Hamil­ton: My heart nearly stopped

Bri­ton clings on for thrilling win de­spite last-lap punc­ture Three-wheel fin­ish is just enough to hold off Ver­stap­pen

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

Lewis Hamil­ton ad­mit­ted his “heart nearly stopped” af­ter a fi­nal-lap tyre blowout al­most cost him vic­tory in a dra­matic con­clu­sion to yes­ter­day’s Bri­tish Grand Prix.

Hamil­ton was one of three driv

ers to suf­fer punc­tures in the fi­nal laps. But while Mercedes team­mate Valt­teri Bot­tas dropped from se­cond to 11th af­ter punc­tur­ing with two laps left, and McLaren’s Car­los Sainz also tum­bled out of the top 10, Hamil­ton was able to cling on to claim a record-break­ing sev­enth win at his home grand prix.

The 35-year-old had to fin­ish the race on three wheels, though, and with sparks fly­ing from the un­der­car­riage of his Mercedes W11, af­ter pick­ing up the punc­ture with two thirds of the fi­nal lap re­main­ing. A 30-se­cond lead over Red Bull’s Max Ver­stap­pen shrank to less than six sec­onds as Hamil­ton nursed his car home, fear­ing he might lose con­trol at any mo­ment.

Ver­stap­pen would al­most cer­tainly have won had he not stopped to switch to soft tyres with two laps re­main­ing, his team de­cid­ing that with vic­tory be­yond him he should go for the fastest lap.

“I have def­i­nitely never ex­pe­ri­enced any­thing like that on the last lap and my heart def­i­nitely nearly stopped,” Hamil­ton said. “Up un­til that last lap ev­ery­thing was rel­a­tively smooth sail­ing. Valt­teri was re­ally push­ing in­cred­i­bly hard, while I was do­ing some man­age­ment of the tyre. When I heard that his went, I looked at mine and it seemed fine.” He said: “The car was turn­ing no prob­lem. Last few laps I started to back off and then last lap it de­flated. That was a heart-in-mouth mo­ment. You could see it fall­ing off the rim. From then I was just man­ag­ing it and just pray­ing to get round and not be too slow. I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners.

“Bono (race en­gi­neer Peter Bon­ning­ton) was giv­ing me the in­for­ma­tion about the gap [to Ver­stap­pen]. I got to Hangar Straight and I heard he was 19

sec­onds at that point. I tried to pick up speed at Hangar Straight, but the wheel was mak­ing a mess.

“I was think­ing, ‘How am I go­ing to get through th­ese last corners with­out los­ing too much time?’ But I got round turn 15 and once I got through the last two corners, that was re­ally when it was a dis­as­ter. I could hear ‘7, 6, 5…’ and I just man­aged to keep it to­gether.”

In nor­mal years, more than 140,000 fans would have roared their driver home. But due to coron­avirus the stands were empty yes­ter­day as Hamil­ton ex­tended his lead in the driv­ers’ cham­pi­onship to 30 points over Bot­tas.

F1 re­turns to Sil­ver­stone next week­end for the 70th An­niver­sary Grand Prix.

Such is the su­pe­ri­or­ity of Hamil­ton’s ma­chine, both Ver­stap­pen and Fer­rari’s Charles Le­clerc, who

rounded out the Sil­ver­stone podium, have al­ready raised the white flag, say­ing they do not feel they can catch Hamil­ton this year.

“The guy that has some chances is Valt­teri but that’s it,” Le­clerc said.

That ex­tra­or­di­nary fin­ish aside, the race was largely un­event­ful. A group of Ex­tinc­tion Re­bel­lion pro­test­ers man­aged to gain en­try to the cir­cuit, camp­ing out overnight on the Satur­day. They un­furled an “Act Now” ban­ner be­hind the grid as the for­ma­tion lap got un­der way and were ar­rested and es­corted from the premises soon af­ter.

And the driv­ers again staged an anti-racism demon­stra­tion on the grid, which was more suc­cess­ful than at pre­vi­ous races, F1’s or­gan­is­ers hav­ing al­lo­cated 10 ex­tra min­utes on the grid so that it would not be so rushed. Twelve driv­ers joined Lewis Hamil­ton in tak­ing a knee. Seven chose to re­main stand­ing, one more than in Aus­tria at the first race of this de­layed sea­son. All wore “End Racism” T-shirts.

A Spit­fire with the mes­sage “Thank U NHS” also flew over Sil­ver­stone as the driv­ers took part in a one-minute round of ap­plause for the health ser­vice.

Two crashes brought out safety cars, but Hamil­ton and Bot­tas were cruis­ing to­wards another one-two when their tyres sud­denly blew. “I don’t think I’ve won a race on three wheels be­fore,” Hamil­ton said.

Nerve-shred­der: Lewis Hamil­ton in­spects what is left of his front left tyre in parc ferme at Sil­ver­stone af­ter a fi­nal-lap punc­ture forced the world cham­pion to nurse his Mercedes home; (be­low) with the tro­phies he won

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