Lewis Hamilton was relieved to have escaped a high-speed accident after limping home on three wheels to win the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton appeared on course to coast to his seventh victory at Silverstone on his seemingly unstoppable march towards a seventh World Championship.
But halfway round his 52nd and final lap, Hamilton’s left-front tyre suddenly deflated at Woodcote corner.
The world champion’s triumph looked in grave danger – but in a flurry of sparks he managed to navigate the remaining two miles of Northamptonshire asphalt to take the chequered flag 5.8 seconds ahead of Max Verstappen. Hamilton’s last lap was 28 seconds slower than his Red Bull rival.
Aside from his championship-winning triumph at the final corner on the final lap of the final race of the year in 2008, this had to rank as Hamilton’s most dramatic conclusion to a race.
“As the minutes go by I feel worse and worse when I think about what just happened,” said Hamilton.
“In the heat of the moment the adrenaline is going, but if the tyre gave up in a high-speed corner it would have been a much different picture so I feel incredibly grateful that it didn’t.
“It’s the fight for survival instinct which comes out and I was able to stay calm and really measured to bring the thing home.
“I was thinking how am I going to get through these last corners without losing too much time? But I got round Turn 15 and, once I got through the last two corners, I could hear the gap to Max counting down on the radio, seven, six, five seconds. I just managed to keep it together.”
The dramatic victory moved Hamilton 30 points clear at the championship summit after Valtteri Bottas slipped from second to out of the points after he too suffered a late puncture.
Hamilton, who will return to Silverstone for this weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, took the knee ahead of Sunday’s race.
The choreographed gathering at the front of the grid followed a video of the drivers declaring they were united in the fight against racism.
Hamilton was joined by 12 others in kneeling, while seven drivers, including Verstappen and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, elected to stand.
“I don’t know how it looked on TV but it felt a lot more organised,” said Hamilton, who performed a Black Power salute on the podium.
“What is really important is to keep it up because we have this incredible platform with so many people watching.
“Every single one of us needs to be reminded every now and then of how serious things can be, so that people are aware. And what is more important is that F1 follows through on trying to attack these things within our industry.”
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