Formula 1

Classic British Grand Prix: 2008

3 Mins read

Almost without doubt much of the build-up to the British Grand Prix – indeed it has already begun – will be about the two British drivers likely to be among the contenders for the win.

But none too long ago British F1 were rather starved of successful flag carriers. Yes there was David Coulthard and Jenson Button mk1 (before Brawn), but neither were adept at setting the world on fire and grabbing the sort of headlines that bring a sport to the fore.

Step forward Lewis Hamilton and a wet-wetter-wettest day to years ago at Silverstone.

His 2008 win was the McLaren driver's first F1 win on British tarmac, but it wasn't his first ever F1 win. It was, however, that, in my opinion at least, announced Hamilton's real entrance onto the world's stage.

The race was one of a number of wet-dry races that made the 2008 a season an often bizarre, always unpredictable roller-coaster. The day (July 6) was one of those that we, as motorsport fans, secretly love but are too ashamed to admit in civilised company – nightmarish for those attempting a boating holiday in the Norfolk Broads, wonderful for those indoors in front of a TV.

Since Hamilton had appeared in F1 his followers had christened him the new Regenmeister (before the previous one made his comeback), and at Silverstone he lived up to that billing. It was a day when Hamilton the driver won and even his harshest critics had to admit the quality of the man.

Hamilton wasted little time in moving to the front, challenging his pole sitting teammate into Copse after starting fourth, and the rest of the field wasted little time in making the conditions look even more treacherous than they doubtless were.

Mark Webber was the first to find himself pointing the wrong way around the Northamptonshire track, lopping his Red Bull on the entrance to the Hanger Straight, sinking from a front row start to the back of the field. Further round the lap Felipe Massa started what must be one of the longest days of his racing career spinning and having to face the field coming towards just where the track dropped down towards Bridge corner – a drop the F1 cars will not be taking this year.

Massa and Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen were to spend most of the day struggling in one way or another each visiting the run-off areas several times, almost to comic levels (much to the disturbance of the wildlife that called the Chapel, Maggotts and Becketts infield home).

Hamilton took the lead from Kovalainen after only four laps and easily pulled away from the Finn, and would never look back. While others were losing their heads, and grip, Hamilton continued almost unaffected by the weather, as he went on to win by nearly seventy seconds from Nick Heidfeld.

Rubens Barrichello finished third, a very rare podium in the dark wilderness of Honda's final years in F1. The Brazilian had changed onto the extreme wet weather tyres at exactly the right time and had gained time, and positions, in chunks – new rubber suddenly allowing him to join Hamilton in the select group who could cope with the worst the English summer could throw at them.

As if eager to create a photogenic ending to a great race the weather decided to behave (see, nightmarish if you happen to be on the Broads), though the late change of heart halted Barrichello's extreme wet shod assault. Hamilton emerged jumping around on the podium like an excited schoolchild. It was as if after an hour and 40 minutes of controlled, precise driving all the youth and exuberance had been unleashed at once.

Post-race (and post jump about) Hamilton was unusually glowing in his self-assessment. “The best victory I've ever had” he deemed it, in “one of the toughest races I've ever done”.

The Championship points after Silverstone – which like this year marked the halfway point of the season put Hamilton and the Ferrari boys on level pegging with 48 points, with Robert Kubica two points behind after retiring. The Pole was one of five drivers to have left the race after spinning alone on the standing water.

One of the others to suffer that fate?

Jenson Button, his reign as world champion and seat alongside the man who won that day a very long way away.

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About author
James is our Diet-Coke fuelled writer and has been with TCF pretty much since day 1, he can be found frequenting twitter at @_JBroomhead
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