Watch and listen to Hamilton ‘fight for survival’ on last lap of British GP
As the man who won the 2008 world title in the last few hundred metres of the final lap, Lewis Hamilton knows a thing or two about dramatic finales. But even he was at a loss to remember one quite as dramatic as that in Sunday’s British Grand Prix, when he was forced to limp home with just three wheels, as Red Bull’s Max Verstappen closed in rapidly.
You can watch and listen to exactly how events played out from Hamilton’s perspective – complete with radio dialogue with engineer Pete Bonnington – in the onboard camera video above, including the moment the six-time champion’s tyre let go...
“I was constantly looking at the tyre, it was quite smooth and was working really well through Turn 3,” explained Hamilton. “The thing was turning fine. I was trying to gauge just how worn it was, but I didn’t have any feeling of it being particularly worn.
“Then it was just down the straight you could feel the [engine] RPM drop as you start getting extra friction from the tyre not rolling at the same speed. And also you feel the balance shift to the left. So there was a bit of panic for a second, and I nearly didn’t make it round Turn 7, but then after that I managed to make it through the corners.”
In the heat of the moment you have the adrenaline going, and I guess that 'fight for survival' instinct comes out
But Hamilton needed to do more than just make it through the corners – he needed to do so with enough speed to hold off a charging Max Verstappen, who was some 30-odd seconds behind when the incident occurred.
“As the minutes go by I feel worse and worse when I realise what just happened,” Hamilton said disbelievingly in the post-race press conference.
“In the heat of the moment you have the adrenaline going, and I guess that 'fight for survival' instinct comes out. I was able to stay calm and really measured and try to bring the thing home. But of course I’m just sitting here thinking of all the things that could have happened, if the tyre gave up in a high-speed corner or something like that.
"So I’m feeling incredibly grateful that it didn’t and that we just managed [to win]. I heard that Max was catching at crazy speed, and I got onto Hangar straight and I could hear [from Bonnington] 19 seconds at that point, so I was trying to pick up speed down that straight but the wheel was making a real mess and I was thinking ‘jeez how am I going to get through these last few corners without losing too much time?’.
“Fortunately I got round [Turn] 15 and once I got to the last two corners that was really where it was disaster. I could hear 7, 6, 5… and I just managed to keep it together. I’m just really grateful.”