Lewis Hamilton celebrates a record sixth British Grand Prix. (CNN)
LONDON – Lewis Hamilton took a record sixth British Grand Prix victory in a thrilling race featuring a crash between Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel.
Battles throughout the field created a dramatic race – by far the best of the year so far – as Hamilton benefited from a safety-car period to take a lead he never lost after Valtteri Bottas had held back an early attack from his Mercedes team-mate.
Behind them, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Verstappen staged a duel for the ages in disputing third place for the first third of the race.
Their exquisite driving would have been the talk of the day had it not been for the collision between the Dutchman and Leclerc’s team-mate Vettel, for which the German four-time champion was given 10-second time penalty and two penalty points on his super licence.
Hamilton’s victory extends his championship lead to 39 points at the effective halfway point of the championship, but the discussion will focus on Vettel, and what many will perceive as yet another error in the heat of battle – the latest in a series over the past year.
Bottas converted his pole position into a lead at the first corner, but Hamilton challenged hard over the first two or three laps, the Finn just managing to hold him off.
On lap four, Hamilton appeared to have taken the lead, going for the outside at Brooklands then cutting back and passing Bottas around the outside of the 180-degree corner of Luffield.
But he ran a little wide on the exit, Bottas came back at him on the inside and took the lead back into the 180mph Copse corner.
Their fight settled down, Hamilton sitting just over a second behind, until Bottas stopped for fresh tyres on lap 16, his decision to go for the same medium compound he had used at the start committing him to a second stop.
Hamilton, though, stayed out, clearly intending to go for a one-stop strategy, and when the safety car was called after Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi crashed at Vale, he could make a pit stop, comfortably rejoin in the lead and cruise to the finish.
The safety car gave Hamilton the lead as a gift, but the indications were Bottas would have found it difficult to hold him off anyway, once he had committed to a two-stop.
Amazingly, Hamilton also took fastest lap on 30-lap-old hard tyres on the last lap, beating the mark Bottas had set a couple of laps earlier after a stop for fresh tyres.
His sixth British GP win moved him clear of Jim Clark and Alain Prost and puts him in a commanding position in this season’s championship. (BBC)