Lewis Hamilton captures his eight career British Grand Prix after punting series leader Max Verstappen into the barriers
More than 140,000 British fans withstood the broiling mid- summer heat of Silverstone to cheer Lewis Hamilton’s historic eighth victory in the British Grand Prix, thanks to the Brit’s controversial collision with rival Max Verstappen.
Hamilton seemed haunted for missing the pole in the Sprint Race to the Dutchman. Crafting the most pugnacious pass of his career, Hamilton struck Verstappen’s right rear at Copse, leaving the RB16B a crumpled wreck and the Dutchman physically reeling from the 51G impact with the barriers.
Hamilton was penalized a standing 10s by the stewards. He then mounted a comeback drive to chase down Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari. With two laps remaining, the Brit employed the same (but this time contactless) pass on the Monegasque to take victory by 3.87s. Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas finished third.
His first win since May 9 means Hamilton heads to Hungary – the last round before the summer break – just nine points behind Max Verstappen – after the Red Bull driver’s dramatic exit.
Finishing fourth and fifth were McLaren’s resilient duo of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo. Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took sixth, ahead of Alpine’s surging Fernando Alonso. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) was eighth, followed by Esteban Ocon (Alpine) and Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri).
The British Grand Prix used a 62-mile Sprint – the third distance of a traditional Grand Prix – to set starting positions. Under clear blue skies and in front of 105,000 partisan fans, Lewis Hamilton’s bid for glory was all but over within a few yards – as he stuttered away from the grid.
Verstappen’ Red Bull pounced, drawing alongside to pass him before the opening right-handed Abbey Bend.
Hamilton crossed the line 1.2 s behind Verstappen, with Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas finishing third.
Red Bull has massaged their RB16B’s aero and engine this season, gaining straight-line speed and handling sufficient to leave Hamilton choking in Verstappen’s slipstream.
Significantly, the Sprint race revealed Mercedes’ continued weakness.
“I am giving everything,” Hamilton yelled over the radio with half a dozen laps remaining. “Have we got any more power?”
“Standby, Lewis, we are looking into that,” his race engineer, Peter Bonnington, replied.
Hamilton had to find a solution. He apparently found it Sunday afternoon in Copse.
The fight off the line was intense, as Hamilton got alongside Verstappen into Turn1 – they nearly touched as the Red Bull hung on around the outside. After setting the Dutchman up for a few corners, Hamilton got a great run onto the Wellington Straight and squeezed Verstappen, the pair millimetres apart. Still, again the championship leader held the inside line.
Hamilton repositioned himself, got the exit out of Luffield he wanted and slipstreamed on the run toward Copse. As Verstappen countered right, Hamilton went even further and wedged a gap next to the old pit wall for the inside line. But just as he was about to pull alongside, he had to lift to try and make the corner.
Verstappen didn’t give way on the outside either. Hamilton’s left front hit the Dutchman’s right rear sending the RB16B spinning into the barriers at 51G.
Behind them, Charles Leclerc had already dispatched Valtteri Bottas from fourth on the grid. He then prepared to sweep past Hamilton on the exit of Copse for the lead before slowing for the Red Flag to allow barrier repairs.
Verstappen, clearly shaken and sore gingerly walked toward an ambulance. The Dutchman could barely string two words together.
Questioned during the Red Flag about the collision, Hamilton said. “As you saw yesterday once he’s out in the clear they’re too fast, so when an opportunity comes I’ve got to take it, that’s what we’re out here doing racing”.
In a heated radio message to FIA race director Michael Masi, Christian Horner said: “In that corner, Lewis was never anywhere near alongside. “Every driver that has driven this circuit knows that you do not stick a wheel on the inside of Copse. That is an enormous accident. And it was 100 per cent Max’s corner. As far as I am concerned, the full blame is on Hamilton who should never have been in that position.”
Leclerc restarted from pole with Hamilton alongside him. The best bet was for Hamilton to blast past the Ferrari and increase his lead to negate any penalty. That penalty was confirmed as ten seconds – served during the Brits pitstop – not long after the race resumption.
Surprisingly, the Ferrari pulled away quickly with pace to blunt Hamilton’s threat while not needing to defend. Adding to the mix was Norris’ speed – the McLaren man passing Bottas on the second start and under no threat.
With Leclerc’s lead over two seconds, he appeared poised to take victory, but when his power unit began cutting out, that cushion diminished.
“I was really on it every lap, so I don’t think there was one lap where I did a big mistake,” Leclerc said. “With the problems we had with the engine I thought my race was over, I had quite a lot of things to do on the steering wheel, but I think we managed the situation very, very well.”
With that hesitancy resolved, Leclerc refused to react to the undercut when Hamilton came into the pits first on lap 27, remaining stationary for 14.2 seconds. Ferrari could extend their stint slightly and save tyres, meaning Leclerc had a two- lap advantage after his stop. Hamilton dropped to fourth behind Norris.
Hamilton passed Norris for third on Lap 31. Mercedes then ordered Bottas out of the Brit’s way. The world champion then set about methodically hunting down Leclerc with the gap reduced to just 1.5s with four laps left.
On Lap 50 of 52, Hamilton stuck his Mercedes on the inside of Leclerc’s Ferrari through Copse, but the Monegasque ran wide, and Hamilton coasted to his 99th victory.