Flawless Hamilton triumphant at sodden Silverstone 06 Jul 2008
McLarens Lewis Hamilton gave his adoring fans exactly what they came to see at a sodden Silverstone on Sunday. A brilliant British Grand Prix victory in often treacherous conditions lifted him right back into contention for the world championship, on a day when Kimi Raikkonen failed to shine and Ferrari team mate Felipe Massa and BMW Saubers Robert Kubica were the ones who came home pointless.
The race started on a damp track, with the promise of more rain to come. Hamilton touched wheels with pole-sitting team mate Heikki Kovalainen on lap one at Copse after making a terrific start, and edged ahead of him at Becketts on the fifth lap. Thereafter it was his race to lose, and the most crucial point came when both he and Raikkonen, an apparent threat at this stage, pitted on the 21st lap. But where McLaren gave their man another set of standard wet-weather Bridgestones, Ferrari kept theirs on the same set. Hamilton rocketed away from the red car, and Raikkonen slipped steadily down the order as strong mid-race performances from Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica put BMW Sauber into the frame for podium finishes.
Heavy rain in the middle of the race created further havoc, however, as driver after driver slipped and slid off the road. This was where clever strategic thinking by Ross Brawn at Honda saw the team risk bringing in both Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button for extreme wet tyres on the 35th lap. The Brazilian made great use of them and was able to push up into second place until a late switch back to intermediates. As Heidfeld clung on to a good second place, after making the right call for fresh intermediates at his first stop, Barrichello recovered to a podium finish that was a great boost to the Japanese team.
Behind them, Raikkonen finally fought his way out of a late-race battle with Renaults Fernando Alonso and Kovalainen to finish fourth.
That means that Hamilton, Massa and Raikkonen now lead the world championship fight with 48 points apiece, with Kubica fourth on 46!
Kovalainen fought his way past Alonso in the closing stages for fifth, as Williams Kazuki Nakajima and Toyotas Jarno Trulli closed in on them. On the last lap the Japanese racers attempts to pass the Spaniard dropped him a place, as Trulli saw an opening and pounced.
Nico Rosberg was ninth after a terrible race, in which he started from the pit lane and later damaged yet another nose and front wing after rear-ending Timo Glocks Toyota. Mark Webber also had a terrible day, spinning on the opening lap after starting from the front row. He spun several more times on his way to 10th, ahead of Toro Rossos Sebastien Bourdais, Glock and Massa. All of them spun at least once, with Massa talking the award for the most spins (around six) and the dizziest driver by the end.
The extreme wet tyres did not turn the trick for Button, who ended his day off the road in the second Honda, as did Renaults Nelson Piquet after a decent run. Both Force Indias also spun out of contention. And Sebastian Vettels mistake on the first lap helped to put David Coulthard out of his last British Grand Prix.
That, Hamilton said afterwards, was the toughest win of my career, but definitely the best.