'Spa is a crown jewel of F1, it must be kept at all costs'
With new tracks backed by huge sums of money being added to the F1 calendar, Spa must remain at all costs, says Andrew Frankel
It was a time for keeping your nerve, when the British weather was holding the crowd’s race-leading favourite Lewis Hamilton hostage to fortune. The rain had arrived on around lap 35 of the 52-lap race – after Mercedes’ raw pace had got Hamilton ahead of the faster-starting Williams that ran much of the first stint in a tense, internally stressed 1-2 with the Mercs tight in their wake – but awkwardly it was only falling at selected parts of the track.
It was at its most treacherous at Luffield, cars twitching menacingly as drivers tried to get the power down, but other parts of the track remained dry enough that it would have quickly burned up a set of intermediate tyres if you pitted too early. On the other hand, the long Silverstone lap would punish you if you made the call too late, trying to limp to the pits through the puddles on worn, cold slicks.
“You need to guide us,” drivers were being told. “You can see better than me,” replied at least one of them. A time of high stress, in other words, when jumping the gun would’ve been so easy. For nine laps it was like this, the track surface on the knife edge of jeopardy. Then, like a bolt from the blue, suddenly came Nico Rosberg, closing fast, crazily fast, his tyres retaining their temperature in a way Hamilton’s more worn rubber could not.
Was Hamilton lucky in the timing of a new, heavier rainfall just as he had pitted to avoid being devoured by Rosberg? With the whole track suddenly wet just as he’d stopped, leaving Rosberg consigned to a slow in-lap on slicks, it was the winning of the race for Hamilton. Just as the weather had put what would otherwise have been an assured victory in jeopardy, so it ultimately rescued him from the dilemma it had created.
It was also the making of Sebastian Vettel’s race, allowing him to leapfrog his Ferrari past the Williams pair for the final place on the podium. Williams will surely have looked upon a race in which Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas finished only fourth and fifth, having run the early stages 1-2, as a disappointment – but there were reasons behind the apparently conservative strategy. Besides which, that 1-2 was little more than a mirage created only by dynamite startline performance. The FW37 was genuinely the second quickest car around Silverstone but did not have either the pace or the tyre durability to have hung onto those places against Mercedes. Not unless Williams had sacrificed one of its drivers for the other.
A brilliantly vivid race then, with twists and turns of plots even without the help of the capricious weather, a popular but hard-fought result that featured virtuosity, tactical acuity – and a solid slice of luck. Talking of which, a high attrition rate allowed Fernando Alonso to secure McLaren-Honda the fifth point of its latest – increasingly stressed – partnership.
A scorching track that took the tyres past their temperature range by the end of Q3, classic Silverstone windy gusts just to make the near-flat-in-top Copse even more interesting, very different track traits from one practice session to the next. These were what everyone was contending with and through Friday Nico Rosberg seemed to be managing the variables better than Lewis Hamilton. But then Hamilton did what he often does in these situations: he aced it at the crucial time come Saturday.
His eighth pole from the nine races of the season to date – finally putting him ahead of Vettel in the all-time list – came from his first Q3 run, 0.1sec quicker than Rosberg. The sun was still blazing down, roasting that tarmac as everyone pitted for new tyres for their final runs. As they came out again, the surface had nowhere near the grip of earlier and the medium option tyres were now past the upper limit of their temperature range. Hamilton aborted the lap, Rosberg persevered to no avail – and the crowd showed its appreciation.
“I had trouble with the middle sector all weekend,” related Lewis. “I love that section of track but I was getting a lot of oversteer.”
Rosberg believed he’d gone fastest as he completed his first Q3 lap. “I then looked at my dash and saw Lewis was a tenth quicker – which was very irritating.” Back out on new tyres, intent on finding the missing time, Nico was dismayed to find a lack of grip from the front-left – and the lap was half-a-second slower than the previous. He’d headed both Friday practice sessions despite having the first one interrupted by a gearbox change – accomplished in 42 minutes – and was ahead of his team-mate through Q1 and Q2.
The Mercedes featured new front brake ducts here, adding to its aerodynamic excellence and around Silverstone’s fast sweeps its advantage was even bigger than usual. Felipe Massa eventually scraped a time within 0.8sec of Hamilton’s in his Williams-Mercedes to go third quickest, one of the few to improve during his final run.
