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Sunday, July 6, 2008

Home glory as Hamilton dominates wet Silverstone

Lewis Hamilton needed a good result at his home grand prix if he was to get his championship campaign back on track.

The Briton did just that, driving a superb race in difficult conditions and putting himself in a three way tie at the top of the drivers championship at the halfway point of the season.

“It is by far the best victory I've ever had,” Hamilton said. “It was one of the toughest races I've ever done and as I was driving I was thinking if I win this, this will definitely go down as the best race I've ever won, not only because of its history but it's on my home ground, but also I think I drove one of the best races I ever did.”

Nick Heidfeld took second for BMW Sauber, the German clearly happy to have the disappointment of France behind him.

“I don't think you can say recovery because two races ago we had a one-two. I hope Magny-Cours, the previous race, was a one-off,” Heidfeld said. “Here we did look a lot stronger. I seemed to get over my qualifying problems and then just had a good race today.”

Rain master Rubens Barrichello took a well earned third in the Honda.

“Well, it's fantastic. I've never lost the belief that I have in me, this speed and everything,” Barrichello said. “Obviously it was a lucky day with the weather and so on. It seems to always happen to me in a way, because I love wet weather conditions.”

Things didn’t look promising for Hamilton after qualifying fourth yesterday, but rain, the great equalizer, gave him the chance he needed to get things back on track. Heavy morning rains saw most drivers starting on the intermediate option. Light rain was falling as the formation lap got under way.

When the lights went out, Hamilton had a go on teammate and pole sitter Heikki Kovalainen, but couldn’t get by. Kimi Raikkonen slipped into third, while Mark Webber, starting on the front row, spun and dropped to the back of the field.

Further back, slippery conditions quickly played their hand as David Coulthard, driving in his final British Grand Prix, collected Sebastian Vettel and brought both their races to a premature end.

Barrichello was moving through the field, up six places to 10th, while back up front, Kovalainen was putting in some blistering times, but couldn’t dispatch his teammate, and Hamilton took the lead from him on lap five.

Raikkonen was next to get by his fellow Finn when Kovalainen spun on lap 10.

With rain soon predicted, the first round of stops would be crucial. Raikkonen was closing on Hamilton, the world champion looking to be Ferrari’s best hope as Felipe Massa had spun and dropped well back.

Both Hamilton and Raikkonen came in on lap 21, the McLaren getting a new set of intermediates, while Ferrari opted not to change. Within a lap McLaren’s choice would to be the correct decision as rain began to fall heavily on the track and Raikkonen fought with a lack of grip.

“Obviously we started on new wets, new intermediates or new standard wets and then we had a scrubbed set available which we were looking to use, and obviously it got pretty tricky out there, but fortunately the team took the decision...” Hamilton said. “I just focused on making sure I didn't make any mess-ups and mistakes and they were doing such a great job in analysing the weather forecast and making sure that we were on the right path.”

Hamilton pressed his advantage and began to build an insurmountable lead, while Raikkonen fell prey to first Kovalainen and then Nick Heidfeld.

The rain continued to worsen as the second set of stops approached, but while Honda switched Jenson Button and Barrichello to the monsoons, McLaren chose to keep Hamilton on intermediates.

It was a gamble that paid off, Hamilton driving smartly while others were spinning in the extreme conditions. Robert Kubica was one of them, the Pole’s spinning to an end on lap 41.

In second, Heidfeld was feeling the pressure of Barrichello’s Honda. The Brazilian, one of the great drivers in the wet, actually got by the German before having to pit again due to a refueling problem. Barrichello rejoined in third, and Heidfeld was safe in second. That’s how it would remain.

For Barrichello, his first podium since 2005 was a truly emotional moment.

“The team knows – maybe those outside don't – but I have this great feeling. It's like I'm young, it's like I'm smiling at problems, it's like I'm working more. I feel that. I just love the sport, I just love the speed, I cannot live without that. It's not that I want to prove to Ross that I'm physically capable. He knows that I have the speed and I want to keep on racing,” he said. “I want to take the chance to thank very much – to dedicate this race to my kiddo, to Eduardo, because he, yesterday, he saw how tough it was to be 16th and he said ‘oh Dad, I'm going to pray for wet for you to get on the podium tomorrow,' so how magic this is!”

Raikkonen, lapped by Hamilton, took fourth after a thrilling battle with Fernando Alonso.

Kovalainen took fifth after his own battle with the Spaniard in the closing laps, Alonso settling for sixth. Jarno Trulli and Kazuki Nakajima rounded out the points paying positions, the Italian getting the Williams driver on the final lap.

The result puts Hamilton into a tie at the top of the championship with Raikkonen and Massa, who had a terrible race, spinning five times and finish last among running competitors.

Ferrari still leads the constructors championship, ahead of BMW Sauber and McLaren heading to the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time at Hockenheim.

But Hamilton will savor this one for the moment: “It's the best weekend ever.” Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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