Sebastian Vettel beat defending champion Lewis Hamilton in a classic British Grand Prix that saw Ferrari and Mercedes fight for victory in the closing stages of a dramatic race.
Polesitter Hamilton had lost the lead off the line to Vettel and teammate Valtteri Bottas when he was hit by Kimi Raikkonen at Turn 3 and spun. Hamilton ended up 17th while Raikkonen received a penalty, but high-speed crashes and Safety Car appearances ensured both still had a chance of victory.
After Marcus Ericsson caused a Safety Car by going off at Turn 1, Ferrari pit for new soft tires with both drivers while Mercedes instructed Bottas and Hamilton to do the opposite to gain track position. The decision promoted Bottas into the lead ahead of Vettel, with Hamilton third and Max Verstappen — also on fresh softs — fourth ahead of Raikkonen.
The Mercedes pair then had to make their medium tires last to the end of the race, and a crash between Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean on the race restart saw another Safety Car eat into some of those laps.
When the race resumed there were 14 laps remaining and Bottas had to go into full defensive mode against Vettel, who had shown excellent pace in the opening stint on soft tires but struggled more on the mediums. A number of times Vettel attacked at Brooklands after using DRS, and Bottas repelled, with Hamilton similarly fighting Raikkonen but also filling Vettel’s mirrors.
Bottas had held Vettel off on a number of occasions but the championship leader then pulled off a sublime late dive to the inside at Brooklands to force his way through (pictured above) and escape up the road, with Bottas then fading as Hamilton and Raikkonen also found a way through.
Hamilton kept Vettel in his sights but couldn’t get within striking distance to try and snatch the win, while Raikkonen was just a second adrift at the line as the top three in the championship filled the podium.
Bottas did well to hold off Daniel Ricciardo for fourth as the Finn’s tires dropped off dramatically, while Verstappen retired in the closing stages with gearbox issues. That promoted Nico Hulkenberg — surprisingly one-stopping on hard tires — to take sixth place ahead of Esteban Ocon, Fernando Alonso, Kevin Magnussen and Sergio Perez, who was promoted after Pierre Gasly received a post-race penalty for hitting him.
With Silverstone expectant after Hamilton’s brilliant qualifying performance and England’s progress in the FIFA World Cup, the home crowd’s jubilant mood was dampened immediately when Vettel and Bottas got ahead of Hamilton at Turn 1 as the polesitter struggled to get off the line cleanly.
Raikkonen was alongside on the inside heading into Turn 3 but Hamilton braked later, leaving space for the Ferrari at the apex. Raikkonen locked up, however, and ran into the right rear of the Mercedes, spinning Hamilton and demoting him to 17th.
While Raikkonen was handed a 10-second time penalty for the incident, Hamilton immediately set about climbing back through the field as the contact had left him with minimal — if any — damage. Scything past cars with relative ease using DRS, Hamilton dispatched Sainz, Ocon, Charles Leclerc and Hulkenberg on consecutive laps — the latter two into Stowe — to move back into the top six by Lap 10, but by then he was already 27 seconds adrift of Vettel.