Exactly six years on from his first British Grand Prix victory, Lewis Hamilton capitalised on team mate Rosberg’s gearbox failure with an emphatic home victory. The race was delayed for over an hour due to a first-lap crash involving Kimi Raikkonen, which damaged a safety barrier.
The Mercedes cars set the pace in the dry on Friday, but Saturday morning saw rain hit Northamptonshire, and Red Bull set the standard on the timing sheets. Qualifying brought with it more rain. The changeable conditions caught out Ferrari and Williams, and they lined up 14th, 15th, 17th and 18th.
Hamilton sat on Pole for most of Q3, until a last-minute dash from everyone else dropped him to 6th, with Rosberg taking the honours, and Vettel lining up alongside him.
The first lap was the most dramatic seen for a long time, with a red flag being shown. You have to go as far back as Monaco 2000 to find a race where the first lap was red flagged, when Jenson Button and Pedro De La Rosa caused a traffic jam at the Loews Hairpin.
Button’s start here though, was much better, capitalising on a slow-starting Vettel to jump to 2nd. Hamilton got up to 4th, but behind the leaders, mayhem ensued. Firstly, Vergne and Perez came together at turn one. Then, at the Arena section, Raikkonen went wide. When he came back on to the track, he hit a vicious bump, which speared him (despite his best efforts) straight in to the wall. Kobayashi narrowly avoided the destroyed Ferrari, but his former team mate, Massa, was not so fortunate, and tagged Kimi with his rear wheel.
The Safety Car was to be deployed but with so much debris – and a damaged guard rail – the race was delayed for a whole hour to give the marshalls time to clear and repair. Massa retired, and Max Chilton, who bizarrely came in to the pits after the carnage, received a drive-through penalty.
Finally, at 14.05, the action resumed. Rosberg led away and got the gap up to over five seconds over second-placed man Jenson Button. Hamilton very quickly displaced both McLaren drivers – first Magnussen and then Button – and began to pursue his team mate.
Lap 10 saw the next retirement, that of Marcus Ericsson, whose Caterham decided it did not in fact need functional suspension. Esteban Gutierrez must have had similar thoughts because one lap later he tried and over-optimistic move on Maldonado at Vale, launching the Lotus car over his front-right wheel, destroying his front wing, tyre, and credibility. The incredibly clumsy incident left his car without proper steering, and so he became beached in the gravel outside of turn 2.
On lap 18, Rosberg came in for his first stop with a gap of just over two seconds. Hamilton stayed out for seven more laps, but as in Austria, suffered a much slower tyre-change than his German counterpart, by nearly two seconds. When he re-joined, he was behind as he was before, though with slightly more ground to make up.
Rather than air his frustrations (Seb Vettel style) over the radio, he took the form of Mr. Motivator, saying “Don’t worry guys, we’ll nail the next one”. What a guy.
On lap 28, the Brit took two seconds out of his team mate’s lead, indicating that one of two things had happened – either the 2008 World Champion had found a shortcut, or Rosberg was in trouble. Unfortunately for the current championship leader, it was the latter. Nico had been complaining of “Trouble on the downshift” from an early stage, but at the beginning of lap 29, it also affected the upshift too, signalling that his malfunctioning gearbox could take no more of the strain.
It was perhaps not the fashion that he wanted to do it in, but nonetheless, Hamilton took the lead of his home race, and looked set to stay there barring any technical maladies.
From then on the result was something of a foregone conclusion. Praise to Vettel and Alonso then, who provided a stunning display of motor racing. For about a dozen laps the pair battled relentlessly, dicing and slip-streaming like it was going out of fashion.
Despite the six World Championships between them, Vettel and Alonso used their best bickering skills to try and out-do one another rather than let the racing do the talking. Vettel complained that Alonso kept going off the track to gain an advantage at copse (something Hulkenberg and Button had already complained at earlier) and Vettel in turn said that Alonso was trying to crash into him at the super-tight Luffield corner.
Eventually, the Spaniard had to succumb to the Red Bull’s better stability, but it gave the crowd something to watch now that Hamilton’s victory was all but assured. Save for Maldonado retiring after what looked like an exhaust collapse, spewing bits of hot metal all over the racing line, there was nothing else to do but cheer on Hamilton as he crossed the line to win his second home Grand Prix.
It gave him some very handsome distinctions too. It makes him the second British driver to win at Silverstone in a Silver Arrow – the other being Stirling Moss in 1955. It was also his fifth win of the year and 27th over all, a feat which puts him joint-second in the British Drivers win tally, level with Sir Jackie Stewart and just four away from Nigel Mansell.
A late surge from Jenson Button saw him get within a second of the podium when he chased Daniel Ricciardo for third, but fourth was the best his McLaren could deliver. Still, his #PinkForPapa tributes were not in vain, as the whole circuit wore pink as an ode to John Button, his tragically deceased father.
1) L Hamilton, Mercedes AMG
2) V Bottas, Williams
3) D Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing
4) J Button, McLaren
5) S Vettel, Red Bull Racing
6) F ALonso, Ferrari
7) K Magnussen, McLaren
8) N Hulkenberg, Force India
9) D Kvyat, Toro Rosso
10) JE Vergne, Toro Rosso
11) S Perez, Force India
12) R Grosjean, Lotus
13) A Sutil, Sauber
14) J Bianchi, Marussia
15) K Kobayashi, Caterham
16) M Chilton, Marussia
P Maldonado, Lotus (Exhaust)
N Rosberg, Mercedes AMG (Gearbox)
M Ericsson, Caterham (Suspension failure)
E Gutierrez, Sauber (Collision)
F Massa, Williams (Collision)
K Raikkonen, Ferrari (
The next race is in Hockenheim, Germany.