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When Lewis Hamil­ton took a record-equalling fifth Bri­tish Grand Prix vic­tory, no one else got a look-in

F1 Racing - - RACE DEBRIEF BRITISH GP -

Ahead of the Bri­tish Grand Prix Lewis Hamil­ton had courted con­tro­versy by be­ing the only 2017 race driver not to at­tend the ‘F1 Live Lon­don’ street pa­rade around Trafal­gar Square. But when the chips were down – when it re­ally mat­tered – Hamil­ton de­liv­ered for ‘his fans’ in a man­ner that few other driv­ers have ever been able to.

QUAL­I­FY­ING This was pre­dictable Sil­ver­stone weather: over­cast, blowy and driz­zly, with a threat of even heav­ier rain. Equally pre­dictable was a Q3 slugfest be­tween Mercedes and Fer­rari, with the sil­ver cars seem­ing stronger. Ahead of the week­end, team boss Toto Wolff had noted that the W08 re­mained a tricky car to bal­ance. But in the hands of a fired- up su­per­star, it can be dev­as­tat­ingly ef­fec­tive – as Lewis Hamil­ton would demon­strate.

Sil­ver­stone is Hamil­ton’s stamp­ing ground: home turf where he is ha­bit­u­ally bril­liant. His first marker was a 1m27.231s lap, but there was bet­ter to come. He turned the tim­ing screens pur­ple with three best sec­tors on his fi­nal fly­ing lap, lay­ing down a 1m26.6s lap, over half a sec­ond faster than Kimi Räikkö­nen’s P2 time of 1m27.147s. This stun­ning lap al­lowed him to match Jim Clark’s record of five Bri­tish GP poles and put him one shy of Michael Schu­macher’s out­right pole record of 68.

“The high-speed sec­tion here is in­cred­i­ble,” he en­thused af­ter­wards. “I could feel the en­ergy from the crowd, and when it dried out I was re­ally able to use the grip. The fi­nal lap felt fan­tas­tic.”

Kimi’s P2 was a fine ef­fort, while Seb Vet­tel’s P3 came with a gripe about im­per­fect tyre prepa­ra­tion. Valt­teri Bot­tas’s P4 be­came P9 af­ter a gear­box penalty, el­e­vat­ing Max Verstappen to the sec­ond row. Hülken­berg, Pérez, Ocon, Van­doorne and Gros­jean closed out the top ten, but all, surely, were com­pet­ing to be best of the rest…

RACE Don’t doubt for one sec­ond that we’re wit­ness­ing some­thing very spe­cial dur­ing this era of Lewis Hamil­ton-Bri­tish GP dom­i­na­tion. This was his fifth Bri­tish GP vic­tory here – a tally equalled only by Jim Clark and Alain Prost. It was also his fourth con­sec­u­tive vic­tory at Sil­ver­stone.

Un­touch­able on Satur­day, only mis­for­tune or me­chan­i­cal mis­ad­ven­ture could stop Hamil­ton’s as­cent to the podium’s top step. An aban­doned start, caused by the for­ma­tion-lap fail­ure of Jolyon Palmer’s brake-by-wire sys­tem, was no im­ped­i­ment. They sim­ply went round one more time be­fore Lewis blasted into a lead he would never re­lin­quish. It was his ri­vals’ turn to suf­fer: Vet­tel’s brakes caught fire; Bot­tas started from ninth due to a gear­box penalty; and Dan Ric­cia­rdo started 19th af­ter pre-race tech­ni­cal woes.

Only Räikkö­nen was able to keep Hamil­ton in sight. Af­ter lap 1, Lewis’s lead over Kimi was 1.6s, although it was wiped out by a three-lap Safety Car re­sult­ing from a clash be­tween Car­los Sainz and Daniil Kvyat that pushed Sainz into re­tire­ment.

When the race re­sumed Hamil­ton was able to stretch out a fur­ther gap, charg­ing away on supersofts. He paused only on lap 25, for a set of softs that would see him to the flag, with a fastest lap (1min 30.621s) thrown in three laps from home. “I was man­ag­ing a 12-14s gap to Kimi,” he said af­ter­wards, “but then I saw there’d been a cou­ple of blow-outs right at the end, so I backed off.”

The two blow-outs oc­curred within a lap of each other, and each one killed the front-left tyre of a Fer­rari. Räikkö­nen’s came two laps from home and cost him P2. The Pirelli didn’t ex­plode, but lost its tread with­out de­flat­ing, let­ting Kimi cruise to the pits for fresh boots and a sprint to the last podium po­si­tion. Vet­tel’s, one lap later, was more dra­matic:

HAMIL­TON STRETCHED OUT A FUR­THER GAP, CHARG­ING AWAY ON SUPERSOFTS. HE PAUSED ONLY ON LAP 25, FOR A SET OF SOFTS THAT WOULD SEE HIM TO THE FLAG

his front-left (six laps younger than Räikkö­nen’s) flat­tened with­out warn­ing and while Fer­rari would of­fer no rea­son for the fail­ure, Vet­tel had locked up the left front heav­ily a few laps ear­lier, dur­ing a fu­ri­ous fight with Bot­tas.

Bot­tas, charg­ing from P9, had passed Vet­tel for third, pre-blowout, prompt­ing par­ti­san cheers – Vet­tel’s po­si­tional loss be­ing Hamil­ton’s ti­tle-fight gain. Bot­tas then rose to P2 fol­low­ing Räikkö­nen’s trou­bles, with Vet­tel slump­ing to sev­enth.

Verstappen wound up fourth af­ter a late stop, hav­ing en­gaged in bat­tle with Vet­tel for P3. Each ran the other off the track, but Vet­tel could find no way past. Fer­rari even­tu­ally opted for the un­der­cut on lap 18 and when Max pit­ted two laps later, he knew a place had been lost even be­fore he left the pits. Mean­time, Ric­cia­rdo’s charge to fifth, from P19, was one of the many high­lights of this bril­liant grand prix. He’s a driver who, like his team, doesn’t know when he’s beaten.

Next up was Nico Hülken­berg. A new floor had blessed the R.S.17 with greater grip and bal­ance and Hülk’s de­liv­ery of the team’s joint-best 2017 fin­ish to date was a happy foot­note to the 40th an­niver­sary of Re­nault’s F1 de­but.

Este­ban Ocon and Ser­gio Pérez stayed out of each other’s way to record an­other dou­ble points fin­ish for Force In­dia, while Felipe Massa sal­vaged Wil­liams’ lack­lus­tre week­end with tenth.

Lewis left his beloved Sil­ver­stone just one point off the cham­pi­onship lead. Ten down, ten to go… These are heady times in­deed.

Jolyon Palmer’s race was over be­fore it be­gan, fol­low­ing a warm-up lap brake-by-wire fail­ure Bot­tas fin­ished P2 be­hind Mercedes team-mate Hamil­ton, af­ter start­ing from P9 Vet­tel’s late-race tyre fail­ure helped whit­tle his ti­tle lead down to just one point ahead of Lewis

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