When it comes to redemption, nobody does it better than Lewis Hamilton. And, in front of 120,000 screaming fans who demonstrated their support on every one of the 52 laps, he put himself right back into contention for the World Championship in the British Grand Prix here yesterday.
A year ago, amid all the sensationalist stories of Pirelli’s abused tyres, it was Hamilton who went home disappointed after a puncture on his Mercedes had handed team-mate Nico Rosberg the win. That hurt. But this time the gods favoured the local hero and punished Rosberg, who retired for the first time this year, the victim of gearbox failure. After his disaster in qualifying the previous day, Hamilton delivered. With interest.
The win wiped out much of the deficit that Rosberg’s consistent smoothness had opened up since Monaco, and leaves them only four points apart. in the title race.
“I couldn’t be happier guys,” Hamilton told his crew as he sang to himself on his slow-down lap, adding excitedly: “Sorry about yesterday!”
F1 British Grand Prix 2014 - In pictures
F1 British Grand Prix 2014 - In pictures
1/10 Rosberg leads from the front
Nico Rosberg leads the field away at the start, with Lewis Hamilton just off-shot to the right and Felipe Massa left lagging at the back
2/10 All over for the Flying Finn
Kimi Raikkonen's heavily damaged Ferrari spins back on to the Silverstone track after hitting Felipe Massa
3/10 Repairs delay the race for an hour
A shot of the barrier on the Wellington Straight that requires repairs
4/10 It's a fixer-upper
Kimi Raikkonen's heavily damaged Ferrari is taken back to the Silverstone paddock
5/10 Rosberg grinds to a halt
Nico Rosberg climbs out of his stricken Mercedes after a gearbox failure saw him stuck in fifth
6/10 Hamilton puts the hammer down
Mercedes-AMG's British driver Lewis Hamilton drives during the opening lap of the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone circuit in Silverstone
7/10 It's game on in the championship
Lewis Hamilton celebrates winning the 2014 British Grand Prix
8/10 Spray of champions
Lewis Hamilton celebrates victory as he sprays champagne in the air in at Silverstone
9/10 Victory tastes sweet
Hamilton's win closes the gap in the championship down to four points
10/10 Smile for the cameras
Mercedes-AMG's British driver Lewis Hamilton (2-R) celebrates on the podium along with Mercedes-AMG's German driver Nico Rosberg (L) and Red Bull Racing's Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo
He admitted later: “That was a really difficult day. You just never think situations like that are going to come out the way they did, and I went away feeling so bad for the fans because I felt like I’d let them down.”
He called his family around him on Saturday evening, specifically father Anthony and brother Nic. “I spent a lot of time talking things through with them, and said that I needed them here [on Sunday]. Generally, I do it on my own with my trainer, but I just thought that today it would be good to have them here. To be honest, yesterday felt like a kick in the balls. So coming back today trying to turn that emptiness into positivity was my priority.”
At the first attempt to run the race there was mayhem as the field streamed down the Wellington Straight. Kimi Raikkonen crashed his Ferrari very heavily after running wide, swiping Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham off the road and triggering the retirement of Felipe Massa, who collided with the red car after spinning in attempted avoidance.
The race was suspended for an hour as repairs were made to the damaged guardrails. Raikkonen was taken to the medical centre for a mandatory check-up, where he was found to be shaken and to have a badly bruised right ankle.
Hamilton had already leapt from sixth to fourth behind Rosberg and the McLarens of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, having collided briefly with Sebastian Vettel as they scrapped for position.
When the race restarted Hamilton was soon chasing Rosberg again. The German opened a 5.9-second gap as he battled past the McLarens, but then he went on the hunt. His engine problem on Friday had prevented him from making race simulation runs, but he found his Mercedes Hybrid behaving beautifully. Where Rosberg pitted for fresh tyres on the 17th lap, taking another set of medium-compound Pirelli tyres, Hamilton kept going until the 24th and switched to the harder rubber. He had been within 2.8sec when he pitted, but a delay with the left rear wheel opened the gap to 5.9sec again. But not for long. Soon he was catching Rosberg hand over fist. Then the championship leader began experiencing occasional gearbox trouble. They were only 1.9sec apart when Rosberg pulled off the track, his day done.
“At the beginning Nico got quite a good gap, but then I started catching him,” Hamilton said. “Then on the harder tyre I was catching him at a second a lap. I couldn’t believe I had that kind of pace. You never want to see a team-mate fall behind because we want a one-two for the team, but at the end of the day I really needed this result.”
Behind the silver cars, Valtterri Bottas also drove beautifully to salvage things for Williams after their disaster in qualifying, hauling up from 14th on the grid and passing the likes of Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel on pure pace to take the best result of a fast-burgeoning career.
Behind him, Ricciardo likewise exploited a single-stop race to score another podium for Red Bull, but the usually popular Australian was not the fans’ favourite as he just prevented single-stopping Button from completing their dream by taking the final podium place. The Briton was always a contender and drove his McLaren aggressively as his supporters flaunted their #pinkforpapa T-shirts in memory of his late father John.
But the day belonged to Hamilton. “This win isn’t as special as the one in 2008,” he revealed, “because in that one everyone was aquaplaning like mad and all the spectators were soaking wet. But today felt I earned it. I felt I had the pace of Nico and was hunting him down like never before.”
As he finally got to hold the gold trophy he had coveted since 2008, his sole complaint concerned the cheaper version he had been given, which came apart in his hands. “Don’t write anything bad about that,” he smirked as he realised he had dug himself a hole. “Too late!” he laughed. “That was off the record…”
Maybe so, but a majestic second win at his home track, on his great day of redemption, and a 27th grand prix triumph which ranks him equal with the great Jackie Stewart… That will stay on the record for ever.
FIA Formula 1 British Grand Prix, Silverstone, Northamptonshire
Final Positions after Race (52 Laps):
1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 2hrs 26mins 52.094secs,
2 Valtteri Bottas(Fin)Williams 2:27:22.229,
3 Daniel Ricciardo(Aus)Red Bull 2:27:38.589,
4 Jenson Button(Gbr)McLaren 2:27:39.484,
5 Sebastian Vettel(Ger)Red Bull 2:27:45.958,
6 Fernando Alonso(Spa)Ferrari 2:27:52.040,
7 Kevin Magnussen(Den)McLaren 2:27:54.657,
8 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger)Force India 2:28:20.786,
9 Daniil Kvyat(Rus)Scuderia Toro Rosso 2:28:21.434,
10 Jean-Eric Vergne(Fra)Scuderia Toro Rosso at 1 Lap,
11 Sergio Perez(Mex)Force India at 1 Lap,
12 Romain Grosjean(Fra)Lotus F1 Team at 1 Lap,
13 Adrian Sutil(Ger)Sauber-Ferrari at 1 Lap,
14 Jules Bianchi(Fra)Marussia at 1 Lap,
15 Kamui Kobayashi(Jpn)Caterham at 2 Laps,
16 Max Chilton(Gbr)Marussia at 2 Laps,
17 Pastor Maldonado(Ven) Lotus F1 Team at 3 Laps
18 Nico Rosberg (Ger)Mercedes GP 28 Laps completed,
19 Marcus Ericsson(Swe)Caterham 11 Laps completed,
20 Esteban Gutierrez(Mex)Sauber-Ferrari 9 Laps completed,
21 Felipe Massa(Bra)Williams 0 Laps completed ,
22 Kimi Raikkonen(Fin)Ferrari 0 Laps completed