Lewis Hamilton clinched his third British Grand Prix victory at Silverstone on Sunday after seeing off a spirited fight from Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas in a dry-to-wet thriller.
After losing the lead at the start, Hamilton managed to recover first place through the pit stops before managing his pace towards the end of the race as a late rain shower threatened to spoil his homecoming.
However, Hamilton played both the weather and the field perfectly to clinch his fifth win of the 2015 season and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.
Off the line, the Williams duo of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas made a scintillating start to leapfrog both Mercedes drivers into the first corner. Although Hamilton was able to recover second place, it was Massa who led when the safety car was deployed on lap two after Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean got tangled up in incidents with their teammates, causing them to retire.
Hamilton tried to close up on the back of Massa for the restart, but ran wide after locking up his tires. This allowed Bottas to move back up into second place, leaving the frustrated Mercedes drivers to scrap over third place. In the early stages at Silverstone, Williams looked to be capable of a huge upset.
Further back, Ferrari’s hopes of joining the fight at the front quickly faded as Sebastian Vettel fell down to ninth place behind the fast-starting Force Indias and Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat. Button and Grosjean were joined on the sidelines by Max Verstappen and Pastor Maldonado, and with Felipe Nasr failing to make the start, just 15 cars remained after ten laps at Silverstone.
As Massa struggled for pace in the early stages, Bottas closed up on the back of his teammate and asked for permission from Williams to make a pass. The team told him not to race the Brazilian, and to only pass if he could make a clean move and then pull away from the chasing pack.
However, Bottas could not get close enough to Massa to overtake, even with the advantage of DRS. He had managed to keep Hamilton at bay in third, prompting Mercedes to bring the Briton in at the end of lap 19. With fresh tires and plenty of pace, Williams now had to consider how it would react.
The team decided to bring Massa in just one lap later, with Mercedes also pitting Rosberg on the same lap. The two drivers emerged from the pit lane side-by-side, but it was Massa who managed to stay ahead, albeit behind Hamilton.
All eyes were now on Bottas, who was brought in for fresh tires on lap 21. Williams produced a perfect pit stop and sent the Finn back on his way, but it was not enough to stay ahead of Hamilton, who had set the fastest lap of the race to reclaim the lead of the race.
Hamilton soon set about establishing a gap to the cars behind, leading by 3.5 seconds from Massa, Bottas and Rosberg after stopping. Mercedes informed Rosberg that he was now on ‘plan B’, suggesting he would be moving to a two-stop strategy.
As the race passed half-distance, the on-track action began to settle down, but attention soon turned to the skies as dark clouds began to form over Silverstone. Rosberg was told to “give it everything” in his bid to pass Bottas for third place, but still could not find a way past the Williams drive, allowing Massa to escape the pair in second.
The race took another twist on lap 34 when Carlos Sainz Jr’s Toro Rosso came to a stop at the final corner. Although it was recovered under the virtual safety car, thus stopping the field from bunching up, it did give more time for the rain to arrive at Silverstone.
Upon the restart on lap 35, Bottas was quick to report drops of rain out on track as he continued to soak up the pressure from Rosberg behind. Although some drivers were struggling for grip, Williams told Bottas that it still wasn’t wet enough to warrant intermediate tires, even as they slid off at Woodcote.
The conditions were bad enough to prompt some of the teams to bring their drivers in, including Ferrari who ran a split strategy by switching Raikkonen to intermediates whilst keeping Vettel out.
Rosberg made the most of the inclement conditions to move up into second place past Bottas and Massa, who struggled for grip in the rain. The German driver had his sights firmly set on Hamilton at the front with ten laps to go, carving into the Briton’s advantage at a considerable rate of knots.
Struggling for grip, Hamilton dived into the pit lane to take on intermediate tires with eight laps remaining, handing the lead for Rosberg. However, the German did not want to try and hang it out until the end of the race, coming in just one lap later to also make the switch to intermediates.
This handed the lead back to Hamilton, who now enjoyed a nine-second advantage over his teammate. The biggest winner of the rain shower was Sebastian Vettel, as he slipped into third place ahead of the Williams drivers by pitting one lap earlier for intermediates.
At the front, Hamilton managed to keep his cool amid the spray to cross the line and claim his third British Grand Prix victory, finishing over ten seconds clear of Rosberg at the end.
Vettel managed to hold on to third place in the closing stages, ending a three-race podium drought for Ferrari, whilst Williams’ big day ended in disappointment as Massa and Bottas finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Daniil Kvyat led Red Bull’s charge in sixth place ahead of Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, whilst Kimi Raikkonen lagged behind in eighth after switching to intermediates too early, forcing him into a third pit stop late on.
Sergio Perez made it a double points finish for Force India by finishing ninth, but one of the biggest surprises came in P10 as Fernando Alonso scored his first point of the season thanks to the race of attrition. Marcus Ericsson finished 11th ahead of the two Manor drivers, as Roberto Merhi beat Will Stevens for P12.