In the end this was won by Lewis Hamilton after 52 laps but forget 51 of them, the story here was about nine thrilling corners on the opening one that completely changed the complexion of the title race.
Much was made of Hamilton’s sluggish start in Saturday’s Sprint qualifying. His Mercedes, he said, ‘didn’t deliver’ despite him hitting his target. Max Verstappen, who ignored flames licking away at his front left tyre, pounced and never looked back to take pole.
And so less than 24 hours later they were back on the front grid, this time swapped places and with a 140,000-strong – largely partisan – crowd in attendance on the hottest day of the year so far, the stage was set for a classic.
Lewis Hamilton took victory at Silverstone for the eighth time in his Formula One career
Lewis Hamilton overtook Charles Leclerc with two laps left to win the British Grand Prix
Hamilton dived down inside of Verstappen into Copse corner as he tried to go for the lead
Hamilton’s left front made contact with Verstappen’s right rear, putting him into the barrier
What followed was a duel of epic proportions, as good as anything fans have been served up so far this season. Not even Tom Cruise, who was here as a guest of Mercedes, could have scripted an opening scene like this.
How Verstappen will have been at pains to see Hamilton take control of the race with two-and-a-half laps to go. Charles Leclerc was too aggressive on the curb and lost momentum giving Hamilton the clear air to go first. What was a 33-point lead for Verstappen was no just seven.
To those that sensed the title race was becoming a formality, think again.
But back to the opening lap where everything changed for Verstappen and ended with him being sent to a local hospital.
Verstappen kept ahead into Turn 2, then it looked like Hamilton was going to get an inside line, the crowd gasping in unison at two very near misses, a strand of hair all that separated the cars.
Hamilton was roared on. He needed to make a statement after the flat performance in the Sprint and this was just that. ‘We can’t overtake them,’ he moaned on Saturday. It seems he had changed his tune on Sunday.
Leclerc held the lead after the opening lap crash but couldn’t hold on with two laps to go
Verstappen was taken to hospital for precautionary checks after his crash with Hamilton
He sensed his moment heading into Copse corner where drivers are at their quickest with the foot firmly on the accelerator.
Down the inside he went once more, again incredibly close to Verstappen, and this time they hit as Hamilton’s Mercedes clipped the rear right wheel of the travelling 180mph Red Bull.
Verstappen spun, his wheel ripped off and he careered into the tyre wall to genuine concern. He winced when he emerged from his car.
‘F**k,’ he groaned on the team radio. ‘Ahhhhhh.’
Out of the race. No championship points to gain here. It was off to the medical centre as he was escorted off in an ambulance. Red Bull were furious at the ‘dangerous driving’ and team boss Christian Horner called for Hamilton to be solely to blame. Helmut Marko, a senior figure over at Red Bull, was on German TV asking for a suspension.
Hamilton was given a ten-second penalty and battled back to win from fourth position
In the end it was a 10-second time penalty for Hamilton. Not that it mattered as he claimed his 99th Grand Prix win.
‘Every driver that has driven at this circuit knows you do not stick a wheel up the inside of Copse,’ Horner fumed to FIA director Michael Masi.
‘That’s an enormous accident and it was Max’s corner. As far as I’m concerned, full blame is on Hamilton for that incident, he should never have been in that position. Thank god he’s walked away unscathed.’
Verstappen’s car looked like something from Scrapheap’s Challenge when stewards lifted it away. All Hamilton had damaged was one of his rims. Mercedes protested that the manoeuvre was fair. Stewards disagreed and so on we went after a brief red flag interlude.
Hamilton’s victory has reignited his title push as he goes for an eighth championship
It was Ferrari who benefitted most from the Red Bull-Mercedes tangle. Leclerc getting out in front before the red flag and when the lights went out for the second restart he managed to hold Hamilton off to stay there until Lap 50 when it all went horribly wrong.
Sebastian Vettel in his Aston Martin, who were racing at the British GP for the first time in 61 years, tussled with Fernando Alonso on the restart only to spin off casually at Woodcote. He went from a top six spot to back of the grid. He later retired in what was a miserable afternoon.
But this was all about Hamilton, who got a helping hand from team-mate Valtteri Bottas when team orders swapped them round controversially on Lap 50. A red-hot display on the hottest day of the year and suddenly that eighth championship doesn’t seem so far away.
‘This is still on,’ Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told his star driver.
‘Damn right Toto,’ Hamilton said. ‘Damn right’.
Sportsmail’s KIERAN LYNCH provided live Formula One coverage of the British Grand Prix, including build-up, updates and result.
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