In the craziest British Grand Prix seen in decades, Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed a record seventh home victory in the most bizarre fashion as his Silver Arrows car limped across the finish line first — but on three wheels.
The defending Drivers’ Champion looked set for a stroll at Silverstone as he got away cleanly from pole and led teammate Valtteri Bottas throughout.
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The drama unfolded in the final two laps. As a sign of things to come, disaster struck for Bottas as his front left tyre delaminated and shredded on lap 50 of 52, he struggled back to the pits with rubber and sparks flying off his car, but Max Verstappen of Red Bull and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc got through, and the Finn eventually finished down in 11th.
With Hamilton off in the distance, Verstappen pitted for fresh tyres in a — successful — bid for the fastest lap and a bonus point. Oh how he will wish he had stayed out as Hamilton’s tyre suddenly deflated on the final lap and the alarm bells started in the Mercedes’ pit lane.
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The German team will be grateful they have the coolest head in the game in the cockpit as Hamilton, with the gap to Verstappen tumbling from 40-plus seconds to less than 10, grappled with his battered machine masterfully, both ensuring the burst tyre did not fly off and damage the car while also keeping up enough momentum to hold off the looming Dutchman.
The Mercedes finally crossed the line with hearts in the mouth all over the Mercedes garage a comparatively minuscule six seconds ahead of Verstappen. Leclerc took third spot.
“Up until that last lap everything was relatively smooth sailing,” said a cool and calm Hamilton on the podium. “Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard, I was doing some management of the tyre. When I heard his (tyre) went I looked at mine and it seemed fine. The car was turning no problem.
“Then in the last few laps I started to back off and in the last lap it just deflated.
“That was a heart in the mouth moment. You could see it falling off the rim. From then I was just managing it and I was just praying to get round and not be too slow. I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners.
“I was really chilled for some reason at the end. The gap to Max was coming down quite quickly but the car seemed to turn OK. I got to turn 15 and that is where it was a struggle so I gave it full gas out of there down to 16.
“I have definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap and my heart definitely nearly stopped.”
The win took Hamilton to 87 career victories, and move within four of Michael Schumacher’s Formula One record.
He is also firmly in contention for a seventh Drivers’ Championship, leading second-placed Bottas by 30 points,
They say bad things come in threes and McLaren’s Carlos Sainz also suffered a late puncture, dropping him from fourth to 13th.
Silverstone will never see so much big action in two little laps any time soon.
There is another race at Silverstone next Sunday.
1 Lewis Hamilton GBR Mercedes 88
2 Valtteri Bottas FIN Mercedes 58
3 Max Verstappen NED Red Bull 52
4 Lando Norris GBR McLaren 36
5 Charles Leclerc MON Ferrari 33
6 Alexander Albon THA Red Bull 26
7 Sergio Perez MEX Racing Point 22
8 Lance Stroll CAN Racing Point 20
9 Daniel Ricciardo AUS Renault 20
10 Carlos Sainz ESP McLaren 15