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Sunday, 07 July 2024 17:54

Lewis Hamilton thrills home crowd by winning British F1 GP for ninth time.

By Andrew Benson.

@F1.

Lewis Hamilton won a race-long fight with Max Verstappen and Lando Norris at a gripping, wet-dry British Grand Prix to take his first victory since December 2021.

Hamilton had just enough to hold off a late charge from Verstappen's Red Bull to take his 104th career win, and his ninth at home to become the record-holder for victories at a single circuit.

Verstappen, who had struggled for pace through much of a race that was hit by two separate periods of rain, came alive in the closing laps to take second place from Norris, who grabbed the final position on the podium.

Hamilton appeared to be in tears in the car as he told his team: "This means so much to me," as they congratulated him over the radio.

"This one means a lot to us all," his engineer Peter Bonnington said. "I love you, Bono," Hamilton replied.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff described the win as "a fairytale" for them and Hamilton.

Norris' team-mate Oscar Piastri, who was also in the lead fight for the first half of the race, took fourth place ahead of Ferrari's Carlos Sainz.

Classic race for Hamilton's comeback win

In front of a crowd of 164,000 people cheering the British drivers - and especially Hamilton - to the rafters despite the inclement weather, the top drivers and three leading teams put on a superb show throughout.

Mercedes drivers George Russell and Lewis Hamilton led the early laps after locking out the front row of the grid for the team, while Verstappen passed Norris around the outside of Turn Four on the opening lap to run third.

But the Red Bull did not initially show its usually formidable race pace and Norris was able to reclaim third place on lap 15 with a pass into Stowe corner.

Piastri followed the Briton through two laps later just as the first shower of rain started, bringing the McLarens, who had chosen a higher-downforce set-up than Mercedes and Red Bull, into their own.

Hamilton made the first move, though, passing Russell into Stowe on lap 18.

A few corners later, both Mercedes drivers slid off the track at Turn Two at the start of lap 19 as they wrestled for grip on the slippery track and Norris pounced, passing Russell at Turn Four before closing on Hamilton and passing him at Turn One on lap 20.

Piastri moved up into second behind him and the McLarens ran one-two for five laps as the track began to dry.

Decisive pit stop tyres choices

The lead cars all stayed out on slick tyres through the first period of rain, but the teams knew more rain was coming and as it came down more heavily Verstappen benefited from an early stop for intermediates on lap 26.

Norris, Hamilton and Russell followed him in a lap later, Piastri suffering badly for staying out a further lap on the slicks and losing 10 seconds to the lead pack.

The stop timing vaulted Verstappen up to third behind Norris and Hamilton, with Russell fourth.

But four laps later Russell was out of the running when he was told to retire his Mercedes because of a water system problem.

By lap 38, with 14 to go, the track was almost dry, and Verstappen again jumped early for a tyre change.

He and Hamilton stopped together, Mercedes choosing soft tyres and Verstappen hard, while Norris stayed out a lap later before taking softs.

The earlier stop vaulted Hamilton ahead of Norris into the lead,.

It set up a grandstand finish, with the three cars in a single camera shot on the Hangar Straight for the entire climactic period of the race.

Hamilton always looked to have Norris under control, but the it was soon clear that Verstappen was now the major threat, the Red Bull transformed by the decision to switch to hard tyres.

Verstappen swept by Norris on lap 48 down the Hangar Straight, and went into the final four laps 3.2 seconds behind Hamilton and closing in.

But Hamilton had enough to hold him off, crossing the line 1.4secs adrift, before Hamilton fought back tears after climbing out of the car.

Meanwhile, Norris and Piastri were left to rue some dubious McLaren pit calls - both Norris’ stops were a lap too late, while Piastri was undone by the decision not to double-stack him behind Norris when they changed to inters.

And Piastri’s pace on the medium tyres at the end of the race - he was the fastest car on the track by a quite some margin - suggested that Norris, too, should have gone on to them when he made his final stop.

Behind Sainz, Hulkenberg impressed in a Haas heavily upgraded for this race in sixth place, while Aston Martin's Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso took seventh and eighth as Williams’ Alex Albon and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda completed the points positions in the top 10.