Lewis Hamilton took a record sixth British Grand Prix victory in a thrilling race featuring a crash between Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
Battles throughout the field created a dramatic race – by far the best of the year so far – as Hamilton benefited from a safety-car period to take a lead he never lost after Valtteri Bottas had held back an attack from his Mercedes team-mate in the early laps.
Behind them, Red Bull’s Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc staged a duel for the ages in disputing third place for the first third of the race.
Their exquisite driving would have been the talk of the day had it not been for the collision between the Dutchman and Leclerc’s team-mate Vettel, for which the German four-time champion was given 10-second time penalty and two penalty points of his super licence.
Hamilton’s victory extends his championship lead to 39 points at the effective half-way point of the championship, but the discussion will focus on Vettel, and yet another error in the heat of battle – the latest in a series over the past year.
How did Hamilton win it?
Bottas converted his pole position into a lead at the first corner, but Hamilton challenged hard over the first two or three laps, the Finn just managing to hold him off.
On lap four, Hamilton appeared to have won the lead, going for the outside at Brooklands, then cutting back and passing Bottas around the outside of the 180-degree corner of Luffield.
Their fight settled down, Hamilton sitting just over a second behind, until Bottas stopped for fresh tyres on lap 16, his decision to go for the same medium compound he had used at the start committing him to a second stop.
Hamilton, though, stayed out, clearly intending to go for a one-stop strategy, and when the safety car was called after Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi crashed at Vale, he could make a pit stop, comfortably rejoin in the lead and cruise to the finish.
The safety car gave Hamilton the lead as a gift, but the indications were that Bottas would have found it difficult to hold him off anyway, once he had committed to a two-stop.
Amazingly, Hamilton also took fastest lap on 30-lap-old hard tyres on the last lap, beating the mark Bottas had set a couple of laps earlier after a stop for fresh tyres.
His sixth British GP win moved him clear of Jim Clark and Alain Prost and puts him in a commanding position in this season’s championship.
From the sublime to the hilarious
Vettel inherited third place after Ferrari initially left Leclerc out when the safety car was deployed because he and Verstappen had pitted for fresh tyres only six laps before.
The advantage Vettel gained by stopping under the safety car promoted him to third, with Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly between him and Verstappen.
Gasly soon let Verstappen through and the Dutchman homed in on Vettel, catching him on lap 37.
Verstappen passed Vettel around the outside of the fast Stowe corner but the Red Bull ran a little wide, giving the Ferrari driver a chance to come back at him.
Verstappen covered the inside but Vettel was committed and could not stop in time, ramming into the back of the Red Bull.
Vettel will likely complain Verstappen made a second move back to the outside – saying over team radio at the time: “What was he doing?” – but it was only marginal and the stewards decided it was the older man to blame.
It was a battle that will be remembered along with the famous tussle between Gilles Villeneuve and Rene Arnoux at the 1979 French Grand Prix as one of the greatest in F1 history.
Driver of the day
The fans gave it to Leclerc on F1’s official vote – and they were absolutely right. His Ferrari lacked the pace of Verstappen’s Red Bull but his judgement and car placement was impeccable. What a performance.
The German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time, a second ‘home’ race in succession for Mercedes, whose chassis base is a few miles down the road from Silverstone. They continue to look unstoppable, but Red Bull are coming on strong and surely Leclerc has to win one soon.