The big aero updates that were put on the car in Austria were better suited to Silverstone’s layout and after a lot of diligent work through the practices, it meant a lot to the team that it should be genuinely quicker than the Ferrari for the first time this season. Valtteri Bottas helped the team lock out the second row, out-qualified by Felipe by half a tenth.
The Ferrari was substantially updated here, with a new front wing, floor and brake ducts but it was very sensitive to those Copse crosswinds and they were back on row three. Räikkönen was the faster of them this weekend, Vettel having suffered a compromised preparation lap as he and Massa encountered Rosberg on his slow-down lap at an awkward place. With his tyres under-temperature, he made a lock-up that probably accounted for the couple of tenths he trailed his team-mate by.
Had Daniel Ricciardo not had his best time disallowed for exceeding the track limits – one of 11 drivers thus penalised – on that lap, row four would have been all Red Bull, as he was marginally faster than Daniil Kvyat. Instead, Ricciardo was left relying on his next best lap, which left him 10th. The RB11s were visibly very quick through the fast turns, but were losing time in the slower corners and, as usual, down the straights. The car featured a new Mercedes-like front wing as part of an upgrade package
Toro Rosso counted itself very disappointed to get only one car – that of Carlos Sainz – through to Q3 and qualifying a relatively lowly eighth there. In the practices they had consistently been among best of the rest after Mercedes, planted through the fast corners in particular. But into qualifying Verstappen was dismayed to find oversteer and no traction and failed to get out of Q2, 13th fastest.
Running at the upper end of the tyre temperature window, the hot track of Saturday took them over the limit. Max’s traction was also hurt by a software-related glitch that affected the engine’s power delivery. Sainz’s balance change wasn’t quite so radical and he was 0.5sec up on his team-mate in getting through to the run-off – where he was within hundredths of the Red Bulls.
Nico Hülkenberg had only a single set of fresh tyres left by the time he got the new Force India VJM08 into Q3 – and he opted to use them for his second run which, in hindsight, was when the track was slower. Even so he was on the same tenth as the Red Bulls. Sergio Pérez in the sister car professed not to be at ease in it yet and was 0.5sec adrift of his team-mate, leaving him 11th and out of Q3.
Silverstone’s high-speed downforce demands present a bigger challenge to the Lotus than the slower-cornered recent tracks and consequently it didn’t even come close to making Q3, Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado going 12th and 14th respectively, with the former complaining of a ‘crazy amount’ of oversteer.
Marcus Ericsson was the only Sauber driver to make it into Q2 where he went 15th, his car significantly slower than anything else in there, totally unsuited to the high speed downforce demands of the track. Felipe Nasr didn’t get his tyres up to temperature on his Q1 preparation lap, leaving him a couple of tenths shy of graduating and only barely faster than the drastically under-powered McLarens.
Alonso was 0.3sec quicker than Jenson Button and both cars were running the latest short-nose spec and had a whole swathe of accompanying aero upgrades. But the Honda motor remained in super-conservative mode amid continuing reliability concerns – and even the number of practice laps were heavily restricted. They were faster only than the Manors of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi, albeit by around 2.5sec.
Big white cotton bud clouds punctuated the sky as 1.00pm approached. It was pleasantly warm, but radar confirmed the rain was coming. It was just a question of whether it would hit during the race or after.
Felipe Nasr’s Sauber stuck itself in sixth gear as he drove down to Stowe on the way to the grid. He was eventually pushed to the pits. At attempt at unjamming the box broke a gear and he retired before the race had even begun.
With the generators, spare wheels, tools, tyre blankets and mechanics finally off the grid, the 19 cars were revealed in their nakedness and 18 of them were on the white-walled medium option tyre. Only Max Verstappen’s Toro Rosso was on the orange-walled prime hard tyre, the theory being he was out of position and so in the early laps would be losing time anyway.
Grip levels on this stretch of tarmac opposite ‘The Wing’ have for some reason never been that great and away from the dummy grid Hamilton was observing that his wheels were spinning very easily. It was no better a few minutes later when the gantry lights went out and it was all for real.
Neither Mercedes could find traction and the two Williams sliced almost instantly through from the second row, Massa immediately into the lead, Bottas jinking between the silver cars to take up second into Abbey, but with Hamilton hanging onto his outside.
Side-by-side they flew through the kink of Farm, with the Williams still ahead as they braked for Village, the tight right-hander into The Loop. Bottas seemed not to realise Hamilton was still lurking as he eased right for the normal racing line into the following left hander – and in an instant the Mercedes was alongside him and grinding ahead through the remainder of the sequence.
