British Grand Prix – Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton claimed victory at Silverstone, but said his ‘heart nearly stopped’ when his tyre failed on the final lap.
Lewis Hamilton’s Sunday afternoon canter to victory at Silverstone almost derailed right at the end of the race, with punctures hitting both Mercedes drivers right at the end of the race.
Hamilton had led the race convincingly from pole position, keeping teammate Valtteri Bottas at arm’s length throughout. The pair survived with their lead intact after a Safety Car intervention forced them to stack pitstops to switch to the Hard tyre, but the race almost completely fell apart within sight of the chequered flag.
With three laps to go, Bottas suffered a puncture and was forced to crawl around the circuit for an entire lap to get back to the pits. This cost him a points finish, as he came home in P11.
But Lewis Hamilton suffered the same fate moments later, with his left front failing at the start of the final lap and threatening to rob him of his seventh victory at his home race.
Speaking at the press conference afterwards, Hamilton confirmed he had no warning of the failure: “Up until that last lap, everything was relatively smooth sailing. The tyres felt great. Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard. I was doing some management of that tyre and he looked like he wasn’t doing any.”
“When I heard that his tyre went I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine. The car was still turning. No problem. So, I was thinking maybe it’s okay. Those last few laps I started to back off and down the straight it deflated. I noticed the shape just shift a little bit.”
“I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down until I hit the brakes, and you could see the tyre was falling off the rim! That was definitely a heart-in-the-mouth kind of feeling,” he admitted. “Ultimately maybe we should have stopped towards the end once we saw the delaminations.”
Hamilton explained how he had to try massaging the car home at a speed sufficient to retain the lead ahead of the chasing Max Verstappen, while also trying not to damage his car: “Just driving it, trying to keep the speed up, because sometimes it will fly off and break the wing and all these different things,” he said. “Oh my God, I was just praying to try and get around and not be too slow.”
“I nearly didn’t get around the last two corners, but thank God we did,” he continued. “In my mind I’m thinking ‘Okay, how far is it to the end of the lap?’ Bono [race engineer Peter Bonnington] was giving me the the information of the gap. I think it was 30 seconds at one stage and it was coming down quite quickly. But the car seemed to turn okay through Maggots and Becketts, thankfully. I got to 15 and that’s where it really was a bit of a struggle. I could hear the gap coming down from 19 to 10.”
“I thought I would just give it full gas out of 15 down to 16, and then the thing wasn’t stopping. I got to the corner, a lot of understeer and I heard him go ‘nine, eight, seven…’ I was like, just get back on the power and try to get the thing to turn.”
“You may or may not be surprised but I was really chilled for some reason at the end!” Hamilton said. “I’ve definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap. And my heart definitely probably nearly stopped. I think that’s probably how cool I was – because my heart nearly stopped!”