Lewis Hamilton insisted he kept his cool as late tyre drama threatened to crush his hopes of a stunning win at Sunday’s British Grand Prix. The Mercedes driver’s front-left tyre delaminated on the final lap and he was forced to limp home towards the chequered flag as Max Verstappen closed in.
Hamilton – just about – held on to seal his seventh career win at Silverstone and extend his lead at the top of the World Drivers’ Championship.
Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas ended the race all the way down in 11th after suffering his own tyre horror show.
Hamilton, though, insisted he wasn’t too worried – even if the initial pop provided a real heart-in-mouth moment.
“You may or may not be surprised, but I was really chilled at the end,” Hamilton said. “[Race engineer] Bono was giving me the information and the gap – I think it was 30 seconds at one stage – and it was coming down quite quickly. In my mind I’m thinking: ‘Okay, how far is it to the end of the lap?’
“The car seemed to turn okay through Maggots and Becketts, thankfully. I got to [Turn] 15 and that’s where it really was a bit of a struggle and I could hear the gap coming down from 19 to 10 [seconds].
“I just remember giving it the full gas out of [Turn] 15 down to [Turn] 16 and then the thing [to worry about] was stopping. I got to the corner, a lot of understeer, and I heard [Bono] go: ‘Nine, eight, seven [seconds]’. And I was just like getting back on the power, trying to get the thing to turn.
“Oh my god. I have definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap. My heart definitely probably nearly stopped. I think that’s probably how cool I was because my heart nearly stopped.”
Hamilton – who led the entire race after qualifying on pole at Silverstone – suggested Bottas made the costly mistake of failing to look after his rapidly-degrading tyre.
And he admitted Mercedes might have been better pitting – despite the threat of the rampaging Verstappen – to ensure both cars finished in the points.
“Up until that last lap, everything was relatively smooth sailing,” said Hamilton. “The tyres felt great. Valtteri was really pushing, incredibly hard. I was doing some management of that tyre. He looked like he wasn’t doing any.
“But I heard that his tyre went and I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine. The car was still turning, with no problems. So I’m thinking: ‘Maybe it’s okay’.
“Those last few laps, I started to back off and then just down the straight it deflated and I just noticed the shape just shift a little bit. And that was definitely a heart in the mouth kind of feeling because I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down. I hit the breaks, you could see, obviously, the tyre was falling off the rim.
“Just driving it, trying to keep the speed up, because sometimes it can break off and break the wing. Oh my god I was just praying to get it round and not be too slow. I nearly didn’t get round the last two corners, but that god we did. I really owe it to the team.
“I think ultimately, maybe we should have stopped, towards the end once we saw the delaminations.”
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