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How Lewis Hamilton won an emotional, record-breaking ninth Formula 1 British GP

How Lewis Hamilton won an emotional, record-breaking ninth Formula 1 British GP
How Lewis Hamilton won an emotional, record-breaking ninth Formula 1 British GP

Formula 1 is back. Six different drivers have won the first 12 races of the season: Max Verstappen, Lando Norris, Charles Leclerc, Carlos Sainz Jr., George Russell and now, in stunning fashion, Lewis Hamilton. If Red Bull Racing wasn’t shaking before, it should be now.

You read that last name right: After 945 long days, Hamilton crossed the finish line first at the British Grand Prix, taking his 104th overall victory and a record-breaking ninth win at Silverstone – the most by a driver at a single circuit. But if you had asked Hamilton last month about his chances of winning a race in 2024, he would have told you he wasn’t focused on victories, merely on improving his Mercedes W15 to make it the best car he can before he leaves for Ferrari in 2025.

So, what happened? What changed? How did Lewis Hamilton win the 2024 British Grand Prix? Let’s take a look and find out.

Factor 1: Weather and strategy

Let’s get one thing straight: in terms of pace, Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes was the most consistently fast at the British Grand Prix. The McLarens of Norris and Oscar Piastri had a pace advantage in the wet, but Hamilton was fast enough to win without many of the factors mentioned in this story. Hamilton drove a great race, and part of that was due to the weather.

The Mercedes package seems to favour colder temperatures (we’ll get to that shortly), while the intermittent rain during the Grand Prix favoured drivers experienced in dealing with changeable conditions and making strategic choices during challenging events.

While the teams of drivers like Esteban Ocon and Leclerc took risks with their calls to switch from slicks to intermediates, Hamilton and Mercedes had no problem doing so. Yes, the Mercedes team was among the first to switch from intermediates to softs after the rain stopped, but it was Hamilton who stuck with those tyres until the end, while other competitors on soft tyres struggled with degradation (I’m looking at you, Lando).

It was a masterclass in responding to flexible circumstances at the right time and fielding a driver who can switch quickly.

Factor 2: Rival Mistakes

Another key factor in Hamilton’s victory was the simple fact that his closest competitors in the race simply… fell apart.

At the start of the British Grand Prix, Verstappen struggled to maintain track position, allowing both McLarens to breeze past him in the early stages of the event. Rain and a final set of hard tyres turned the tide for Verstappen, but without the ability to build an unassailable lead at the start, Verstappen lost his chance to challenge Hamilton for a win at the end of the race.

Norris was perhaps Hamilton’s other biggest threat, with the McLaren driver in excellent form heading into 2024. But after a poor start, a poorly timed pit stop due to the soft tyres wearing quickly, and a pit stop where he completely missed his box, Norris had nothing left to offer in the closing laps of the race.

As for the other competitors, well: Hamilton’s teammate Russell retired with a water system problem, Piastri had to play catch-up because his team waited a lap too long to switch him from intermediate to soft tires, and the Ferraris simply played no significant role.

Getty Jacob Porzycki

Factor 3: Mercedes Upgrades and Construction

Speaking to the media after the race, Red Bull team boss Christian Horner admitted that the Mercedes car “has always been strong in the cooler conditions” and that the team “seemed to have things pretty much under control” while Red Bull and McLaren struggled.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said: “We were really in control of the pace at the beginning, which was very encouraging. Then it started to rain and you saw the great performance from McLaren. They were just in the sweet spot of the tyre.”

McLaren’s Andrea Stella, meanwhile, mused: “There’s a narrative going around that McLaren has the best car, but I think we’re making good use of it, right?”

Simply put, Mercedes had a damn good car and the team made good use of it during the British Grand Prix.

In mid-May, Mercedes brought a raft of upgrades to Imola, including a revised floor, revised brake ducts, a new rear spoiler and a new beam wing. The whole aim was to push the W15’s development in a new direction after Mercedes’ gamble on the “zero sidepod” concept had failed.

It took a few races for those upgrades to be refined enough to make a real difference, but the team has continued to grow since that debut, securing its first podiums and wins of 2024. Whatever Mercedes changed, it was finally starting to work.

The team also plans to make extensive upgrades before the Formula 1 summer break, hoping to build on what the team has already developed and set Mercedes up for a strong second half of 2024.

Factor 4: Common experience

What is one thing Hamilton has that his rivals in the British Grand Prix did not? Experience. Plain and simple.

Of all the drivers battling at the front of the field this year, Hamilton generally has the most experience at Silverstone, and he also knows exactly how to win this race. After all, he has done it more times than anyone else.

But perhaps most of all, Hamilton has made it clear that he hopes his final year at Mercedes will be a good one. The start to the season has not been good for the British driver, leading him to tell the media that while he would like to win, he does not expect one any time soon.

“I think consistency and seeing if we can get the team further into the points… (has to) be the target,” he said after securing his first podium of the year in Spain. “Let’s just try to have more consistent weekends like this and then we’ll see.”

Yes, consistency is nice, but there would perhaps be no better way to cap off his ultra-successful career at Mercedes than by taking home a win. In typical Hamilton style, he went one better and took victory in his home race.

“The feeling, it feels different to previous races, and particularly races where you have race after race after race, or seasons where you have multiple wins,” Hamilton said, reflecting on his British Grand Prix. “I think with the adversity that we’ve been through as a team, and that I’ve experienced personally, those challenges, the constant challenge that we all have to get out of bed every day and do our best.

“There are so many moments when you feel like your best effort isn’t good enough, and the disappointment you can feel at times.

“There were definitely times where I thought this was it, that it would never happen again. So to get this feeling across the line, I think honestly, I’ve never cried after a win. It just came out of me. It’s a really, really great feeling. I’m really, really grateful for it.”

Whether Mercedes can maintain this pace for the rest of the season remains to be seen. But if Hamilton’s win at the 2024 British Grand Prix is ​​the Brackley-based team’s last victory of the season, it couldn’t have come at a better time.

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