MERCEDES driver Lewis Hamilton was accorded the rock star reception he so desperately wanted after a dominant victory – his fourth in a row in front of his home fans at the British Grand Prix – at Silverstone.
But Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo stole the show in round 10 of the Formula One championship with a rousing, forceful drive to fifth place from the rear of the grid.
In a memorable day in motorsport (especially if you’re British), Hamilton took his 57th career victory to move to within a single point of arch rival, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, in the World Drivers’ Championship as the season reaches the midway mark.
The British GP also marked Hamilton’s fifth career grand slam – after he claimed pole, the victory, fastest lap and leading every lap of the grand prix.
Hamilton, who earlier in the week attracted the ire of fans and many in F1 for choosing to relax in Mykonos rather than participate in the London promo event for the British GP at Trafalgar Square, was suddenly and comprehensively forgiven.
Though Hamilton’s victory never appeared in doubt, late tyre blowouts to both Ferraris shook up the composition of the rest of the podium until the very end, Valtteri Bottas overcoming a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change to play his role in the Silver Arrows' second one-two of 2017.
Earlier called a laggard by outspoken Ferrari chief executive Sergio Marchionne, an unhappy looking and sounding Kimi Raikkonen was on track for second place but ultimately finished third after his tyre blew with two laps remaining. This wasn’t the end of the woes for the red team; one lap later Vettel’s front tyre also exploded, dropping him from third to seventh and all but erasing his lead in the title.
“This has got to be one of my sweetest wins here. I was gunning for this victory,” the delighted and satisfied Hamilton commented.
“Every time I came around turn seven, I could see the fans cheering every single lap – it was really reminiscent of 2008, my first Grand Prix win here.
“There was so much negativity ahead of the race, with people questioning how I prepared for the race. But this weekend has been one of my strongest.”
On Saturday, Hamilton raced to a dominant pole ahead of Raikkonen with the half-second margin between fastest and the next-quickest the biggest of the year to date.
Vettel was back on the second row, more than seven-tenths off pole, with Bottas fourth fastest (but to start from ninth). Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was next best in fifth ahead of an impressive Nico Hulkenburg’s Renault.
Ricciardo’s prospects in the British GP were comprehensively shot after he was placed on notice on Friday that he was to be hit with a five-place grid penalty for a pre-emptive gearbox change (rules say they must last for six consecutive races).
Then, after topping the early running in Saturday’s damp Q1, the Australian’s turbocharger let go, putting him out of the rest of qualifying and relegating him to the back of the grid alongside Fernando Alonso, whose McLaren Honda had racked up the now almost routine substantial number of grid penalties (30 spots) applying to cars that have key powertrain elements replaced.
Though there was little hope of a sixth podium in a row for Dan, the Red Bull driver gobbled up a handful of cars in the opening laps on Sunday before the safety car was deployed when Toro Rosso’s Dani Kvyat got into teammate Carlos Sainz.
At the subsequent restart, Ricciardo later admitted he “got a bit greedy, went off track and ended up at the back again”.
He stayed focused and brilliantly pulled off a number of perfect, surgical overtaking moves on his way up to sixth, which became fifth when Vettel had his tyre problem.
“I hope they showed a lot of that on TV. I just felt like the whole race I was overtaking cars and I hope the fans enjoyed it,” reported a cheerful Ricciardo.
“It was great fun coming back through the field and I gave it everything. I caught [Renault’s Nico] Hulkenberg with a few laps to go and then Seb had his issue which handed me fifth, so danke Sebastian. I would give this race 10 out of 10 in terms of fun.
“I think in the end fifth was maximum," Ricciardo insisted when asked if the early excursion cost him a podium.
Happy too was Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen, who finished fourth after a vigorous mid-race duel with Vettel. “He wants to play bumper cars or something,” Verstappen declared on the team radio but it was really just vigorous racing.
WEC: Porsche on top in Six Hours of Nurburgring
Amidst strong speculation that the German marque is poised to withdraw from the LMP1 prototype class of the World Endurance Championship (including Le Mans), Timo Bernhard, Brendon Hartley and Earl Bamber took their second win of the 2017 FIA World Endurance Championship season in the #2 Porsche after a thrilling battle with the sister #1 919 Hybrid at Nurburgring.
The two Porsches were rarely more than four or five seconds apart during the entire Six Hours of Nurburgring, the fourth round in the FIA WEC.
It was a tight race between the two new high-downforce versions of the latest Porsche 919 Hybrid, with the lead swapping numerous times.
At one stage, in the fourth hour, Bamber lost the lead to his fellow 2015 Le Mans winner Nick Tandy after having to take avoiding action when Tor Graves spun his CEFC Manor TRS Racing LMP2 car in front of the Kiwi at the chicane.
The result today ensures that Hartley, Bernhard and Bamber have extended their lead in the championship to 30 points as the European leg of the 2017 WEC comes to an end.
André Lotterer, Neel Jani and Nick Tandy ensured a Porsche one-two at the manufacturer’s home event, running up front for large periods of the race but then losing the lead at the final pit stop.
The pole-sitting #7 Toyota of Kamui Kobayashi, Jose Maria Lopez and Mike Conway took third place after leading in the early stages as Kobayashi converted pole position into track position. The Toyota TS050 Hybrid fell back, though, and finished just under a lap down on the winning Porsche.
Porsche has revealed that it will decide its future in LMP1 within the next two weeks.
The attendance of prominent Porsche people at Formula E races at Monaco and Berlin has heightened rumours that a LMP1 exit from the WEC is likely from next year. Fellow German brands Audi and BMW already have a presence in the muted though increasingly relevant electric open wheel category.
An exit by Porsche from the WEC would leave the series looking shaky indeed although Toyota Motorsport technical director Pascal Vasselon is hopefully that new manufacturers will join the LMP1 battleground when new regulations apply in 2020.