Hülkenberg had made a dynamite start – “maybe the best in my F1 career” – from his ninth place starting slot, swerving hard right across the track to slot in the space between the Ferraris and the pitwall, passing Daniil Kvyat’s Red Bull and Carlos Sainz’s Toro Rosso along the way emerge in fifth place through Abbey. Räikkönen retained his advantage over team mate Vettel, with Kvyat nibbling at Seb as they raced down to The Loop but losing out there to Pérez’s Force India.
There was some carnage in the middle of the group as Ricciardo left his braking too late for Village trying for the inside of Romain Grosjean. The Red Bull hit the side of the Lotus which was pincered into the other Lotus of Pastor Maldonado, making a glancing blow with Ericsson’s Sauber along the way. Alonso was forced to take evasive action but this caused him to spin into the path of Button’s rear wheel, which took an ugly-looking hit. Ricciardo’s momentum was barely checked and he continued on but both Lotuses and Button were out. Alonso headed pitwards for a new nose.
Down Wellington Straight Massa led Hamilton like this was 2008, Bottas, Rosberg, Hülkenberg and Räikkönen in hot pursuit. Kvyat slipstreamed back ahead of Pérez, chopping across from the outside into the left-hander of Brooklands, then staying hard right down the inside of Vettel into Luffield. Behind Pérez were Sainz, Ericsson, Ricciardo, Verstappen, Stevens and Merhi.
Racing was then neutralised as the safety car was deployed so the mess at Village could be cleared up. McLaren took the opportunity of putting Alonso onto the prime tyres as they changed his nose. He rejoined at the back on the tail of the Manors.
The safety car pulled aside on lap three, Massa trying to make a break for it as they exited Stowe – but with Hamilton hard in his wheeltracks. Just like Nigel Mansell used to, Hamilton hugely enjoys the role of showman in front of his home crowd and there was something of that in the way he made an aggressive lunge for Massa’s lead around the outside into Vale – but it never looked like working, Felipe placing his car cannily, Hamilton’s inside front locking as he tried to turn, sending the Mercedes clattering over the grass. “It was a bit too risky too early maybe,” he grinned later. “But anyways, you could see I was trying.”
With his necessarily compromised approach to the following Club, he was way out wide, Bottas aggressively on the power, briefly sideways up Hamilton’s inside and passing him as they exited onto the pitstraight. Williams was running 1-2 in the British Grand Prix for the first time in a very long time and it was all Hamilton could do to aggressively fend off Rosberg as they rushed past the pits.
Into Village Räikkönen was wheel-lockingly late on the brakes trying to pass Hülkenberg but couldn’t make it stick. Just behind, on his cold prime tyres Verstappen lost control of his car here and became beached in the gravel, ending with a whimper a weekend that had initially promised so much.
Vettel was passed through Maggotts/Becketts by Pérez and it would take a few laps before Seb could retaliate, with the help of DRS down Wellington Straight. “The straightline speed is hurt too much by the downforce,” was the succinct summary by Maurizio Arrivabene of Ferrari’s problems this weekend.
Once DRS was enabled – with zones down each of the Wellington and Hangar straights – Bottas could hardly help but close up to the back of his race-leading team mate. But he was convinced he could go faster even disregarding the wing-stalling benefit. A couple of times he was alongside Felipe as they approached Stowe, not trying a move as such, but making it very plain he was there and would like to pass. This was causing some concern in the Williams pit and he was asked to desist from racing his team-mate. “I have better pace,” he responded. Again, he was asked not to race – as the Mercedes pair remained within striking distance, surely just waiting for a chink of daylight.
At Mercedes there was an underlying confidence regardless of what Williams was doing. “Yes, we felt we had better performance and better tyre usage,” confirmed Toto Wolff, “so it was just a question of seeing how it played out at this stage, without taking any risks.”
After some discussion it dawned on Williams that there just might be a benefit of letting Bottas pass Massa if his pace really was better: he could escape and leave Massa holding up the Mercedes pair. It just might have made this a winnable race for Williams. “OK,” Valtteri was told, “but it has to be a clean move and you have to pull away once you’re in front.” The inference was that if all it did was hold Massa up, then Felipe would be given the place back. But it never came to that.
