With Lewis Hamilton having to fight through the field from last, Sebastian Vettel capitalised to take his fourth victory of the season and extend his championship lead to eight points.
It was a calm and measured drive by Vettel, which required him to pass Valtteri Bottas for the lead with a bold move at Brooklands corner after two consecutive late Safety Car periods.
The Ferrari driver went level with Alain Prost on 51 Formula One victories, a real milestone.
Hamilton, who was taken out by Raikkonen on the opening lap of the race, profited from the safety car scenario to take second place, ahead of Raikkonen and Bottas, although Mercedes chose not to pit under the Safety Car for new soft tyres, unlike their rivals, which meant Hamilton retained second place but could not challenge Vettel for the win.
“This is the greatest race in the world, and this is the greatest crowd in the world, and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to bring it home for you today, but thank you so much for your support,” said an emotional Hamilton, who initially ducked out of the post race interview at the finish.
“It’s you guys that helped me get through today. So we’ll take it on the chin, keep pushing hard and, believe me, I will not give up.
“My team did an amazing job this weekend and we’ve got so much support. There’s so much pressure.
Referring to the collisions with Raikkonen, for which the Finn was given a ten second penalty, Hamilton insinuated that it had been in some way deliberate,
“Interesting tactics from the other side today, but we’ll do what we can to fight them and improve in the next couple of races,” he said.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was powerless to stay with the lead battle and could only manage fifth, whilst team-mate Max Verstappen retired late on with a brake-by-wire issue.
With Renault being the only team to use the hard-compound tyre, Nico Hulkenberg took sixth place ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
At lights out, it was second-placed Vettel who got the best getaway and he powered past pole-sitter Hamilton long before turn one. Hamilton’s poor start allowed Bottas to sweep past into turn one too, and it gave Raikkonen the opportunity to attempt a pass into turn three.
However, Hamilton’s opening lap went from bad to worse, as Raikkonen locked up and collided with the Mercedes, spinning it and sending it to the back of the field, much to the despair of the British crowd.
Both cars continued with minor damage, but Raikkonen was down to fifth behind the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, and Hamilton had to start picking his way through the field.
Other opening lap incidents involved a spin for Force India’s Sergio Perez, and a collision between the two Haas drivers, which sent them out of the points.
With all eyes on Hamilton’s recovery, the Briton made light work of scything his way into the points positions, with many of the midfielders realising that their fight was not with the Mercedes.
Having already overtaken one of the Red Bulls, a ten-second time penalty for Raikkonen for the Hamilton collision prompted Ferrari to call the Finn into the pits early for medium tyres, and he had to fight through some midfielders in order to make his new two-stop strategy work.
With Red Bull leaving their cars out for as long as possible in order to take advantage of Raikkonen’s penalty, they had pitted both Verstappen and Ricciardo by lap eighteen and rejoined ahead of the Ferrari. This promoted Hamilton to third, but he was yet to stop.
Vettel was maintaining an advantage of three-to-five seconds over Bottas when both were brought into the pits for mediums a couple of laps later, keeping their positions when Hamilton finally made his first stop.
Hamilton’s sole pit stop on lap 25 brought him back down to sixth and with just over ten seconds to make up on Raikkonen.
The Mercedes man was given a huge opportunity to recover more ground when the safety car was deployed due to a big crash for Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.
The Swedish driver lost control of his car whilst trying to take turn one with the DRS wide open. He spun and crashed into the tyre barriers as a result.
With both Ferraris pitting for fresh softs, Mercedes’ only opportunity was to do the opposite thing to their rivals, and they stayed out on mediums to gain track position. Bottas now led from Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen and Raikkonen.
Bottas gave a fine example of how to execute a race restart and left Vettel and Hamilton behind when the track went green, whilst Verstappen and Raikkonen diced for position through Brooklands, Luffield and Copse, which Verstappen won.
However, the safety car was back out moments later for a collision between Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz.
Racing towards Copse corner, Renault’s Sainz was attempting a pass around the outside of the Haas, but a moment of oversteer meant Grosjean tagged Sainz and sent both into the barrier.
With the race restarting for a final ten-lap sprint, Bottas once again had a fine getaway, but Vettel was looking racier than ever.
Bottas was forced to defend a barrage of attacks into Brooklands, but the Finn could only hold him back for a couple of laps, and Vettel dived up the inside of Bottas with a late move to take the lead of the race.
Bottas’ continued to lose positions; he was passed by both Hamilton and Raikkonen – who had profited from Verstappen race retirement a couple of laps earlier – at the same location in the closing stages of the race.
With older tyres, Hamilton was unable to challenge Vettel, and the Ferrari man took his second British Grand Prix victory to extend his championship lead.
Raikkonen finished in third, with fourth-placed Bottas holding off a late challenge from Ricciardo on the final lap.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg managed to extract enough performance out of the hard tyres to hold onto sixth place, ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso.
Kevin Magnussen took ninth place for Haas, whilst Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly originally took tenth place, but he was handed a five-second time penalty for colliding with Force India’s Sergio Perez in a late-race overtaking manoeuvre.
BRITISH GRAND PRIX, Results
1 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 52 Laps
2 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes +2.264s
3 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari +3.652s
4 Valtteri Bottas Mercedes +8.883s
5 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault +9.500s
6 Nico Hulkenberg Renault +28.220s
7 Esteban Ocon Force India/Mercedes +29.930s
8 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Renault +31.115s
9 Kevin Magnussen Haas/Ferrari +33.188s
10 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes +34.708s
11 Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren/Renault +35.774s
12 Lance Stroll Williams/Mercedes +38.106s
13 Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso/Honda +39.129s
14 Sergey Sirotkin Williams/Mercedes +48.113s
15 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault DNF
16 Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari DNF
17 Carlos Sainz Renault DNF
18 Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari DNF
19 Charles Leclerc Sauber/Ferrari DNF
20 Brendon Hartley Toro Rosso/Honda DNF
By: Luke Murphy
All images: Motorsport Images
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