Lewis Hamilton's tyre, Silverstone, 2020

“Is that the last lap?”: Hamilton describes “panic” after puncture drama

2020 British Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton described how he feared he would lose victory on the last lap of the British Grand Prix after suffering a puncture.

Max Verstappen caught him rapidly as Hamilton dragged his Mercedes home following his left-front puncture.

Hamilton said he had been concerned the tyre might fail in a high-speed corner, after being warned his team mate Valtteri Bottas had suffered a puncture late in the race.

“As the minutes go by I feel worse and worse when I realised what happened,” said Hamilton. “I think in the heat of the moment you have the adrenaline going and I guess kind of that fight for survival instinct comes out and I was able to stay calm and really measured and try to bring the thing home.

“But of course, I was just thinking of the things that could have happened if the tyre gave up in a high speed corner or something like that, it would have been a much different picture. So I feel incredibly grateful that it didn’t and that we just managed.”

Hamilton dragged his car to the finish
After his puncture, Hamilton’s race engineer Peter Bonnington gave him a countdown of how far away the closing Verstappen was.

“I heard that Max was just catching me at a crazy speed,” said Hamilton. “I got onto Hangar Straight and I could hear him, I think he was 19 seconds at that point.

“So I was trying to pick up the speed down that straight but the wheel was obviously making a real mess. And I was thinking, ‘geez, how am I going to get through these last few corners without losing too much time?’

“Fortunately I got around [Stowe] and then once I got to the last two corners, that was really when it was a disaster. And I could hear ‘seven, six, five’. And I just managed to keep it together.”

Hamilton said he had no warning his tyre was about to fail despite knowing the fate that had befallen his team mate.

“I was constantly looking at the tyre. It was quite smooth and was working really well through turn three so the thing was turning fine. I was trying to gauge just how worn it was, but I didn’t have any feeling where they’d been particularly really worn.

“Then just down the straight you could feel the sudden loss of RPM. At full speed the RPM drops as you start getting extra friction from the tyre as it’s not rolling at the same speed. And also you feel the balance shift to the left.

“So it was a bit of a panic and I nearly didn’t make it around turn seven but then after that I managed to make it through all the corners.”

Mercedes will investigate what led to the puncture, said Hamilton. “My team did a fantastic job through the weekend but I think we’ll have to look into why we had this tyre problem. I know that a few people did, maybe it was debris or maybe the tyre was just worn out.”

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Hamilton’s radio messages from the last 10 laps

HamiltonDid he make any mistakes? Or tyres keep backing off?
BonningtonStand by
BonningtonJust maintaining a small vibration nothing massive.
BonningtonSame lap time as Valterri that lap
HamiltonYeah I have a vibration too
BonningtonGap at three seconds nine laps remaining
BonningtonGap to Valterri 3.4
HamiltonIs he complaining about balance?
BonningtonValterri with a 29.7, gap 4.0. Gaining time in the low speed corners.
HamiltonWho’s the fastest person on track?
BonningtonSo inside the top ten it’s Max with a 29.2. Albon has fastest lap. He is currently 28.7
HamiltonGap?
BonningtonGap at 7.5 seconds
BonningtonThree laps remaining
HamiltonWhat strat can I use?
BonningtonSo other car has a puncture so look after the tyres as best you can. The strat mode would be strat mode 11. Please don’t go for the fastest lap. We just need to get the car home. Tyre integrity is everything .
HamiltonUnderstood
BonningtonSo front left failure. Front left tyre failure for Valterri. There may be debris from that tyre around the circuit. So Max is the car behind at 15 seconds.
BonningtonVerstappen has just stopped to take the fastest time. He will be going for fastest lap so don’t bother trying.
BonningtonSo one more lap Lewis just bring it home.
HamiltonI think something happened to my front left tyre also.
BonningtonOK copy so same again. Verstappen 30 seconds behind.
BonningtonVerstappen 25 seconds. This is the last lap you’ve got 20 seconds to Verstappen.
Bonnington17 seconds, 16 seconds. Strat 5. Ten seconds to Verstappen. Nine seconds to Verstappen. Seven seconds to Verstappen.
HamiltonIs that the last lap?
BonningtonYou’ve done it, you’ve done it! Woah, that’s it mate.
HamiltonThere was no flag.
BonningtonYou’ve done it though mate. Just stop the car just pull the car over. We’ll come and get you. Stop stop stop.
HamiltonYou sure? I think I can drive it with the wheel off.
BonningtonNo, no it’s dangerous just stop it there. We just need to preserve the car. Preserve our stock bits.
HamiltonShit that was close. The car is honestly fine. It’s not running down.
HamiltonThat was close guys.
BonningtonYeah it was about six seconds. It was a close call too close for comfort but yeah awesome work mate.
HamiltonThe tyre was feeling fine. I must have hit something on the track.

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27 comments on ““Is that the last lap?”: Hamilton describes “panic” after puncture drama”

  1. This race will remain unforgettable. The drama in the final laps made my hair stand on end! I can only imagine how tough it was for Lewis to control the car in these desperate moments. At some point I even remembered 1997 Hungarian GP and Damon’s Hill fate. My advice to Mercedes team is to make 2 pit stops in the next 70th Anniversary GP even if some sharp debris was the cause of today’s tyre problem.

    1. Theres an onboard of him going through Copse just after the puncture, changing the modes on the car, locking the diff and preparing the car to race on three wheels. Presence of mind and experience.

