British Grand Prix 2008: Lewis Hamilton scores home win as Ferrari flounder

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, Silverstone, 2008, 470150

Lewis Hamilton won a thrilling British Grand Prix at Silverstone as McLaren capitalised on a strategic blunder by Ferrari.

McLaren called the changing conditions perfectly while Ferrari got their strategy badly wrong for Kimi Raikkonen, leaving him to battle his way up to fourth.

Hamilton’s win sets up a three-way tie at the top of the Formula 1 championship standings at the halfway point in the championship.

McLarens bang wheels

The race started in damp conditions with Heikki Kovalainen on pole position ahead of Mark Webber. But it was the second row of Raikkonen and Hamilton that made the best start. While Raikkonen was boxed in behind the front row men, Hamilton burst through to take second after banging wheels with his team mate at the first corner.

Hamilton kept up the pressure on Kovalainen and made his pass on lap four, lunging through at Stowe leaving Kovalainen unable to respond, although the Finn feinted at his team mate as they went into Vale.

Further back the opening laps were chaotic. Webber spun as he came onto the Hangar straight, keeping his Red Bull away from the cars rushing at him.

At Abbey first Kazuki Nakajima went off then Felipe Massa spun as well, this first of many for the Ferrari driver. At Priory, David Coutlhard tapped Sebastian Vettel and both spun straight into the gravel, ending their races, and Coulthard’s final home Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen catches Lewis Hamilton

Fernando Alonso had gambled on ‘extreme’ wet weather tyres at the start and to begin with they paid off. Alhough team mate Nelson Piquet Jnr passed him at the start he quickly reversed the move and then took Nick Heidfeld for fourth. He then began to close on the top three of Hamilton, Kovalainen and Raikkonen.

But on lap 11 he found Kovalainen suddenly in front of him. The Finn had spun at Abbey, letting Raikkonen up into second.

Webber quickly began to fight his way through the pack, passing Kazuki Nakajima, Rubens Barrichello, Adrian Sutil (who’d made a characteristically good start in the wet), Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button. But on lap 18 he had to make his first pit stop.

By this time Raikkonen had cut the gap to Hamilton from over six seconds to 1.6s. As the track continued to dry, Raikkonen had the quicker car and set the fastest lap of the race at this stage.

Kovalainen was in the pits on lap 19 for a fresh set of intermediates. As the track seemed to be getting drier, it looked like McLaren had made a mistake by not keeping him on his worn intermediates.

When Hamilton and Raikkonen came in together two laps later McLaren did the same but Ferrari left Raikkonen on the same tyres. But as rain began to fall heavily it became clear that McLaren had made the right decision. On their out lap Hamilton was 1.1s quicker in the second sector alone.

Ferrari’s strategy blunder

Over the following laps Hamilton streaked away. Raikkonen lost five seconds on lap 24 alone – by lap 27 he was 21.8s in arrears and Kovalainen had caught him. But Kovalainen took a long time to pass his countryman and, when he finally did, a perfectly-placed Heidfeld pounced on the pair of them, and took both drivers in one move at Woodcote.

By the halfway stage in the race rain was falling very heavily and it was starting to look as though extreme wet weather tyres would be necessary. Raikkonen finally gave up and pitted for fresh intermediate tyres on lap 30. Fernando Alonso was also in trouble having pitted and kept the same tyres on lap 21. He was back in on lap 27 and took on enough fuel to last him until the end.

Robert Kubica was thriving in the rain, passing Piquet for fourth on lap 32 and then taking Kovalainen two laps later, putting him third.

The Honda drivers had capitalised on the leaders’ problems and on lap 36 Rubens Barrichello was into the pits. The team gambled on switching him to extreme wet weather tyres, but a problem with the fuel hose kept him stuck in the pits and not taking on any fuel. Worse, team mate Jenson Button was queued behind him. A few laps later Button retired with a technical problem.

Heavy rain catches drivers out

But as the weather got worse more drivers were flying off the track. Giancarlo Fisichella had spun out on lap 27. Nelson Piquet Jnr, having passed Alonso earlier, went out on lap 36. Timo Glock spun and continued and up ahead even Hamilton went wide at Abbey. At Becketts first Kubica went off and then Massa had another spin, the car snapping away from him as he turned into Maggots. Both continued.

