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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Rollercoaster week for Hamilton ends in delight at British Grand Prix

The triple world champion bounces back well from Austria frustration to move to one point of Sebastian Vettel in title standings.

Lewis Hamilton celebrates with fans after winning the British Grand Prix for a fifth time. Frank Augstein / AP Photo
Lewis Hamilton celebrates with fans after winning the British Grand Prix for a fifth time. Frank Augstein / AP Photo

Seven days can be a long time in Formula One and it once again proved to be true for Lewis Hamilton.

Last Sunday you did not need to be a body language expect to know how despondent the triple world champion was after he had finished fourth and lost further ground to Sebastian Vettel in the drivers’ championship.

To have the fastest car in the field, and yet be 20 points behind in the standings, largely through no fault of his own, had demoralised the Briton to the extent that he was so miserable with television media that he later felt obliged to explain his right to be downhearted.

“When you personally don’t deliver and when things stack up against you, it’s hard to come out smiling,” he had said in Spielberg. “That would mean you don’t care enough. The fact is, I care.”

Fast forward seven days to this Sunday and the F1 world got to see the other end of the spectrum of Hamilton emotions as he crowd surfed with fans after winning the British Grand Prix for a record-equalling fifth time.

The victory at Silverstone, which was his fourth in a row at the Northampton track, as well as improving his mood, also blew open the championship on a day when Vettel endured his first real misfortune of the season.

With two laps to go of the race Hamilton had led, as he had done throughout the event, with Vettel fourth, and set to gain 13 points on the Ferrari driver.

But, then the twist came. Initially it looked as if it would be in Vettel’s favour as his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, who had been running second, slowed with a puncture, and pitted.

This moved Vettel upto third, behind Hamilton and the second Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas, who had charged through from ninth on the grid to highlight just how strong the German marque’s machine now is, and he was now set to lose only 10 points to his title rival.

But, he then suffered his own tyre deflation, and the time lost from returning to the pits, pitting, and returning to track dropped him to seventh, and his championship lead slashed to just a single point.

Hamilton was keen to dedicate his victory to his team, and after matching Jim Clark and Alain Prost’s record of five wins at the track, he said: “I was very, very fortunate, the team did an exceptional job this weekend.

“The car felt great and we were genuinely faultless.”

The race at Silverstone underlined that when Hamilton has a problem free weekend he and his Mercedes car are the fastest package in F1.

The depression in Austria arguably came from the fact that unreliability and mistakes within his own team were threatening to undo his title hopes, just as they did last year when he lost out to then teammate Nico Rosberg.

A lot of angst from Hamilton following the incident with Vettel in Azerbaijan last month, where the German pushed his car into his behind the safety car, came from the fact that he had actually lost ground to his rival despite the clash.

Vettel was penalised with a 10-second stop-go penalty, but Hamilton’s headrest became loose and he had to pit to have it reattached, and instead of winning the race and gaining 15 points on Vettel, he lost two as he finished fifth to the Ferrari man’s fourth.

Then in Austria, a gearbox change before the race weekend gave him a five-place grid penalty, and he finished fourth when his teammate Bottas won.

Vettel was second there, and two races that Hamilton would have expected to win instead ended up losing him eight points.

But, Hamilton had no issues all weekend at Silverstone, and after taking pole by more than half-a-second, he controlled the race.

Yes, Vettel was held up and lost a lot of ground in the first part of the race stuck behind the Red Bull Racing car of Max Verstappen in fourth spot for the first half of the race, before passing him in the pit-stops, but he would have been unlikely to fare much better than Raikkonen, who was almost 10 seconds behind in second by the time the pit stop window opened mid-race.

Given the raw speed of Mercedes, they have won three of the past four races, and six of 10 this season, further mechanical failures and bad luck does appear the only way for Hamilton to miss out on not leaving the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the final round of the season, in November as champion.

For Vettel and Ferrari, it is clear that relying on Mercedes problems will not be enough for them to win their respective championships and they need to find a step forward in performance in their car over the summer break, which comes after the Hungarian Grand Prix on July 30, if they are to turn the tide and find the form that saw them claim a 1-2 finish as recently as in May in Monaco.