Grand Prix. But it was heartache for his beleaguered teammate Jolyon Palmer who failed to complete a lap as his yellow car stopped on the formation lap with a hydraulic problem. As a result a second formation lap was called for as marshals removed the stricken Renault.
Both Force India’s made it into the top ten for the eighth time this season, this time though Esteban Ocon beat Sergio Perez for the first time – the pair finishing eighth and ninth respectively.
The final point went to Felipe Massa in the Williams who started 14th, but the white cars were out of sorts all weekend. Teenager rookie Lance Stroll was 16th and second last of the cars still on track at the end.
Fernando Alonso made good progress during the first half of the race in the under-powered McLaren, looking good for a possible to ten at one stage. But the Honda engine let him down once again. The Spaniard retired on lap 32.
It was a dismal day for Toro Rosso as Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat collided with one another while battling for position on the opening lap. Kvyat slammed into his teammate, as he speared across the track. The incident brought out the safety car fir three laps as the track was cleared if debris.
It was clear that the Russian was the culprit and thus no surprise that stewards handed him a drive through penalty and two penalty points on his super licence. Kvyat is now up to nine in total, 12 brings a race ban. It will be interesting to see how long he lasts in the Bull pen in the wake of his latest shenanigans.
Final words to Mercedes chief Toto Wolff, “A lot of misfortune for Ferrari at the end and a lot of good luck on our side. We had a solid performance and we’ve had a lot of bad luck this year with the headrest etc. At the end of the year, I think it all balances out.”
“Lewis warned us of his blister. It was odd that three cars suffered fatal blistering. You are extracting every bit of performance and it can go wrong. Valtteri knew what the temperature target of the tyre was and even when he saw Sebastian he didn’t come near and exceed the target.”
“Luck, or intelligence, plays its part. You need to extract performance but not go too far as we maybe did in weeks before. I think we need to have the right mix between street circuits and traditional circuits like Silverstone,” concluded Wolff.
Blow by Blow
Ahead of the race start, Palmer was ruled out on the formation lap, with the Briton reporting that his brake by wire system had failed. He pulled over at the side of the track and given the position of the car an extra formation lap was required.
When the lights eventually went out Hamilton held his lead under pressure from Raikkonen but behind Vettel was passed by Verstappen as the field flooded through the first few corners. Valtteri Bottas, meanwhile, powered through from ninth to seventh in the opening phase.
Further back though there was trouble as Sainz got past team-mate Daniil Kvyat. The Russian went off track and in rejoining collided with Sainz, pitching the Spaniard into a spin and off track where he was forced to retire. Kvyat was later handed a drive through penalty for rejoining unsafely.
The Safety Car was deployed to clear Sainz’s car and the debris, and when racing resumed on lap four, Hamilton held his lead well ahead of Raikkonen, Verstappen and Vettel. Bottas, meanwhile, was making more progress and he passed Ocon and Hulkenberg to take P5. His next target was Vettel who was being held back by Verstappen.
At the back Ricciardo, who had started in P19 following engine-related penalties, was 14th when the SC was deployed and on the re-start picked up two more places. However, as he went to pass Romain Grosjean’s Haas at Woodcote the Australian went off-track and dropped back to P18.
By lap 12, Hamilton had eked out a three-second lead over Raikkonen. Verstappen continued to frustrate Vettel, however, with the Red Bull over six seconds behind the lead Ferrari.
Vettel made his move on lap 14, trying to go down the inside of the Red Bull into Stowe. Verstappen defended and the pair went into the next corner side by side. Vettel held his line and the pair went marginally off track. Verstappen was resolute, however, he emerged in third. The battle allowed Bottas to close in hard and on lap 16 he was two seconds off the back of Vettel’s Ferrari, which was now 14 seconds adrift of Hamilton.
Looking for a strategic overtake of Verstappen, Vettel pitted for soft tyres on lap 19 looking for the undercut. Verstappen pitted on the next lap but his stop for soft tyres was slightly slow due to a wheel nut problem and when he emerged from pit lane, Vettel was already past.
At the front Bottas continued on his starting soft tyres and when Raikkonen pitted for soft tyres, the Finn took second place behind Hamilton. The Briton made his stop for soft tyres on lap 26 and emerged marginally ahead of his team-mate.
Ricciardo, meanwhile, had continued his advance and on lap 29 he had climbed 13 places to P6, though he had yet to make a stop. The Australian’s times were solid, however, and he was attempting to use the clear air to make further ground. It worked and when he pitted after 33 laps on his opening supesofts he rejoined in P10 just behind the Force India of Sergio Perez. Bottas also pitted on the same tour, for supersofts, and the Finn emerged in fourth place behind Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel.
Hamilton, though, was comfortable in the lead and with 12 laps to go the Briton was 12.5s ahead of Raikkonen, who was now 4.4s ahead of team-mate Vettel, who has Bottas just 2.4s behind.
Bottas closed to just half a second behind by lap 43 and then made his first move, Vettel defended aggressively and following a huge lock-up after braking late, the German held the position.
It was a futile defence, though, as Bottas clearly had the pace on his fresher tyres and on the next lap Bottas powered past to claim P3 and target Raikkonen who was eight seconds in front.
With five laps to go Bottas had close to just five seconds behind Raikkonen.
Bottas didn’t need the extra pace, however, as three laps from home his countryman suffered a puncture. Bottas swept past as Raikkonen limped to the pits for new tyres.
The race then took a remarkable turn as within seconds of Raikkonen’s failure Vettel suffered exactly the same issue. The German’s race collapsed along with his front left tyre. The Ferrari driver was forced back to the pits for a set of supersoft tyres and as he did so, Verstappen also pitted for new tyres.
The Dutchman questioned the move but was later told Red Bull were concerned a similar fate to that which affected Ferrari might have befallen him.
Ahead, Hamilton sailed through to claim a record-equalling fifth British Grand Prix win. Bottas powered through to complete a Mercedes one-two, with Raikkonen reclaiming a podium position as Vettel dropped back.
Verstappen moved through to claim fourth place ahead of Ricciardo who had passed Hulkenberg in the closing stages. Vettel, meanwhile, held on to take a disappointing seventh place ahead of the Force Indias of Ocon and Perez. Massa took the final point for Williams.