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Hamilton wins British Grand Prix

Jul 6, 2008 - 5:48 PM SILVERSTONE, England (Ticker) -- Lewis Hamilton rocked Silverstone to its roots and sent 90,000 fans into a frenzy with a glorious British Grand Prix victory Sunday.

The McLaren star, who had failed to score a point in his last two races, had his legion of supporters singing in the rain at the end of a chaos-strewn event as wet weather sent his rivals into a spin.

Hamilton finished an astonishing 68.5 seconds clear of BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld come the conclusion of the 60-lap encounter, with a remarkable Rubens Barrichello third in his Honda, on the podium for the first time in three years.

"It is definitely by far the best victory I've ever had," Hamilton said. "It was one of the toughest races I've ever done. As I was driving I was thinking, 'if I win this it will definitely be the best race I've ever won'.

"That's not only because of its history, but also because I'm on home ground and I drove one of my best races ever."

The 23-year-old is now level on points with Felipe Massa, who could only manage 13th, and reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen, who was fourth in his Ferrari.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis hailed Hamilton's "disciplined" drive.

"We had to really, really keep the pace down," Dennis said on ITV1. "He could have gone much quicker and the last 15 laps he was complaining at having to drive too slowly.

"It's very easy to make mistakes in those conditions."

Dennis also believes Hamilton has answered his critics.

"It's tough because you're trying to do your best all the time and you're surrounded by armchair experts who just constantly apply pressure," Dennis said.

"You have to put that out of your mind and concentrate on the job. But he's done a good job."

Hamilton joins a list of illustrious British names to win his home race, including Sterling Moss, Jackie Stewart, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill and David Coulthard, who was the last to triumph in 2000.

On a wet track courtesy of persistent rain throughout a cold, grey morning, with standing water in places, the start was as dramatic as could have been expected.

The rain may have relented once the five red lights disappeared, but the conditions were the worst experienced since last year's monsoon-hit Japan.

Perhaps with nerves on full alert, Heikki Kovalainen and Red Bull's Mark Webber were slow away from the front row of the grid, allowing Hamilton to seize his opportunity.

With Raikkonen baulked behind Kovalainen, Hamilton flashed past him and Australian Webber, and had his nose in front of his McLaren team-mate heading out of first corner Copse.

But Kovalainen had the line, and after brushing tyres with Hamilton he managed to sneak ahead, leaving Hamilton to file behind in the spray that kicked up off the sodden tarmac.

There was further drama behind as Webber spun, swiftly followed by Felipe Massa who had started ninth, whilst Coulthard's final British race was one to forget.

The Scot, who announced on Thursday he is to retire at the end of the season, attempted to pass the Toro Rosso of Sebastian Vettel, only to clip the German, sending them into the gravel where they remained beached.

"I'm truly disappointed," Coulthard said. "I'm sorry for the team. I went for a gap and didn't make the move, coming together with Sebastian, so taking out two Red Bulls.

"In a race like that you have to take your opportunities when they come, but unfortunately it was a bad decision."

Hamilton then continued to hound Kovalainen, and after Massa spun for a second time on lap three to the back of the field, the Briton made his move on the Finn going into Copse.

To the delight of the fans, Hamilton made it stick and proceeded to pull away from Kovalainen, who then gave up second place on lap 10 by spinning at Abbey, allowing Raikkonen to pass.

Over the following 10 laps, approaching one-third distance, the 28-year-old Raikkonen began to reel in Hamilton until he was within a second when they pitted together on lap 21.

Raikkonen opted not to change his tyres, in contrast to Hamilton as his team went for fresh rubber, and it proved the correct decision.

Within three laps the rain started to fall again, leaving Raikkonen with limited tread and barely able to cope with a wet track.

Hamilton then began to take five and six seconds per lap out of Raikkonen who on occasion was tip-toeing his way around the track.

The Finn was a sitting duck and on lap 27 he was passed by not only Kovalainen, but also a flying Heidfeld who surged past both into and then out of Woodcote, the final turn.

Seemingly going backwards, Raikkonen was soon passed by Kubica and Nelson Piquet in his Renault before finally diving into the pits for a second time for a desperately-needed fresh set of tyres.

Then the rain threw down, sending Piquet spinning out, whilst Hamilton, Massa, Raikkonen and Kubica all had their nervy moments before the Pole hurtled into the gravel on lap 40 and out of the race.

That was at a time when sun and blue skies made an appearance on a day of contrasts, with Kubica's exit soon followed by Nico Rosberg in his Williams and Jenson Button, sliding off in his Honda.

But all the while Hamilton marched on imperiously, lapping Kovalainen, Raikkonen and Alonso who were running sixth, fifth and fourth respectively at the time on lap 52.

From that moment it was all Hamilton with only Heidfeld and Barrichello on the same lap.

Behind Raikkonen - who becomes the seventh driver to top 500 career points in F1 - came Kovalainen, Alonso, Toyota's Jarno Trulli and Kazuki Nakajima in his Williams.

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