Lewis Hamilton overcame first lap contact with title rival Max Verstappen and a 10-second penalty to take an eighth British Grand Prix win at Silverstone, passing Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc – who led the majority of the race – with just three laps of the race to go, as the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas took P3.
Hamilton and Verstappen had sparred spectacularly throughout the first half lap of the Grand Prix, but made contact at Copse when Hamilton tried to pass up the inside into the fast sweeping corner, with Verstappen spinning hard into the barriers and out of the race – with Hamilton handed a 10-second penalty for the collision.
But a committed recovery from Hamilton saw him close down the gap to Leclerc in the final stages of the race, Hamilton passing the Monegasque driver on Lap 50 of 52 to take an emotional victory in front of an ecstatic British Grand Prix crowd – with the reigning champion closing the gap to Verstappen in the title race to just eight points.
It created incredible scenes at Silverstone – but you had to feel for Leclerc, who led so much of the British Grand Prix, but was still able to claim his first podium of the season, 70 years on from Ferrari’s first ever Grand Prix win here in 1951.
Bottas in third was ahead of the McLaren pair of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo, the latter doing a sterling job to hold off the attack of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz for much of the latter half of the race, with Sainz taking P6.
Following his heroics in the F1 Sprint, Alpine’s Fernando Alonso finished in the P7 he started in, ahead of the Aston Martin of Lance Stroll, as the second Alpine of Esteban Ocon collected his first points since Monaco for P9, ahead of Yuki Tsunoda in 10th.
Meanwhile, Sergio Perez – Red Bull’s only runner in the race following Verstappen’s crash – could only take P16, after making three pit stops across the Grand Prix.
So it was win number 99 for Hamilton – but while the British crowd was lapping it up, the rumblings from the 2021 season’s most controversial moment to date – that Hamilton-Verstappen collision on Lap 1 – are set to continue for a number of days and weeks yet.
There was no quarter given between Verstappen and Hamilton as the five lights went out at the start of the British Grand Prix, Hamilton appearing to enjoy the better getaway of the two before Verstappen toughed it out around the outside of Abbey to keep position.
Hamilton kept coming, though, and after trying a brave move around the outside into Brooklands – which Verstappen cut off with a decisive sweep across Hamilton’s bows – Hamilton decided to send a move up the inside into Copse.
As the two title rivals roared into the near flat-out corner, they made contact, with Verstappen spinning off into the gravel and clouting the wall with a big hit – the Dutchman immediately out of the race, as Hamilton was later handed a 10-second penalty by the race stewards.
He was taken away from the scene for a check-up in the medical centre before being transferred to hospital, as the race was red flagged after just half a lap – with Charles Leclerc leading when those red flags were flown, the Ferrari driver having passed Valtteri Bottas in the Village complex before nipping through on Hamilton after his Verstappen contact.
The red flag at least allowed Hamilton to have damage to his front wing from the contact repaired, with the top 10 at the restart Leclerc from Hamilton, Bottas, Lando Norris, Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso, Carlos Sainz, Kimi Raikkonen – who’d jumped from P13 to P9 – and Esteban Ocon in 10th, Ocon having been squeezed between Alonso and Vettel off the line, before nearly locking up into Alonso into Turn 3.
From the standing start on Lap 4, Leclerc aced his getaway to stay ahead of Hamilton, as did Norris, who slipped past Bottas into Turn 1 to claim P3. Later on in the lap, Vettel’s strong original race start came to nought as he spun coming out of Luffield, dropping to P19 – while Alonso tried to do a move around the outside of Ricciardo through Copse, getting ahead off track before fairly relinquishing the position.
Things were going better for the sole Red Bull of Sergio Perez, meanwhile, the Mexican jumping to P13 by Lap 8 after starting in the pit lane following changes to his car after his F1 Sprint spin – Perez the only driver in the field to start on hards, as everyone else went for mediums.
Leclerc was able to maintain his advantage over Hamilton at the front despite incessant pressure from the Mercedes, but was heard on Lap 16 of 52 reporting engine cut-outs – with the issue recurring intermittently, as the tension in the Ferrari cockpit ramped up.
Norris, meanwhile, was holding on well in P3 – but pitting on Lap 21 for new hards, a wheel was slow going on, Norris stationary for six agonising seconds before getting under way and coming out in P6, before quickly passing Alonso for P5.
