Lewis Hamilton extended his lead in the Drivers’ Championship over Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg with his third victory on home soil in a thrilling, rain-hit British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Sunday’s 52-lap race was easily the best of the season so far, with plenty of drama before and during the race. Sauber’s Felipe Nasr didn’t even make the start of the race, with his Sauber grinding to a halt on his reconnaissance lap to the grid with a gearbox failure.
The 19-car field was trimmed to sixteen cars in the opening seconds of the race, after the two Lotus’ of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado tripped over each other trying to avoid Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull. Both of the E23 Hybrids were out on the spot, while incredibly there was another ‘friendly fire’ moment at the same corner, when the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button came together.
Alonso swerved to try and avoid the colliding Lotus’, only to spear into the side of Button’s MP4-30 and send the Englishman into immediate retirement. Alonso managed to limp back to the pits with a damaged front wing and rejoin at the tail of the field, which was held by the Safety Car while the marshals worked to recover the three stricken cars that were eliminated.
That perhaps paled into insignificance with who was actually leading the race: Felipe Massa had made a blinding getaway from the second row, scything in between the sluggish Mercedes’ to claim the lead into the first corner. Teammate Valtteri Bottas was similarly rapid from fourth, slotting into second before rather unwisely leaving the door open at Turn 4 for Hamilton to move between the two FW37s.
The Safety Car pulled in at the end of the third lap of the race, and with the first control line placed before the Vale chicane and Club corner – the final corners marking the end of the lap – Massa would need to get the jump to avoid being overtaken for the lead.
Hamilton had read the script and tried an ambitious lunge on the Brazilian into the left-hander, but Massa held his nerve and forced Hamilton onto the kerbs, allowing the Englishman to lose enough momentum for Bottas to sneak back into second as the pair turned into the final right-hander leading onto the start/finish straight.
Rosberg almost got by as well, but Hamilton showed firm defence to keep his sole title rival at bay.
For the first time since the races in Malaysia and Bahrain, there was a genuine scrap for the lead featuring more than the two works Mercedes’. The top four positions remained unchanged throughout the first stint, with the Williams’ trying to eke out a small gap and stay out of DRS range from the two chasing F1W06 Hybrids behind.
Bottas was perhaps the quicker of the two Williams and more likely to pull away if he could just make a move stick, and despite earnest pleas to the team’s engineers – who eventually relented and said he could take the lead if he could make a clean pass – the Finn was never able to get enough of a run on Massa.
What was really needed was for Williams to lead from the front in calling the shots, strategy-wise, but again – as was seen in Austria last year when its cars were in an identical position – it was perhaps too cautious.
Hamilton elected to pit first and switch to the Hard compound tyre; his out-lap in clear air made the difference, and when Massa and Rosberg pitted a lap later (followed on the next tour by Bottas), it was enough for him to assume a clear lead. A frustrated Bottas slotted between Massa and Rosberg for third.
Free of the two Williams’, Hamilton was able to push and extend his lead – momentarily held by a Virtual Safety Car when Carlos Sainz Jr retired his Toro Rosso with a loss of drive at the exit of the final corner – but the ever-darkening clouds threatened to be the final joker in the deck.
A moderate shower hit the circuit, and Kimi Räikkönen – who, along with Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, was having a very anonymous race – opted to gamble with an early switch to Intermediate tyres. A number of lower midfield runners followed suit, but it would be a strategic call that would backfire as the track simply wasn’t wet enough.
Hamilton held off until Lap 43 before opting to make the switch to Intermediates. He was now being rapidly closed upon by Rosberg, who had scythed his way past Bottas and Massa as the grip levels began to deteriorate.
Rosberg and the two Williams’ pitted a lap later, but it was – barring a mistake by Hamilton – game over at that point, as the Englishman romped away to claim his third win and extend his lead in the Drivers’ Championship standings to 17 points.
Massa and Bottas’ cars were found wanting in the damp conditions, and lacking downforce, both were easy meat for Vettel, who had switched to the Intermediate tyres on the same lap as Hamilton and now found himself in a car he finally liked.
The German made light work of the two Williams and collected the final podium position – a result he freely admitted the team didn’t deserve if the conditions had stayed dry – while Massa and Bottas finished fourth a fifth, a disappointing result given the great dry-weather pace that they had shown.
Bottas only just managed to hold off Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat for fifth at the finish line, with Nico Hülkenberg – who ran a fine fifth in his Force India after a blistering start – and teammate Sergio Pérez sandwiching Räikkönen in a fine weekend for the upgraded VJM08B.
Tenth place went to a relieved Alonso, who finally notched up his first points’ finish of the season with his McLaren running (uncharacteristically) trouble-free to the finish line. The Spaniard finished ahead of Marcus Ericsson’s sole Sauber and the two Marussias of Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens, who’d all made a premature switch to Intermedia tyres during the early stages of the rain shower.
The next Grand Prix takes place at the Hungaroring on July 24-26.
|2015 Formula 1 British Grand Prix – Final Classification (52 laps)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||52||1:31:27.729|
|2.||Nico Rosberg||Mercedes AMG Petronas F1W06 Hybrid||52||+ 10.956|
|3.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||52||+ 25.443|
|4.||Felipe Massa||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||52||+ 36.839|
|5.||Valtteri Bottas||Williams Martini Racing Mercedes FW37||52||+ 1:03.194|
|6.||Daniil Kvyat||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||52||+ 1:03.955|
|7.||Nico Hülkenberg||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||52||+ 1:18.744|
|8.||Kimi Räikkönen||Scuderia Ferrari SF15-T||51||1 lap behind|
|9.||Sergio Pérez||Sahara Force India Mercedes VJM08B||51||1 lap behind|
|10.||Fernando Alonso||McLaren Honda MP4-30||51||1 lap behind|
|11.||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||51||1 lap behind|
|12.||Roberto Merhi||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||49||3 laps behind|
|13.||Will Stevens||Manor Marussia F1 Team Ferrari MR03B||49||3 laps behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Result|
|DNF.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||31||Electrical|
|DNF.||Daniel Ricciardo||Infiniti Red Bull Racing Renault RB11||21||Engine|
|DNF.||Max Verstappen||Scuderia Toro Rosso Renault STR10||3||Accident|
|DNF.||Pastor Maldonado||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Romain Grosjean||Lotus F1 Team Mercedes E23 Hybrid||0||Collision|
|DNF.||Jenson Button||McLaren Honda MP4-30||0||Collision|
|DNS.||Felipe Nasr||Sauber F1 Team Ferrari C34||Gearbox|
Image via Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team and Sutton Motorsport Images
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