Lewis Hamilton took an extraordinary eighth British GP victory after overtaking long-time leader Charles Leclerc late on, as the Silverstone home favourite recovered from a time penalty for a huge first-lap crash with title rival Max Verstappen on a dramatic afternoon.
Hamilton was found at fault for a collision with Verstappen into the high-speed Copse corner, which both ignited an F1 rivalry that has been intense all season and ended the Red Bull driver’s race on Lap 1.
Verstappen was taken to hospital for further precautionary checks after the crash, which saw him shunted into the barriers at around 180mph after Hamilton attempted a move for the lead up the inside in his Mercedes.
After the post red-flag race restart, Hamilton was on the comeback charge, and he fought back from a 10-second time penalty from stewards to speed up behind Leclerc, who was outstanding in leading nearly all the race for Ferrari.
The seven-time world champion then passed Leclerc – at the same Copse corner where he and Verstappen collided – on Lap 50 of 52, sending a capacity 140,000 Silverstone crowd into raptures.
Kickstarting his 2021 championship charge, Hamilton has cut Verstappen’s title lead from 33 to just eight points.
And Mercedes, who had Valtteri Bottas complete the podium, are now only four points behind Red Bull as the championship leaders finished a chaotic afternoon point-less, with Sergio Perez way down in 16th.
Red Bull angrily contested the degree of Hamilton’s penalty – which was the second mildest time penalty stewards could have inflicted – and insisted his attempted move for the lead was “desperate”, and his victory was “hollow”.
In a social media post on Sunday night, meanwhile, Verstappen reported he was “OK” while also hit out at Hamilton.
“The penalty given does not help us in any way and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track,” he said.
“Watching the celebrations after the race while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour but we move on.”
Hamilton, however, blamed Verstappen for the incident, while also insisting that the penalty was too harsh.
“I don’t think he needs to be as aggressive as he is,” Hamilton told Sky F1. “When someone is too aggressive, these things are bound to happen.”
After embracing chants of “Lewis, Lewis” from the Silverstone fans, he added: “I was fully alongside him and he didn’t leave me any space.
“But, regardless of whether I agree with the penalty, I take it on the chin and I just kept working. I was like ‘I’m not going to let anything get in the way of the crowd’s enjoyment of the weekend, the national anthem and the British flag’.”
Lando Norris also put in another superb performance to ensure two British drivers finished in the top four, followed on track by McLaren team-mate Daniel Ricciardo, who held off Carlos Sainz in the other Ferrari.
Fernando Alonso was seventh, following an early battle with Sebastian Vettel which sent the fellow multiple world champion spinning.
British GP race result
1) Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes
2) Charles Leclerc, Ferrari
3) Valtteri Bottas, Mercedes
4) Lando Norris, McLaren
5) Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren
6) Carlos Sainz, Ferrari
7) Fernando Alonso, Alpine
8) Lance Stroll, Aston Martin
9) Esteban Ocon, Alpine
10) Yuki Tsunoda, AlphaTauri
Hamilton: Verstappen too ‘aggressive’ | Red Bull blame Lewis
Hamilton and Verstappen’s 2021 F1 rivalry had been close and fierce, but ultimately respectful through the first nine races. But on the first lap at Silverstone, the aggressive nature of both stars resulted in a scary shunt.
“Until the crash, it was some of the best driving I’ve ever seen,” said Sky F1’s Jenson Button, as Verstappen and Hamilton – starting on the front row – went wheel-to-wheel through the opening corners of the race.
Hamilton, who had the better start, occasionally nudged ahead of Verstappen but Max kept his lead into the corners, before Lewis had a much better exit out of Luffield and got a slipstream on his rival.
Heading towards one of the highest speed corners on the F1 calendar in Copse, Verstappen first moved to the right to cover the inside, and then to the left – giving Hamilton a slight gap down the inside again.
Hamilton tried to pounce on the opening but Verstappen then turned in, while the Mercedes didn’t stick completely to the right, and Hamilton smashed into the rear right tyre of the Red Bull.
Verstappen, losing his tyre, scarily smashed into the trackside barriers. Thankfully, he emerged from his car unaided, but was visibly shaken and winded, limping towards an ambulance before further checks at the Medical Centre, before being taken to hospital.
Hamilton, meanwhile, collected damage – but Mercedes were able to fix his car during the enforced red-flag period.
The crash has ultimately reignited the championship battle and sparked even more of a rivalry between Hamilton and Verstappen – while it has also led to plenty of debate in the F1 paddock.
Red Bull boss Christian Horner: “Lewis Hamilton is a world champion and he shouldn’t be making manoeuvres like that. It’s unacceptable. Max is having to go to hospital for precautionary checks after a 51G accident so I hope Lewis is very happy with himself. For me, that’s a hollow victory.”
Sky F1’s Jenson Button: “At the speed he was going, Lewis had to back out of it. He’s misjudged the apex, which is completely fair enough because he’s coming in at such a speed from an angle that he never has before. I get the penalty for Lewis, because he was put someone in the wall.”
Sky F1’s Karun Chandhok: “Lewis expected Max to back out of it, and Max expected Lewis out of it. But they’re both racing drivers, and they’re both racing for the world championship. Max could have given Lewis more room, and Lewis equally could have gone more to the kerb on the right-hand side. If you ask me, they both could have done more. I would probably put it down to a racing incident.”
Leclerc misses out on first victory since 2019
The Verstappen-Hamilton clash understandably dominated the aftermath of the race, but Leclerc’s performance should not be overlooked, with the Monegasque driver just two and a half laps from an incredible win.
Leclerc led from Lap 1 – as he passed Bottas off the line and then Hamilton following his collision – all the way to Lap 50, superbly managing his tyres, even when struggling with his engine, while under pressure from Hamilton through the first stint before stretching away from Bottas in the second.
But Mercedes’ team orders to Bottas to let Hamilton through unleashed the beast, and the now eight-time Silverstone winner eliminated an eight-second gap to Leclerc in eight laps.
A pass seemed inevitable, and Hamilton executed it up the inside of Copse – without contact, this time – as Leclerc run wide on the exit of the corner.
“It’s difficult to enjoy 100 percent,” said Leclerc after his second-place finish. “Of course, it’s been an incredible race, I gave not 100 percent, but I gave 200 percent. I gave all of me.”
When’s the next F1 race?
An epic 2021 season continues with Round 11 at the Hungarian GP on July 30-August 1, all live only on Sky Sports F1. The weekend – the last before the August summer break – returns to its usual format after the F1 Sprint debut at Silverstone.