Lewis Hamilton saluted his champion Mercedes team on Sunday, praising them for producing a ‘perfect weekend’ as he reeled off a fourth consecutive victory at the British Grand Prix and moved within a point of leading this year’s Championship.
The three-time World Champion dominated from pole position all the way to the chequered flag to equal fellow Briton Jim Clark and Frenchman Alain Prost as a five-time winner of the race.
It was the 57th win of his career and came as Mercedes delivered a one-two finish, teammate Valtteri Bottas following Hamilton home after starting ninth on the grid on the back of a five-place penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change.
“I was very, very fortunate,” said Hamilton. “Firstly, that the team did an exceptional job this weekend, but also the car and the crowd.”
“The car felt really great.
“I’m so proud of everyone at the factory. Valtteri did an exceptional job coming back from all that way down. It has been a perfect weekend for us as a team.”
Hamilton’s excellence after starting from pole enabled him to take full advantage of the misfortunes that hit his rival, Championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
Both Vettel and his Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen had punctures in the closing laps, Vettel’s costing him a possible podium spot and leaving him to finish seventh after a late pit stop.
The outcome is that Vettel now leads the championship with 177 points ahead of Hamilton on 176, with Bottas third on 154 after 10 of this year’s 20 races.
Both Hamilton and Bottas managed their tyres efficiently on the demanding circuit, but Ferrari, having opted for an aggressive and risky strategy, was caught out.
“I heard at the end that there were some tyre blowouts," said Hamilton. “I had some graining and some vibration on mine, so the last couple of laps I took it easy as I knew the others had trouble.
“I could have kept going, I felt like I could keep going. I think we had the legs this weekend."
Raikkonen was third for Ferrari, after the Italian team made a strategic gamble on its tyre strategy, ahead of Dutchman Max Verstappen and his Red Bull teammate, Australian Daniel Ricciardo, who had started 19th on the grid.
German Nico Hulkenberg finished sixth for Renault ahead of Vettel, Frenchman Esteban Ocon and his Force India teammate Mexican Sergio Perez, and Brazilian Felipe Massa, who came home 10th for Williams.
Bottas said: “I am really happy for this today. It was not easy, with so many cars to get through, but the team did a perfect strategy. I just kept my head down and we managed it.”
Raikkonen said he was disappointed with his and Ferrari’s late misfortunes, but Vettel said he did not blame the team.
“It’s just one of those things,” Vettel said. “And it is easy to blame people with hindsight.”
The race began under heavy grey skies on a humid summer’s afternoon in central England, with a confident Hamilton on pole for the 67th time in his career.
When the lights went out, Hamilton made a perfect getaway while Vettel behind him had flames leaping from his Ferrari’s brake drum, a distraction that did nothing to stop Verstappen passing him for third on the opening lap.
The two Toro Rosso cars clashed at Chapel where Spaniard Carlos Sainz spun off into retirement, having collided with Daniil Kvyat’s car. Sainz also made contact with Dane Kevin Magnussen’s Haas. After an investigation, the stewards gave Kvyat a drive-through penalty.
This accident brought out the Safety Car for four laps before racing resumed with Hamilton back in control ahead of Raikkonen and Verstappen while, from the back of the grid, Ricciardo climbed to 12th from 19th, with Alonso following, until the Australian ran off through a gravel trap at Woodcote.
Bottas, having started ninth after taking a penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, was up to fifth after seven laps with a set of clean passes that were in contrast to much of the rest of the action.
The two Saubers battled and bumped wheels and in a fight for third while Vettel and Verstappen were scrapping on and off the track, giving the packed crowd several thrilling moments.
Vettel, frustrated by his inability to pass the Dutchman, pitted after 19 laps and rejoined sixth, but enjoyed an ‘undercut’ when Verstappen pitted after 20 but came out behind the German. A speedier pit stop and out-lap did the trick for Ferrari.
This gave Bottas his chance to take third place ahead of Vettel and Verstappen, both having swept past Hulkenberg, to run behind Hamilton who led Raikkonen by six seconds.
By lap 24, Hamilton had a cushion of more than 10 seconds on Raikkonen, who pitted but knew Bottas was also a threat as the only top driver to have started on ‘softs’ rather than ‘super-softs’.
Hamilton rejoined in front of his teammate and the two ‘silver arrows’ led the field with Raikkonen third ahead of Vettel, the Ferraris waiting for Bottas to pit.
He finally came in at the end of lap 32 and rejoined fourth behind the Ferraris on fresh super-soft tyres.
Ricciardo, who had fought back with a searing sequence of passes, also pitted and rejoined 10th before the luckless Alonso retired his McLaren with yet another Honda engine failure.
With 10 laps remaining, Hamilton was clear by 12 seconds and Bottas, fourth, was closing on Vettel, intent on fighting for a podium finish.
The Finn tried to pass him on lap 42, when Vettel defended his position, but succeeded a lap later by surging past on Hangar Straight into Stowe. “Zero front,” said Vettel on team radio, talking of his tyres.
This encouraged the men behind him to close in for the final laps as Hamilton reeled off another fastest lap to prove his mastery.
But then with two laps remaining, Raikkonen suffered his left-front puncture and had to pit, gifting Bottas second place and Vettel, third before the final dramas, suffered the same fate and was forced to limp back for a costly pit stop.