SILVERSTONE, United Kingdom – Carlos Sainz (picture) claimed his first Formula One (F1) victory in his 150th race on Sunday when he drove his Ferrari to a spectacular triumph in a furious and crash-hit British Grand Prix.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, starting from his maiden pole position, resisted a charging Sergio Perez of Red Bull, who recovered from 17th, to take the flag by 3.7 seconds in front of a record 142,000 crowd at the high-speed Silverstone circuit.
Home hero and seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes took third to claim a record 13th podium finish on home soil, an unprecedented total by any driver at a single event.
Drawing on his fresher tyres in the closing stages, Hamilton resisted and passed Charles Leclerc in the second Ferrari, who finished fourth ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris of McLaren.
World champion and series leader Max Verstappen finished seventh for Red Bull, recovering after picking up debris and suffering a puncture, ahead of a revitalised Mick Schumacher of Haas, collecting his first points in his second season.
Sebastian Vettel, who had started 18th on his birthday, and Kevin Magnussen in the second Haas completed the top 10.
“I don’t know what to say,” said a beaming Sainz. “It is amazing. My first win in F1 on my 150th race and for Ferrari at Silverstone! It’s amazing.”
Perez was also delighted. “It was a great comeback,” he said.
“We never gave up and we kept pushing. We kept trying. It was epic in some of those final laps.”
Hamilton paid tribute to the crowd, saying Silverstone was unmatched around the world for the scale and depth of enthusiasm demonstrated at the British event, which on Sunday provided stunning entertainment.
“I gave it everything today,” said Hamilton. “I tried to chase, but the Red Bull and the Ferraris were too quick on the straights.”
– Multi-car crash –
Verstappen remained ahead in the title race with 181 points, clear of Perez on 147, Leclerc on 138 and Sainz on 127.
The start was marred by a massive high-speed multi-car collision, which saw Zhou Guanyu make a remarkable escape after his Alfa Romeo skidded upside down through a gravel trap.
The Chinese rookie was extricated from his stricken car by a specialist team and after a thorough check-up was back in the pits to watch the end of the race.
“I’m ok, all clear. Halo saved me today. Thanks everyone for your kind messages!” he tweeted.
The race restarted an hour later, using the original grid order.
Three drivers were missing –- Zhou, Williams’ Alex Albon and George Russell of Mercedes –- as the lights went out and Sainz, in ferocious fighting mood, boldly resisted Verstappen to retain the lead.
Leclerc also made an aggressive start and banged wheels with Perez, who suffered front wing damage, and Verstappen before the order settled on lap five.
In a frantic spell of action, Sainz ran off-track and across the grass at Becketts on lap 10, gifting Verstappen the initiative again, but two laps later the Dutchman slowed and pitted with a puncture.
Sainz led again as a 3.1 seconds stop for Verstappen, who reported he had hit debris, dropped him to sixth.
Amid this drama, Hamilton closed on Leclerc before Sainz pitted from the lead, Leclerc taking over ahead of Hamilton with the Spaniard rejoining third ahead of Norris.
Hamilton pushed as Verstappen pitted again before Leclerc pitted on lap 25. He returned in third, behind Sainz, while Hamilton stayed out and revelled in leading a race for the first time this year.
Behind him, Ferrari told their drivers they were “free to fight” as Leclerc chased second-placed Sainz, who was 18 seconds adrift of Hamilton, but warned that a swap was needed.
It duly came on lap 31 when Sainz let Leclerc by on Wellington Straight for second.
This left Hamilton 18.7 seconds ahead, before he pitted on lap 34, emerging third 3.4 seconds behind Sainz, but with tyres that were 13 laps fresher until a safety car intervention with 12 laps to go when Esteban Ocon’s Alpine came to a halt.
On the restart, Perez surged past Hamilton and Sainz overtook Leclerc to lead again, but it was tense stuff and as the Spaniard pulled clear, the trio behind him scrapped and swapped places with ferocious abandon.
Perez muscled his way to second, Leclerc and Hamilton fought and both Alonso and Norris closed to within a second, setting up a furious finale.
During the red-flag stoppage, climate activists staged a sit-down protest on the circuit before being removed, with police making a number of arrests. –AFP