Lewis Hamilton jumped for joy after steering his way through the capricious extremes of an English summer’s afternoon, with the aid of two well-timed pit-stops, to secure a third win on home soil in a dramatic British Grand Prix.
In front of a jubilant and wildly-enthusiastic crowd of more than 140,000 on Sunday, his well-judged win enabled him to increase his lead in this year’s drivers’ world championship as he led Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg home in treacherous and changeable conditions.
Recovering after losing the advantage of his 46th career pole position at the start, the series leader and defending two-time champion stormed back to lead and win with superbly-executed pit-stops after 19 and 43 laps of the 52 to win by 10.956 seconds.
His first stop enabled him to move from third up to first in a tight race between the Mercedes and Williams teams and his second, to take ‘intermediate’ tyres while leading in the rain, confirmed he would add 2015 to his wins in 2008 and 2014.
“Thank you everyone for coming out today and making my weekend,” said Hamilton, praising the fans.
“I really wanted to do it for you guys. I am so thankful for all the support. I could see all the fans on every lap in the corner of my eye and they spurred me on.
“My clutch was good this time! But we had quite poor grip at the start – the same for Nico, but it made the race more exciting. I just kept pushing and, for the first time in my career, I made the perfect choice tyre-wise!
“How do I feel? I am so elated you cannot imagine. I felt tears on the last lap, I was just hoping I could do it for all the guys.”
Hamilton’s Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff said it had been Hamilton’s bold decision to pit.
“It was Lewis’s call to come in. We gave him the option. He did it at the perfect time and that gave him the edge,” said Wolff.
Rosberg accepted his defeat gracefully.
“I was pushing hard to try and catch Lewis under difficult conditions,” he said.
“But he made the better call and that is where I lost it. Fair play to him.”
Vettel admitted that the good old English weather had helped him.
“Without the rain, we would not be on the podium,” said the German.
It was the 38th win of Hamilton’s career and lifted him 17 points clear of Rosberg after nine of this year’s 19 races.
Hamilton has 194 points and Rosberg has 177. It was Hamilton’s third win at his home race.
Vettel of Ferrari took full advantage of the changing conditions with an equally well-timed stop to switch to intermediate tyres during the showers to finish third.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, driving for Red Bull, retired on lap 22 due to engine problems.
Brazilian Felipe Massa, who had led from the start until lap 20, ended up finishing fourth ahead of his Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas.
Two-time champion Spaniard Fernando Alonso scored his first point this year by finishing 10th for the beleaguered McLaren Honda team.