Lewis Hamilton inherited victory in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone on Sunday after gearbox failure eliminated team-mate Nico Rosberg from the lead.
Rosberg started from pole and led away at the start, but a huge crash when Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen lost control on the Wellington straight and hit the bridge caused a red flag that saw the race stopped for almost an hour while barrier repairs could be effected on the armco; the luckless Finn was taken to the medical centre after being heavily winded and suffering a lot of bruising to his right ankle.
After the re-start, Rosberg maintained his advantage and eased into the distance ahead of Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen and Hamilton, though it was merely a matter of time before he passed the two slower McLarens who were largely out of position. That soon happened, but surprisingly Button maintained 3rd until around one-third distance when the charging Valterri Bottas came through in the Williams to take the final podium slot.
After the first round of pitstops, Rosberg extended his advantage over Hamilton despite managing a recurring gearbox fault that threatened to end his day. Eventually it became terminal and the German pulled off the circuit on lap 29, handing victory on a plate to Hamilton who enjoyed a colossal margin over Bottas, now 2nd, thanks to the overwhelming advantage given him by his all-conquering F1W05.
The real excitement was in the midst of the chasing pack, with Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso enjoying – or not, as the case may have been – a tussle for 5th place that lasted right up until the dying laps when Vettel finally prevailed. Numerous irate radio messages blistered the airwaves as both men accused one another of exceeding track limits, though no action was taken by the stewards who had earlier hit the Spaniard with a stop-go penalty for lining up incorrectly at the start of the race.
Once that matter was settled, attention switched to Button who was hunting down Ricciardo for 3rd on the podium. The Australian had stopped only once, on lap 18, but jumped ahead of Button and his rivals when they also pitted; Alonso just once while Vettel elected to make two stops. The 2009 world champion was cheered home but ended just 0.8 shy of the podium, Button’s Silverstone ‘curse’ putting a slight downer on what had been a superb day by recent standards for McLaren. 4th place equalled Button’s best Silverstone results from 2004 and 2010 respectively.
Tellingly, Rosberg remained in the Mercedes garage after his retirement to offer tips that smoothed Hamilton’s path to victory, in stark contrast to Hamilton’s departure from the paddock after disappointment in previous races. Hamilton’s foruitous victory has propelled him to just four points behind Rosberg in the championship fight, bridging much of what was previously a twenty-nine point gap.
CLASSIFICATION – Race – British GP – 6th July 2014