Lewis Hamilton nailed the timing down to the exact right second in tricky conditions to claim his third British Grand Prix victory today from Silverstone.
On lap 43 with a slick track and heavy rain threatening, Hamilton hit the pits to replace his rather worn slicks. As he pulled out of his pit box the heaven’s opened and the championship leader reclaimed the lead of a race it looked like he had just lost.
Hamilton cruised to the victory in the final laps, but it wasn’t as straightforward a win as it sounds. Williams gave Mercedes the toughest on track fight its had in a long time.
Massa flies at the start, Williams lead early
The start proved the most exciting of the year, with Felipe Massa and then Valtteri Bottas rocketing past both Mercedes as if the silver arrows were standing still. Replicating what he did at the Hungaroring in 2007, Massa shot from third on the grid, to a three second lead in the first lap. Bottas followed him through and despite intense pressure from Hamilton, Bottas held onto the place.
First lap mayhem leads to early safety car
Behind the action at the front, the rear of the field went crazy. The two Lotus cars collided, putting Grosjean and Maldonado out immediately. Fernando Alonso in trying to avoid the melee, spun his McLaren-Honda and collected team mate Jenson Button. Button was out, but Alonso managed to keep going after a nose change in the pits.
Hamilton fumbles attack, Williams lead 1-2
At the restart, Hamilton immediately clung to the back of Massa’s gearbox and did everything he could to get by, but locked up, ran off track and lost second place to Bottas in the process.
For the first half of the race, Williams ran one-two ahead of a Mercedes three-four. The four cars nose to tail in the most thrilling racing of the season so far. At one point Bottas got on the radio claiming to be quicker than Massa. The tea initially told him to hold station, then went back on it and gave him the ok to race his team mate for the lead. Despite the advantage of DRS, Bottas was unable to get by an inspired Massa.
Hamilton pits, cycles to the lead
Hamilton was the first of the front runners to pit, he came in on lap 19 and then emerged in the lead. Massa pit next, then Rosberg and Bottas. Hamilton held a healthy six second lead, Massa pulled out a gap over Bottas and Rosberg to hold second. 5th place alternated between Nico Hulkenberg and Kimi Raikkonen each having very strong races, but a long way back from the four way battle for victory
The Rain arrives
Rain first began falling on lap 35 and Kimi Raikkonen became the first to gamble on intermediates. The light, sporadic precipitation proved to be to little to sustain them and Kimi’s gamble saw him fall back through the field, destroying his tires and any chance of victory.
However several laps later consistent rain really arrived and cars slid all over the track, lap times increased dramatically as the slick shod cars struggled for grip. In the mixed conditions, Rosberg managed to pick off Bottas and Massa as the FW37 struggled in the wet. Next Rosberg closed down on Hamilton and eliminated a near 6 second lead. It looked like Nico would soon take the lead and potentially the victory as Hamilton dove for the pits on lap 43.
Hamilton calls it perfectly
Hamilton radioed in just ahead of taking the pit lane. Rosberg cycled into the lead, it looked as if Hamilton would not only loose out to his team mate, but the Williams runners as well, but right after putting inters on the car, a deluge came down, soaking everything.
With Rosberg, Massa and Bottas forced to do one more lap in the atrocious conditions, Hamilton on the fresh intermediates round them all up and re-took a lead he held onto for the remainder of the race. The near record crowd on hand went wild as they welcomed their champion home.
Behind him Rosberg was pleased with second as the rain helped him move up from a disastrous fourth and minimized the points loss to his main rival.
Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari followed Hamilton’s cue and pit the same lap which allowed Vettel who had spent the early part of the race dueling with Sauber’s and Force India’s to put one over the Williams boys and claim a fantastic third place.
For their part, both Williams drivers did their best to be optimistic about the finish. Some questioned whether or not the team had scored an own goal by not moving Felipe over for Valtteri to take the early lead, but the rain put the non sense to rest as the FW37 was no where near a match for the W05 in the wet. Surprisingly Bottas was no where near a match for Massa in the wet either. Whereas Massa finished just seconds behind Vettel, Bottas fell back more than thirty seconds behind his team mate and almost lost fourth place to a hard changing Danil Kvyat.
Hulkenberg continued his strong post Le Mans run with a solid seventh place. Raikkonen managed to bring his Ferrari home a lap down in eighth, just ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Force India. Fernando Alonso rounded out the top ten. A remarkable result after his lap one contact with his team mate earned the Spaniard his first point of the season.
Marcus Ericsson came in 11th and Manor had its best double finish ever with Merhi and Stevens taking advantage of the conditions to claim 12th and 13th. The race had such a high attrition rate that they were the last cars classified.