      1. Top of his game @riptide great reaction to the pressure

    2. Can you imagine what the atmosphere would have been like if it had have been safe for fans to attend @bulgarian?!

      I hope to attend Grand Prix in other countries eventually, but I’ve attended the British Grand Prix about 7 times. I was due to attend with my family this year. One thing that tends to make it special is the atmosphere. It’s simply electric and hard to put into words. In general the racing is the focus when you watch on tv, so for most races, the amount that I miss the crowds is limited, but being able to imagine what the atmosphere would have been like with all that late drama today, I really missed the crowd today.

      1. I would say the atmosphere would have come close to World Cup 1966 Final. :)

  2. …and he did everything right, again! Another rabbit out of Lewis’ hat, the magic goes on!

  3. Reminded me of Spa 2008 those last few laps for craziness.

    1. Indeed. Good memories.

  4. Does anyone know what Hamilton’s lap time was on his final tour? I figure he must have lost around 25 seconds to Verstappen.

    1. I saw 1:55… compared to Max 1:27.

    2. Ham 1:55.484
      Ver 1:27.097

      So 28.387 seconds time difference if my maths is right.

    3. Someone I think on C4 said his lap time on that last lap was still faster than the Formula Renault lap record.

  5. I just don’t understand why Mercedes left their drivers out. Yeah they love 1-2 but a 2-3 is much, much better than what they ended up with and they’re flat out lucky that Red Bull was foolish, otherwise it would’ve been 2-11.

    1. @neiana
      I have long been an (armchair) critic of Merc’s strategy team- they have 1 chief strategist in James Vowles. When Hamilton 1st got to Merc he was very vocal about how at Mclaren each driver had their own strategist to maximise their best finishing position and that at Merc the strategy was so rigid. In that regard one has to question why other teams have a dual structure and Merc have a sole strategist. We see it alot when Merc is under pressure that they fluff their lines- maybe its just too big a job for one man when there’s competition- but as I said- I’m just an armchair critic making observations from the little we are given on tele and reading articles.

      1. Pitting Bottas or Hamilton in the final laps would be uncharacteristic of Mercedes in terms of operation. I am still baffled by the punctures considering that Mercedes have had no tyre issues since 2013. Toto said that they warned both drivers that the tyres must reach the end of the race since a 39 lap stint on hards was on the limit regarding tyre life. If the punctures were related to wear, then I question their management. If they knew tyres could be short on life, they should have instructed their drivers to do more management. This is the only time I might accept them doing this due to the risk. However, the punctures could have been caused by debris. So we will wait and see if the cause was debris or over stressing the tyres. Either way, Bottas went from losing 7 points, to losing 25 points to Hamilton.

        1. Don’t you remember Spa 2015? Rosberg failure at Blanchimont.

          Pirelli are a joke and need to go.

    2. My guess is that it is difficult to persuade leading drivers to pit when there are only several laps left to go. Nobody knew for sure when the tyre will give up. Mercedes team respects both drivers and Valtteri Bottas would not be happy if he had to pit on the final laps and if Hamilton had stayed out. It is either they both pit or both stay out. I hope Mr. Toto Wolff will talk to both drivers and explain them that there might be an occasion in the next races when one driver will have different pit stop strategy from the other driver.

  6. I think there was a couple of issues here, one being Bottas refusing to tyre manage meant the Mercedes were pushing their tyres harder as Lewis had to keep gapping Bottas. The second issue is Mercedes refusal to allow their drivers different strategies which meant they couldn’t pit Bottas when his issues started with around 10 laps left.

    The likely cause is sounding like cuts from debris which possibly affected those cars with the highest wear most. Crazy decision to not take to the free stop for the last lap too.

  7. Iain Fairbairn
    3rd August 2020, 1:10

    Very unlikely that all those cars would have punctures due to debris. Front left consistently being the one to let go indicates tyre wear is more likely a cause. Also didn’t see any indication Bottas or any other driver had refused to tyre manage. Having a tyre blow != refusal to tyre manage. Clearly though team strategy needs to change if even softer tyres (or even the same ones) are to be used next week.

  8. Today’s race is the perfect example of why top level drivers get the bucks they get. What we witnessed today was the best example of Formula One in many seasons. Truly big balls moments. Over coming certain disaster. Fine example of racing instinct by the Man, himself. True to the spectacle, Formula One raised its own game by some Stirling drives from the best drivers in the game. Watching the replay again and it’s better second time around.

    1. F1 should be about teams competing with the best equipment available, Pirelli is a joke to F1

  9. There is a growing tendency at Mercedes to not pit when there is some risk unlike at Ferrari and RBR. Happened in China before when Riciardo pit for new tires and won, at Brazil last year when Lewis was not called into pits during the safety car and Max overtook easily, Austria this year when Albon pit during the safety car and challenged for the win out of nowhere and now at Silverstone where it was a no brainer to pit Lewis at the last lap as he was some 30 seconds ahead of Max and the possibility of a puncture was very high. Mercedes pit board saw two cars suffering punctures in two laps and still they didn’t pit their lead driver is incompetence.

  10. Looking at that radio transcript, surprised Hamilton didn’t get a penalty for being “coached”.

    1. There is no penalty for being coached during the race.

  11. Why didn’t Mercedes change Hamilton’s tyres?

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