Lewis Hamilton went wire-to-wire en route to his fifth British Grand Prix victory at Silverstone on Sunday, cutting Sebastian Vettel’s lead in the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to just a single point after Ferrari hit late trouble.
Hamilton led every single lap of the race for Mercedes and never came under threat at the front of the pack as he finished over 10 seconds clear of the field, coming home ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.
The result saw Hamilton tie with Alain Prost and Jim Clark’s shared record of five British Grand Prix wins, and extended his winning streak at Silverstone that dates back to 2014.
Valtteri Bottas took second for Mercedes after completing a fightback from ninth on the grid with a reverse strategy, blitzing past Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen as both Ferrari drivers suffered front-left tire failures in the final three laps.
Hamilton made a great start off the line to retain his lead ahead of Raikkonen early on as Vettel dropped behind Max Verstappen, the Ferrari man’s brakes having been smoking on the grid.
The race was put under the safety car on Lap 2 following a clash between Toro Rosso teammates Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. at Maggots and Becketts. After running wide at the high-speed right-hander, Kvyat came across into Sainz’s path and shunted him out of the race, receiving a drive-through penalty for his efforts.
Hamilton was quickly able to re-establish his lead upon the restart on Lap 5, easing clear of Raikkonen as Verstappen and Vettel duelled for third.
Vettel was pushed off-track through the final sector at one point as Verstappen boldly defended his place, leaving the Ferrari driver frustrated as he slipped over 15 seconds clear of title rival Hamilton. All the while, Valtteri Bottas was able to latch onto the back of the battle as he recovered from P9 on the grid to run fifth on the soft tire.
Vettel and Verstappen’s battle went to the pits when Ferrari looked to get its car ahead using the undercut. The team turned Vettel around quickly at the end of Lap 18, with Red Bull responding by bringing Verstappen in one lap later. An issue with one of the wheel nuts slowed Verstappen down, causing him to drop behind Vettel at pit exit and halt the battle that had raged between them.
Hamilton pitted at the end of Lap 25 from the lead, emerging just ahead of Bottas, who was taking his soft tires deep into the race before stopping. Hamilton was told not to hold Bottas up, only to immediately put the hammer down and pull clear out front once again.
Bottas was brought in by Mercedes at the end of Lap 32, taking a set of super-soft tires that would give him a pace advantage in the closing stages. The Finn emerged from the pits in fourth place, behind Vettel and ahead of Verstappen, and had 18 laps to try and capture a podium finish.
Bottas was able to quickly whittle away the gap to Vettel, who began to struggle with his tires entering the closing stages. After a side-by-side battle, Bottas was ultimately able to dispose of Vettel with seven laps to go, but soon turned his attention to Raikkonen in second.
Just as Bottas appeared to be running out of laps to catch up, Raikkonen suffered a front-left tire failure that forced him to limp back to the pits and drop back, handing Bottas second place.
Further drama hit Ferrari just one lap later when Vettel appeared to suffer a similar failure, albeit with further to make it home to the pits, causing him to fall all the way back to sixth place.
At the front, Hamilton had very little to do besides negotiate traffic and ensure he made no mistakes, looking after his tires and car through the closing stages.
With 51 laps in the book, Hamilton crossed the line to clinch his fifth Silverstone victory and end a two-race absence from the podium, moving to within one point of Vettel at the top of the standings.
Bottas took second place, 14 seconds behind Hamilton, while Raikkonen managed to complete the podium ahead of Max Verstappen.
The team owners, drivers and engineers believed the 17-turn, 3.067-mile race course that winds and twists its way through a gated private community (about 45 minutes southeast of Palm Springs) had no relevance to any track on the 17-race schedule.
To the leaders of IndyCar, however, there was plenty of relevance to hosting its “Spring Training” at a sort of motorsports country club that caters to extremely wealthy residents who also are automotive enthusiasts.
“Both with our stakeholders and the media that covers IndyCar, we wanted them to know that we are going to do things differently,” Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles told NBC Sports from the private VIP viewing area that overlooks the long straights and twisting turns of the course. “This is going to be a year when we expect our growth to go to a whole new level.
“What better way to send that message than to be at a place we have never been that is exceptional?
“The quality of this place; the facilities are off the charts. The customer service, the welcoming feeling you get from the staff here. The track itself is fast. The drivers are having a great time on it.
“It really sent a message to our other promoters and our drivers and team owners that something is up. We want fans around the country and the sports industry to know that something is going on with IndyCar this year.”
The Thermal Club is a concept driven by Tim Rogers, who made his fortune by supplying gasoline to 7-Eleven stores in 36 states. He wanted to create a private community that mixed multimillion-dollar homes and luxury villas with a high-speed race course.
The two-day IndyCar “Spring Training” was the most ambitious motorsports project yet for The Thermal Club.
Rogers wants it to be the first step in a long-term goal for the community.
“Our endgame is we want to host an IndyCar Series race at The Thermal Club one day,” Rogers told NBC Sports as IndyCar hit the track again Friday morning. “This was a good trial to see how the facility can handle it and if the facility works for them.”