At the halfway point on Lap 26, it was Leclerc 2.3s clear from Hamilton and the second Ferrari of Carlos Sainz – the front three yet to pit – with Bottas fourth having benefitted from Norris’ slow pit stop. Norris was fifth, ahead of Gasly (yet to stop), Ricciardo, Tsunoda (yet to stop), Alonso and Stroll.
A lap later and Hamilton was in for hard tyres, serving his 10-second penalty first before then rejoining in P5 behind Norris – Hamilton over 35s behind leader Leclerc at this point. Leclerc’s team mate Sainz was in a lap later, but a slow front-left kept the Spaniard stopped for 12.3s.
Leclerc was stopped another lap later, with no such issues for the Monegasque, as he emerged with his lead intact after his 2.6-second stop.
Leclerc was driving an exceptional race up at the front. But Hamilton was on the move too, making his way up into the podium places with a pass on Norris for P3 on Lap 31 – at the same Copse corner where he’d made contact with Verstappen on Lap 1.
Hamilton was up to P2 on Lap 40, with Bottas moved aside by Mercedes to help out his team mate. With 10 laps to go, Hamilton was now 7.3s adrift of Leclerc’s Ferrari and closing in hard, the partisan crowd cheering on their man in the jet-black Mercedes.
Hamilton was lapping relentlessly fast – and despite Ferrari giving Leclerc access to all of his engine power, Hamilton wound down the gap to less than a second by Lap 50.
Then the moment all the British crowd wanted to see came. At the same place where he’d touched with Verstappen, Hamilton sent it down the inside of Leclerc, with the Monegasque taking to the run-off as Hamilton swept through into the lead.
It was simply left to the seven-time champion to ease to his eighth British Grand Prix win – with Hamilton stoking the fans’ joy after passing the chequered flag by grabbing a Union Jack and running to the infield section to brandish it – Hamilton having made significant in-roads into Verstappen’s championship lead, the difference between them reduced to just eight points.
Charles Leclerc, understandably, couldn’t be wholly satisfied with his first podium of the year, having led 49 of the 52 laps of the race after a phenomenal run that earned him Driver of the Day – while Bottas backed up Mercedes’ team game by taking third, closing the gap to Red Bull to just four points in the constructors’.
Lando Norris had looked poised to challenge for the podium places early on in the Grand Prix but had to settle for P4, ahead of team mate Daniel Ricciardo, who took his best finish of the year with P5 – Ricciardo deserving praise for managing to hold off the assails of Carlos Sainz, who finished just 0.8s behind the Australian.
F1 Sprint star Alonso held onto P7, ahead of Stroll, Ocon and Tsunoda – Tsunoda taking just his fourth points score of the year. Just outside of the points was Tsunoda’s AlphaTauri team mate Pierre Gasly, ahead of the luckless Williams of George Russell – who was handed a three-place grid drop for the race after contact with Sainz in the Sprint.
Antonio Giovinazzi took 13th for Alfa Romeo ahead of the Williams of Nicholas Latifi and the second Alfa of Kimi Raikkonen – who spun on Lap 46 during a fight with Perez, an incident set to be investigated after the race.
Perez could only take a lowly P16 after a late stop for softs, ahead of the Haas pair of Nikita Mazepin and Mick Schumacher, who rounded out the order, with Vettel having been retired on Lap 41.
As Hamilton celebrated with his family and visiting Hollywood superstar Tom Cruise, it marked another fascinating twist in this extraordinary title fight. But it was a controversial one too, with the fallout sure to rumble on and on.
“It’s massively overwhelming and my god it was such a physically difficult race.
“I’ve been giving my all this past week, been in the factory, just giving it absolutely everything trying to uncover performance with the guys and I’m so proud of everyone for just continuing the work even though we’ve had a bit of a deficit.
“I always try to be measured in how I approach battling with Max, he’s very aggressive. And then today, I mean, I was fully alongside him and he didn’t leave me enough space.
“But regardless of whether I agree with the penalty, I took it on the chin and I kept working, I was like, ‘I’m not going to let anything get in the way of the crowd’s enjoyment of the weekend and the national anthem and the British flag’” – Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes