SILVERSTONE: Lewis Hamilton completed a hat-trick of home wins in the British Grand Prix on Sunday to move to within one point of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg –demoted from runner-up to third — in the world championship.
The German was penalised 10 seconds by the Silverstone stewards for a breach of the rules governing radio communication over a gearbox issue.
Red Bull s talented Dutch teenager Max Verstappen who had finished a fine third inherited the runner-up spot behind Hamilton.
The defending three-time champion reeled off his fourth win in five races to all but cancel out Rosberg s lead in the drivers standings.
In a reversal of the scenes at Spielberg following last Sunday s Austrian Grand Prix, where Hamilton and Rosberg collided on the final lap, Rosberg rather than his teammate was booed by fans during the podium ceremony.
Hamilton celebrated with a crowd surfing demonstration of joy.
The jubilant 31-year-old said: “We ve got the best fans here so thank you so much… I am not sure you can be as happy as I am.”
A pre-race downpour created some havoc and an immediate call for “full wet” tyres and a plodding safety car start.
Hamilton led the way for six laps before the grand prix proper began, grumbling on lap five: “We can go, Charlie!” in a message directed at the race director Charlie Whiting.
Once the safety car withdrew, Hamilton threw up a high plume of spray ahead of Rosberg as most of the drivers — bar the top four — rushed to the pits for intermediate tyres.
Hamilton pulled 3.6 seconds clear by lap seven.
Both Mercedes men pitted for their intermediates on lap eight, ahead of the Red Bulls.
Then in an outrageous move, Verstappen swept round Rosberg at Becketts to take second on lap 15.
The top order stayed unchanged as the top three traded fastest laps while the circuit remained treacherous, with both Fernando Alonso and then Carlos Sainz spinning off at Abbey, but surviving.
Rio Haryanto did the same, hit the barriers and retired.
Hamilton almost did the same, but retained control as his car twitched. Verstappen also slithered and the top three were separated by only six seconds.
By lap 25, Hamilton was surging again, 5.9 seconds clear of Verstappen, who was defending against a rampant Rosberg.
Rosberg finally passed Verstappen on lap 38 and began to hunt down Hamilton, 8.2 seconds ahead.
Rosberg reeled off fastest laps, but Hamilton nursed his car, and the tyres, as he retained a six seconds lead until, on lap 47, Rosberg reported a gearbox problem. He lost three seconds and fell back to 11 seconds behind Hamilton.
“Avoid seventh gear,” the Mercedes team told him. “Shift through it.”
Sensing blood, Verstappen closed up, but in the end Rosberg hung on, only to lose the position later.
In a statement issued three hours after the race the sport s ruling body, the International Motoring Federation (FIA), said that while some of the instructions from Mercedes were allowable, others were not.
“Having considered the matter extensively, the stewards determined that the team gave some instructions to the driver that were specifically permitted,” said the statement.
“However, the stewards determined that the team then went further and gave instructions to the driver that were not permitted — and were in Breach of Art. 27.1 of the Sporting Regulations, that the driver must drive the car alone and unaided.”
Earlier Rosberg had expressed confidence that his radio instructions were within the rules.
“It was a very critical problem,” said Rosberg, explaining that it was a safety matter. “I was stuck in seventh gear and about to stop on track….”
Hamilton meanwhile paid thanks to the volatile British weather.
“I m glad that the good English weather came out.
“It was so tricky in those conditions when we started the race. I was the first one who had to attack it. It s never plain, smooth sailing – and that s why the British GP is the best.”
He became the first driver to complete a hat-trick of British wins at Silverstone and equalled Jim Clark s record of three straight home wins.
Verstappen described his afternoon as “amazing”.
“The race was very exciting and very tricky in the beginning.
“I think I stopped one lap too late. Unfortunately, Nico got past me, but I still had good pace,” he added.
Verstappen s Red Bull team-mate Daniel Ricciardo took fourth with Kimi Raikkonen fifth for Ferrari.