Sebastian Vettel extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Lewis Hamilton to eight points with victory in a pulsating British Grand Prix that threw up drama from start to finish.
Hamilton, who had to make his way up from last at the end of lap one, finished 2.2 seconds shy of Vettel, with Kimi Räikkönen ensuring a double podium finish for Scuderia Ferrari. Valtteri Bottas had led the race with just four laps to go, before excessive tyre wear saw him drop behind Räikkönen and having to fend off Daniel Ricciardo to keep fourth.
Hamilton suffered a slow start, losing places to Vettel and Bottas before Turn 1. His problems were compounded and worsened by contact with Raikkonen at Turn 3 as the Finn tried to pass him on the inside, with a locked front right wheel, the Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport car spinning onto the tarmac run-off area, causing confusion behind, rejoining in nineteenth and last position.
As Vettel tried to stretch his lead at the front, Hamilton’s recovery drive started with complaints about potential floor damage – a doubt that was denied by his engineer Pete Bonnington. Despite his worries about damage and the condition of his soft tyres, Hamilton had made his way into the top ten by lap six and found himself hunting down Ricciardo’s fifth place just four laps after that.
Räikkönen earned a ten-second time penalty for his first lap misdemeanour, one that he served at his first pitstop on lap 14. Beforehand, the Finn had been embroiled in a vocal battle with his engineer as they tried to compose the ideal strategy under the less-than-ideal circumstances. The lengthy delay saw him return in eleventh place, behind Kevin Magnussen, and embark on a recovery of his own.
Max Verstappen, who had assumed third by the time of his stop on lap 18, also opted for the medium compound and rejoined in fifth – behind his Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team-mate Ricciardo. That order didn’t stay for long, one lap later Ricciardo made his first stop.
Vettel, Bottas and Hamilton all made their diversions into the pits in the following five laps, all for the mediums tyres. What followed was a succession of fastest laps by Hamilton as the race looked to swing back towards Mercedes. Bottas started to reel in Vettel as the German started to preserve his tyres at the start of his stint.
The complexion of the race changed when Marcus Ericsson suffered a terrifying crash at Abbey on lap 33, hitting the wall hard. The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team driver had the DRS open at the time and, with Charles Leclerc stopping with a loose right rear wheel after his stop on lap 19, marked the team’s first double retirement since the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. As the Swede clambered out of his car, the Safety Car made its first appearance of the race for six laps.
Vettel, Verstappen and Räikkönen all used the delay to make a stop for fresh soft tyres, whilst Bottas and Hamilton – who had no fresh sets of softs left – stayed out, taking first and third respectively. Just as he did a week ago in Austria, Hamilton questioned the decision and was reassured that he was the fastest man on track prior to the Safety Car’s deployment.
As racing resumed, Verstappen held off a fired up Räikkönen with Bottas using all of the rear grip he had in reserve to keep ahead of Vettel at the front. However, an big incident between Carlos Sainz Jr. and Romain Grosjean at Copse saw the reemergence of Bernd Mayländer for an extra five laps.
The race was concluded by a frantic final eleven laps. Bottas had to hold off Vettel’s dives at Brooklands, using his waning tyre life, as Räikkönen finally found a way past the stoic Verstappen with a bold move at Stowe. With the Ferrari motoring in pursuit of Hamilton, Vettel tried again at Brooklands and Luffield but Bottas managed to coax his car into all the right places for another lap.
Hamilton had also started to catch the Vettel-Bottas battle by the time the German forced his way past at Brooklands, his favourite spot to attack, Bottas running wide and losing more time before moving aside to let Hamilton through for the benefit of his championship chances.
Vettel set a fastest lap to virtually secure his second win in succession, whilst Verstappen’s weekend ended with gearbox failure and a resulting spin at Vale. Vettel held on to take his first British Grand Prix win in nine years, his 51st victory in Formula 1 – drawing level with Alain Prost, boosting both his and Ferrari’s championship leads. Hamilton ended a stellar drive in second, one second ahead of Räikkönen. Unfortunately, the Finn was subjected to boos when collecting his trophy on the podium.
Nico Hülkenberg collected a well-earned sixth place for the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team ahead of Esteban Ocon and the impressive Fernando Alonso, who turned his thirteenth place in qualifying into a second eighth place in as many races for a McLaren F1 Team in major transition.
Magnussen rescued points for the Haas F1 Team in a largely disappointing Sunday for the team after the success of Austria and Pierre Gasly kept the tenth place he snatched off of Sergio Pérez with force after a stewards’ investigation for Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda.
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