Hamilton wins British Grand Prix: 'One of the greatest laps of all time'

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton was in charge from start to finish at Silverstone on Sunday

Lewis Hamilton had effectively won the British Grand Prix by the time the race was six corners old.

When the cars were unleashed after five laps behind the safety car on a wet track following a downpour 15 minutes before the start, the world champion produced what was surely one of the great opening laps of all time.

By the time the field reached Luffield, Hamilton was already an astonishing three seconds in the lead.

Three seconds. In the nine corners the cars had negotiated up to that point - including Stowe, Vale and Club at the end of the previous lap - as Hamilton sprinted away once the safety car was no longer an issue.

By the end of the first lap, he was 3.7secs clear. Once their pit stops and the complication of the virtual safety car were dealt with, Hamilton was five seconds up after five racing laps, and the race was in his pocket.

From then on, he measured his pace to those behind, doing no more than he needed to, protecting his engine with a view to the long term and cruising to his fourth win in the past five races.

"Lewis stormed away at the beginning," Mercedes F1 team boss Toto Wolff said, "and had the right pace and walked over the water. On a day like this, Lewis Hamilton is unstoppable."

In control from the start

In truth, this race had looked like Hamilton's from long before that. He was fastest in all three practice sessions, and in two of the three qualifying sessions. His fastest lap in second qualifying was 0.7secs quicker than Rosberg, who cut only half that in the top 10 shoot-out after looking at Hamilton's telemetry.

In short, Hamilton was in a league of his own throughout the weekend - especially through the fast corners that make up the second sector, particularly Copse, Maggots and Becketts.

This section of track is widely regarded as one of the most demanding in the world. Hamilton went one better. "It is the best sector in the whole season," he said. "That series of corners is phenomenal."

Lewis Hamilton
No wonder he's blurred: Hamilton stormed away from the filed on the first racing lap

How did he explain his superiority there over Rosberg?

"Bigger balls," he said. "It is the feeling in the car, nice balance. I got the car in a great position, set-up wise, balance-wise, and it was a dream to drive."

The weekend overall, he said, "has felt pretty awesome".

His one error was an oversteer moment through the fast first corner, Abbey, on lap 28, which necessitated a trip along the escape road.

But seeing as the same damp patch also caught out his fellow champions Sebastian Vettel, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen (twice in the case of the Finn), among others, that can hardly be held against him.

The championship back to square one

The penalty handed to Rosberg after Mercedes were found to have broken rules regarding driver assistance over team radio has reduced the gap between the team-mates to a single point.

Five races ago, it was 43, the most part of which was created by technical problems that hit Hamilton in China and Russia, the third and fourth races of the season.

Those engine-related failures may yet impact on Hamilton over the final 11 races of a season that has reached its halfway point - Wolff said Hamilton "might" get a penalty for using more than the permitted number of engines, but he wouldn't know for sure until the summer break.

But even if they do, the wind is very much in Hamilton's sails now.

"It is a great feeling," he said. "We have had Monaco, Montreal, no problems. No problems in the last race. The pace has been awesome and we've really maximised on the performance.

"I am really happy today because it is so easy to come into this weekend with the wrong energy. But to come in feeling fresh, powerful, strong and confident and deliver is what I plan to do every weekend. This has been the best week of the year, without doubt."

Verstappen gets better and better

Max Verstappen
Teenage Red Bull driver Max Verstappen's race craft "is spectacular", according to Mercedes boss Wolff

If Hamilton owned the weekend, the man who ultimately finished second, Red Bull's Max Verstappen, was almost as impressive.

The 18-year-old Dutchman pushed Rosberg hard throughout the race, pulled a superb overtaking manoeuvre around the outside at Becketts to take second place and then mounted a highly skilled defence of his position against a faster, more powerful car for 10 laps before finally being forced to give way to the inevitable.

Among those impressed was Wolff.

"His race craft is spectacular," he said. "The way he positions the car and you can see that if he has a good car underneath him that he is able to pull off a great fight."

This is now the second race in succession in which Verstappen has beaten his highly regarded team-mate Daniel Ricciardo fair and square - and this weekend was also the first time the Australian has been out-qualified by a team-mate all year.

To be fair, Ricciardo was, as Red Bull team boss Christian Horner pointed out, disadvantaged by the deployment of the virtual safety car on lap seven.

Max Verstappen and Nico Rosberg
Verstappen overtook Rosberg brilliantly

That enabled Verstappen to gain about 10 seconds on him because it reduces the time loss of a pit stop and also put him behind Force India's Sergio Perez, who he did not pass until lap 21.

Even so, Verstappen appeared to have an edge all weekend, and Horner believes the competition between the two is driving Red Bull forwards in their battle with Ferrari for second place in the constructors' championship.

"Daniel is a class driver and he has demonstrated already this year that he is at the top of his game," he said. "No team-mate likes being the second of the cars to finish. He will respond positively but it's a positive thing in the team."

Ricciardo said on Saturday that their rivalry had "created a bit more of an atmosphere" in the team.

But Horner said: "There is no animosity. It is just two guys going flat out going for it and it's very healthy for us.

"We have a very strong car, strong drivers, the engine's improving and I don't think there is anything we need to fear."

What is going on at Ferrari?

On the subject of Ferrari, this was arguably their worst weekend of a year that they started with pretensions of battling toe-to-toe with Mercedes for the title.

Ferrari have been able to push Mercedes close on certain tracks, such as Bahrain and Montreal, where the predominantly slow corners do not expose the weaknesses of their car.

But at Silverstone, which is as complete a test of an F1 car's all-round capabilities as anywhere in the world, they were nowhere.

Raikkonen was their fastest qualifier after Sebastian Vettel made a hash of his qualifying runs and the Finn was 1.6 seconds off Hamilton's pace.

Vettel looked like he was capable of splitting the Red Bulls. But, even had he done so, that still would have left Ferrari more than a second behind the time the two Mercedes posted.

What was wrong? Raikkonen was to the point, as usual.

Sebastian Vettel
Vettel had an uncharacteristically messy weekend, and was unhappy as a result

"Downforce will help everything," he said. "It is what we need to challenge Mercedes every weekend.

"Obviously there are other areas that have to improve but if we put downforce on like a few cars in front of us it would be a completely different story.

"Right now, in these kind of conditions and this circuit, that is our biggest issue."

Vettel was not a happy man after the race. He was highly critical of the Pirelli 'extreme' wet tyre, describing it as "basically just good enough to follow the safety car" and adding that "no-one really has any trust in it".

"You would rather," he added, "take a lot of risk going on to the intermediates where there was a lot of aquaplaning in the beginning simply because it was a quicker tyre."

Kimi Raikkonen
"More downforce, please": Ferrari are losing the battle for second to Red Bull

And he was clearly concerned about a weekend that included two gearbox failures, a five-place grid penalty for the second race in a row, and was characterised by a general lack of pace.

"It has been a weak race for us," he said. "There is a lot to understand. I am very confident things will look different again in two weeks but that is not an excuse.

"We had a bad weekend and we need to make sure we address this and take actions and move forward and understand why we struggled more than other people.

"This weekend was a step back for us in terms of competitiveness, not necessarily a big step up for other people."

Vettel's words have added weight because he is not one for criticising his team.

Given that their engine is considered to be only about 8bhp shy of Mercedes', it suggests that Ferrari's chassis is arguably hardly better than it was in 2014.

That season was their worst for 20 years. It ended winless and with a blood-letting of senior management.

In terms of victories at least, this one is in danger of going the same way.

Lewis Hamilton
It was a near-perfect weekend for Lewis Hamilton in the Northamptonshire countryside

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