The championship battle in the 2021 season turned 180 degrees on its axis Sunday at Silverstone Circuit as Lewis Hamilton rallied from a 10-second time penalty to win his home Grand Prix.
A tantalizing opening lap between the two title contenders in Max Verstappen and Hamilton ended in disaster as the drivers made contact at Copse, which turned Verstappen and he slammed the tire barrier to bring a scary end to his day.
Verstappen exited his car shaken up and limping, but able to walk on his own power.
Immediately, exasperated commentary on blame for the incident rang through the Formula 1 world as the British Grand Prix was red flagged.
“Look, that corner,” Red Bull Racing Team Principal Christian Horner said. “He was never anywhere alongside. It was an enormous accident. That was 100% Max’s corner. Full blame lies on Hamilton.”
Of course, Mercedes sporting director Ron Meadows came to the defense of Hamilton.
“Lewis was significantly alongside on the inside of Turn Nine,” Meadows said.
The race resumed following the lengthy red flag. This time, the standing start played out clean as Charles Leclerc maintained the lead over Hamilton.
After a few laps, the FIA stewards handed Hamilton a 10-second time penalty for the incident. However, there was silence from Hamilton after Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff relayed the message to his driver.
With Leclerc out front, he reported to his Ferrari team that the engine sporadically cut out on him. This went on for a few more laps, but the Monégasque driver recovered the car and found a nice pace for a while on the medium tyres.
Hamilton served his time penalty on lap 28 and came out in fifth place between fellow Englishman Lando Norris and Pierre Gasly.
Leclerc continued to lead every lap in the race, but after Valtteri Bottas surrendered second place to his Mercedes teammate, tension rose as Hamilton began to run down at Leclerc like a speeding bullet.
In under 10 laps, Hamilton was able to cut an eight-second lead and catch Leclerc to make a pass for the win to limit the damage done from the opening crash.
He completed the race-winning move in Copse as Leclerc ran wide.
The win marks Hamilton’s 99th in his illustrious racing career and he’s now just eight points behind Verstappen in the championship standings. In the constructor’s championship race, Mercedes is now just four points behind Red Bull.
“This is a proud moment for me,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton now owns eight wins at his home track, which extends the most victories at the circuit in F1.
While not getting the victory, Leclerc earned his first podium since last year at Silverstone. It’s also his first top-five finish since Baku.
Bottas collected his third-straight podium and sixth of the 2021 season.
It was a big day for McLaren as Norris and Daniel Ricciardo rounded out the top five.
Yuki Tsunoda outdueled his AlphaTauri teammate in Gasly to collect the last point of the race.
A disastrous day for Red Bull was completed by Sergio Perez. After starting last following a crash in Saturday’s sprint race, Perez worked his way up to the top 10, but pitted twice at the end to try to steal the fastest lap from Hamilton, in which he was successful.
F1 will take another week off and will return Aug. 1 for the Hungarian Grand Prix. Game on.