On the 10th lap Bottas was using his DRS down Hangar Straight and checked if he had permission to pass. Answered in the affirmative, he was fully alongside and asked the team to repeat. Again, it was in the affirmative. “Too late,” he replied. One wonders why he needed a second and third invitation – and then didn’t take it. On the following lap, with Massa now informed that Bottas would be trying to pass, Felipe was more defensive with his line approaching Stowe – and Valtteri never came so close again. He circulated less than 1sec behind but never tried another serious move.
Mercedes made a dummy stop on the 14th lap, trying to induce Williams into coming in early, knowing it would destroy its planned one-stop strategy. Williams didn’t even think about responding and the Mercedes guys went back into the garage. Wolff received a text from his wife at this point, asking if he really thought they were going to fall for that…
As has become the way of things of late, with the very low degradation rates of the improved rear Pirelli of 2015, one-stopping was the default strategy going in, implying stops after 20-odd laps. Only those finding themselves trapped might have considered a two-stop. One such was Vettel, one of the group in a direct line behind Hülkenberg.
“We are just stuck in the train here,” Vettel pointed out, suggesting to Ferrari that they should look at bringing him in. Räikkönen – directly behind Hulk but with no answer to the Force India’s end-of-straight speeds – was having similar discussions with his side of the garage. Ferrari acquiesced, bringing Kimi in on the 13th lap and Vettel the lap after. Others switching to two-stop plans included Ricciardo and Sainz. But those plans didn’t get to play out, Daniel eventually going out with an electrical problem that affected both the ersH and ersK, while Carlos’s engine suddenly stopped – also through an electrical fault.
Kvyat stayed out, Red Bull choosing not to follow Ferrari’s strategy, staying with the one-stop plan. He circulated on Hülkenberg’s tail – with Red Bull then going for the undercut on Force India on the 18th lap. It was close enough that Force India responded next lap – with Nico exiting just as Daniil went past. The undercut had worked for Red Bull.
Meanwhile Mercedes was having similar thoughts in dealing with Williams, in the knowledge that Williams could not be as adventurous with its final stint length. The front-left was the limitation and although degradation rates were low, the danger was it simply ran out of tread late in the race if too ambitious a stint length were attempted. Hamilton was fully aware of the plan. He was brought in on lap 19, the crew made a superb stop in 2.4sec and he was underway again, now on his fresh hards.
Even though he was behind two Williams, he was essentially only racing Massa, in the lead – because Bottas would inevitably have to pit the lap after Massa, and thereby was almost guaranteed to lose out to Hamilton. The question was only whether Lewis could do a quick enough out-lap to undercut Massa and in this endeavour it was crucial that he clear Pérez’s Force India – in a temporary sixth place, 19sec behind Hamilton. This in fact is what defined the timing of the Hamilton stop. Up until then he did not have enough of a gap to clear the Force India, and even now it was close.
As the Mercedes crested the uphill pit exit lane, Pérez was fast approaching the fifth gear 155mph Abbey Curve alongside. They came out side-by-side but with Hamilton having the momentum and on the inside, he was through – and duly produced a stunning fresh tyre out-lap, as Massa was flat-out on his old tyre in-lap.
As Massa veered across out of Stowe to make for the pitlane entry, he was followed by Rosberg, who made up time on the Williams up to the braking line. The Williams stop was slower at 3.8sec and they exited side-by-side, though with Massa retaining the place as they went into single file on the exit. But Hamilton was long-gone. That maximum attack out-lap, expressing the Merc’s extraordinary high speed corner performance, had given him an easy 200m on Massa.
The lead was essentially his – as the longer temporary leader Bottas remained out, the more time he was losing. He was duly brought in next lap (21) and rejoined third. The stop was better than Massa’s and as he exited the pitlane hill he was able to slot closely in between Massa and Rosberg. Nico had been unable to express the Merc’s performance on his out-lap the way Hamilton had – precisely because he had been limited to the pace of Massa’s Williams. Hamilton’s out-lap had been a 1min 56.3sec, Rosberg’s was 1min 58.0sec, much the same as those of Massa and Bottas. Being stuck at Massa’s speed had now prevented him undercutting Bottas.
This was a bad blow for Nico and he immediately attacked Valtteri into The Loop, rounding there side-by-side but losing out. The trick for Mercedes now was to find a way of allowing Rosberg to use his car’s greater pace, to leapfrog the Williams pair if he couldn’t do it on track. “Plan B, Nico,” he was informed. They were going to two-stop him to get him past. Regardless that it was not a faster strategy, it allowed the W06’s greater performance to be unleashed on a clear track – and that surely would be enough. Hamilton meanwhile would remain on a one-stop and was now extending his lead by a few tenths each lap.
