Lewis Hamilton stormed to his fourth win in five races and cut Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg’s lead in the world championship to just one point on Sunday when he triumphed in a rain-hit and emotional British Grand Prix.
In front of a crowd of more than 130,000 fans packed into Silverstone, the 31-year-old Englishman delivered on cue as the huge crowd roared him home. It was his third successive British victory, his fourth overall and the 47th of his career.
After the controversy that followed their collision on the final lap of the Austrian Grand Prix seven days earlier at Spielberg, Hamilton and Rosberg were never close enough to shake hands, let alone crash or test the team’s new ‘rules of engagement’ as the Briton surged to victory.
Rosberg, slowed by gearbox problems in the last part of the race, came home second, but was relegated to third with a 10-seconds penalty administered by the stewards – three hours after the race – for receiving illegal instructions during a radio dialogue with the team as he requested help in solving his technical troubles with the car.
This meant that record-breaking Dutch teenager Max Verstappen was promoted from third to second in his Red Bull on a day when he, too, was engulfed in acclaim by the crowds as heavy rain was replaced by English summer sunshine.
The in-form Hamilton celebrated with a unique ‘crowd surfing’ demonstration of joy after the race. The defending three-time champion, who cavorted and waved in triumphant ecstasy, ran across the circuit and then jumped into the crowd. Lifted high, he was passed back to ground level to join the podium ceremonies.
Starting from pole position, Hamilton simply dominated a race that started behind a Safety Car in wet conditions, but ended with him cruising home in sunshine on a well-preserved set of slick tyres.
Rosberg survived his late scare when he reported gearbox problems to finish second and Dutch teenager Max Verstappen finished third ahead of his Red Bull team-mate Australian Daniel Ricciardo with Finn Kimi Raikkonen taking fifth place for Ferrari ahead of Mexican Sergio Perez and his Force India team-mate German Nico Hulkenberg.
Spaniard Carlos Sainz was eighth for Toro Rosso and four-time champion German Sebastian Vettel of Ferrari ninth after a troubled outing including spins and time penalties ahead of Russian Daniil Kvyat in the second Toro Rosso.
Hamilton’s win made him the first driver to complete a hat-trick of British wins at Silverstone.
"I don't know if you can be as happy as me,” he said from the victors’ podium. “But I'm really happy! I'm glad that the good English weather came out.
“It was so tricky in those conditions when we started the race. I was the first one who had to attack it. It’s never plain, smooth sailing – and that's why the British GP is the best."
Rosberg, who was booed briefly by the crowd in a reversal of events in Spielberg following the previous Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix where the Mercedes men crashed on the final lap, said he was confident his radio instructions were within the rules.
“It was a very critical problem,” said Rosberg, explaining that it was a safety matter. “I was stuck in seventh gear and about to stop on track….”
"It was a tricky start,” he added. “Max (Verstappen) got ahead of me and then it was an exciting race. l got past him, which I was happy about, but I couldn't catch Lewis. He did a great job today."
Verstappen, who had duelled with Rosberg for second, said: “It was amazing. The race was very exciting and very tricky in the beginning. I think I stopped one lap too late. Unfortunately, Nico got past me, but I still had good pace... The crowd were amazing – cheering on a non-British driver. I think I might change my passport!”
As the Dutch teenager celebrated, Aussie race Ricciardo was underwhelmed with his fourth place finish. “I think for the team and for the points it was really good,” he said. “Obviously we gained a bit on Ferrari which is nice, but for me it was lonely and a bit boring. We lost a lot of time with a Virtual Safety Car and that was just bad luck. This was out of our hands and there’s nothing we could have done…
"I was ready for a battle and some action today, but unfortunately it wasn’t given to me. It is what it is now and hopefully Budapest works better.”