Top five Silverstone moments: Lewis Hamilton16 June 2023
Silverstone has witnessed countless unforgettable moments throughout its rich history, but seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton has truly made this 3.66 miles of Northamptonshire tarmac his own. He’s set awe-inspiring records in his wake and forged an unparalleled connection with his home crowd that has spurred him on to some truly outstanding performances.
From the moment Hamilton first turned a wheel in F1, Silverstone’s combination of high-speed corners, overtaking opportunities and changeable weather has provided the perfect platform for him to showcase his raw pace and fearsome racecraft, as well as highlighting his mantra to never give up on several occasions.
Such has been the #44 racer’s influence on the British Grand Prix during his 17-year stint in the sport that in 2020, the international pit straight was renamed the Hamilton Straight to honour his achievements. Having won the race on eight separate occasions – three more than Jim Clark and Alain Prost and four more than Nigel Mansell – he is comfortably the most successful driver in history to race at Silverstone, cementing his place in the pantheon of F1 legends.
Pole at the first time of asking
Hamilton’s first season in Formula 1 was a remarkable one. The British Grand Prix at Silverstone marked the halfway point of the championship, and the rookie sat atop the championship as he was yet to finish off the podium in the opening eight rounds.
In the closing minutes of Q3, Hamilton was fourth on the timesheets with a tenth and a half separating himself and the pole position time. His McLaren-Mercedes team mate Fernando Alonso was able to extend his advantage by a further two and a half tenths before Kimi Räikkönen improved by another half a tenth, even after running wide on the exit of Luffield. Hamilton dug deep on his final run and overcame an oversteer moment on the entry to Luffield to set a 1:19.997 and go quickest of all to the delight of the British crowd.
The following day would not be one Hamilton remembered fondly, however. A faultless getaway and uninterrupted opening stint heading the pack wouldn’t be enough to suppress the pacey Räikkönen and Alonso, both of whom leapfrogged the British driver during the first round of pitstops with Alonso leading the way in the middle stint. With all of the stops completed, it was the Finn who emerged as the victor followed by the Spaniard and then Hamilton. Not the result he was hoping for but a podium at his first home Grand Prix provided plenty of incentive the following season.
Wet weather masterclass
The first half of the 2008 season hadn’t proved quite as fruitful for Hamilton and yet he’d still claimed two victories at the season-opener in Melbourne and on the streets of Monte Carlo as well as two further podiums. Heading into his home race weekend he was placed fourth in the points standings, 10 points behind Ferrari’s Felipe Massa.
Showers throughout the morning meant wet tyres were the only option for the start of the race. Heikki Kovalainen in the other McLaren-Mercedes had put in a storming lap during qualifying to take his first pole position, while Hamilton lined up fourth. He made quick work of Mark Webber and Räikkönen ahead and almost took the lead from Kovalainen, but the Finn didn’t let him have it all his own way. Eventually he got past his team mate but Räikkönen soon followed and was in hot pursuit of Hamilton.
During the first stops Hamilton took on fresh tyres and from there, the rain intensified, and he began to stretch his advantage. When the weather deteriorated further still, many of his nearest rivals came unstuck, spinning or aquaplaning off the circuit. Hamilton, however, maintained his composure through the treacherous conditions, finishing over a minute ahead of his nearest rival and lapping the field up to third place. Understandably this is widely considered to be one of his best drives in Formula 1.
Sixth to first
The 2014 season signalled the start of Formula 1’s new turbo-hybrid era, and with it came the intra-team rivalry at Mercedes between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. The first eight rounds had not fallen in Hamilton’s favour. Despite winning four races in succession in Malaysia, Bahrain, China and Spain, he’d also suffered two DNFs while Rosberg had finished every race in the top two, leaving the #44 driver over a race win behind in the points standings.
A rare mistake from Hamilton would ultimately seal his fate in a mixed conditions qualifying. Having set the benchmark time early in Q3, he began his final run but backed out after a damp and slow first sector. Little did he know that the track had dried considerably in the final sector and by the time the session was over, five drivers had improved, and he’d slipped to sixth.
A battle with Bottas
With the Mercedes F1 W10 EQ Power+ underneath him, Hamilton seemed unstoppable in 2019. He’d won six of the opening nine events and his teammate Valtteri Bottas was beginning to fall behind in the standings. >
Saturday’s qualifying session would see Bottas put the past few races behind him, shining on track while Hamilton faltered. During the first runs in Q3, Bottas set a strong opening lap and Hamilton’s set a time that was two tenths slower, owing to a compromised run through Brooklands. On the second runs, Bottas was unable to improve but, despite his best efforts, Hamilton’s improved time was just six thousandths off the top spot.
The race on Sunday would be equally as close-fought and Hamilton was on the offensive from lights out. With four laps ticked off, he piled the pressure onto his teammate throughout the first sector, amazingly the pair remained side-by-side through Brooklands, Luffield and even up to Copse with Bottas eventually denying Hamilton a lead-snatching overtake. The seven-time champion wouldn’t be dissuaded though, staying within one second of his teammate until he pitted, at which point, Hamilton was left with clean air to make some headway. A stroke of good fortune would follow as Antonio Giovinazzi beached his Alfa Romeo into the gravel, handing Hamilton a free pitstop. From that point on, he streaked clear of Bottas to take his sixth win at Silverstone.
Winning in style
The disruption of the Covid-19 pandemic wasn’t enough to disrupt Hamilton’s relentless championship-winning ways and he made his intentions clear early in the season. The British Grand Prix was the fourth event on that year’s calendar and arguably one of the most iconic Silverstone moments in recent memory.
Bottas looked to have the upper hand over his team mate during the first two qualifying sessions, but Q3 would see it all unravel as Hamilton pulled a magnificent lap from seemingly nowhere to go a third of a second faster than the other Mercedes.
As the lights went out, Hamilton held his nerve round the outside of Bottas at Turn 1 to keep the lead. Despite two early Safety Cars, Hamilton maintained a comfortable lead for much of the race, only to have to withstand huge pressure in the final laps. A late race puncture for Bottas put the Mercedes pit wall on edge, as it did the Red Bull strategists, who pitted second-placed Max Verstappen as a precaution. As a result, Hamilton had over 30 seconds in his pocket on the final tour, but with half a lap to go the #44 machine also suffered a puncture and immediately the threat of Verstappen and Red Bull loomed. As he negotiated the final few corners, his fans and his team were on tenterhooks, but he managed to cross the line – on three wheels – with a five-second margin over Verstappen.