Hamilton romps to Silverstone win, Vettel seventh

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Updated: July 16, 2017

11:51 AM ET

SILVERSTONE — Lewis Hamilton turned in a dominant performance to win a record-equalling fifth British Grand Prix on Sunday and cut Sebastian Vettel’s championship lead to one point.

Hamilton’s fourth consecutive victory at Silverstone never looked in doubt after he started the race from pole position and led every single lap on his way to the chequered flag. But while the Mercedes driver made it look easy, the drama kicked off behind in the final few laps as both Kimi Raikkonen in second and Vettel in fourth suffered front-left tyre failures. Raikkonen’s saw him lose one position to Bottas before pitting and returning to the track in third, while Vettel’s occured earlier in the lap and dropped him from fourth to seventh after pitting at the end of the penultimate lap.

Valtteri Bottas made it a one-two for Mercedes after a brilliant recovery drive from ninth place saw him overtake Vettel and close within a few seconds of Raikkonen before the Ferraris hit trouble and he inherited second. Max Verstappen secured fourth for Red Bull after his team feared he would encounter the same problem as the Ferraris and pitted him for a fresh set of tyres with just two laps remaining.

Daniel Ricciardo recovered from 19th on the grid to fifth in the second Red Bull, passing Nico Hulkenberg on the penultimate lap to score solid points on a weekend when everything else seemed to go against him. Despite losing fifth position to Ricciardo at the end, Renault will take plenty of positives from finishing sixth at Silverstone and by the end of the race Hulkenberg had a 53-second advantage over the lead Force India of Esteban Ocon in eighth. Sergio Perez made it the eighth double-points finish of the season for Force India, with Felipe Massa picking up the final point on offer on Williams’ 40th anniversary weekend.

How the race unfolded

Hamilton made a clean getaway from pole at the start as the two Ferraris came under attack from Verstappen. The Red Bull driver managed to find a way past Vettel at Village on lap one, setting up a thrilling battle that lasted the entirety of the first stint. Vettel looked like he’d gain the position back on the inside of Stowe on lap 13, but Verstappen kept his foot in the throttle around the outside of the corner and held a defensive line on the inside for Vale. On the following lap, Vettel looked to the outside of Verstappen at Stowe but lost time as he was run wide, allowing Bottas — who had already recovered four places from his starting position — to close within two seconds of the Ferrari.

Realising Vettel would struggle to get the move on Verstappen completed on the track, Ferrari pitted him on lap 18 to put switch to soft tyres for the remainder of the race. Car 5 then pushed hard on its out lap, securing the undercut on Verstappen when the Red Bull pitted a lap later for its switch to softs. Bottas, who started on the soft compound tyre, decided to play the long game and stayed out on track, eking out a big enough gap over Verstappen to make sure he returned to the track ahead of the Red Bull when he pitted on lap 32.

With Hamilton successfully making a pit stop in the intervening period and returning to the track with his lead intact, the focus then shifted to the 77 Mercedes closing in on Vettel. Bottas’ new super-soft compound tyres were 14 laps younger than Vettel’s softs and the performance advantage was clear as he chipped away at the Ferrari’s lead and drew up alongside on the entrance to Stowe on lap 42. Vettel just managed to hold the Mercedes off but as he defended into Vale he locked his brakes, badly flatspotting his front left tyre and making it all the more vulnerable to Silverstone’s high loads. On the following lap Bottas got a better run than Vettel out of Maggots, Becketts and Chapel and cruised past the Ferrari on the Hanger straight, securing a place on the podium in the process.

In the final ten laps a number of drivers were nursing blistered front rubber, but there was little indication it would lead to a failure in the closing stages. Raikkonen’s went first, the rubber delaminating and revealing the bare carcass of the tyre underneath. The tyre remained fully inflated, but with the rubber flailing wildly, Raikkonen had to reduce his pace and return to the pits for a new set.

For Red Bull, the warning was clear and it immediately brought Verstappen, who was on older tyres, into the pits — forgoing a potential podium in the process. Yet Ferrari did not see the need to pit Vettel, despite car No.5 running on tyres six laps older than Raikkonen’s, and as he drove through Brooklands for the penultimate time, his front left tyre also let go. Pirelli reported that the two failures were different — Raikkonen’s a delamination and Vettel’s a puncture that deflated the tyre. The championship leader still had two thirds of the lap to go to get back to the pits and in that time he dropped to seventh as sparks sprayed from the undertray and the tread of his tyre detached from the shoulders.

The lost points saw Vettel’s championship lead cut from 20 points to one in just one afternoon, leaving the 2017 drivers’ championship all to play for with 10 races remaining.

Article source: http://www.espn.com/f1/story/_/id/20078821/lewis-hamilton-romps-silverstone-win-sebastian-vettel-seventh