Lewis Hamilton fought back from a 10-second penalty for a crash with title rival Max Verstappen to pass Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc for a dramatic victory in the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton was blamed for a collision with Verstappen’s Red Bull at Copse corner on the first lap of the race, which led to the Dutchman crashing out.
Verstappen, 23, was taken to hospital for precautionary tests after the accident while Hamilton set about trying to win the race.
The Grand Prix was stopped after the incident with Leclerc in the lead from Hamilton and the Ferrari driver held that position until two laps from the end, when the Mercedes driver passed him, ironically, at the same corner at which he had crashed with Verstappen.
The controversial win, in front of a crowd of 140,0000, was Hamilton’s eighth in the British Grand Prix and cuts Verstappen’s championship lead to eight points after a race that will go down in the annals of F1 history.
What happened in the crash?
The moment many had considered to be inevitable at some point in this titanic battle between Verstappen and Hamilton happened after an intense scrap between the title rivals on the first lap.
Hamilton, starting second after Verstappen’s victory in F1’s maiden ‘sprint’ race on Saturday, got away better from the grid and was alongside Verstappen into the first corner, but the Red Bull driver held him off.
Hamilton nosed ahead into the Brooklands corner at the end of the Wellington straight, but again Verstappen held him off.
Heading down into the 190mph Copse corner, Hamilton dummied Verstappen, feinting to the outside and then diving for the inside into the corner.
Hamilton had more than half his car alongside Verstappen as they began to turn in, but backed off slightly as he saw Verstappen was going to sit it out around the outside and the Red Bull edged back ahead.
Hamilton was a little wide of the apex and his front left wheel made contact with Verstappen’s right rear in the middle of the corner, and the impact sent Verstappen flying into the barriers on the outside.
He climbed out of the car and was walking around before being taken to the circuit medical centre for mandatory checks after such a heavy impact – team boss Christian Horner said it measured 51G.
And later he was taken to a local hospital for what Red Bull described as “further precautionary tests”.
What happened in the race?
Leclerc, who had passed Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas off the line, took the lead out of Copse in the aftermath of the incident and started the re-started race from pole position.
The Ferrari showed strong pace in the first stint and Hamilton was not able to challenge Leclerc, who was 2.3 seconds ahead when Hamilton made his pit stop to serve his penalty and change tyres on lap 27, dropping behind Bottas and McLaren’s Lando Norris.
Hamilton passed Norris on lap 31 into Copse, and then closed on Bottas, who was ordered to let Hamilton by on lap 40.
Hamilton then had 12 laps to close an eight-second gap to Leclerc and pass the Ferrari for the lead.
On the basis of Leclerc’s pace in the first stint, it looked a tall order, but Hamilton was soon lapping a second a lap quicker than Leclerc and he was on the Ferrari’s tail with three laps to go.
He went for the inside at Copse in a very similar move to the one that led to the Verstappen incident. But Hamilton was more cautious, backing off a little more, and then Leclerc ran wide on the exit of the corner allowing Hamilton to sweep by to extend his record of British Grand Prix wins to eight.
And what of the rest?
Leclerc was second after a superb drive by the Ferrari man, admitting that he was “so disappointed” to come so close to a win despite scoring his first podium finish of the year, and Bottas took third ahead of Norris.
McLaren’s Daniel Ricciardo benefited from a pit-stop problem for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz to take fifth, holding off the faster Spaniard to the flag.
And Fernando Alonso drove an excellent defensive race to finish seventh, the starting position he earned with a brilliant drive in the sprint race in which he passed six cars on the first lap in his Alpine.
Alonso held off Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll for most of the race and second Alpine of Esteban Ocon took ninth ahead of Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda.
Driver of the day
Leclerc was outstanding in the Ferrari, showing surprising pace throughout the race and coming agonisingly close to his first win of the season.
A two-week break before the Hungarian Grand Prix, on one of Hamilton’s favourite circuits, where Verstappen will be determined to hit back.