Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton said his “heart nearly stopped” as he survived a crazy last lap with a front-left puncture to win the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton held team-mate Valtteri Bottas at bay throughout the Silverstone race and was set for a comfortable winning margin when Bottas suffered a puncture and Red Bull pit Max Verstappen, to bid successfully for fastest lap.
But Hamilton suffered his own delamination on the final lap and was fortunate to make it to the flag just 5.8 seconds clear of a charging Verstappen.
He told Channel 4 after the race that he was looking at his tyres after Bottas’s problem and “everything seemed fine, the car was still turning no problems, so I was thinking maybe it’s OK”.
Hamilton said he noticed the tyre deflate and then the shape “just shift a little bit”, which gave him a “heart in the mouth kind of feeling because I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down until I hit the brakes”.
“Obviously you could see the tyre was falling off the rim and then just driving it, trying to keep the speed up without, because sometimes it’ll take off and break the wing and all these different things,” he said. “Oh my God, I was just praying to try and get it round, not too slow.
“I nearly didn’t get round the last two corners but thank God we did and I really owe it to the team.
“Maybe we should’ve stopped towards the end once we saw the delaminations.”
Hamilton was being talked through the gap to Verstappen by his race engineer Peter Bonnington in the closing stages. They were both relieved, more than joyous, in their post-race radio exchange.
“You may or may not be surprised, but I was really chill for some reason at the end,” Hamilton said. “Bono was giving me the information of the gap. I think it was 30 seconds at some stage and it was coming down quite quickly.
“In my mind I’m thinking ‘OK, well how far is it to the end of the lap?’. But the car seemed to turn OK through Maggotts and Becketts thankfully.
“I got to 15 [Stowe] and that was really was a bit of a struggle and I could hear the gap coming down from 19 to 10.
“I just remember giving it full gas out of 15 down to 16 [Club, the final sequence of corners] and that thing wasn’t stopping!
“I got to the corner, a lot of understeer and I heard him go, 9, 8, 7 and I was like, just get back on the power, try and get the thing to turn.
“Oh my God, I’ve definitely not experienced anything like that on the last lap and my heart nearly stopped. I think that’s probably how cool I was, because my heart nearly stopped.”
Hamilton now has a 30-point lead over Bottas in the championship after holding on for his third win in a row.
Bottas called it “really disappointing, and very unlucky” especially as the puncture was picked up so early in the lap
“We knew it was going to be a long stint with the hard tyres,” he said. “Of course I was trying to put pressure on Lewis, but towards the end I started to get more and more vibration.
“I reported that and then at the end I had in my mind that there could be an issue so of course I started to manage it a bit, but it happened just like this – so, so sudden, and I couldn’t really predict it happening.”
F1 will have a step softer set of compounds next weekend at the second Silverstone race in a bid to mix things up.
It is also predicted to be warmer, and Bottas reckons it will be “an issue for everyone”.
“For sure one-stop is not going to happen with the compounds we have next week,” he said.
“I’m sure there will be lots of things learned from this weekend.”