Lewis Hamilton wins British Grand Prix: ‘Underdog’ has his day as luck for once smiles on Hamilton

The start finish straight was swamped in Union Jack flags as the British fans celebrated a first home victory at Silverstone since Hamilton's 2008 triumph

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The flight path between London and Silverstone hummed all morning with helicopter traffic tracing the A413 from the capital. Below on the approach to the circuit cars were parked on grass verges, some enterprising folks taking lunch on the roof of the vehicle, proving a devotion to their sport the equal of anything demonstrated at the Tour de Yorkshire.

From above and below then, high fliers and foot soldiers joined in their love of one of the great days in the British sporting calendar. And at the heart of the pageant a racing driver up against it in the British fashion, cast by circumstances of his own making as the underdog for the day.

As is the way of it with super heroes sometimes, Hamilton polarises opinion. If there is to be a shift in perceptions towards absolute adoration it will be triggered by days like this, when fate gives him a leg up and the start finish straight at the British Grand Prix is awash with Union flags celebrating a first home victory since Hamilton last delivered here six years ago. 

There was much speculation beforehand about Hamilton’s state of mind after the misread in qualifying that allowed his team-mate and championship leader Nico Rosberg to romp to pole position. Sir Jackie Stewart identified what he saw as a need for greater composure and self control.


Hamilton was initially fraught when he realised the scale of his error and subsequently indignant when probed about the reasons why he failed to do as Rosberg did and give it a go on a drying track. All of which fed into Stewart’s analysis about Hamilton’s suspect decision-making under the intense pressure he heaps upon himself. 

The commentary provided by former Jordan and Jaguar designer Gary Anderson, observing practice from the air on Friday when Hamilton was a massive two tenths quicker than Rosberg, was equally revealing, but in a more positive way. Anderson sourced Hamilton’s principal time gains to his performance through the corners, where his entry was far smoother than Rosberg’s.

This technical understanding fed into the qualifying with Hamilton on provisional pole before aborting his final flying lap. Whether Hamilton likes it or not, the final outcome, coming as it did after similar errors in Austria and Canada, where he could not convert speed advantage in qualifying, lent weight, too, to Stewart’s view. It is hard to argue that Hamilton is mentally frail, but acceptable perhaps to advance the idea that he takes setbacks too personally.

Stewart identifies the point in his own career when he learned how to extract the most from himself in the cockpit. It came with the enforced slowing of the heart rate, a deliberate attempt to take emotion out of racing, to relax the grip in the steering wheel and let his talent come to the fore unencumbered by mental eruptions.

This process finds an echo in the legendary tennis careers of Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer, both of whom moved on from the molten responses of their teenage years to a neutral reaction when factors outside their control impinge on events.

One thing Hamilton has been short of this year is luck. The first-lap crash that claimed Kimi Raikkonen was the kind of random intervention that can shuffle the pack but in this case did not make the material difference it might since he was already up to fourth when the Ferrari pierced the barrier. The McLaren’s of Kevin Magnusson and Jenson Button were swept aside within a lap of the safety car’s retreat and the pursuit of Rosberg at the front was properly joined.

Kimi Raikkonen's heavily damaged Ferrari spins back on to the Silverstone track after hitting Felipe Massa

Be nifty Lewis, for Silverstone 50, was one of many salutations pinned to the grandstands and calling out to the man carrying the hopes of 120,000. The poetic content was dubious but not the poetic justice ultimately enjoyed by the man of the moment, who would benefit shortly before halfway when fate took out Rosberg as it did on him in Australia and Canada.

As a result the prospect of a glorious inversion of sporting convention is before us since Hamilton has the chance to post an English victory on German soil in a fortnight to assume the leadership of a championship that appeared lost after the qualifying howler of Saturday.   

Another quirk delivered by victory took Hamilton alongside Stewart’s personal landmark of 27 career wins. This cannot be considered a rebuttal of Stewart’s argument. Rosberg has demonstrated keenly enough this year his capacity for maximising opportunity. There are ten races remaining, all of which at some point or another will require Hamilton to counter Stewart’s position.

Nico Rosberg climbs out of his stricken Mercedes after a gearbox failure saw him stuck in fifth

But that is for another day. Hamilton would have preferred to have bettered Rosberg on the track. A gearbox failure denied the audience a showdown with Rosberg and the attendant demonstration of derring do, an aspect of Hamilton’s racing credo that has never been in doubt.

Euphoria was nevertheless the dominant sentiment as he bathed in the adulation of the fans thronging the start finish straight. “This is nuts,” said Hamilton’s brother Nic, who took on the principal role of counsellor on Saturday night.

“Lewis was down in the dumps but he delivered the goods today. I spoke all night with him, trying to support him and relax him a bit. It was nice to spend time with Lewis like that. We don’t get the chance too often because we are both busy so last night was important for us. And it’s great to see him smiling up there.”

Father Anthony, only an episodic member of the Hamilton retinue these days, joined in the champagne moment. “He came here this morning having had a bad day, but he had the fans behind him and that gave him a boost. Yesterday was a huge amount of thinking time. It hurt not being able to deliver for the fans and the team. But he came back with a fresh mind this morning. We are going to party tonight.”