Hamilton limps to record seventh British GP victory after final lap puncture drama

Lewis Hamilton delighted many British F1 fans watching around the world by winning a record seventh home Grand Prix from Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc, despite his tyre delaminating on the final lap.

It should certainly have been a stark warning to the Mercedes pit crew when Valtteri Bottas, running second at the time, suffered an identical left-front delamination with two laps to go. But, despite having the opportunity to pit under the safety car with a lap remaining, Hamilton stayed out, only to see the same happen to both Carlos Sainz’s McLaren and his own tyre.

The snap decision not to pit made for an amazing climax, Verstappen closing to within seconds at the finish in what surely was the most dramatic final lap in the history of the British Grand Prix.

“Up until that last lap, everything was relatively smooth sailing,” said Hamilton afterward. “The tyres felt great. Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard and I was doing some management of that tyre and he looked like he wasn’t doing any, so when I heard that his tyre went, I was just looking at mine and it seemed fine, the car was still turning no problem and maybe it’s okay. Last few laps I started to back off and then last lap down the straight it just deflated and I noticed the shape just shift a little bit, and that was definitely heart in the mouth feeling because I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down until I hit the brakes and obviously you could see the tyre was falling off the rim.

“Then. just driving it, keeping the speed up because sometimes it will take off and break the wing and all these different things, I was just praying to get it around and not be too slow. I nearly didn’t get around the last two corners and thank god we did. I really owe it to the team. Ultimately, maybe we should have stopped towards the end, once we saw the delaminations.”

Fortunately for Hamilton, the puncture occurred at just the right time to see him take the chequered flag marginally ahead of Verstappen, as Leclerc held off a mightily impressive Daniel Ricciardo with Lando Norris, Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly in tow. Alexander Albon, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel rounded off the points-scoring positions.

“It’s lucky and unlucky, so in the race they were too quick but the tyres didn’t look great with ten laps to go and I was already on the radio saying, ‘guys the right front doesn’t look very pretty’,” said Verstappen. “Then of course Valtteri got a puncture so I was going to back it out but they boxed me so I could get the fastest lap but then unfortunately Lewis got a puncture himself, but I’m very happy with second and it’s a very good result for us.”

Upon the 70th anniversary of the first Formula One championship race at what many people regard as the ‘home of motorsport’, it was a very unusual atmosphere at the site of the former WWII airfield, the throngs of fans, campsites and smell of burgers and fried onions sadly missing.

But some things never seem to change, and that is the sight of British drivers rising to the occasion at their home circuit, Hamilton surely being the greatest of a great list of winners that includes Stirling Moss, Peter Collins, Sir Jackie Stewart, Jim Clark, James Hunt, John Watson, Nigel Mansell, Jonny Herbert, David Coulthard and Damon Hill.

The Englishman, who started from pole for an also record-breaking seventh time, held off a robust challenge from teammate Valtteri Bottas into the opening corner to maintain his advantage off the line, as a collision between Alexander Albon and Kevin Magnussen brought about an early Safety Car.

Upon resumption, Hamilton maintained an uncomfortable gap to a determined Bottas, who won his first British Grand Prix in 2019. But the real battles for position were inevitably going to happen behind the dominant Mercedes duo.

With the top four drivers on the grid starting on the medium compound tyres, and Sainz, Ricciardo and Norris on the softer compound, the first series of pit stops would prove the key gauge of how race strategy would ultimately unfold.

Then, another variable into the mix, a huge off for Alpha Tauri’s Daniil Kvyat at Maggots (a result of an unpredictable right-rear tyre failure) prompting a second Safety Car situation and a flurry of pit stops to change under the full course yellow – the invariable result being an early change to the longer running white-banded hard compound tyre.

It made for an intriguing finish to the race, and few could have predicted the late drama that could so easily have thrown the championship battle wide open. And with Silverstone yet again playing host next weekend, team strategy and choice of Pirelli tyre compounds will be the key consideration of every team in the paddock, especially given the heat wave due to hit the country next week.

Fraser Masefield

Sports news and features writer, web editor and author.