A long way behind the lead quartet, Räikkönen’s two-stopping Ferrari was a couple of seconds ahead of team-mate Vettel, the earlier Ferrari stops having got Seb ahead of Kvyat, but with the likelihood that Daniil could get through without stopping again. A few seconds behind the Red Bull was Hülkenberg, the Force India without quite the performance needed to maintain Hulk’s start-assisted first stint position.
That was how the race was poised before the rain clouds began advancing faster than expected from the south-west. Hamilton was going to walk it, Rosberg was probably going to two-stop his way past the Williams pair for second, Kvyat was probably going to be fifth ahead of the two-stopping Räikkönen and Vettel.
1 L Hamilton Mercedes 1hr 31min 27.729sec
2 N Rosberg Mercedes +10.956sec
3 S Vettel Ferrari +25.443sec
4 F Massa Williams +36.839sec
5 V Bottas Williams +63.194sec
6 D Kvyat Red Bull +63.955sec
7 N Hülkenberg Force India +78.744sec
8 K Räikkönen Ferrari +1 lap
9 S Pérez Force India +1 lap
10 F Alonso McLaren +1 lap
11 M Ericsson Sauber +1 lap
12 R Merhi Marussia +3 laps
13 W Stevens Marussia +3 laps
DNF C Sainz Toro Rosso
DNF D Ricciardo Red Bull
DNF M Verstappen Toro Rosso
DNF R Grosjean Lotus
DNF P Maldonado Lotus
DNF J Button McLaren
DNS F Nasr Sauber
But then we entered the jeopardy phase. Just before that, we had a virtual safety car as Sainz pulled his dead Toro Rosso to the side of the track at what was deemed to be a dangerous position and for a lap the pack circulated at the stipulated speeds, with the gaps between them effectively frozen. As they were set on their way again on lap 35 (with a green light on their dash), the rain was just arriving at Luffield. Quite a lot of it.
But down the old pit straight, through Copse (which, fantastically is now taken flat in top with the outside wheels on the entry kerb serrations), on through Maggots-Becketts-Chapel, Hangar Straight and into Stowe, it remained dry. Heading back over to the west of the track, there was a sprinkling around Vale but Abbey and The Loop were almost unaffected.
“We need to change tyres,” said Bottas after a particularly hair-raising trip through Luffield. But he was talked back down by his engineer, who pointed out that the dry remainder of the track would destroy the inters. It was going to be a question of picking the exact right moment – and of being lucky with where you were in relation to the pit entry road if/when rain eventually hit the whole track.
What was very quickly apparent was that Rosberg had way more grip than the two sliding Williams ahead of him. The Mercedes was retaining tyre temperature far more effectively – which was logical given that it had not been extended as hard, lapping well within its limits as it was held to Williams speeds. But now its advantage was being massively enhanced. Rosberg was eager to capitalise on the wet part of the track, but was a little over-eager on lap 38, sliding into the Luffield run-off. He rejoined and was quickly back upon Bottas’s tail.
Vettel – despite repeated big twitchy oversteer moments through Woodcote – was consistently a few tenths faster than Räikkönen in this wet phase and on the 38th lap he scythed down the inside of his team-mate into Stowe. This was Kimi’s cue to pit for inters. He – together with Alonso, Ericsson and the two Manors – had been the first to make the gamble. If the heavy rain had suddenly arrived at this point Räikkönen might even have been in contention for victory. But it didn’t. It remained on that awkwardly hazardous cusp. The rain had spread up through Woodcote and into Copse but the rest of the lap remained dry and Kimi’s inters would be quickly overheated and destroyed.
Bottas was really struggling with tyre temperatures now and on the 39th lap the Williams twitched menacingly into Copse and it was a simple matter for Rosberg, with way more grip, to aim right as they exited – and be ahead into Maggots. The Mercedes quickly closed down on Massa now and as he did so he was lapping as much as 2sec faster than leader Hamilton – who had slid off onto the Copse run-off.
Hamilton’s earlier hard pace in undercutting past the Williams and extending his lead meant he had taken much more from his tyres than Rosberg who, as recounted, had been held to Williams pace for all those laps. The less tread that the tyre has left, the quicker it loses temperature and once it’s done so it can often be impossible to bring it back as there isn’t enough material to twist and bend to create the temperature. If Rosberg could just find a way past Massa, he was potentially in a great position to snatch this race away from Hamilton.
