So, a fine result for the home crowd eventually at Silverstone, but only after a nervy weekend. After Lewis Hamilton’s disastrous qualifying stint that saw him start sixth on the grid, then a delayed restart to the race on lap two after a spin from Kimi Raikonnen took out a section of fence on the Wellington Straight, Hamilton rewarded the flag-waving hordes by winning a thrilling British Grand Prix. Teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg had held on to his pole position advantage, but eventually retired from the lead on lap 29 with a gearbox failure, following multiple laps of both up and downshifting problems.
Hamilton’s fight from the third row began instantly, passing Nico Hulkenberg off the line and Sebastian Vettel by the second corner to take fourth. But the charge was immediately halted for an entire hour, after Raikkonen’s first-lap incident that badly damaged a barrier, the Finn’s car, and could have been a lot worse had Felipe Massa not reacted quickly to avoid a hobbling Kimi. Out came the red flag.
After restarting behind the safety car, Hamilton resumed his charge. He needed just two more laps to pass the McLarens of Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button, and once Rosberg’s gearbox gave up the ghost the result was never in doubt.
Elsewhere, the Williams resurgence continued with a strong drive from Valtteri Bottas to finish second, and new boy Daniel Ricciardo once again made triple champion Vettel look ordinary by coming in third, while Jenson Button rounded off his best weekend of the year by finishing fourth. That was a smile we’ve waited a long time to see again. Vettel, Alonso, Magnussen, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Verne picked up the remaining points.
Dramatic stuff for Silverstone’s 50th British Grand Prix, then, but once again it was a Mercedes reliability issue that robbed fans – all 120,000 of them packed into the circuit’s grandstands – of a straight fight between the two championship leaders. After Hamilton retired from both the Australian and Canadian races with mechanical issues (first the engine, then the brakes), there’s small comfort in the revelation that his teammate isn’t impervious to bad luck, but still, it’s a shame we were denied a straight battle between two men and cars at the top of their game rather than blue smoke and shrugging mechanics. We’ll never know for sure whether Lewis would have caught and passed Rosberg at Silverstone, although their respective lap times before Rosberg’s gearbox drama suggest it would have been very close.
But whatever. That means there are just four points in it as we head into the second half of the season. And now that both Hamilton and Rosberg have tasted both glory and despair at the wheels of their dominant-but-ocassionally-dodgy cars, they both head to Hockenheim on almost completely even terms. This is a fight destined to go down to the wire. That’s if Mercedes can sort out their reliability problems: this is a battle that deserves to see the knock-out blows landed on the track, rather than in the garage…