Hamil­ton sur­vives tyre blowout to claim record vic­tory on three wheels

Bri­ton ex­tends lead to 30 points de­spite last-lap scare I hoped ti­tle fight would be closer, ad­mits Mercedes driver

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport British Grand Prix - By Tom Cary

It did not take long for mock-ups of Lewis Hamil­ton’s Mercedes em­bla­zoned with “Trot­ters In­de­pen­dent Trad­ing Co” to start ap­pear­ing on so­cial me­dia.

It is not of­ten you see a three­wheeler win a For­mula One grand prix.

One of the most ex­tra­or­di­nary fin­ishes to a race in re­cent years even­tu­ally yielded a record sev­enth Bri­tish Grand Prix vic­tory for Hamil­ton, who is now one step closer to a record-equalling sev­enth F1 driv­ers’ ti­tle.

But it was far from straight­for­ward. A tyre blowout on the last lap forced the Mercedes driver to nurse his car home, all the way from Sil­ver­stone’s old pit straight – with around two thirds of the lap still re­main­ing – to the fin­ish.

And un­der in­tense pres­sure from the Red Bull of Max Ver­stap­pen, too. The Dutch­man closed from 30 sec­onds back to less than six sec­onds by the che­quered flag.

It was a fin­ish that de­served a live au­di­ence. And the 140,000 who nor­mally pack into Sil­ver­stone on race day would have lapped it up. But this is not a nor­mal year.

The dra­matic de­noue­ment, as Hamil­ton wres­tled his W11 around the cir­cuit, the car’s un­der­car­riage pro­duc­ing sparks as it scraped along Sil­ver­stone’s twist­ing tar­mac, was played out to empty grand­stands.

Hamil­ton was in shock by the fin­ish. It was only later, once he had cooled off, that he was able to process what had just hap­pened.

“As the min­utes go by I feel worse and worse,” he ad­mit­ted. “In the heat of the mo­ment the adrenalin is go­ing.

“Now I am just think­ing of all the things that could have hap­pened if the tyre gave up in a high-speed cor­ner be­cause it would have been a much dif­fer­ent pic­ture.”

It had been a pretty av­er­age grand prix up un­til that point. The only peo­ple in­side Sil­ver­stone not of­fi­cially work­ing at the race were a group of Ex­tinc­tion Re­bel­lion pro­test­ers who man­aged to un­furl an “Act Now” ban­ner as the for­ma­tion lap set off. They were ar­rested.

Oth­er­wise the rather sur­real lack of at­mos­phere seemed to trans­late to the track.

Hamil­ton ac­tu­ally got away slug­gishly, but Valt­teri Bot­tas “chick­ened out” of a move on his Mercedes team-mate. “[For­mer Mercedes team-mate Nico] Ros­berg would have kept his foot in,” noted BBC com­men­ta­tor Jolyon Palmer, unim­pressed.

There­after the race set­tled into a fa­mil­iar pat­tern. An early col­li­sion be­tween Alex Al­bon’s Red Bull and Kevin Mag­nussen’s Haas – which put the lat­ter out of the race – brought out the safety car. As did a mas­sive crash in­volv­ing Al­phaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat on lap 13, caus­ing ev­ery­one to dive into the pits and on to the hard tyre.

But that was as close as any of Mercedes’ ri­vals got to them – un­til the fi­nal laps any­way.

There was some lively rac­ing fur­ther back, Daniel Ric­cia­rdo in the Re­nault and the two McLarens of Lando Nor­ris and Car­los Sainz Jnr had some fun bat­tling each other. Haas’s Ro­main Gros­jean got in ev­ery­one’s way.

But it was pretty bog-stan­dard stuff un­til, with two laps re­main­ing, Bot­tas sud­denly suf­fered a frontleft blowout.

The Finn had been push­ing hard to catch Hamil­ton. Too hard maybe. He had clearly worn out his tyres. Hamil­ton thought his were still OK and so did Ver­stap­pen, Red Bull de­cid­ing to pit their man, who was now in se­cond place, in or­der to put on a set of soft tyres and go for the fastest lap bonus point. It was a fate­ful de­ci­sion.

Sud­denly tyres were ex­plod­ing all over the place. McLaren’s Sainz was the next to suf­fer a front-left punc­ture. Then, on the very last lap, Hamil­ton’s went.

Un­for­tu­nately for Ver­stap­pen, Hamil­ton was not ac­tu­ally driv­ing Del Boy’s Re­liant Re­gal. His Mercedes just about held to­gether.

Asked whether he had ever ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like it, Hamil­ton thought for a mo­ment.

“There was a race when I was in For­mula Re­nault at Croft when the rear sus­pen­sion had two rear springs and one had snapped off and through the left-han­ders I had one wheel in the air,” he said. “That was a race where I was in the lead and I man­aged to hang on in that race. It was sim­i­lar. But ob­vi­ously to­day was more ex­treme and the cost was a lot higher.” Just a bit.

Hamil­ton’s lead is now 30 points in the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship af­ter just four races. And the fear is he will pro­duce another lights-to-flag win here next week­end.

Even he ad­mit­ted he would like it to be a bit closer. “Hon­estly, I’m a through-and-through racer at heart,” he said. “Grow­ing up kart­ing, wheel to wheel, that’s what gets me up in the morn­ing. This is def­i­nitely not the cham­pi­onship fight I’d be hop­ing for.

“I re­ally, re­ally hope in the fu­ture it’s closer. But it’s the rules, ul­ti­mately. Every team is given the same rules. At the end of the day we are do­ing an ex­cep­tional job col­lec­tively.”

Even on three wheels, Mercedes are prov­ing im­pe­ri­ous.

‘I am think­ing of what could have hap­pened if the tyre gave up in a high-speed cor­ner’

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