Lewis Hamilton took a popular victory in the British Grand Prix as Sebastian Vettel hit Max Verstappen when battling for the final podium position.
Valtteri Bottas had led from pole position and was engaged in an exciting close fight with Hamilton — backed by the majority of the 140,000-strong crowd — when he made his first pit stop for medium tires as part of a two-stop strategy. Hamilton then extended his first stint and lucked in when Antonio Giovinazzi suffered a puncture and spun off at Club, bringing out the safety car.
That had a major influence on the race as Hamilton, Vettel, Verstappen and Charles Leclerc were all able to pit for hard tires and attempt to run to the end of the race, with Hamilton also retaining the lead as he effectively got a free stop.
Bottas had defended excellently in the opening laps — at one stage seeing Hamilton get past at Luffield but then fighting back into Copse to retake the lead — and closely followed his teammate for the majority of the second stint but would always have to pit again to use a second tire compound after staring on the mediums. That meant Hamilton was untroubled, but behind the Mercedes pair plenty was going on.
Leclerc was running third on softs from the start while Vettel slotted into fifth behind Verstappen, but Pierre Gasly remained in touch in sixth. An improved Gasly passed Vettel into Turn 3 with a clean move before being the first of the top six to pit and opting for hard tires, while Leclerc and Verstappen scrapped over third.
The pair had fought for victory in Austria and Leclerc was clearly more aggressive after coming off second best in that battle, but was aided by Verstappen making an uncharacteristic error. Red Bull managed to jump the Ferrari as both pit on the same lap but Verstappen ran wide in the first sector and Leclerc got back through, with the pair often racing wheel-to-wheel after that point.
The safety car timing meant Vettel end up ahead of the pair, having run long like Hamilton, getting a free stop for hards while Verstappen and Leclerc came in for a second time. Verstappen was soon allowed to move ahead of teammate Gasly into fourth and chase down Vettel, while Leclerc had to battle the second Red Bull before overtaking around the outside at Turn 3 with a smooth move.
Leclerc was soon promoted to third as some more strong racing between Red Bull and Ferrari ended badly, with Vettel running into the back of Verstappen.
The Austrian GP winner overtook the four-time world champion around the outside before Stowe but then was forced to defend towards Club. Vettel was looking for a gap on the inside that never really opened and was too late on the brakes, hitting the rear of Verstappen and pitching both cars off into the gravel.
Vettel was handed a 10-second time penalty for the incident and accepted full responsibility afterward, while Verstappen — who had been pitched airborne over the curb after contact — somehow avoided significant damage and came home fifth behind Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc and Gasly.
There were no points for Vettel, however, as a result of the penalty and a pit stop for a new front wing, as the German eventually was classified in 15th place.
McLaren once again secured best of the rest courtesy of Carlos Sainz in sixth, although the safety car only helped one of its two drivers. Lando Norris had jumped Daniel Ricciardo at the start for seventh but had already pit for the medium tire when the safety car was deployed. Sainz got a free stop to run one place ahead of his teammate but Norris needed a second stop, with McLaren gambling on the Vettel/Verstappen collision.
Ultimately that incident didn’t require intervention and Norris was dropped out of the points, fighting back to finish 11th and within two seconds of the final point.
That point went to Nico Hulkenberg, who had seen his race compromised by contact with Sergio Perez after the safety car, as Perez locked up and hit the rear of the Renault. Hulkenberg did well to recover to 10th, while Ricciardo spent the final 15 laps hounding Sainz for sixth but had to make do with seventh ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat.
Kvyat’s teammate Alexander Albon was strong throughout the weekend but also got hurt by the safety car and tried to make it to the end of the race on the medium tires he had already fitted, but faded from seventh to 12th in the final stages.
Haas suffered a disastrous race to top off a bizarre weekend, as Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen touched wheels on the opening lap. The contact was very light as they exited the fast left-handed Turn 5 side-by-side, but both cars picked up punctures that led to further damage and early retirement.