This weekend saw a race for the ages at Silverstone as 140,000 fans filled the circuit for the first time after a tumultuous year of lockdown restrictions. The long wait paid off as this year’s British Grand Prix had it all – early drama, controversy, late overtakes, and a miracle winner.
The race started dramatically, as Hamilton and Verstappen fought to take the lead before the end of the opening lap. Both drivers did not back down, and the crowd witnessed a tight scrap for the first eight corners of the circuit. The tension was palpable, and all was to play for.
The two were separated, however, at the infamous ‘Copse Corner’ when both cars collided. Verstappen ended up in the barriers at 180mph with an impact of 51G – thankfully, he appeared to get out of the car on his own accord and was flown to a hospital nearby for precautionary checks. The crash called for a red flag and the race halted.
The battle between the two championship contenders was fierce following the last four races which were so close. Inevitably, the pressure would lead to battles over the same piece of tarmac, where only one could emerge victorious, and this race saw just that.
The incident was not short of controversial. Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, called out Hamilton for “dirty driving” and was adamant in blaming Mercedes driver. Toto Wolff, Mercedes team principal, was quick to testify that Hamilton was not in the wrong as he was significantly alongside Verstappen going into turn nine. The stewards eventually decided to give a ten-second penalty to Hamilton for causing a collision.
Following the steward’s decision, it appeared as though Hamilton’s chance at victory was gone. The race restarted after 35 minutes with Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari leading. Hamilton, aware of the penalty, didn’t seem fazed. Instead, an air of unwavering determination settled around number 44’s Mercedes.
Hamilton pitted on lap 27 and after serving what seemed like an eternity disguised as a ten-second penalty, he came out fifth behind the McLaren of Lando Norris. After the pit stops were done and dusted, Hamilton was in fourth with 23 laps to go. After successfully overtaking Norris and his Mercedes teammate, Valterri Bottas, the fight for the win was on. The home crowd was electric as they watched the gap between the Mercedes and the Ferrari begin to close.
With three laps to go, Hamilton caught Leclerc on the inside of turn nine. Leclerc went wide enough to encourage the seven-time world champion to edge past, securing a memorable win in front of an ecstatic home crowd. This win makes Hamilton the most successful driver at Silverstone, having won at the circuit a total of eight times.
The overarching takeaway from this weekend is the revived battle for the championship. This win breaks Red Bull’s streak of five race wins in a row and reduces Verstappen’s championship lead to just eight points. It is hard to imagine that a seven-time world champion would need a confidence boost, but this win might just be the spark Hamilton needs to start a steady push back against the Dutchman in this ongoing fight.
The gloves have come off as Verstappen accused Hamilton of “dangerous” driving – a seemingly hypocritical message for someone whose driving style is often described as aggressive. However, it does take two to tango, and, as Hamilton stated, “it’s never just one person’s fault, it’s always a balance of the two.”
With tensions running high and millions at stake, there is no doubt that the rest of this season will see an unforgettable battle unfold, perhaps even one that will rival the days of Senna and Prost.
Image Credit: taka_suzuki via Creative Commons