Lewis Hamilton has won the British Grand Prix for only the second time in his career after his championship rival Nico Rosberg was forced to retire for the first time in 2014 due to a gearbox problem.
The result means that Hamilton has cut the gap in the Drivers’ Championship to his team mate to just four points at the halfway point of the season.
Valtteri Bottas claimed his best ever finish and second consecutive podium with a superb recovery drive to second place, while Daniel Ricciardo only just held on to third by less than a second from Jenson Button’s McLaren.
At the start, Rosberg leapt into the lead while Vettel was passed by both McLarens on the run to Abbey. Hamilton also had a good start and dived down the outside of Vettel at Village, with the two making minor wheel-to-wheel contact in the process.
Further back, Jean-Eric Vergne and Sergio Perez collided into Abbey, while Felipe Massa dropped to last after struggling to get his Williams off the line.
But then, chaos struck along the Wellington Straight. After Raikkonen ran wide exiting Aintree, the Ferrari driver hit a bump as he attempted to rejoin the circuit, lost control of the car and was sent spearing into the right-hand guardrail before ricocheting back across the track and collecting Massa’s Williams in a violent accident.
The Safety Car was immediately deployed, but the race was soon Red Flagged when it became clear that the outside barrier was in need of repair. Kimi Raikkonen was immediately taken to the medical centre for treatment, but Ferrari later confirmed that the Finn had suffered no serious injuries.
After a delay of almost an hour, the race was eventually resumed under Safety Car conditions. After just a single Safety Car lap, the race restarted with Rosberg able to get a significant jump on Button in second, with Magnussen, Hamilton and Vettel close behind. Hamilton quickly dispatched Magnussen for third into Copse, before diving past Button into Brooklands to claim second.
Back in the pack, Fernando Alonso began to make swift progress through the field, passing Ricciardo and Kvyat with a series of impressive moves. But the Ferrari driver’s work appeared to have been undone when the Stewards awarded the Spaniard a five second stop-and-go penalty for taking the original race start outside of his grid box.
Esteban Gutierrez and Pastor Maldonando collided into Vale, with the Sauber pitching the Lotus into the air and putting the Mexican out of the race with suspension failure, before Marcus Ericsson also retired due to apparent suspension issues of his own.
Hamilton began to slowly cut the gap to his championship rival while behind, Valtteri Bottas was charging his way through the field. The sole remaining Williams passed Magnussen’s McLaren for fourth on Lap 13, before robbing Button of third with a superb move around the outside of Stowe four laps later.
Rosberg was the first of the Mercedes to pit on Lap 19 and was heard reporting a downshift problem with his gearbox over team radio. It did not seem to affect the championship leader too much, however, as Rosberg quickly began to eat away at Hamilton’s inherited lead until the Brit eventually stopped at the end of Lap 24. But once again, a relatively slow stop of four seconds for Hamilton meant that Rosberg’s advantage was back to five seconds once more.
But on Lap 30, there was a major twist in the course of both the race and the championship when Rosberg’s Mercedes began to audibly splutter under braking for Village. With the championship leader frantically trying to recover his lost drive, Hamilton was through and into the lead. Unfortunately for Rosberg, there was nothing he could do and was eventually forced to pull off the circuit for only his first DNF of the season.
With Hamilton now clear out in front, Valtteri Bottas made his one and only stop from second position, resuming in third behind Vettel. But the Williams made quick work of the reigning champion, who dived into the pits himself almost immediately, rejoining just ahead of Alonso in fifth.
With his warmer tyres, Alonso was able to drive past Vettel on the way into Copse, igniting a terrific duel between the two former world champions. But despite a number of attempts to overtake the Ferrari ahead, Vettel could not find a way past Alonso and soon became very vocal over team radio about what he felt was Alonso’s frequent abuse of track limits.
Hamilton pitted for a second time on Lap 41, rejoining with a more than comfortable lead. After several laps unable to pass Alonso, Vettel eventually passed the Ferrari driver for fifth after a thrilling side-by-side battle along the old start-finish straight.
But at the front, Hamilton simply counted down the laps to take his second British Grand Prix victory to the cheers of a delighted British crowd. Bottas ended a difficult weekend for Williams on a high with second, while Daniel Ricciardo only just held on to third by less than a second after a late charge by Jenson Button who took McLaren’s best finish since Melbourne.
Sebastian Vettel finished fifth from Alonso in sixth, followed by Magnussen in seventh and Nico Hulkenberg’s Force India in eighth. The two Toro Rosso drivers rounded out the points in ninth and tenth with Daniil Kvyat finishing ahead of his team mate.