After a truly spectacular 2021 British Grand Prix that lived up to the billing, we reflect on Lewis Hamilton’s record eighth win in the race.
Captivating, gripping and unscripted sporting drama.
That was the only way to describe July’s British Grand Prix.
Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton pulled victory from the jaws of defeat to get the better of Charles Leclerc just two laps from the finish line. However, Hamilton’s win was steeped in controversy following an opening lap collision with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. After a 15-minute delay, Hamilton was given a 10-second time penalty for his part in the crash, yet, his world championship rival was unable to continue after his car ended up colliding with a barrier.
After the race resumed, Leclerc took control of the race but struggled with power unit issues which ultimately allowed Hamilton to catch up. With 10 laps remaining, teammate Valtteri Bottas followed team orders to let Hamilton through which paved the way for the British racer to pass Leclerc with two laps remaining.
With 140,000 fans gathered at Silverstone, the excitement was building across the weekend for the return of UK Formula One (F1) racing for the first time in two years. The day before saw the first ever Sprint race in F1 history as Max Verstappen snatched pole position after Hamilton had claimed position one in Friday qualifying.
While the anticipation reached fever pitch in the stands, it transcended onto the grid as Hamilton and Verstappen were neck and neck throughout the first few corners of the opening lap. Then, there was pandemonium. At the Copse corner, Hamilton collided with Verstappen and sent the Dutchman flying into the tyre wall at high speed. Subsequently, the red flags were raised, and the race was paused – fortunately, Verstappen emerged without serious injury but did later travel to hospital.
Following the collision, an investigation to determine what happened began. Christian Horner, Principal of Red Bull Racing, made it clear he felt Hamilton was at fault for the crash. “Lewis is a seven-time world champion, he shouldn’t be making manoeuvres like that. It’s unacceptable.
“I hope Lewis is very happy with himself. He stuck a wheel up the inside in a corner – you just don’t do that. You don’t stick a wheel up the inside at Copse, in that corner, in those circumstances.
“He was nowhere near ahead, it was contact, left front to right rear, and the speed they’re travelling, it’s one of the fastest corners in the championship.”
Despite Horner’s protests, Hamilton was given a 10-second time penalty which he would later serve in a pit stop. On the 32nd lap, Hamilton moved into P3 as he overtook Lando Norris in style. After 35 of the 52 laps, Hamilton had just teammate Bottas and Leclerc to pass. On the 40th lap, Hamilton was just one second behind Bottas when Mercedes decided to invert the drivers in a bid to catch Leclerc.
Now in second place, all that remained was to take Leclerc. With nine laps left to race, Hamilton sat six seconds behind the Ferrari. As the laps ticked by, Hamilton became increasingly prominent in Leclerc’s wing mirror. With six laps left, Hamilton asked his team: “Can I catch him?” This led to the memorable moment of: “Yes you can, mate!” from Hamilton’s senior race engineer Peter Bonnington.
And catch him, he did! On the 51st lap, Hamilton took the lead up the inside of Copse corner, the same stretch where Hamilton and Verstappen had collided in the first lap, as Leclerc backed out and ran wide to allow the Englishman through and send the home crowd wild. In the end, Hamilton was made to work hard but emerged victorious to win the British Grand Prix for a record eighth time. A legend of the sport.