July 12th, 2024

Hamilton finally stops counting the days since his last F1 win after brilliant British GP victory


By Jerome Pugmire, The Associated Press on July 7, 2024.

McLaren driver Lando Norris of Britain steers his car behind Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain during the British Formula One Grand Prix race at the Silverstone racetrack, Silverstone, England, Sunday, July 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

SILVERSTONE, England – Lewis Hamilton had been counting the days since his last Formula 1 win and the number was creeping toward 1,000.

After a brilliant victory in front of his home fans at the British Grand Prix on Sunday – his 104th win in F1 – a relieved Hamilton can finally stop counting.

“That’s the longest stint without a win, 945 days. This could be one of the most special for me, if not the most special,” Hamilton said. “There have definitely been moments when I thought it’s never going to happen again.”

There have been so many wins to celebrate dating back to his first in Canada in 2007, but this was his first anywhere since the penultimate race of the 2021 season in Saudi Arabia. That’s more than 50 races ago.

That year he lost his F1 crown to Max Verstappen, who will be hard to stop getting a fourth straight F1 title.

But Sunday belonged to the 39-year-old Hamilton in his last British GP with Mercedes, before joining Ferrari next year.

“Leaving on a high,” Hamilton said. “This is my last race here with this team so I wanted to win this so much for them because I love them and I appreciate them so much.”

As much as the fans appreciate him.

“My fans around the world have been so supportive,” Hamilton said. “I was coming round and there’s just no greater feeling than to finish at the front here.”

Silverstone held a collective breath in the closing laps as Hamilton held off Verstappen’s late charge and became the first F1 driver to win on any track nine times.

“For me, personally, it’s the best track in the world,” said Hamilton, who added another F1 record to go with his 104 wins and 104 pole positions. He also co-owns a record seven F1 titles with Michael Schumacher.

So how was he planning to celebrate?

“With a curry,” he said. “I love Indian food.”

The close finish saw him edge out Verstappen by 1.5 seconds, with Lando Norris finishing third for McLaren ahead of teammate Oscar Piastri.

A tearful-sounding Hamilton thanked his team over radio and was still emotional several minutes later as he struggled to compose himself.

“I’m still crying,” Hamilton said as he addressed the crowd.

There were high hopes for a home win at Silverstone, with Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate George Russell on pole position ahead of Hamilton and with Norris going from third and Verstappen fourth.

Russell’s hopes of a second straight F1 win ended on Lap 34 of 52 with a water system issue on his car.

Verstappen overtook Norris with four laps left but could not catch Hamilton, to the delight of most of the 164,000 fans.

Moments after crossing the line, Hamilton jumped into the arms of mechanics and then shared a long hug with his father, Anthony Hamilton. Then it was time to absorb the applause from the home fans. Carrying a British flag he jumped over a crash barrier and then held it aloft.

“I can see you lap by lap, there’s just no greater feeling,” he told the cheering crowd.

The start saw Russell and Hamilton get away cleanly while Verstappen overtook Norris.

Rain started falling some 25 minutes into the race and made the 5.9-kilometer (3.7-mile) track more greasy.

After Hamilton took the lead from Russell on the damp track, Norris took advantage of Russell’s error to move into second.

Verstappen, Norris and both Mercedes cars pitted for new tires shortly after the halfway point of the race. But McLaren kept Piastri out a little longer, costing him a chance of victory.

After the tire-change shakeup, Norris was just over three seconds ahead of Hamilton while Verstappen was drifting back.

The next tire changes, with a little more than 10 laps remaining, proved crucial.

Verstappen, Hamilton and Norris made quick changes but McLaren took too long on Norris’ rears – 4.5 seconds – and he came out 2.4 seconds behind race leader Hamilton, with Verstappen now making up ground fast.

“Pretty disappointed,” Norris said. “Frustrating a few times this season when we’ve thrown away something which should have been ours.”

Verstappen couldn’t get close enough, though, and Hamilton’s win made it six different winners so far this season – compared to just three in 22 races last year.

“There’s many of us in the fight,” Norris said. “I expect there will be good battles.”

But even though Verstappen is not winning as much, he is still extending his gap because Norris is finishing behind him.

He is 84 points ahead of Norris in the standings, 255-171, with Charles Leclerc in third place with 150. Despite collecting 25 points for his win, Hamilton is eighth with 110.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished Sunday’s race in fifth for Ferrari ahead of Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, with Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin), Alex Albon (Williams) and Yuki Tsunoda (RB) rounding out the top 10.

Sergio Perez apologized to Red Bull after qualifying in a dismal 19th, and started from the pit lane as his team made multiple part changes. He finished 17th, while Leclerc started 11th and placed 14th.

___

AP auto racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing

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