Lewis Hamilton took a dominant victory yesterday in a hectic British Grand Prix to cut team-mate Nico Rosberg’s championship lead to four points.
Hamilton led every lap of a race that started under the safety car in wet conditions but dried, to take his fourth career win at Silverstone.
Rosberg in the other Mercedes was left to battle back to second past the Red Bull of the impressive Max Verstappen.
Rosberg had a late scare with a gearbox problem that could yet cost him second.
With five laps to go, Rosberg hit a problem which required him to reset systems in the car and then avoid seventh gear – shifting straight from sixth to eighth.
He hung on in second place but may yet lose it as the team are under investigation for the detail of the help they gave him over the radio, which may have transgressed limitations on the amount of help drivers can be given by teams.
Rosberg said: “It was a very critical problem because I was stuck in seventh gear and about to stop on track.” He said he was confident what he had been told was within the rules.
Hamilton’s win sent the 135,000 fans packed into the famous old track into paroxysms of joy as they cheered Hamilton’s progress to the flag on the last lap.
The world champion went over to celebrate with the fans at Club corner after parking his car up at the end of the race before soaking up their cheers on the podium.
It was an intoxicating race, with action throughout the field, featuring wheel-to-wheel racing and a number of spins and off-track moments as drivers struggled on the tricky track surface.
“I am so grateful,” said Hamilton. “We’ve got the best fans here, thank you so much. The good English weather came out. It was so tricky in those conditions. But that’s what I love about this race – something always happens.”
Hamilton drove impressively throughout on a track made treacherous by a heavy downpour about 15 minutes before the start.
The sun had come out before the race got under way, but the track was drenched and it was five laps before race director Charlie Whiting felt the conditions were safe enough to let the drivers off the leash.
This triggered a series of pit stops on successive laps as drivers swapped ‘extreme’ wet tyres for intermediates.
Hamilton pulled out three seconds on Rosberg in the first half-lap after the start as a bunch of midfield drivers pitted immediately and he, Rosberg and Verstappen then pitted after two laps.
The Dutchman closed on Rosberg, catching him by lap 15, and he passed him with a superb move around the outside of the daunting Becketts swerves on lap 16.
Verstappen held on to second despite making his pit stop for dry-weather ‘slick’ tyres a lap later than the Mercedes drivers, rejoining about five seconds ahead of Rosberg on lap 18.
Both Hamilton and Verstappen were among a series of drivers who fell prey to a wet patch on the entry to the fast Abbey corner but were able to continue without damage to their positions.
Rosberg inched closer and closer to Verstappen until he was on his tail by lap 30, with 22 still to go.
But it took the German another eight laps to get close enough on the exit of the Becketts swerves to close up on Hangar Straight and sweep past the Red Bull around the outside of the fast Stowe corner.
Verstappen may yet recover the place, depending on what the stewards decide.