2014 British GP: Lewis Hamilton wins after Nico Rosberg retires with gearbox failure
Just four points now separate Merc drivers in standings; Outstanding Bottas claims second; Button just misses out on first podium finish at Silverstone; Alonso and Vettel in almighty scrap for fifth;
By Pete Gill
Last Updated: 07/07/14 7:52am
The World Championship fight is back on. Lewis Hamilton has won the British GP to close within four points of the summit after World Championship leader Nico Rosberg retired from the lead of the race.
Finally, Britain has a success story to celebrate this summer with an emotional Hamilton, in the depths of despair just 24 hours previously, close to tears in the immediate aftermath of arguably one of the most imporant - and popular - wins of his career.
"It's you guys who spurred me on so thank you so much," Hamilton told the crowd from the podium. "We have the greatest fans here. It was you guys who spurred me on. I don't want to see a team-mate fail, I want a one-two, but I really needed this result."
He certainly did. But while a jubilant Silverstone crowd applauded their home hero, the pity was that Rosberg’s broken gearbox had denied them a grandstand finish with a fast-charging Hamilton rapidly closing in on his team-mate prior to his retirement.
Albeit in part due to the worsening condition of Rosberg’s gearbox, a pumped-up Hamilton had eaten almost five seconds out of Rosberg’s lead in as many laps before the German's stricken Silver Arrows crawled to a terminal halt.
“I was gutted not to have a wheel-to-wheel race,” Hamilton told Sky Sports F1. “I went to the prime tyre and he was on the options and yet I was catching him at the time. I knew then that at the end of the race on the option tyre I was going to be in a position to fight to him and I was so excited for that. But it wasn’t meant to be this weekend. He’ll come back strongly at the next race and I really hope we can continue battling.”
It was Rosberg's first retirement of the year - his team-mate has already had two - and left Hamilton able to cruise to the chequered flag half a minute clear of Valtteri Bottas after the Williams driver produced the drive of the day to claim a career-best second place after starting out from a lowly 14th.
In the final reckoning, the only disappointment for the Silverstone crowd was the failure of Jenson Button to score his first-ever podium finish in his home race, the McLaren driver narrowly denied third place by the latest in an increasingly long line of outstanding drives by Red Bull's Daniel Ricciardo. Rarely, though, can there have been a more smiley podium ceremony as Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo all provided cheshire cat impressions.
It was a race which started, and then stopped, in the most dramatic and heart-stopping fashion as Kimi Raikkonen slam-dunked his Ferrari into a guardrail after just four corners and Felipe Massa spun his Williams in a desperate bid to avoid the stricken F14 T. With both car and barrier – but not, fortunately, the Finn despite the 47-G impact of his crash - suffering crippling damage, the result was a red-flag stoppage and an interminable delay of one hour as the track marshals repaired the damage.
What followed was worth the wait as a duelling Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel, Ricciardo, Bottas, and to the most popular acclaim, Hamilton all produced inspired drives to render the topsy-turvy events of qualifying all-but an irrelevance. “This was redemption for all three of us,” noted a delighted Ricciardo as he sat alongside Bottas and Hamilton.
Starting out from just sixth, it took Hamilton just four laps, punctuated by the 60-minute delay while the guardrail was patched-up, to climb up to second behind Rosberg as he sought a rapid repair of his own to his qualifying disaster. The pole-sitting Rosberg had already opened up a five-second advantage by that stage, but the gap was down to two seconds when the lead Mercedes pitted.
Rolling the dice on strategy, Hamilton opted to run for an additional five laps in order to leave himself the shortest-possible final stint, and had fallen six seconds adrift by the time he returned to the track after a pit-stop almost two seconds slower than his team-mate's. "Don't worry about it, guys," he called over the radio before rapidly making good his word as he tore chunks out of Rosberg's lead despite running on the theoretically-slower hard compound.
What followed was an anti-climax but a thrill for the home support as Hamilton took the lead while Rosberg desperately sought a reset for his gearbox. Instead it is the World Championship itself which has been reset with the two Mercedes drivers now effectively level-pegging in the standings at the halfway stage of the season. Game on - again.
We should never have doubted him.