A thrilling start and finish to the Silverstone race, Hamilton was forced to bide his time in the opening stages after an incredible getaway by Felipe Massa saw the Brazilian snatch the lead from third, before a botched attempt to get past the Williams after the safety car simply allowed Valtteri Bottas to get through too.
Going on to reclaim the lead through the pit-stop window, the onset of rain the final 20 laps would throw another curve ball into proceedings, but the defending champion would judge the conditions perfectly to cling on to success.
Indeed, Hamilton was made to work hard for his third career home win, with Massa’s lightning start from third on the grid seeing the Brazilian squeeze past the Mercedes’ to take the lead into the first complex, while Hamilton had to battle hard to keep second from the equally rapid Bottas.
Further back, however, there was drama as both Lotus’ and McLarens were involved in a clumsy collision at turn two, with Romain Grosjean stopping straight away and Pastor Maldonado lasting just a few more corners before also coming to a halt. Meanwhile, Button’s race was also over after he was collected by the spinning Alonso, who turned around to avoid the Lotus’ ahead, the Briton stopping on the spot as Alonso cruised into the pit-lane for a nose change.
With the race brought under safety car, at the restart Hamilton stuck with Massa as they came into the final corner, but a lock up as he attempted to pass on the outside would send him over the kerbs and allow Bottas to nip through into second place as a result.
Putting Williams 1-2 on the road, with Hamilton holding onto third from Nico Rosberg, the race settled into a rhythm, with Williams telling both of their drivers to hold station in an attempt to pull away from the Mercedes’ behind.
However, Bottas insisted he was faster than Massa and, after a few candid radio messages, was given the all-clear to attempt a pass, albeit only a clean one down the Hangar Straight. Once the go-ahead had been given though, Bottas could not get close enough to Massa at any point to mount a serious challenge for the lead, as the Mercedes stalked closely, but not threateningly.
In the end, it was Mercedes that would roll the dice by bringing Hamilton into the pits first, the Briton pitting alone, forcing Massa to complete another lap on waning tyres. With Massa and Rosberg coming in the following revolution, that single lap was all Hamilton needed to get the jump as he came past comfortably ahead of both drivers, who were duelling side-by-side down the pit-lane on exit, with Massa clinging on. Bottas pitted the following lap to exit between Massa and Rosberg in third.
With the benefit of clear air, Hamilton quickly put the hammer down and increased his lead over Massa, who in turn managed to put comfortable air between himself and Bottas, the Finn now forced to fend off the attentions of Rosberg.
However, Hamilton’s race was far from ‘completed’ as the teams’ confirmed worst fears that looming clouds would bring rain to Silverstone before it was over. The heavens subsequently opened with 20 laps remaining, a sharp but concentrated shower over Luffield and Copse that would make things treacherous for part of the lap, but remain dry elsewhere.
With the top five opting to stick out and only a handful taking an early punt on intermediate tyres, Rosberg chose his moment to attack to ease past Bottas first and then Massa, the Williams drivers waning in the changing weather. From here, Rosberg proceeded to give rapid chase to Hamilton and had the gap down to just four seconds just as the heavens opened once again, this time with heavier showers.
It was at this moment that Hamilton himself would make the savvy call to dive into the pit lane for intermediate tyres with nine laps to go, whereas Rosberg opted to brave it out for an additional lap in the worsening conditions.
It was this decision that would ultimately make the difference, Rosberg re-emerging from the pit lane 10secs behind and unable to make a dent on his team-mate’s advantage in the final laps.
It would subsequently allow Hamilton to focus on bringing the car home, cheered on all the way by the vast crowd as the local favourite crossed the line for his sixth victory of the season, a win that recovers his overall lead to 17 points.
Behind them, Williams’ form deteriorated rapidly as the rain continued to come down, the pair adopting Rosberg’s strategy to stay out slightly longer and then being forced to stack up behind one another. As such, Sebastian Vettel would complete a remarkable late charge, his decision to pit when Hamilton did giving him the chance to jump both Williams’ in the closing stages to nab third, leaving Massa and Bottas somewhat cruelly unrewarded in fourth and fifth.
Indeed, Vettel’s race had followed an unusual trajectory, a poor start leaving him down in ninth position at one stage, before steadily working his way into contention through the pit-stops, before passing team-mate Kimi Raikkonen for fifth as the Finn pitted for intermediates when the first shower began.
However, it would prove an erroneous strategy, Raikkonen struggling on the rubber between the showers before being forced to pit again in the final laps, dropping him to eighth place at the chequered flag.
Outside the top five, Daniil Kvyat put in a fine drive for Red Bull, keeping up with the Ferraris throughout the race and then very nearly getting the better of Bottas on the final revolution to finish in sixth place. By contrast, Daniel Ricciardo retired with mechanical issues.
In the first race for the new VJM08, Force India got both of its cars home in the points, with Nico Hulkenberg finishing seventh having run fifth early on after a stunning start from ninth, while Sergio Perez brought it home for ninth.
A race of attrition after four drivers failed to finish the first lap – including Felipe Nasr, who never made it to the grid -, Max Verstappen would also retire after a high-speed off on the exit of turn one, while his Toro Rosso team-mate Carlos Sainz also came to a stop due to problems.
As such, despite his early stop, the way opened up for Alonso to snatch an unexpected first point of the season in tenth position, a surprise reward for McLaren at the end of an uncompetitive, albeit considerably more reliable weekend.
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