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SILVERSTONE: World championship leader Lewis Hamilton survived a tense last lap drama with a deflated and shredded tyre to clinch a record seventh victory in Sunday’s (Monday in Manila) British Grand Prix, claiming “my heart almost stopped.”
The six-time world champion led from lights to flag, and through two Safety Car interventions, before he suffered a front left tyre failure on his final lap, leaving him to nurse his Mercedes home with second-placed Max Verstappen in hot pursuit in his Red Bull.
He finished 5.9 seconds behind.
The Dutchman had inherited second when Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, running comfortably in second for most of the contest, was hit by the same problem, his front-left delaminating and deflating on his penultimate lap.
The Finn limped back to the pits and finished pointless in 11th place, while his rivals slowed to preserve their rubber, Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc taking third place behind Verstappen ahead of Daniel Ricciardo of Renault and Lando Norris of McLaren.
Hamilton’s victory was the 87th of his career and moved him within four of Michael Schumacher’s record of 91.
Norris’s teammate Carlos Sainz was also a puncture victim in the closing laps of an exciting race that saw him fall from fourth to 13th.
Esteban Ocon finished sixth in the second Renault ahead of Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, Alex Albon in the second Red Bull, Lance Stroll of Racing Point and four-time champion Sebastian Vettel in his final season with Ferrari.
“In the last few laps, I started to back off and then on the last lap, it just deflated,” said Hamilton.
‘Heart in the mouth’
“It was heart in the mouth. I nearly didn’t get round the last two corners. I was managing it and praying to get round and not be too slow,” said the world champion. “I have definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap and my heart definitely nearly stopped.”
In the drivers championship, he leads with 88 points after four races, a lead of 30 ahead of the luckless Bottas.
”It was lucky and unlucky for us,” said Verstappen.
“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.”
Leclerc said: “It was a tricky race — as soon as I heard Valtteri had a tyre problem, I slowed down quite a lot. We took our opportunities.”
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