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Why Silverstone is the most exciting F1 race thus far

Wednesday July 17 2019

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton waves the Union flag as he celebrates in parc ferme after victory in the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, on July 14, 2019. - Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the Formula One championship on Sunday after winning the British Grand Prix for a record sixth time. PHOTO | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC |

Mercedes' British driver Lewis Hamilton waves the Union flag as he celebrates in parc ferme after victory in the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone motor racing circuit in Silverstone, central England, on July 14, 2019. - Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the Formula One championship on Sunday after winning the British Grand Prix for a record sixth time. PHOTO | ANDREJ ISAKOVIC |  AFP

ALEX MWANGI
By ALEX MWANGI
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Until Sunday's British Grand Prix, three men were tied at five for the most number of wins at Silverstone where the first ever Formula One race was held in 1950.

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton has, however, set himself apart from the lot, notching up another win to exceed Jim Clark's and Alain Prost's tallies. At his home Grand Prix, Hamilton took the chequered flag in what was the most fascinating race of 2019 for all the drama it had.

Hamilton had hoped for pole but his teammate, Valtteri Bottas, took care of matters on that end by clinching it with a margin of just 0.006 of a second.

Ferrari's Charles Leclerc, in third, was not far behind and had even threatened to beat Mercedes to pole.

His teammate, Sebastian Vettel, had another unpleasant qualifying session, only managing sixth with the Red Bull pairing of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly between him and the Monegasque.

HOME CROWD

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At the start, Bottas moved right to effectively cover Hamilton as Vettel made light work of Gasly.

During the same lap, Renault's Daniel Ricciardo, who started seventh, was bravely overtaken by McLaren's Lando Norris, with the British driver keen to impress in front of his home crowd.

From the onset, Hamilton stayed close to his teammate and in the fourth lap, he went on the inside at Turn Six and swept past the Finn on Turn Seven.

Bottas, however, was not going to let Hamilton easily have his way and he immediately challenged passing his teammate on the inside going into Turn Nine.

Behind them, Verstappen was within DRS range of Leclerc and eager to pounce. Seven laps later, he made his move.

Unlike in Austria when Leclerc was shoved off the road by Verstappen to give the Dutchman a famous victory in front of Red Bull's adoring fans, the Frenchman stood his ground through Turns Three and Four and maintained position. In the process, Verstappen fell into the clutches of the charging Vettel.

Fortunately for the Red Bull driver, he had DRS and so the Ferrari was unable to capitalize. Gasly was also lurking behind Vettel and before long, he took his chance and passed the four-time world champion.

There was drama in the pitstops when Leclerc came in on the 13th lap with Verstappen following close behind.

The Ferrari pit crew did their best to release their man as soon as possible but so did those metres in front at the Red Bull garage. As Leclerc was exiting the pits, Verstappen tried to squeeze past which led to a tense exit as both cars drove side by side.

The Dutchman nosed in front at the pit exit. No sooner had he re-joined the track than he made an uncharacteristic mistake, going wide on Turn Four. Leclerc needed no other invitation to zoom past.

Five laps later, Verstappen again attempted an inside pass on Leclerc going into Turn Fifteen but the Frenchman would have none of it, passing the Dutchman on the outside to immediately reclaim the position.

The race leader pitted a short while later and took on the mediums which meant he still had to make one more stop. On the 20th lap, Alfa Romeo's Antonio Giovinazzi skidded and got stuck on the gravel which brought out the Safety Car.

Hamilton had stayed out and when he came in and put on the hard compound, he exited the pits well ahead of Bottas. Vettel and Verstappen also pitted. Leclerc stayed out, then pitted in the subsequent lap, with that delay demoting him from third position to sixth.

THEY BANGED WHEELS

When racing resumed, Leclerc was right behind Verstappen and he sought to pass the Dutchman on the outside of Turn Sixteen gaining the advantage by being on the inside of Turn Seventeen.

Like in Austria, they banged wheels, but this time it was Leclerc muscling his way to stay on the racing line as Verstappen went off track.

The Dutchman, however, recovered the position, assisted by accelerating on the outside of the home straight.

He easily passed his teammate soon afterwards.

For Leclerc to do the same, it took an exquisite move on the outside of Turn Three that was arguably the best overtake of the race. Verstappen caught up with Vettel on the 37th lap and passed him at the speed trap, almost going off track in the process at Turn Fifteen. Vettel came back at him but did a mistake and rear-ended the Dutchman.

This promoted Leclerc and Gasly who zoomed past as the stricken Ferrari and Red Bull were getting back on track.

Vettel needed a new nose and was given a ten-second penalty which meant he finished behind both Williams while Verstappen was able to nurse his car all the way to the finish line in fifth.

With tyres 32 laps old and on the last lap, Hamilton did the unimaginable and set the fastest lap, snatching the extra point at the death from his teammate who had made a free pitstop and set the fastest lap six laps earlier.

Leclerc finished third and is now just three points behind Vettel on the drivers' standings while Verstappen is sixteen ahead of the Monegasque.

If this year's championship is to go down the wire, it's unlikely that Hamilton will be challenged by Vettel as the German is exactly 100 points behind the Brit after just 10 races.

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