Lewis Hamilton: British GP sees turnaround in fortunes

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Lewis Hamilton
Hamilton made a point of thanking the home fans after his Silverstone win

Lewis Hamilton said he felt like the "world was crumbling beneath" him on the eve of the British Grand Prix.

Twenty-four hours later, a first win in his home race for six years and his deficit in the championship to team-mate Nico Rosberg all but wiped out, he must have felt like it was at his feet again.

It was the sort of rollercoaster weekend with which Hamilton, as he admitted afterwards, has become so familiar over the years.

He was all but speechless after aborting his final qualifying lap on Saturday and seeing what he had thought would be pole position turn into sixth place on the grid. On Sunday, after his fifth win of the year, and Rosberg's first retirement, Hamilton was joking about the quality of the sponsor's trophy he had been handed on the podium.

"It fell to pieces," he laughed as he sat in the post-race news conference, now proudly displaying the gold RAC trophy traditionally awarded for victory at Silverstone. "The bottom fell off the one we just had. It's plastic. It must have cost £10."

It was going to take more than that to ruin his day after what had turned into the perfect result, but which had looked set to be anything but on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton said after the race that he had spent the previous evening with his family going over the mistake in qualifying that could have been so costly.

British GP highlights: Hamilton wins as Rosberg retires

They had lifted him back up, he said, as had the fans at Silverstone, packed as usual with 120,000 people.

Those spectators witnessed a race that was gripping from the first lap to the last, from the scare of Kimi Raikkonen's first-lap accident, through Williams driver Valtteri Bottas's sensational climb through the field, to the thrillingly epic battle between Ferrari's Fernando Alonso and Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel. Hamilton's home win was the icing on the cake.

Afterwards, though, despite his good mood, Hamilton still was not saying what had possessed him to decide to back out of his final qualifying lap in the constantly changing wet-dry conditions of a gloomy Silverstone Saturday.

On one level, the decision was understandable. He was 1.5 seconds down on his previous time after just four corners, and figured the lap was lost.

Elsewhere around the circuit other drivers were thinking the same thing. McLaren's Jenson Button was on the radio to his engineers saying there was no way he could improve; he had wheelspin on the straights in fourth gear. McLaren's pit wall advised him to keep going - he had nothing to lose.

Watch Lewis Hamilton thank his fans after winning the British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Hamilton, though, did.

For the previous three races he had been out-qualified by Rosberg when he should not have been. In two of them, Rosberg had gone on to win with Hamilton second; in the other the German had finished second to Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo and Hamilton had retired.

Those results had turned a small lead for Hamilton in the championship into a 29-point advantage for Rosberg, and Hamilton knew coming into Silverstone that he could ill afford to let that lead get any bigger.

All he had to worry about was ensuring he started ahead of Rosberg on the grid, and therefore being able to control him in the race. It did not matter if anyone else beat them, just as long as Hamilton was the faster of the two Mercedes cars.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton with the RAC trophy: "That recovery - I needed it"

Ahead after the first runs in qualifying, rather than behind as he had been in Monaco, Canada and Austria, Hamilton started his final lap with Rosberg right on his tail and light rain falling.

Rosberg talked after qualifying about needing to "minimise the risks" in a title battle with a team-mate in a dominant car. Instead, Hamilton took a huge one.

All he needed to do was finish the lap. If Rosberg stayed behind Hamilton, by definition he could not beat him. Hamilton did not need to hold his team-mate up; just keep going.

But he did not. He locked his front brakes at Turn Four, saw the time on his dashboard, figured it was all over and backed off.

Was he perhaps subliminally influenced by a recent radio message from his engineer to "not hold Nico up if you decide to abort the lap"? It cannot have helped and was not the smartest thought to put into your driver's head as he started his final qualifying lap. His engineer should have been telling Hamilton to finish the lap at all costs, no matter what.

Rosberg knew that. He could not believe his luck. He had realised there was a chance to improve, simply because on their first runs the last sector of the lap had been so wet - to the tune of losing three or four seconds just in four corners.

Nico Rosberg
Rosberg had scored points in 17 consecutive races before retirement at Silverstone

If it had dried just a little, there was a chance to go faster, even if the first part of the lap was slower. And so it proved. Rosberg improved, and so did Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Nico Hulkenberg and Kevin Magnussen.

In 15 seconds, as he trundled down the pit lane, Hamilton went from first to sixth. With Rosberg on pole, it was exactly what he did not need. No wonder he was lost for words afterwards.

Before Silverstone, Hamilton had put a brave face on his situation, although he had mentioned with regularity the fact that Rosberg was only leading the championship because Hamilton had retired twice and Rosberg not at all.

Hamilton's problem until Sunday was that his deficit was large enough that another retirement for him could prove enormously damaging.

"I've been chasing all year, really," Hamilton said. "Since I lost the points at the first race, and then I was chasing again after the last DNF. It's been very, very difficult psychologically."

Rosberg's retirement in Silverstone has now made the score two-one, and reduced the points gap to just four. But Hamilton said he did not feel as happy about that as he had expected.

"To be honest, I don't really feel anything for the retirement," he said. "I would have thought I'd be sitting here thinking: 'Finally!' But I don't feel that way.

Watch Kimi Raikkonen's opening-lap crash at the British Grand Prix

"I was really looking forward to racing with him, so in the race (when Rosberg retired) I thought: 'That kind of sucks. That's what fans need to see.' That's what I was looking forward to. But I'll take it as it has come. I think today is more just solidifying belief in myself. That recovery - I needed it."

He also, he admitted, needs to make sure the sorts of mistakes he made on Saturday do not keep happening.

"It's going to be very close," Hamilton said. "I don't take yesterday lightly at all so I really need to analyse things for the next couple of weeks and how I can utilise my speed and the opportunity.

"The last two races I've easily had the pace for pole position and I've not put it there. I've put it much further back, made it much harder for myself. Now I'm going to try to rectify that for the future."

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