SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom – What looked like an easy victory for Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s British Grand Prix nearly vanished on the final lap at the Silverstone Circuit.
After rocketing off into the distance from the pole, Hamilton was in control of the race throughout the entire 52-lap distance. Two laps from the finish his Mercedes teammate, Valtteri Bottas, fell off the pace while running second with a flat left-front tire.
Bottas limped his Mercedes to the pit lane as Max Verstappen inherited second for Red Bull. Red Bull, realizing Verstappen wouldn’t lose his position if he pitted for fresh tires, called him to the pits in an effort to claim the fastest lap and the bonus point that goes with it.
Meanwhile, the flat tires continued as Carlos Sainz Jr. suddenly fell off the pace in his McLaren while running in the top-five with a flat left-front tire.
Back at the front of the field, Hamilton took the white flag with a more than 30 second lead over Verstappen. However, shortly after taking the white flag, Hamilton also suddenly slowed with a flat left-front tire.
With a massive lead in his back pocket, Hamilton slowly limped his wounded Mercedes around the track as Verstappen closed in on him in a huge hurry. Hamilton managed to make every turn and not cut the course and he came out of the final corner and approached the checkered flag a little less than six seconds ahead of Verstappen.
The dramatic victory was Hamilton’s seventh in his home Grand Prix and the 87th of his Formula One career.
“Up until that last lap everything was relatively smooth sailing. The tires felt great,” Hamilton said. “When I heard that his (Bottas) tire went, I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine. The car was still turning no problem so I was thinking maybe it’s OK.
“Those last few laps I started to back off and then down the straight it just deflated,” Hamilton continued. “I just noticed the shape just shift a little bit. That was definitely the heart in the mouth kind of feeling. I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down until I hit the brakes and then obviously you could see the tire was falling off the rim.
“I was just praying trying to get it around and not be too slow. I nearly didn’t get around the last two corners, but thank God we did.”
Verstappen succeeded in turning the fastest lap of the race during his final lap pursuit of Hamilton’s damaged car, but came up short of his first victory of the season.
“It’s lucky and unlucky,” Verstappen said. “The tires, at one point they didn’t look great with like 10 laps to go. I was already on the radio like, ‘Guys, the right front doesn’t look very pretty.’ Then of course Valtteri got a puncture so sort of came on the radio like I was going to back it out.
“Then of course they boxed me to go for the fastest lap and of course unfortunately Lewis got a puncture himself. I’m very happy with second. It’s a very good result for us again.”
Charles Leclerc finished third to complete the podium for Ferrari following Bottas’ bad luck at the end of the race. Daniel Ricciardo earned his best finish of the season in fourth for Renault, with Lando Norris taking fifth for McLaren.
Renault’s Esteban Ocon, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly, Red Bull’s Alexander Albon, Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel completed the points finishers.
Bottas finished 11th after his late-race tire issue.
Nico Hulkenberg, who was set to make his return to Formula One for Racing Point after Sergio Perez tested positive for COVID-19, failed to turn a lap in Sunday’s race. Racing Point discovered a problem with his car prior to the race and they were unable to repair it in time for him to start the event.
The race was slowed by two early safety car periods, both for major accidents. The first came on lap one when Kevin Magnussen slammed the wall after contact with Albon. The second was for a crash involving Daniil Kvyat.