Lewis Hamilton completed a hat-trick of home wins in the British Grand Prix ahead of Nico Rosberg at Silverstone on Sunday to cut his Mercedes teammate’s championship lead to just four points.
The defending three-time champion reeled off his fourth win in five races to close on Rosberg in the title chase, with the German subject to a post-race inquiry into radio dialogue with the team when he had a gearbox problem.
Talented Dutch teenager Max Verstappen finished third – pushing Rosberg all the way – ahead of his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo, with Kimi Raikkonen fifth for Ferrari.
In a reversal of the scenes at Spielberg following last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, where Hamilton and Rosberg collided on the final lap, Rosberg rather than his teammate was booed by fans during the podium ceremony.
Hamilton celebrated with a ‘crowd surfing’ demonstration of joy.
The jubilant 31-year-old said: “We’ve got the best fans here so thank you so much… I am not sure you can be as happy as I am.”
A pre-race downpour created some havoc and an immediate call for “full wet” tyres and a plodding safety car start.
Hamilton led the way for six laps before the real thing began, grumbling on lap five: “We can go, Charlie!” in a message directed at the race director Charlie Whiting.
Once the grand prix proper began, Hamilton threw up a high plume of spray ahead of Rosberg as most of the drivers – bar the top four – rushed to the pits for intermediate tyres.
Hamilton pulled 3.6 seconds clear by lap seven.
Both Mercedes men pitted for their intermediates on lap eight, ahead of the Red Bulls.
As the track improved, Verstappen and then Rosberg picked up the pace before Hamilton responded. By lap 12, he was 5.2 seconds clear with Rosberg 1.4 clear of Verstappen.
In an outrageous move, Verstappen swept round Rosberg at Becketts to take second on lap 15.
The top order stayed unchanged as the top three traded fastest laps while the circuit remained treacherous, with both Fernando Alonso and then Carlos Sainz spinning off at Abbey, but surviving.
Rio Haryanto did the same, hit the barriers and retired.
Hamilton almost did the same, but retained control as his car twitched. Verstappen also slithered and the top three were separated by only six seconds.
By lap 25, Hamilton was surging again, 5.9 seconds clear of Verstappen, who was defending against a rampant Rosberg.
Rosberg finally passed Verstappen on lap 38 and began to hunt down Hamilton, 8.2 seconds ahead.
Rosberg reeled off fastest laps, but Hamilton nursed his car, and the tyres, as he retained a six seconds’ lead until, on lap 47, Rosberg reported a gearbox problem. He lost three seconds and fell back to 11 seconds behind Hamilton.
“Avoid seventh gear,” the Mercedes team told him. “Shift through it.”
Sensing blood, Verstappen closed up, notably when the stewards launched an investigation into Rosberg’s radio dialogue, but in the end Rosberg hung on.
He said he was confident his radio instructions were within the rules.
“It was a very critical problem,” said Rosberg, explaining that it was a safety matter. “I was stuck in seventh gear and about to stop on track .”
Hamilton meanwhile paid thanks to the volatile British weather.
“I’m glad that the good English weather came out.
“It was so tricky in those conditions when we started the race. I was the first one who had to attack it. It’s never plain, smooth sailing – and that’s why the British GP is the best.”
He became the first driver to complete a hat-trick of British wins at Silverstone and equalled Jim Clark’s record of three straight home wins.
Verstappen described his afternoon as “amazing”.
“The race was very exciting and very tricky in the beginning.
“I think I stopped one lap too late. Unfortunately, Nico got past me, but I still had good pace,” he added.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Britain) Mercedes 1:34:55.831
2. Max Verstappen (Netherlands) Red Bull – TAG Heuer +00:08.250
3. Nico Rosberg (Germany) Mercedes 00:16.911
4. Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) Red Bull – TAG Heuer 00:26.211
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) Ferrari 01:09.743
6. Sergio Perez (Mexico) Force India – Mercedes 01:16.941
7. Nico Huelkenberg (Germany) Force India – Mercedes 01:17.712
8. Carlos Sainz Jr (Spain) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 01:25.858
9. Sebastian Vettel (Germany) Ferrari 01:31.654
10. Daniil Kvyat (Russia) Toro Rosso – Ferrari 01:32.600
11. Felipe Massa (Brazil) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
12. Jenson Button (Britain) McLaren 1 lap
13. Fernando Alonso (Spain) McLaren 1 lap
14. Valtteri Bottas (Finland) Williams-Mercedes 1 lap
15. Felipe Nasr (Brazil) Sauber – Ferrari 1 lap
16. Esteban Gutierrez (Mexico) Haas – Ferrari 1 lap
17r. Kevin Magnussen (Denmark) Renault 2 laps
r. Jolyon Palmer (Britain) Renault 15 laps
r. Rio Haryanto (Indonesia) Manor – Mercedes 28 laps
r. Romain Grosjean (France) Haas – Ferrari 34 laps
r. Marcus Ericsson (Sweden) Sauber – Ferrari 40 laps
r. Pascal Wehrlein (Germany) Manor – Mercedes 45 laps
(rank: r = retired, nc = not classified)