The 49th world championship Grand Prix at Silverstone, which was again packed to the rafters, was a feel-good affair wasn’t it?
So much for Formula 1 being at entertainment/political/financial/technical/PR rock-bottom.
From Saturday afternoon, when Lewis Hamilton secured his third pole position – to add to his 2007 and 2013 grid-toppers – on home soil, right through to the end of the 52-lap race when the Mercedes ace converted his qualifying pace into race victory: the ninth round of F1 2015 had a lot going on.
Add in the scalded-cat-like Williams FW37s of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas leaping off the line to give the front-row-starting Mercs a headache for the first third of the race and it was a fine afternoon’s entertainment for fervent race-goers.
And, don’t forget, Fernando Alonso dragged his recalcitrant McLaren from 17th on the grid to finish 10th and secure a world championship point, the Spanish double world champion finally opening his 2015 account. That was a big deal for the team and its legions of trackside fans, especially after crowd favourite Jenson Button’s opening-lap retirement following a collision involving, ahem, Alonso.
But Silverstone was once again all about Hamilton. His victory, after outfoxing the two Williams and his team-mate Nico Rosberg on pitstop strategy and – when the rain intensified late on in the race – on tyre choice, was his third in his home grand prix and second in succession. Not since David Coulthard took a repeat win for McLaren in 2000 has a Brit doubled-up at the home of British motor racing.
On top of that, Hamilton broke a record that has stood for 45 years. Yes, the 30-year-old reigning world champion has now led 18 races on the trot – a tally that began in Hungary last August and, on current form, is set to continue for a while yet.
The previous record of 17 was held by Sir Jackie Stewart, who ran at the front for at least a lap between the US GP at Watkins Glen in October 1968 through to and including the Belgian GP at Spa in June ’70.
Where, though, does this championship-lead-extending win put Hamilton in the pantheon of fellow home-grown heroes and their Silverstone achievements?
Significantly, it’s a milestone that puts him level with two of the very best: Jim Clark, who triumphed for Lotus in 1963, ’65 and ’67, and Nigel Mansell, who blitzed it for Williams in 1987, ’91 and ’92.
Statistical purists among you will know that Clark won the British Grand Prix on five occasions (his other two victories coming at Aintree in 1962 and Brands Hatch in ’64) and Mansell four times (thanks to a Brands Hatch win in 1986), but no Brit has ever won four at the circuit where the World Championship began back in 1950.
Now there’s a challenge for Hamilton. And, if he’s still at the top of his game in 2017, he might find himself closing on Alain Prost’s incredible run of five Silverstone victories, racked up for Renault in 1983, McLaren in ’85 and ’89, Ferrari in ’90 and Williams in ’93.
By the summer of 2017, Hamilton may well already be a four-time World Champion, with an eye on eclipsing Prost’s tally. Wouldn’t that be good for British F1 fans?