Lewis Hamilton scored a popular home victory in Sunday’s British Grand Prix with a dominant display at Silverstone, leading home Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.
Hamilton survived a track limits scare to take pole position on Saturday, but was left to contend with Mother Nature in the race as rain left the track damp for the start.
Despite drying quickly, damp patches remained throughout the race, leaving drivers to fight not only with each other but also themselves.
Hamilton kept his cool throughout, making two minor errors that went unpunished as he swept to a third consecutive British Grand Prix victory.
Rosberg was unable to challenge his teammate, instead spending much of the race fighting with Max Verstappen before coming home in second place to ensure that he still leads the Formula 1 drivers’ championship – albeit by just four points now.
A short, sharp rain shower on the grid in the lead-up to lights out prompted race officials to start the race behind the safety car. Although rain had stopped falling by the time Hamilton led the field away, all drivers were required to start on full wet tires, leaving them with the dilemma of when to make the switch to intermediate or dry compounds.
The safety car peeled into the pit lane after five laps, leaving Hamilton to cross the line and get the green flag running underway. A number of drivers immediately came in to make the switch to intermediate tires, but Hamilton opted to extend his early stint as he opened up a lead over Rosberg.
Daniel Ricciardo was the first front-runner to pit, coming in from P4, but the move backfired when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed after Pascal Wehrlein spun off. This allowed Hamilton and Rosberg to pit without losing position, finding themselves ahead of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, the Force India driver being the biggest winner in the first round of stops.
With the sun now shining and drying the track, drivers were told to look after their intermediate tires until the time was right to make the switch to slicks. Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg stood at five seconds, with Verstappen catching both as the track got nearer and nearer to being ready for dry tires.
Verstappen soon found himself all over the back of Rosberg’s car as the German struggled on the drying track. After Rosberg made a mistake through Maggots, Verstappen pulled a brave-yet-brilliant move around the outside of Becketts, heading onto the Hangar Straight to take second place, sparking cheers in the pro-Hamilton sections of the crowd.
Ferrari was the first team to gamble on dry tires, fitting Sebastian Vettel’s cars with mediums at the end of lap 15. The majority of the pack followed suit one lap later, with Mercedes waiting one more lap before calling Hamilton and Rosberg in.
Verstappen put in a rapid lap during his brief spell leading on the intermediate tires before also coming in, emerging from the pits second and well ahead of Rosberg. However, it was Hamilton who now led once again, seven seconds clear of the field.
Verstappen began to make inroads on Hamilton’s lead, cutting the gap down to just five seconds, but the Dutchman was caught out by the standing water at Turn 1, causing him to run wide. This allowed Rosberg to close to within two seconds, with a series of fastest laps also bringing the German to within nine of Hamilton up front.
Verstappen was not the only driver to fall foul of the damp patches at the first corner. Kimi Raikkonen had a moment that saw him lose a position to Carlos Sainz Jr., only to move back ahead when Sainz made the same error a few laps later. Rio Haryanto’s error was more costly, clouting the barrier and bringing his race to an end at half-distance.
The battle for the lead took another twist when Hamilton became the latest driver to run off at Turn 1, but Verstappen was unable to capitalize after making the same mistake just seconds later. Rosberg was the biggest winner, cutting another couple of seconds out of both drivers, getting within DRS range of Verstappen once again.
Rosberg toiled behind Verstappen for a number of laps, getting closer and closer. Along the straights, Rosberg would close, only for Verstappen to put the aerodynamic advantage of his Red Bull to good use coming out of the corners. Rosberg complained to Mercedes that Verstappen was not sticking to his line, but eventually managed to make it through with a fine move around the outside at Stowe.
Despite now running second, Rosberg’s squabble with Verstappen had cost him significant ground on Hamilton at the front, the gap now standing at eight seconds with 12 laps remaining.
Rosberg produced a sequence of fastest laps to cut the gap to Hamilton down to just six seconds, only for Hamilton to respond and stabilize the gap entering the final few laps of the race.
Rosberg’s grip on second slipped with five laps remaining when he reported a gearbox issue to the Mercedes pit wall, being informed to avoiding using seventh gear by shifting through it. With F1’s new radio rules intending to ban instructions to the drivers, the incident would undoubtedly come under scrutiny late in the race.
At the front, Hamilton had no such issues, crossing the line after 52 laps to record his fourth Silverstone victory and third in succession, sending the home crowd into raptures.
Rosberg held off Verstappen in the closing stages despite his gearbox issue to take second, although the FIA confirmed it would be investigating the radio messages after the race, making the result provisional.
Daniel Ricciardo had a quiet race en route to fourth place in the second Red Bull, while Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth for Ferrari after making a pass on Sergio Perez late on. Perez was left to settle for P6 ahead Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg, while Carlos Sainz Jr. crossed the line eighth for Red Bull.
Sebastian Vettel had a race to forget, crossing the line ninth for Ferrari. He kept the position despite receiving a five-second penalty for forcing Felipe Massa off-track earlier in the race, leaving Daniil Kvyat to pick up the final point for P10.
Williams struggled once again in the wet weather as Massa could only cross the line 11th, one lap down on Hamilton. Teammate Valtteri Bottas finished 14th, the drivers split by the McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.
Felipe Nasr was Sauber’s sole finisher in P15 after Marcus Ericsson was forced to retire early on. Haas had a similar race as Esteban Gutierrez finished 16th while Romain Grosjean retired. Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer both retired late on for Renault.