Lewis Hamilton achieved Silverstone redemption as he won the British Grand Prix to close in on Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ championship.
Cutting a forlorn figure on Saturday having made an error in qualifying, Hamilton started the race in sixth but, either side of a red flag following a major shunt for Kimi Raikkonen, he navigated his way up the field before taking the lead as Mercedes team-mate Rosberg ran into mechanical problems.
Having seen Hamilton endure the majority of hard luck with reliability heading into the 50th grand prix staged at Silverstone, Rosberg suffered a gearbox issue which saw him retire from the lead 21 laps from the chequered flag.
Hamilton cantered to his fifth win of the season and his second career victory in front of a home crowd to move to within four points of Rosberg, while Williams overcame a miserable weekend to seal a memorable second place through Valtteri Bottas.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took third ahead of Jenson Button, who ran out of time as he closed in during the final laps, finishing within a second of the Australian.
Rosberg got off the line well as Button overhauled a poor-starting Vettel to move into second place. Hamilton moved up to fourth following a close battle with Vettel’s Red Bull, with the two touching in the opening corners, but his charge was soon halted when a heavy crash for Raikkonen brought out the red flag.
Raikkonen ran wide at Aintree and, as he bounced his Ferrari back onto the track, he lost control and slammed into the wall near to the bridge on the Wellington Straight.
The race restarted behind the safety car with the drivers lapping in the order at the time of the red flag and it was Hamilton who again continued to move closer to Rosberg at the front of the field.
Hamilton began to reel Rosberg in at the head of the field and, with the gap dropping to under two and a half seconds, Rosberg came in on lap 18 with a 2.7-second stop for another set of medium tyres.
Hamilton decided not to respond immediately but came in for a change to hard tyres six laps later as a slight delay on the left-rear wheel saw him leave the pits almost six seconds behind Rosberg, with the Briton bemoaning the 4.1-second stop.
“Bit worried about the pit stops guys, lets get a good one next time, okay?” he said over team radio on his out-lap – but the problems for his team-mate soon outweighed Hamilton’s concern.
Despite being on the perceived slower compound, Hamilton lit up the timing screen and was soon homing in on his rival again, taking more than two seconds out of Rosberg’s lead on lap 28.
The reason for his rapid progress soon became clear as Rosberg reported to his garage that he was suffering from an upshift issue and he retired on lap 31 with the problem proving terminal as he eventually lost drive.
The fight for the remaining steps on the podium was also hotting up with Bottas pulling away in second place while the likes of Ricciardo, Button, Alonso and Vettel were all in contention for third.
Alonso again produced some superb overtaking manoeuvres as he steamed past Vettel at Copse. The two drivers – with six world titles between them – continued to fight wheel to wheel, giving fourth-placed Button a chance to put a bit of breathing space between himself and the duelling pair.
The 34-year-old has never finished on the podium in 15 attempts at Silverstone and, even though he closed the gap on Ricciardo in the closing stages, the Australian held onto his tyres to prevent Button from breaking his duck on the day he was sporting a pink helmet in memory of his father.
Vettel finally found a way past Alonso with five laps remaining as the reigning champion took fifth place with the Spaniard having to settle for sixth.
The second McLaren of Magnussen had kept a watching brief of the Alonso and Vettel scrap and came home seventh, with Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg eighth and the Toro Rosso pair of Daniil Kvyat and Jean-Eric Vergne compelting the top 10.