On a day of thrilling sporting contests, formula one’s British Grand Prix also turned out an incident packed race – albeit with a familiar result.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton won a record sixth British Grand Prix, but only after benefitting from a safety car that allowed him to pass Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas by a free pit stop.
Bottas was second, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third after scrapping most of the day with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.
Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo was seventh, having recovered after also being hampered by changing strategies after the safety car was deployed on lap 20.
“All in all, I think it was a good race,” Ricciardo said in a team statement “The safety car played into Carlos’ [Sainz] hands with a free pit-stop and that was a bit frustrating.
“It was unlucky on our part but we hunted him down towards the end but couldn’t mount a real attack to get past.
It feels positive to be back in the top ten especially after the last two rounds. Our single-lap and race pace has certainly been a solid turnaround in a short period of time.
“Looking back to two weeks ago, we’d have taken this result.”
The safety car incident had also ended the Leclerc-Verstappen battle for third, sending the Ferrari driver as far back as fifth, but Sebastian Vettel in the other Ferrari crashed into the back of Verstappen on lap 38.
“It was my mistake,” Vettel said. “He passed me and he ran a bit wide which gave me the chance to come back.
“I looked for a second he was going for the right and there would be a gap on the left … but it didn’t open and by that time it was already too late.”
Too late for Vettel to avoid crashing his Ferrari into the back of Verstappen, damaging the floor and diffuser of the Red Bull.
“He apologised,” Verstappen said.
Vettel finished 15th and trails Hamilton by 100 points in fourth place.
In front of his home fans, Hamilton made the decisive move after Antonio Giovinazzi spun off in his Alfa Romeo and the safety car was sent out.
“The safety car came out and it was perfect timing,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton had initially attacked Bottas on the fourth lap, overtaking but failing to keep position.
“It was maybe not my luckiest day,” Bottas said after falling 39 points behind Hamilton in the championship standings. “But that’s life.”
After finally moving into the lead, Hamilton avoided pitting again so stayed on hard tyres while Bottas was on fresher soft ones but the world champion still set a lap record on the final lap.
By beating Bottas by almost 25 seconds, Hamilton extended his championship lead over the Finn to 39 points and moved ahead of Jim Clark and Alain Prost to take the record for British GP victories.
“I love you Silverstone,” Hamilton said over the team radio in the week when the track’s future for the race was secured until at least 2024.
It was an 80th career win for Hamilton, of which seven have come in the 10 races this season.
“Today was one of the best days I can remember having,” Hamilton said.
“I have done so many races you would think I would get used to it or the feeling would numb down but it feels as amazing as the first win (at Silverstone in 2008).”