After a difficult day on Saturday in which he qualified a disappointing sixth on the grid, Lewis Hamilton’s luck turned on Sunday as he fought his way up to second before inheriting the lead from team mate Nico Rosberg when the German hit gearbox difficulties on the 47th lap.
“I couldn’t be happier guys,” Hamilton told his crew on his slow-down lap. “Sorry about yesterday!”
The Briton’s determined performance regenerated his world championship challenge as he closes to within four points of Rosberg at the top of the standings, as once again the Mercedes were in a class of their own. This was, however, by no means a dull Grand Prix - in fact it was action-packed from the word go.
On lap one there was mayhem as the field streamed down the Wellington Straight. Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen ran wide coming out of Aintree bend and as he tried to rejoin the track at speed, he hit a bump, lost control of his car and struck the inside barrier. The Finn’s F14 T was then thrown back across the track where it was narrowly missed by Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham before being collected by Felipe Massa’s spinning Williams as he tried to take avoiding action.
Raikkonen’s car was wrecked, and as the Finn limped away from his car, Massa crawled back to the pits on three wheels - sadly though the Brazilian’s FW36 had sustained too much damage, bringing a premature end to his 200th Grand Prix.
Further back, Briton Max Chilton was lucky to escape injury when his Marussia was hit by a tyre which flew from Raikkonen’s car.
The safety car was deployed immediately, but as the intensity of the damage to the guardrails was appreciated the race was red flagged so that repairs could be effected. Raikkonen was taken to the medical centre for a mandatory check-up; first reports indicated that he was okay, bar a badly bruised right ankle.
Meanwhile, Hamilton had already leapt from sixth to fourth behind Rosberg and the McLarens of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen, having banged wheels briefly with Sebastian Vettel's Red Bull as they scrapped for position. After the race was restarted behind the safety car, the Briton soon scythed his way up to second, whilst behind him Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was on a charge of his own from 14th on the grid.
The Finn would go on to pass the likes of Fernando Alonso’s Ferrari, the two McLarens and the Red Bulls of Daniel Ricciardo and Vettel - many of them around the outside at Stowe corner - as he charged into podium contention.
Hamilton lost time to Rosberg at his first pit stop, but after deciding to put on the hard tyres (instead of the medium rubber his team mate was using), he closed in rapidly on his rival. Then, going around the Loop on lap 47, Rosberg’s car suddenly slowed, apparently stuck in gear. Hamilton swept by and from then on he was never headed.
Behind Hamilton, Bottas moved up to second on a one-stop strategy, whilst Ricciardo and Button - both of whom were also one-stopping - fought all the way to the flag for the final podium spot. In the end Ricciardo, whose tyres were shot, just held on, denying the British fans a dream result and Button - who drove superbly - his first home podium in 15 tries.
Further back, Vettel engaged in a thrilling and at times ill-tempered battle for fifth with Alonso, who had recovered from a stop-go penalty for overshooting his grid slot at the start. The two world champions fought tooth and nail for lap after lap, using every inch of the track, but eventually Vettel was able to take advantage of his slightly fresher tyres to move ahead of the Spaniard for good.
Magnussen held on to seventh ahead of Force India's Nico Hulkenberg, who is now the only driver other than Alonso to score in every race. Daniil Kvyat drove unobtrusively but well to head Toro Rosso team mate Jean-Eric Vergne home for the final points.
In the second Force India Sergio Perez recovered to 11th after a clash with Vergne took him off at the first corner of the original start, and led home Romain Grosjean’s Lotus, Adrian Sutil’s Sauber, Jules Bianchi’s Marussia, Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham, Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus (which pulled to a smoky stop with a few laps to go) and Max Chilton’s Marussia which had had to serve a drive-through penalty for entering the pits illegally whilst the race was suspended following Raikkonen's accident.
Besides Rosberg, Marcus Ericsson’s Caterham was a non-finisher, as was Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber after the Mexican clashed spectacularly with Maldonado’s Lotus and then slithered into the gravel with damage. Massa and Raikkonen, of course, were casualties of the first start.
So, after a thoroughly entertaining race at Silverstone, Rosberg’s lead in the world championship has been reduced to just four points. The German has 165 points to Hamilton’s 161, with Ricciardo on 98 and Alonso on 87. In the constructors’ championship, Mercedes now have 326 to Red Bull’s 168 and Ferrari’s 106.