THERE has never been a Formula 1 grand prix like it.
Lewis Hamilton won the 2020 British Grand Prix on three wheels after the left-front tyre of his Mercedes had a last lap blowout.
But the Briton hung on in what he called ‘survival mode’ to take the 7th win of his career at Silverstone, crossing the finish line 5 seconds ahead of a fast-closing Max Verstappen.
And Red Bull will rue bringing Verstappen into the pits for fresh tyres a few laps earlier in a bid to set the fastest lap.
Had they not done so, Verstappen might have won — but he too was having tyre problems, as was Hamilton’s teammate, Valtteri Bottas, who also had a puncture on the second last of the 52-lap race, and dropped from a steady second down to crawl over the line 11th.
Third place went to the Ferrari of Charles Leclerc, who was being caught by Renault with Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo at the wheel.
“A few more laps and we would have had a podium,” Ricciardo, who finished just one second behind the red car, mused.
However, Ricciardo’s fourth spot came courtesy of another tyre problem that dropped McLaren’s Carlos Sainz from fourth on the last lap to 13th.
In Hollywood style, the McLaren’s rear tyre exploded in a spectacular cloudburst of sparks that ushered teammate Lando Norris into fourth place, but Ricciardo edged by on the last lap to finish 2 seconds ahead.
Renault teammate Esteban Ocon finished sixth after a race-long battle with the Racing Point of Lance Stroll, with Pierre Gasly seventh for AlphaTauri.
His teammate, Daniil Kvyat, was another victim of the Day of the Tyres, crashing heavily into the barriers in the closing laps.
Alex Albon was eighth for Red Bull, after a first lap collision with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen that put him at the back of there pack, while Lance Stroll (Racing Point) and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10.
Nico Hulkenberg, who was drafted into the Racing Point of Sergio Perez, who had tested positive for the coronavirus, did not even start the race.
He ran well in qualifying, but a technical problem surfaced on race day.
Winner Hamilton was well aware of just how close he came to losing.
“F*** that was close,” he said on the team radio as he took the chequered flag with smoke pouring off his flat tyre.
He had led Verstappen by 15 seconds before Red Bull called their Dutch driver in for fresh tyres.
“It’s lucky and unlucky,” Verstappen said.
“The tyres didn’t look great with 10 laps to go and I was already on the radio. Then Valtteri (Bottas) got a puncture so I came on the radio and said I’m going to back it out. Then of course they boxed me to go for the fastest lap.
“Then unfortunately Lewis got a puncture himself. But I’m very happy with second, it’s a very good result for us.”
Hamilton said that until the last lap everything was fine.
The Mercedes pair had led from the start and seemed set for another 1-2 win.
“The tyres looked great,” Hamilton said.
“Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard. I was doing some management of tyres, he looked like he wasn’t doing any, so when I heard that his tyre went I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine.
“So the last few laps I started to back off but then down the straight the tyre just deflated.
“Just driving to keep the speed off, oh my god, I was just praying to get around and not be too slow.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that on the last lap, my heart definitely almost stopped.”
Daniel Ricciardo was happy with fourth, acknowledging that he and Ocon had some luck.
“We made a good start, jumped up to sixth and we showed decent pace.
“We had some pace at the end and I was able to get Lando and then Carlos had a problem. I saw Charles [Leclerc] getting closer and maybe with a couple more laps, we could have had a podium.
“We were assisted by some chaos, but we were definitely a top six car today and that’s pleasing.”
Team principal Cyril Abiteboul was also a happy man.
“It was a very good result from a team perspective and one of our strongest since our return to Formula 1,” he said.
“It was particularly good at Silverstone, a temple of the Formula 1 championship and one of the home races for the team.
“Clearly, there was a bit of help towards the end to gain positions, but that should not take away from the very strong performance that the team has put in throughout the weekend.
“We have made progress but we should not lose sight of our direct competitors nor of the competitiveness level of Mercedes in all circumstances.”
There’s another round at the same circuit next weekend.
|2||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||52||+5.856s||19|
|8||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||52||+32.670s||4|
|9||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||52||+37.311s||2|
|14||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||52||+54.205s||0|
|17||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||51||+1 lap||0|
|NC||27||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||0||DNS||0|
Note – Verstappen scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. Giovinazzi received a 5-second time penalty for failing to slow under the safety car. The classification of both Racing Point cars is provisional, subject to the outcome of any decision concerning a protest over their legality from the Renault team.
CHECKOUT: Uh-oh, Perez tests positive