Hamilton wins controversial F1 British Grand Prix
By Mat Coch
Monday 19th July, 2021 - 2:28am
Lewis Hamilton has survived an opening lap clash and a mid-race penalty before charging his way to victory in the Formula 1 British Grand Prix.
The Englishman headed Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas at the end of a 52-lap race packed with drama, action, and controversy.
Max Verstappen failed to see the flag, the Dutchman eliminated in an opening lap incident with Hamilton at near terminal velocity.
It was a critical moment of both the race and the championship fight as the the Dutch driver left Silverstone with his points advantage slashed.
Verstappen and Hamilton went wheel-to-wheel through Abbey off the start, the Red Bull driver holding onto the lead but forced to defend hard down the Wellington Straight.
Somehow the Dutchman hung on though their battle continued until they ultimately made contact at Copse.
On the outside, Verstappen was fired off the road, his right-rear wheel torn from the Red Bull as he catapulted into the tyre barrier at high speed.
Hamilton was able to continue, though both he and Valtteri Bottas had slipped behind Charles Leclerc.
The Ferrari driver had passed Bottas at Village before taking the lead as he exited Copse while the Mercedes driver recovered.
With Verstappen’s heavily damaged Red Bull in the fence, the Safety Car was quickly deployed before transforming into a red flag soon after.
After a nearly 40-minute stoppage, the race got underway once more with a standing restart, making Leclerc effectively the third pole sitter of the weekend.
The Ferrari driver headed the field into Abbey over Hamilton with Norris slotting into third ahead of Bottas.
Ricciardo then mounted a challenge on the second Mercedes, though the Finn was able to hold on to fourth place.
In the pack, Sebastian Vettel lost the rear end of his Aston Martin, slewing out of seventh as he exited Luffield on the first lap following the restart.
As the field completed that lap, officials handed down a 10-second penalty to Hamilton for his part in the incident with Verstappen.
By the time DRS was enabled, Leclerc had already moved out of range at the front, 1.4s clear of Hamilton with Norris 2.9s away from the lead.
The early laps saw Perez make strong progress after starting from the pit lane, a result of Red Bull opting to change the rear wing on his car following Sprint Qualifying.
He quickly climbed up to the fringes of the top 10, his progress stalling when he caught up to the battle between Pierre Gasly and Kimi Raikkonen for the last championship point.
On Lap 15, Leclerc’s advantage melted away as he reported his engine cutting out.
Despite being given a different engine mode, Hamilton continued to close and soon found himself in DRS range.
After 18 laps, a host of runners further down the order headed to the lane, Raikkonen and Perez among them.
With Ferrari having seemingly resolved Leclerc’s engine cut issues, the Monegasque began to edge away from Hamilton once more.
The Mercedes driver was suffering blisters on both front tyres, the Englishman having bolted on his sole remaining new set of medium rubber during the red flag.
Shortly after their stops, Perez made the move to pass Raikkonen to steal away what was 13th on the road.
At McLaren, Ricciardo pitted after 20 laps, the Australian rejoining in ninth place, the first of the runners to have taken a racing pitstop.
He had a set of hard compound tyres fitted, and was dropped out into clear track.
Next lap, it was Norris’ turn – a six second stop the result because of a sticking right-rear wheel.
Responding to McLaren’s dramas, Mercedes pulled Bottas into the lane on Lap 22 and turned the Finn around in 2.2 seconds.
He rejoined narrowly ahead of Norris, and in the wheel tracks of Alonso, quickly passing the Alpine down the Wellington Straight.
Leclerc’s concerns were not over, his engine continuing the cut out periodically though he maintained a handy lead over Hamilton.
The seven-time champion stopped at the end of Lap 27, serving his 10s penalty before the team serviced the W12.
He emerged in fifth place behind Norris by some four seconds with a set of hard compound tyres mounted.
Carlos Sainz had stopped from second, a position owing much to the pit sequence, but a stubborn left-front saw him stationary for more than a dozen seconds.
Moments later, race leader Leclerc was in, turned around in 2.6s to maintain the race lead.
On Lap 31, Hamilton moved beyond Norris into Copse, the McLaren driver offering no defence as he found himself demoted to fourth.
A spot further back, Ricciardo found himself in battle with a recovering Sainz, the pair would be locked together for the balance of the race.
Hamilton’s chances of victory reached a crucial juncture on Lap 39 as the Brit caught Bottas.
He found himself some 1.8s in arrears of his team-mate as they started the lap, the team instructing the Finn not to hold up Hamilton before telling him to allow him through at Stowe soon after.
As Hamilton started Lap 41, he was second, 8.7s down on Leclerc but a second faster than the Ferrari ahead with 11 laps to run.
The provisional pole sitter was flying, the fastest man on the track as he reeled in the leader at more than a second a lap.
On Lap 42 he recorded a 1:30.160s, and was only marginally slower on the following lap, with Leclerc responding with a personal best of 1:30.917s.
Hamilton then recorded a 1:29.801s on Lap 44, his rival now just 4.8s away out front.
Next time through the lead had reduced to 3.9s with seven laps remaining.
A spin for Raikkonen at Club on Lap 47 saw the world champion rejoin just in front of Leclerc, whose advantage had reduced to just 2.2s.
The Alfa Romeo driver quickly moved aside and allowed the leaders through to continue their private battle.
By the end of Lap 49, the lead had dwindled to under a second, Hamilton moving into DRS range as they worked their way through a train of backmarkers.
With three laps remaining, the leaders were locked together, the Mercedes driver boldly looking to repeat the move he put on Verstappen on Lap 1 at Copse.
This time, he avoided contact only for Leclerc to run wide as Hamilton scythed through to take the lead.
Hamilton had backed out of the move but did enough to distract the Ferrari man who had a mid-corner wobble to open the door for a remarkable recovery.
He duly delivered victory, his first since May’s Spanish Grand Prix, and his eighth success at his home race.
Leclerc claimed his first podium of the season from Bottas in third, with Norris and Ricciardo in fourth and fifth respectively.
Sainz finished sixth from Alonso, Stroll, Ocon, and Yuki Tsunoda rounding out the top 10.
A late stop for soft compound tyres saw Perez finish outside the points, though he set fastest lap and thereby denied the bonus point to Hamilton.
With Verstappen failing to see the flag his championship advantage has fallen to just eight points.
In the constructors’ championship, only four points now separates Red Bull from Mercedes after 10 rounds of the 2021 world championship.
Formula 1 next heads to Hungary (July 30 to August 1), the last round before the summer break.
Results: Formula 1 British Grand Prix
|1||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||52 laps|
|8||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||+74.289s|
|10||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+82.065s|
|11||10||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlphaTauri||+85.327s|
|12||63||George Russell||Williams||+1 lap|
|13||99||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|14||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||+1 lap|
|15||7||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo||+1 lap|
|16||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing||+1 lap|
|17||9||Nikita Mazepin||Haas||+1 lap|
|18||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas||+1 lap|
|19||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||DNF|
|20||33||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing||DNF|
|1||Red Bull Racing||289|