CHRISTMAS came in July for Pommie motorsport fans with hometown boy Lewish Hamilton claiming the British Grand Prix on a fast Silverstone circuit, with the most exciting race of the 2019 season so far.
Once again zee German cars were on the front row, with a healthier swath of diversity behind than seen in the past few years.
At the end of the 52 laps Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag, but only after a race-long battle with pole-stitting teammate Valtteri Bottas.
And he got by thanks to a Safety Car intervention that gave him a free pit stop, allowing him to leapfrog the Finn and claim a record sixth home win.
The battle up front, however, was just one part of the ever-changing picture.
It was a clean start, predominantly in qualifying order, other than McLaren’s Lando Norris sneaking past Ricciardo for 7th on the first lap.
Merc’s Hamilton then set his sights on his teammate and edged past on lap four, but sausages flung into the air in celebration had hardly landed before Bottas re-took first spot.
Close behind, a great scrap for third saw Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc stay ahead of Max Verstappen in the Red Bull, after a challenge that allowed Vettel in the other Ferrari to close in.
Strategies then saw the caffeine-charged Red Bull pit crew pass Ferrari — the battle even carrying over to pit lane — elevating Verstappen to third.
But Leclerc re-took the spot as the Red Bull, on cold tyres, sent Verstappen understeering wide on a corner of the exciting driver-focused track.
The pair duelled, often still wheel-to-wheel, until lap 19 when Antonio Giovinazzi slid off into the sand trap after an over-ambitious pass on a McLaren, resulting in a full course yellow.
Hamilton took immediate initiative to pit, leap frogging him to first place on lap 24, and as racing resumed it was game on, as the order was shuffled and the gloves came off.
Toro Rosso’s Alexander Albon tried to pass Norris behind Sainz but was covered, and Ricciardo passed Hulkenberg who was fending off Perez for 10th. Perez’s Racing Point hit Hulkenberg, caused them both to go wide, but maintained position.
Leclerc and Verstappen put on the show of the day with their fierce battle, with Leclerc eventually claiming third — but only after Verstappen’s Red Bull was given more wings with a shunt from behind by Sebastien Vettel that sent the Dutchman flying into the boonies.
Both recovered, but Vettel got a 10 second penalty that dropped him right out of the picture.
The crash left Leclerc in third place, while Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly took fourth, ahead of a hard charging Verstappen, while Carlos Sainz had a solid race for McLaren in 6th.
Aussie Ricciardo pressed on in the dying laps clawing back a 7th for Renault, with Kimi Raikkonen a quiet and credible eighth.
Ninth was Daniil Kvyat for Alfa with Nico Hulkenberg grabbing the final point from Alexander Albon on the final lap.
The sausages were cold by now, but they were still flung high into the sky in celebration.
And what a great day of racing it was, with Silverstone still a firm favourite on the calendar with drivers and spectators alike.
Hamilton was jubilant.
“Today was one of the best days I can remember,” he said.
“I can remember my first win here in 2008 and the feeling that I had coming out of Brooklands, going down the straight towards – at the time – the start/finish line and seeing the crowd felt so good that day, and just seeing the excitement and the happiness and the joy that I felt was exactly the same thing.”
Daniel Ricciardo started from 7th on the grid and finished in the same place, after a ding-dong race with the McLarens of Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz.
“All in all, I think it was a good race,” he said.
“My start wasn’t bad but Lando [Norris] just managed to get me after some clean racing.
“We got him back on the undercut but then the Safety Car played into Carlos’ [Sainz] hands with a free pit-stop and that was a bit frustrating.
“It was unlucky on our part but we hunted him down towards the end but couldn’t mount a real attack to get past.
“It feels positive to be back in the top 10 especially after the last two rounds. Our single-lap and race pace has certainly been a solid turnaround in a short period of time.”
Teammate Nico Hülkenberg also finished in the same position he started from, giving Renault a double points result.
“It was hard work out there today and we’re disappointed not to be higher than 10th,” he said.
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul was philosophical.
“We can be satisfied having both cars inside the top 10,” he said.
“However, we know that higher finishing positions were possible. At a power dominated track our competitiveness level has been stronger and the areas of weakness will be our focus for the coming weeks.”
Haas F1 Team’s run of bad luck continued with drivers Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen crashing into each other on the opening lap earning punctured tyres for both.
Both pitted to change their tyres but Magnussen was called back to the pits after six laps, Grosjean after nine – both retired with accident damage.
Grosjean also had the embarrassment of spinning his car — in the pit lane — during his practice laps the previous day.
Main sponsor Rich Energy was quick with a comment on twitter: Well done, boys — with an image of a milk float.
|4||10||RED BULL RACING HONDA||52||+34.692s||12|
|5||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||52||+39.458s||10|
|8||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||52||+65.540s||4|
|9||26||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||52||+66.720s||2|
|12||23||SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA||52||+75.617s||0|
|13||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||52||+81.086s||0|
|14||63||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||51||+1 lap||0|
|15||88||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||51||+1 lap||0|
|17||11||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||51||+1 lap||0|
|NC||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||18||DNF||0|