There was no need for extended theatrics (and his fourth tire) as the Briton clinched the F1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone in pole position. Six-time champion Hamilton was struck with some unfortunate luck but still eased into his 87th win in what looks to be a racer in magnificent luck and prime form.
Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas also saw a puncture at the closing stages of the race, with three laps to go, and was set to finish in runner-up before alleged debris on the track got in the way. He finished in 11th place instead and 30 points behind his Mercedes counterpart in the title race, his tire melting completely before a swap.
Bottas spent 50 laps in second place before the accident, a sign of the cutthroat consistency required in Formula 1. Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc finished in third. McLaren’s Carlos Sainz Jr. also met with a puncture and fell to 13th place. A list of the full standings can be found on Autoweek.
Hamilton now moves within four wins of equalling the illustrious career of Michael Schumacher’s all-time win record, with 12 races to go till the end of season.
It was a case of what could’ve been for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, who was initially behind both Mercedes drivers; Red Bull had decided on a pit stop for a change of tires in a bid for an additional point to make fastest lap.
Had they and Verstappen decided against, the Belgian would’ve overtaken the Brit, taking into account Hamilton’s eventual mishap.
“Up until the last lap, everything was relatively smooth sailing. The tires felt great. When I heard that his tire (Bottas) went, I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine,” said a relieved Hamilton.
“Then, just down the straight, it just deflated. That was definitely a heart-in-the-mouth kind of feeling. You could see the tire was falling off the rim.”
Whilst all the disaster was unfurling in front of the Mercedes driver and his crew, the pit box was rife with anxiety as the Red Bull rival was furiously shaving off the 30 second gap between him and the Brit, all with the sight of flat tire on merry display.
“It’s lucky and unlucky. My tires didn’t look great,” said Verstappen.
“Then Bottas got a puncture, so then they boxed me to go for the fastest lap. Unfortunately Lewis got a puncture himself. But, I’m very happy with second.”
By the time Hamilton had narrowly avoided the relinquish of first place and passed the chequered flags, Verstappen was a mere 5.8 seconds, from the initial half a minute, behind Hamilton.
Initially off to average starts, both Hamilton and Bottas then started to take turns for fastest laps, with a difference of only two seconds between the teammates. Then, as Bottas started to fall off, it was clear the finale was not going to be plain sailing.
Bottas was experiencing a gradual increase of vibration, putting a distance of 8.3 seconds from the initial 2-second gap between him and Hamilton, right before the incident.
As a result of Hamilton’s win, with three consecutive pole positions on the bounce, he’s extended his lead beyond any probable challenge besides teammate Bottas.
“It’s not ideal but I can’t change what has happened,” comments Bottas (on the private Mercedes title race between him and Hamilton) after his drop from the initial 2nd to finishing in 11th.
“I will keep pushing and keep believing and you never know what happens.”
Hamilton’s victory was also followed by an anti-racism protest by 8 drivers. This is the 4th consecutive protest, with F1 and the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association both agreeing that drivers are free and have every right to show solidarity to the anti-racism and diversity rhetoric as they see fit.