A rollercoaster of a British Grand Prix ended in glory for Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who was handed victory when his teammate Nico Rosberg retired half way through with a gearbox failure. The German’s first retirement of the season cost him dear, as his championship lead over Hamilton now stands at a slim four points.
Valtteri Bottas completed a stunning comeback from way down the grid to take second ahead of Daniel Ricciardo but Jenson Button was unable to build on his impressive qualifying in the wet and dropped one place to fourth. Behind him, Sebastien Vettel won a pulsating duel with Fernando Alonso which raged for much of the second half of the race.
The race was delayed for almost an hour after Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen suffered a sickening first lap crash. The Finn, who failed to make it out of Q1 in Saturday’s qualifying session, ran wide on turn four but lost control as he re-joined, ricocheting off crash barriers on both sides of the track and wiping out the Williams of Felipe Massa on the way. He was taken to the medical centre but thankfully escaped the collision with only minor ankle injuries.
With the track cleared, Hamilton, who had already gained two places before the red flag, soon found himself on the tail of Button who he passed after a short battle and began to hunt down Rosberg.
The German’s lead was reduced to 2.8 seconds by the time he pitted for fresh tyres on lap 18. Hamilton continued for six more laps and it was during this faze that Rosberg’s gearbox gremlins surfaced and started to compromise his race pace. It was not until lap 30 when the up-shift problems that had already been costing him vital seconds morphed into full-blown transmission failure. Unable to reset the gearbox, Rosberg’s afternoon was over.
With Hamilton in total control, attention turned to the action unfolding further down the pack. Bottas consolidated second after his remarkable 14 place romp up the field. A pair of particularly effortless passes on Alonso and Button was testament to the tremendous race pace the Williams continues to enjoy.
Ricciardo’s one stop strategy initially worked wonders, elevating him five places from his grid spot. However, worn tyres nearly cost him a podium place at the death as Button closed to within one second before the chequered flag came to the Aussie’s rescue.
The closing stages of the race were lit up by a classic head-to-head battle of epic proportions between Vettel and Alonso. The Spaniard had expertly negotiated his way through the field after a poor qualifying performance. However, an uncharacteristic error undid some of that good work as he was slapped with a five second stop-go penalty for overshooting his grid box at the start. For his part, world champion Vettel suffered a sluggish getaway from the grid but gradually fought back from the restart. He emerged from the second of his two pit stops just ahead of Alonso but was passed brilliantly on his out-lap by the Spaniard, executing a high-speed, high-risk overtake on the outside of Copse.
However, Alonso was subsequently force in to a number of breath-taking defensive manoeuvres to hold of the charging Red Bull, much quicker on its fresher tyres and with DRS enabled. After a string of skirmishes, the duel was finally settled on lap 48 after a heart-pounding wheel-to-wheel scrap through Woodcote, where Vettel captured the inside line and forced Alonso in to yielding first at Copse.
One of the most thrilling passages of racing so far this season capped a true epic at Silverstone. The 90,000 strong British crowd certainly got their fair share of entertainment and even saw the first home driver on top of the podium here since 2008. For Lewis Hamilton, his title bid is well and truly back on the road.
Final Results – British Grand Prix
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
2 Valtteri Bottas Williams
3 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull
4 Jenson Button McLaren
5 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull
6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari
7 Kevin Magnussen McLaren
8 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
9 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso
10 Jean-Eric Vergne Toro Rosso
11 Sergio Perez Force India
12 Romain Grosjean Lotus
13 Adrian Sutil Sauber
14 Jules Bianchi Marussia
15 Kamui Kobayashi Caterham
16 Max Chilton Marussia
17 Pastor Maldonado Lotus DNF
18 Nico Rosberg Mercedes DNF
19 Marcus Ericsson Caterham DNF
20 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber DNF
21 Felipe Massa Williams DNF
22 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari DNF