The two-day test was closed to the general public. It was open only to credentialed news media, members of the Thermal Club and a limited number of their guests.
With the spectacular backdrop of the Coachella Valley that is rimmed with snow-capped mountains, The Thermal Club could provide a great setting for an NBC telecast of an IndyCar Series race (and possibly line up a big sponsor for a return on its investment with a larger than normal audience during a ripe time such as the first weekend of February).
“Tim and everybody at The Thermal Club have done a phenomenal job of being hosts here for this test,” Miles said. “Everybody is very happy we are here, and I expect we will find a way to continue to be here. Whether that means a race and when is really a bridge we aren’t ready to cross yet.
“We really like opening the championship season each year in St. Petersburg, Florida. We’ll have to see. But it’s a great way to start the season in this way, and right now, we are happy to be here.”
On track, it was a successful two-day test session with 27 car/driver combinations that will compete in IndyCar in 2023. It’s the largest field for IndyCar since the 1990s. There were a few spins here and there but no major incidents across 2,560 laps.
Kyle Kirkwood led the final session Friday while getting acquainted with his new No. 27 team at Andretti Autosport. Kirkwood has replaced Alexander Rossi at Andretti, whom Kirkwood drove for in Indy Lights.
His time of 1 minute, 38.827 seconds (111.721 mph) around the 3.067-mile road course was the fastest of the fourth and final session. But the fastest speed over two days was defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson of Chip Ganassi Racing in the Friday morning session (1:38.4228, 112.182 mph in the No. 8 Honda).
Callum Ilott of Juncos Hollinger Racing was second in the final session at 1:38.8404 (111.707 mph) in the No. 77 Chevrolet. Rookie Marcus Armstrong of New Zealand was third at 1:38.8049 (111.707 mph) in the No. 11 Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing. Alex Palou of Chip Ganassi Racing was fourth at 1:38.8718 (111.672 mph) in the No. 10. Defending NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske rounded out the top five at 1:38.9341 (111.602 mph) in the No. 12 Chevrolet.
Ericsson was the fastest in combined times followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Christian Lundgaard at 1:38.5682 in the No. 45 Honda, Kirkwood, Ilott and Armstrong. Positions 3-5 speeds were from the final practice session on Friday.
Drivers didn’t know what to expect before hitting the track. After the two-day test was over, NBC Sports asked several drivers what they learned from The Thermal Club.
“I think it’s a first-class facility, no doubt,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske said. “I think the entire facility here at Thermal really rolled out the red carpet for us. They did a tremendous job.
“It was a fairly flawless test, I would say, for two days. I think the great thing about this was we had a two-day test, which was fantastic. You got to have this warmup; this preseason build. That was the biggest positive for me, is that we were here, we were running cars. It was a great facility to do it at.
“I think the track was a lot more fun than we anticipated. It was challenging, definitely technical. I don’t know how relevant it is. For us, it wasn’t really relevant to anywhere we’re going, but that’s OK.”
But even though the track has no sector particularly similar to any road or street course on the schedule, there still were benefits.
“In a lot of ways, it is relevant,” Newgarden said. “For us it was relevant for building the team up, trying to work in a competitive environment, be competitive together. That’s everything. So regardless of is the setup going to apply to a certain track or another, (it) doesn’t really matter.
“For us, it was applying the principles of how we’re going to work together. From that standpoint, it was very productive for everybody. Raceability-wise, it’s hard to say. It was chewing tires up. Big drop-off from run one to two. I think from a race standpoint, that would be quite positive. You’d have big tire deg here.
“You’d have to do more work on runoff areas if we wanted to race here, but it’s possible. I don’t think it would take much effort to do the things to run an actual race.”
Kirkwood found speed in his Andretti Autosport machine, but he used the test to create a smooth working relationship with his new crew.
“I wouldn’t say that we found something here that is going to translate to anywhere, right?” the 2021 Indy Lights champion said. “This is a very unique track, although it was a lot of fun to drive, and it kind of surprised me in the amount of grip that it actually produced.
“It was quite a bit faster than what we expected.”
Many of the NTT IndyCar Series teams will test later this month at Sebring, Florida, as they prepare for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg to kick off the season March 5.
“It’s a very nice facility, a nice area, it’s pretty cool to have two days of testing here with a lot of high-profile people,” two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Will Power of Team Penske told NBC Sports. “It’s a very technical, tough track.
“It’s pretty good.”
The Thermal Club received rave reviews, welcomed IndyCar and provided exposure to the movers and shakers of the business community that own the luxury villas and homes in this ultra-rich community.
Could it be a venue of the future for a series that sells lifestyle as much as on-track competition?
“This is a fantastic facility and the circuit is a fast circuit,” team owner Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “It’s pretty exciting to watch the cars run around here. I think it would be attractive to people.
“I’ll leave that up to Mark Miles and (IndyCar President) Jay Frye and everybody else whether we have a race here, but why not?