Lewis Hamilton bathed in the ecstasy of a home win at the British Grand Prix, after the agony of losing pole position to his team mate in qualifying on Saturday.
Cheered on by a 120,000-strong, partisan crowd he took his 27th career win, equalling Sir Jackie Stewart’s total and is now behind only Nigel Mansell, for most number of wins, by an English driver. It was his fifth win this season.
Two DNFs in Australia and Canada, yellow flags in Monaco, slow pit-stops in Austria and a 29-point deficit to Rosberg before this weekend, did not bode well with Hamilton fans worldwide. They believed the German, was getting the better deal in the intra-team rivalry at Mercedes. At half distance in Silverstone, had they finished as they were, Rosberg would’ve had the luxury of settling for P2 in the next five grand prix without losing the championship lead!
But it wasn’t to be. Nico Rosberg’s W05 sputtered and stopped on Lap 29 with gearbox downshifting issues. Putting an end, to his long streak of consecutive points finishes and any suspicion that Mercedes AMG Petronas were building only one bullet-proof car. It’s worth remembering that the last team order that actually influenced the result of Mercedes’ race was made by Ross Brawn in the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Back then Rosberg was asked to hold station behind Hamilton although he was much quicker, because the team felt Hamilton was nursing a wounded car home and it wouldn’t be fair to race him.
With Nico, registering his first DNF of the season, Lewis is now just four points behind him in the title fight on 161, with 10 races to go.
At the race start, both Mercedes cars got off the grid cleanly. With the performance advantage of his W05, Hamilton was quick to blast past a sluggish Nico Hulkenberg in his VJM07 and a poor starting Sebastian Vettel in the RBR10. On Lap 2 the race was red flagged because of Kimi Raikkonen’s spectacular shunt on the Wellington Straight. The Finn was seen limping away from the site of the accident which also saw the end of Kamui Kobayashi’s and Felipe Massa’s afternoon. During the restart, Hamilton overtook the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, while Rosberg built a gap of 5s to P2.
Meanwhile, behind them the Williams of Valterri Bottas was on a blistering run to attack the final podium position. Overtaking Alonso, Button, Magnussen, Vettel and Ricciardo on the outside of the racing line, he was a racer on form fresh from his P3 finish in Austria.
He ultimately, went one better here in Silverstone.
Back at the front, Lewis brought down the gap to 2.3s to Nico and pitted for fresh rubber after running longer. A problem with the rear left wheel nut however saw him exiting the pits almost 2s slower than his team mate, who now rebuilt the gap back to about 6s.
Lewis, on hard tyres now was expected to be slower. But to everyones surprise the hard tyres suited the race temperature perfectly and he was able to cut into the deficit by almost a second a lap! The home crowd anticipated a big showdown and the atmosphere was electric. Sadly Nico’s gearbox then decided to give up. And the lead was Lewis’ to keep.
A year ago at the same venue, Hamilton was in the lead when his tyres blew and the win was Rosberg’s to cherish.
The crowd’s focus now shifted to the battle for P5 between Alonso and Vettel. An epic fight that involved unbelievably close racing, questionable manoeuvres and numerous radio messages that kept TV audiences entertained too. Alonso was flagged down for leaving the track limits repeatedly, received a five-second penalty for overshooting his grid and had numerous complications with the performance of the F14T but still managed P6 after Vettel passed him for P5!
Jenson Button charged home to P4 after hounding Ricciardo’s Red Bull in the closing stages in an attempt to give the British fans a fuller weekend. McLaren team mate Kevin Magnussen led home Nico Hulkenberg from Daniil Kyvat and Jean Eric Vergne for positions 7, 8, 9 and 10 respectively.
Eric Clapton, Naomi Campbell, Jude Law and Prince Harry were amongst the celebs present to celebrate Silverstone’s 50th Grand Prix. It was Lewis Hamilton’s victory though, that commemorated the occasion best, as the fight for the championship had now come alive once again.
Hockenheim in Germany is up next. Mercedes and Nico Rosberg’s home race. It seems the only team that can stop the Silver Arrow juggernaut from a clean sweep again, is the German team themselves.
P1 Hamilton – Mercedes AMG 2hr 26m 52.094s
P2 Bottas – Williams Martini Racing
P3 Ricciardo – Red Bull Racing