On reflection, Lewis Hamilton admits he is feeling “worse and worse” about the ending to the British Grand Prix after he held on for victory with three wheels after a final-lap tire puncture.
A comfortable race for Mercedes exploded into life with three laps remaining when Valtteri Bottas suffered a left-front tire failure and had to limp back to the pits. Hamilton was warned to look after his tires as a result but nonetheless suffered the same failure at Brooklands on the final lap, leaving him more than two miles to drive to the finish. Max Verstappen gained some 25 seconds but fell just short of catching Hamilton, who says as the thrill wore off he realized how lucky he was to hold on.
“As the minutes go by I feel worse and worse when I realize what just happened!” Hamilton said. “In the heat of the moment you have the adrenaline flowing and I’m guessing that fight for survival instinct comes out. I was able to stay calm and really measured and try to bring the thing home, but of course I’m just sitting here thinking of all the things that could have happened.
“If the tire gave up in a high-speed corner, it could have been a much different picture, so I feel incredibly grateful that it didn’t.”
Hamilton admits Bottas’ tire failure did not worry him too much initially as he felt his teammate had been pushing much harder to keep up with him, after the pair were separated by less than two seconds for much of the race.
“Until that last lap, everything was relatively smooth sailing. The tires felt great; Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard, and I was doing some management of the tire and he looked like he wasn’t. When I heard that his tire went, I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine. The car was still turning no problem, so I was thinking maybe it’s OK.
“Those last few laps I started to back off and down the straight it deflated and I just noticed the shape just shift a bit. That was definitely a heart-in-the-mouth feeling because I wasn’t quite sure it had gone down until I hit the brakes. And then you could see the tire was falling off the rim.
“I was just driving it trying to keep the speed up. Sometimes it will take off and break the wing — I was just praying it would get around and it would not be too slow; I nearly didn’t get round the last two corners. But thank God it did. I really owe it to the team, but ultimately we should have stopped towards the end once we saw the delaminations.”