Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton has managed to hold off a Williams threat and late rain to win his British home grand prix a third time.
The pole sitter Hamilton was passed by Felipe Massa at the start on Sunday and by Valtteri Bottas after an early safety car stage but reversed matters against the Williams’ during the first round of pit stops.
Hamilton then survived a wet end of the race thanks to a spot-on pit stop he called for himself for his fifth season win and 38th overall, while team-mate and championship rival Nico Rosberg recovered from fourth to second place.
Williams eventually not only missed a first win since 2012 but also a place on the podium as they pitted late in the rain for intermediate tyres which allowed Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to come third.
Australian Daniel Ricciardo, driving for Red Bull, retired on lap 22 due to engine problems.
Hamilton stretched his lead again to 17 points over Rosberg who had won three of the past four races in a comeback effort. He can also see the emotional success in front of a sellout crowd of 140,000 as he good omen because he won the world title in the years he previously topped the Silverstone race, 2008 and 2014.
“Thank you for coming out and making my weekend. I am so thankful for all the support. I just felt you carried me along,” the elated Hamilton said on the podium.
“We just kept pushing … For the first time in my career I made the right tyre choice.”
Like in Austria two weeks, Hamilton failed to win the start from pole but it wasn’t Rosberg who spoilt the show for him but rather Massa, who shot into the lead between the two Mercedes with a sensational move from third on the grid.
Bottas almost also got past Hamilton but had to be content with third early on as the Briton stood his ground and the Finn only managed to get past Rosberg.
But the safety car soon came out after a chain reaction further behind took out the Lotus cars of Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado as well as the McLaren of Jenson Button, and damaging the second McLaren of Fernando Alonso who required a pit stop after a great start which brought him from 17th to ninth.
Things got even better for Williams on the restart in the fourth lap.
Hamilton attacked Massa but instead lost second place to Bottas for a double Williams lead ahead of the Mercedes pair.
Hamilton was first to pit, in the 20th lap, and made the most of it because neither Massa (21st) nor Bottas (22nd) could match him and dropped to second and third – with Rosberg stranded in fourth and in danger of losing precious ground in the championship.
Hamilton quickly increased his lead before things got interesting again when the race was first controlled by a virtual safety car after Carlos Sainz’ Toro Rosso stopped next to the track, and some first light rain started as soon as the all-clear came in the 36th lap.
Teams gambled as the rain did not affect every section, and only Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen came for intermediates two laps later, while Rosberg sneaked past both Williams.
Hamilton decided to stop in lap 44 (along with Vettel) for intermediates which proved to decide the race for good as Williams (and Rosberg) lost plenty of time by pitting a lap later.
With the originally planned German GP scrapped on July 19, the next race is in Hungary on July 26.