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REPORT: Hamilton makes history, ends drought at slippery Silverstone

Matt Clayton
Monday, 8 July 2024

It rained, it didn’t, it rained some more, it stopped … and when the puddles settled, Lewis Hamilton made it two wins in seven days for Mercedes – and set an all-time F1 record in the process.

The English summer is confusing at the best of times, and the weather at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix provided further fuel to anyone having a cheap laugh at the expense of the locals. But there was no local laughing more – once he’d stopped shedding tears of joy – than Lewis Hamilton, after the Mercedes driver snapped a long drought he feared would never end with victory in an unforgettable round 12 of the F1 season. 

It was 52 laps that started in the dry, rained a bit, then dried up, then rained a lot, then dried up – to a point. The conditions and the old-school circuit combined to produce a set of ingredients that cooked up a cracking race, and one that made history.


George Russell took his second pole of the year, and the Mercedes man felt he could have won but for a water pressure leak that forced him out on lap 33. Oscar Piastri could have won for McLaren, and teammate Lando Norris arguably should have. 

Championship leader Max Verstappen and Red Bull Racing were on their back foot all weekend, but pit stop slickness and Verstappen’s dogged persistence saw them in the mix. But Hamilton – with a chance to snap a 56-race skid that stretched back to the 2021 Saudi Arabian Grand Prix – wasn’t about to relinquish a rare chance. 

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With 14 laps left and after the final pit stops, Hamilton and Norris ran 1-2 on soft tyres, Verstappen was third on hards, and Piastri was fourth and flying on mediums, which looked to be the ideal rubber to be on. But it was Verstappen who looked most likely to send the Silverstone crowd home sad, getting past Norris with five laps left and tearing off after Hamilton. After 52 laps, Hamilton had 1.4secs in hand. It was that close. 

As the sun (of course) bathed the circuit in the aftermath, Hamilton celebrated another feat to add to his storied CV – for the first time, one driver had won a Grand Prix nine times. That it came at his home GP as his 11th straight Silverstone podium – and on his final outing for Mercedes at home before his shift to Ferrari next year – felt appropriate. 

It’s no substitute for not being in the title fight – by beating Norris, Verstappen increased his championship lead to a season-high 84 points with half of the calendar remaining – but for Hamilton, for one afternoon, it was a pretty decent alternative.


Aussie watch

Oscar Piastri finished fourth at the British GP for a second straight year on Sunday; while 2023 was a tale of his maiden F1 podium going begging through a safety car strategy call that left him disadvantaged, this year was a story of a win possibly being squandered.

Norris and Piastri ran 1-2 as the rain intensified around half-distance, but McLaren elected to leave Piastri out for an extra lap on slicks so as to not double-stack their cars, a call that at the very least cost the Australian a podium, such was his pace.

In the end, Piastri finished 12.429secs behind Hamilton, but did move into the top five in the standings after another anonymous outing for Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, who qualified 19th, started from pit lane, and finished 17th. 

Back at the site of his Grand Prix debut way back in 2011, Daniel Ricciardo didn’t have a lot to smile about at Silverstone after finishing 13th. The RB driver was frustrated with a less than optimal qualifying run plan on Saturday as he qualified 15th, and was trapped in the midfield tyre guessing game for much of the 52 laps, not spending a single one of them inside the top-10 points-paying positions.

In FIA Formula 3® action at Silverstone, Australia’s Tommy Smith scored his first points in the category with a brilliant fourth place in a wild 22-lap feature race on Sunday, which was held in ever-changing weather and was interrupted by three safety car periods. 

Smith, driving for Van Amersfoort Racing, qualified 26th, but rolled the dice with a decision to pit for dry-weather tyres before the lights went out, surging to sixth in the first five laps before the heavens opened again, the 22-year-old tumbling back to 23rd after 12 laps. 

As the track dried after the final safety car ended with seven laps to go, Smith – and several other drivers on dry rubber, sprang back towards the front again, the Australian moving to fourth with four laps left and staying there for his first 12 points in the category in one fell swoop. The haul saw him jump from 25th in the standings to 19th, while his 18-lap Saturday sprint ended in 21st.

After a three-event run of podiums in Monaco, Barcelona and Austria, Christian Mansell went pointless at Silvestone after a weekend of strong pace, but little luck. The ART Grand Prix driver qualified seventh, and finished fifth on the road in the sprint before a penalty for track limits infringements dropped him outside the points in 11th. 

In Sunday’s feature, Mansell ran inside the top 10 but always seemed to be on the wrong tyre at the wrong time as conditions changed, finishing 13th and dropping two spots to seventh in the standings. 

James Wharton was also in the thick of the F3 action at Silverstone, the Melbourne 17-year-old deputising for the suspended Martinius Stenshorne at Hitech Pulse-Eight. 

Wharton, who is competing in the Formula Regional European Championship by Alpine (FRECA) series this season, qualified 27th and was eye-catching in the 18-lap sprint, crossing the line in 13th before being penalised 10 seconds for causing a collision – with compatriot Smith – and being classified 18th. 

In the rain-lottery feature race, Wharton also ran inside the top 10 before slipping backwards as the track dried in the closing stages, finishing 20th.


Unsung hero

Nico Hulkenberg occupies this spot for the second time in seven days, the Haas driver single-handedly dragging his team into unchartered (for recent seasons) territory in the constructors’ standings with a second-straight sixth-place finish. 

There was nothing remotely fluky about Hulkenberg’s pace, either; in all conditions and at all times, the German took on and beat opponents with better machinery and bigger budgets. He was the fastest Ferrari-powered driver in qualifying – ahead of Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc in sixth – and finished in the same spot to bring Haas to within four points of RB for sixth in the constructors’ race. 


Number to know

56: In years, the gap between the previous all-British top three in qualifying (Jim Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie Stewart at the 1968 South African Grand Prix) and Saturday’s Russell-Hamilton-Norris qualifying result at Silverstone.

British Grand Prix: top 10

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr 22mins 27.059secs
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) +1.465secs 
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) +7.547secs
4. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +12.429secs
5. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +47.318secs
6. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas) +55.722secs
7. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +56.569secs
8. Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +63.577secs
9. Alexander Albon (Williams) +68.387secs
10. Yuki Tsunoda (RB) +79.303secs


Standings (top 5)

Drivers' championship

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull Racing) 255 points
2. Lando Norris (McLaren) 171 
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) 150 
4. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 146 
5. Oscar Piastri (McLaren) 124 


Constructors' championship

1. Red Bull Racing (373 points)
2. Ferrari (302)
3. McLaren (295)
4. Mercedes (221)
5. Aston Martin (68)


Next race

Round 13: Hungary, Hungaroring (July 19-21)