SILVERSTONE, England (AP) — Lewis Hamilton roared back from a first-lap incident that sent championship leader Max Verstappen to the hospital and overcame a 10-second penalty to win the British Grand Prix and reignite his title defense on Sunday.
The seven-time champion won at his home track to snap a run of five races without a victory and slash the gap to Verstappen at the top of the drivers’ championship from 33 points to eight.
“Honestly it’s been such a hard year, one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, I love this battle but emotional roller coaster as it always is within a championship,” Hamilton said.
“Did I think that we would ever be back in the title fight? I prayed and hoped for it but I thought that it would be a long slog to try and regain any of the points. We’re now closer, he’s still got quite a few points ahead but the race is on.”
This season’s title battle boiled over on one of the hottest days of the year, in front of 140,000 fans at a packed Silverstone, with the terrifying incident that saw the race red-flagged and Hamilton given a penalty.
And the 23-year-old Verstappen fuming in hospital.
“Glad I’m ok. Very disappointed with being taken out like this,” Verstappen posted on Twitter. “The penalty given does not help us and doesn’t do justice to the dangerous move Lewis made on track.
“Watching the celebrations while still in hospital is disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behavior but we move on.”
Hamilton dropped from second to fifth as he served his penalty but he swiftly picked up two spots when he returned to the track and then Valtteri Bottas was ordered to move out of his Mercedes teammate’s way.
That gave Hamilton 11 laps to chase down leader Charles Leclerc in a Ferrari and he made the pass for the win with just two laps to go — and on the same corner where he had tangled with Verstappen. The British driver was cheered on to his eighth career victory at Silverstone by the passionate home fans, who also gave him a standing ovation.
“What a great job guys. Thank you so much for continuing to push this year, I am so inspired by you guys. There’s a long way to go but I believe in you guys,” Hamilton said on team radio before driving a victory lap brandishing the British flag.
Then he climbed the rail and ran toward the grandstands waving the flag to his adoring crowd.
Verstappen crashed out of the race after clashing with Hamilton, with the Dutchman spinning hard into a barrier with an impact which registered at 51G.
“With Max, you know he’s very aggressive. And then today, I mean I was fully alongside him, and I didn’t have enough space,” Hamilton said after the race. “But regardless of whether I agree with the penalty, I take it on the chin and I just kept working.”
The race was red-flagged to allow for repairs to the tire barrier. Verstappen, wobbly as he climbed from his car, was initially seen in the Silverstone medical center but then transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
“He’s (Hamilton) a world champion, he shouldn’t be making maneuvers like that. It’s unacceptable,” Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said. “I hope Lewis is very happy with himself. Lewis has got more than enough experience to know that that’s unacceptable.
“I’m just very disappointed that a driver of his caliber should make such a move. It’s dangerous. It looked desperate. And he’s put a competitor, thankfully uninjured, in hospital. For me, that’s a hollow victory.”
Verstappen beat Hamilton at the start for the second day in a row at Silverstone and the two title contenders furiously zigzagged for position. The drivers touched at least twice as Hamilton tried to slip past Verstappen for the lead.
Hamilton’s front wheel touched Verstappen’s rear wheel the second time the drivers made contact, and the Red Bull careened off course, through the gravel and into the tire barrier. A tire from Verstappen’s car bounced off the car during the spin.
Leclerc took over the lead and Mercedes boss Toto Wolff sprinted to race control to argue against any penalty to his driver. Hamilton told his Mercedes team the position in the corner was his and he was not to blame.
“I was ahead going in there, man,” Hamilton radioed. “I was fully alongside him, my line. Yeah, he turned in on me, man”
Following a delay of 45 minutes the race restarted with Hamilton starting from second after Leclerc passed him in the moments after his collision with Verstappen.
Hamilton was then slapped with a 10-second penalty which he served at his pit stop on lap 27 of 52. That dropped him to fourth behind Lando Norris, Bottas and a dozen seconds adrift of Leclerc.
Hamilton passed Norris on lap 31 before Bottas was ordered out his way by Mercedes. The world champion then set about hunting Leclerc with the gap reduced to just 1.5 seconds with four laps to run.
On lap 50 of 52, Hamilton put his Mercedes on the inside of Leclerc’s Ferrari through Copse before backing out of the move, but the Monegasque ran wide and Hamilton assumed the lead to the delight of the partisan crowd.
He crossed the line 3.8 seconds clear of Leclerc with Bottas completing the podium and Norris finishing fourth.
It was Leclerc’s best finish since coming second at the season-opening race in Austria in 2020 and his first podium since third place at Silverstone last year.
“I gave not 100% but I gave 200%, I gave all of me but it was just not enough in the last two laps,” Leclerc said. “We expected after qualifying to be competitive, but not as competitive as this.”