Lewis Hamilton won yet another race bookended with drama this season, as supersub Nico Hulkenburg doesnt even see the lights, Alexander Albon punts off Kevin Magnussen on the first lap, Daniil Kvyat has a high speed crash at maggots, and tyres start exploding on the final few laps.
Hulkenburg didn’t even get to sit on the grid as technical issues beset his Racing Point before he had even warmed his seat up in the garage. This left Lance Stroll, the sole pink pilot, to try and bag a result for the disruptive team.
Although the Canadian managed to steer clear of all the issues besetting the field, he was lucky to come away with 2 points. Those that dropped out, or back through the field would have been in front of him at the flag.
The leaders were barely into the 2nd lap of the race when Albon did to Magnussen what Hamilton had done to him in the opening round.
The Dane bounced off the kerb at the final chicane throwing his Haas off-line. As he recovered to take the final bend onto the pit straight, Albon sent his Red Bull up the inside before lifting when he realised the gap was quickly evaporating.
But as he did, his front left was in the path of K-mag’s rear right which promptly sent him hurtling into the gravel and taking a massive hit, ripping the front left off of the stricken car and bringing out the safety car.
The race got going again on lap six but just seven laps later a suspected rear right puncture or suspension failure on Kvyat’s Alpha Tauri going into the fast esses of Maggots and Becketts, hurled the Russian into the barrier. Completely destroying the #26 car and bringing out yet another safety car period.
All cars, bar the lone remaining Haas of Romaine Grosjean, pitted to go onto the hard tyres. Pirelli had told the teams that this compound would last for 40 laps, there was 39 left.
What followed was for the most part a fairly uneventful race. Grosjean weaving in the braking zones as faster cars attempted to pass him looked like all the excitement on show for the afternoon. Albon trying to fight through the order for points, Lando Norris sparring with future teammate Daniel Ricciardo, and the Racing Point of Stroll falling backwards were the only action on track otherwise.
But then there was lap 48.
It all started with Kimi Raikkonen going wide onto the kerbs after the old pit straight and breaking his front wing in two, leaving him cutting Moggots out completely. His car lost all front end grip and had to pit for a new one.
Lap 50 saw Valtteri Bottas go wide at turn three due to a puncture. The Mercedes were running line astern until around lap 45 when Bottas started losing time to Hamilton in front, and Max Verstappen behind. The Mercedes team must have been waiting for Red Bull to pull the trigger on a stop for new tyres. Their gap to 4th placed man Charles Leclerc safe, but they never did.
Instead, the Red Bull team left their man out to pressure the leading pair who were struggling with blisters on their front tyres to see if they either blinked first and gained track position, or their tyres fell off a cliff.
The tyres didn’t just fall off the cliff, they gave up completely, just as the Finn was driving past the pitlane with three laps to go. This gifted 2nd place to the Dutchman, who duly pitted for tyres to go for the fastest lap.
Meanwhile, Bottas fell down the order. As he came out of the pits, after dragging his car a whole lap round on three wheels, he found himself down in 12th. He managed to fight back to 11th at the flag but out of the points in a season he can ill afford to have such luck.
Then there was lap 52.
Poor Sainz was next to see his tyre let go in spectacular fashion but as he was just coming up to the last section he managed to dive into the pits straight away. Unfortunately, he fell out of the points by the chequered flag ruining what would have been a strong result for the McLaren team.
Mercedes elected not to pit leader Hamilton when Verstappen came in, instead directing the champion to just slow down, and protect the integrity of the tyres.
Well, that didn’t go to plan.
As Hamilton passed the old pit straight, halfway around the final lap, his left front started to fall apart. He had a 30-second gap back to a fast-approaching Verstappen gunning for fastest lap.
It was heart in mouth stuff as he had eight corners left to go and somehow dragged and scraped the car home at a speed and control those watching could hardly believe. Crossing the line for his record-breaking 7th win at his home Grand Prix by less than six seconds.
Next week sees us return to Silverstone for the second part in this doubleheader. But the forecast is to be hot, and the race will be run on softer tyres than those used this weekend.
Cars won’t be able to run a single-stop race. They were barely able to this weekend, so the action on track should be as hot as the predicted temperatures. As the field spread is so tight, we should see plenty of on-track action as faster cars pit into traffic.
The heat is said to be Mercedes achilles heel too, so if Red Bull want to interrupt this winning streak, next Sunday may be their best chance.