McLaren faced another strategy gamble when Hamilton came in for his second pit stop on lap 38. And again it looked as though they’d called it wrong as they elected not to put him on extreme wet weather tyres, but gave him new intermediates instead.

Surprisingly BMW did the same but Barrichello was able to lap up to five seconds per lap quicker than them. He even unlapped himself from Hamilton with ease going down the Hangar straight. But as the rain eased over the coming laps Hamilton was able to improve his lap times much more quickly than the opposition – up to four seconds faster than the likes of his team mate and Raikkonen.

Kubica was caught out by the weather, however, and went off backwards into the gravel on lap 40.

Nakajima loses out at the last

After Barrichello made his final stop he slotted in third behind Heidfeld, with Jarno Trulli, Alonso, Kovalainen, Raikkonen and Timo Glock, whose Toyota had survived an assault from Nico Rosberg, who lost his front wing in the contact.

Massa was stil struggling and on lap 50 spun for the fifth time. Kovalainen had another spin, allowing Raikkonen and Alonso past.

Raikkonen then reeled in Alonso and passed him or fourth, Kovalainen following to demote the Renault driver to sixth. But Kazuki Nakajima could not find a way past Alonso – but Trulli pounced to demote the Williams driver almost within sight of the chequered flag.

Rosberg finished ninth after stopping for a new front wing with Webber a disappointing tenth after starting on the front row of the grid. He spun more than once during his attempts to climb back through the field.

Sebastien Bourdais was 11th ahead of Timo Glock and Massa, after a poor performance by the Ferrari driver.

Hamilton’s win was the perfect response to growing criticism of his driving after the mistakes at Montreal, Magny-Cours and in qualifying at Silverstone yesterday. But for all the drama of the previous races it is now all tied at the top of the championship with eight races to go.

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86 comments on British Grand Prix 2008: Lewis Hamilton scores home win as Ferrari flounder

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  1. donwatters said on 7th July 2008, 18:01

    The facts are quite clear: Lewis was the best…by a mile! Even if Kimi had gotten the right tyres, he would not have been able to keep up with Lewis. Later lap times proved that. The real question is: what happened to Massa? He’s proven to be a reasonably good and competitive driver so far this year.

  2. andy surridge said on 7th July 2008, 18:03

    He is not a rainman simple

  3. donwatters said on 7th July 2008, 18:07

    But then how do you explain his performance in Monaco?

  4. andy surridge said on 7th July 2008, 18:11

    easy slower circuit.

  5. ade said on 7th July 2008, 18:56

    Kester: Why set up Heikki’s for dry that morning when it was obvious from the earlier GP2 race and the forecasts that the circuit was drenched and would stay that way?

  6. GO HONDA F1 RACING!!!
    Many congrats to our Honda engineers and crews as well as Ruben Barrichello for giving all out consistently on a messy track! I knew Honda will out perform when the situations arise, RELIABILITY IS THE KING IN LONG RUN!!!!

  7. Oliver said on 7th July 2008, 21:10

    Andy, Mclaren also set up the Ferraris and all other cars on the grid so Hamilton could win?

  8. andy suridge said on 7th July 2008, 23:07

    Im not allowed to comment sorry oliver,there is also 19 other drivers.

  9. Ben Goldberg said on 12th July 2008, 9:15

    How can you call Lewis the “rain master” after China last year? Come on now…

  10. Adi said on 31st July 2009, 16:16

    I live in Kinshasa, DR. Congo and I had never attended a F1 Grand Prix before, a friend of mine made it possible for me to attend the British GP 2008 weekend at Silverstone in 2008.
    This race was a memorable race for me, not just because it was my first ever GP but because so many things happened. We were watching the race from Stowe, and it was great feeling to witness Hamilton overtaking Heikki just a couple meters away from me. It was like a dream and I really really enjoyed the race (although the weather was as a bit cold for me).

    I really wish we could have races like this one with many surprises with the weather changing conditions.

    Hamilton did a very good job and I travelled miles away to support him, he did exactly what I and many fans expected him to do.

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