Lewis Hamilton said he feared he might not make it home when a last lap puncture almost derailed his charge to a record seventh British Grand Prix victory on Sunday.
“I didn’t think I would make it round the last two corners,” the world champion said.
The front left tire of his Mercedes had delaminated and deflated on his final lap, leaving the six-time world champion to nurse his vehicle to the finish as second-placed Max Verstappen hunted him down.
“I just can’t believe it,” Hamilton said. “It was heart-stopping. I backed off and stayed chilled and was so glad it happened on the straight — not on a high-speed corner like Copse. That would have been a disaster.”
Hamilton claimed a record seventh home win — passing Alain Prost’s total of six home wins in France — to increase his career total to 87, four short of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91.
He also passed Ayrton Senna’s record of most races led from start to finish with his 20th lights-to-flag victory, but he said that it was a race finish like nothing he had experienced before.
“Up until that last lap everything was relatively smooth sailing,” Hamilton said. Teammate “Valtteri [Bottas] was really pushing incredibly hard; I was doing some management of the tires. Then, when I heard his went, I looked at mine and it seemed fine.”
“In the last few laps, I started to back off and then on the last lap it deflated. That was a real heart-in-the-mouth moment,” he said.
“You could see it falling off the rim. From then, I was just managing it, and I was just praying to get round and not be too slow,” Hamilton said. “I have definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap and my heart nearly stopped.”
“I could hear him [Verstappen] catching me. It was 30 seconds, 20, 19, 15, 10 and then seven. A horrible feeling. I thought he would catch me on the line, but thankfully I got it home,” he said. “I had to stay cool. I had no choice. My survival instincts took over.”
“It was lucky and unlucky for us,” Verstappen said. “The Mercedes were too quick. The tyres didn’t look great with 10 laps to go and then Valtteri got a puncture and they boxed me to go for fastest lap... Second is a good result.”
Reminded that the weather forecast for next weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, at the same circuit, is for higher temperatures and, on softer tires, more wear problems, Hamilton said that he was not intending to worry: If it’s hotter and worse, it’s not for me to stress about now.”
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