Through Abbey to begin the 41st lap Rosberg carried vastly more speed than Massa and tucked tight into the Williams’ wake as they exited before then diving out to the right as they reached the Village braking zone. Holding Massa out wide on the turn-in, forcing him to concede, Rosberg was through. Hamilton was just over 5sec up the road and there were 11 laps left.
Further back, Vettel’s great pace in these conditions saw him steadily catching the Williams pair but he was being closely pursued by Kvyat who was matching his every move. They were on course to catch Bottas and Massa within a few laps at this rate. Going even faster than them, but probably not by enough to catch them before the end, was Hülkenberg, whose pace was sometimes even rivalling Rosberg’s. Pérez and the struggling Räikkönen followed a long way behind, with the inters-shod Ericsson and Alonso now a lap down.
The sky was darkening now but still the rain was holding off. It wasn’t even particularly wet through Luffield any longer. Rosberg’s 42nd lap was exactly 2sec faster than Hamilton’s. Another lap and Hamilton was going to be a sitting duck for Rosberg. As they came down Hangar Straight on the 43rd lap Hamilton was just a few car lengths clear. “These tyres are finished, guys,” he said over the radio. Upon exiting Stowe he made diagonally for the pitlane entry road. Had he not done so he looked certain to have lost the lead to Rosberg on the next lap – which would then have given Nico strategic priority, a potentially disastrous outcome for Lewis.
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 194
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 177
3 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 135
4 Valtteri Bottas Williams 77
5 Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 76
6 Felipe Massa Williams 74
7 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull 36
8 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull 27
9 Nico Hülkenberg Force India 24
10 Romain Grosjean Lotus 17
1 Mercedes 371
2 Ferrari 211
3 Williams 151
4 Red Bull 63
5 Force India 39
6 Lotus 29
7 Sauber 21
8 Toro Rosso 19
9 McLaren 5
10 Marussia 0
As he rolled into his pitbox it wasn’t even clear from the outside which tyres would go on. How much longer was the rain going to hold off? The team reckoned it was imminent – and a set of green-walled intermediates was fitted in just 2.6sec. As if by magic, almost at that very moment, the heavens opened. It was raining right across the track! Rosberg was now consigned to a long lap on his slicks on a wet circuit while Hamilton confidently scythed through the surface water on his treaded rubber.
Afterwards, he was taking the credit. “It’s maybe the first time in my life I’ve called it right,” he said. “I was coming down Hangar and could see the black clouds.” Had Rosberg not been coming so hard at him though, would he have been so decisive? Whatever, he’d made the call – it proved spectacularly right.
Massa and Bottas, respectively nine and 12sec behind Hamilton when he pulled in, had time to do the same – but didn’t. Because it was not yet obvious that the rain was coming on this lap. Vettel, 20sec adrift of Hamilton, had the benefit of seeing the rain arrive just as he approached Stowe – and so was able to get in. This would leapfrog him past both Williams. Surprisingly, Kvyat stayed out and spun on his in-lap, letting Vettel off the hook. Hülkenberg also stayed out for the extra lap so couldn’t quite capitalise.
Massa and Bottas arrived in the Williams pit on the same lap, with Bottas losing further backing off to create stacking time behind his team-mate. When everyone had been in, Hamilton was leading the race by 9sec from Rosberg and knew, with seven laps to go, he had this race won. “I could see the crowd cheering me on out the corner of my eye at turns seven [Luffield] and 18 [Club] and I just didn’t want to drop it.”
Vettel was a further 15sec back well clear of Massa, Bottas – who had lost further time with a teetering near-spin on his out lap at Village – Kvyat and Hülkenberg. Räikkönen soldiered on for a few laps but his inters were now so bald that he was forced to pit again for a fresh set. He was ahead of Pérez and Alonso. The latter had been gifted 10th place a few laps earlier when Ericsson had pitted for fresh slicks on the lap before the rain arrived, necessitating a corrective stop for inters. That left only the Manors of Merhi and Stevens behind him.
So Hamilton twitched and slid around the last few laps and took the chequer for his third British GP victory. It had been a brilliant combined performance from Hamilton and team in a situation where it would have been incredibly easy to have done the wrong thing – as happened at Monaco. Here were the probability waves paying back.
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