Lewis Hamilton joined Michael Schumacher in taking one more world title and said it had taken a great team effort that he couldn’t celebrate on the starting grid of his Mercedes driver’s home grand prix.
On the 37th and final lap at the Silverstone circuit, Hamilton went past teammate Valtteri Bottas to equal the record of seven world titles, with a surprising rain shower hitting the middle of the penultimate lap of the race as the rain headed for the showers that rained down through most of the rainy weekend.
With Mercedes taking over pole position and the Mercedes driver in the lead, the floodlights were switched on in the final corners but Hamilton said he was too tired to celebrate as he now awaits the official news.
“We did a great job. I feel incredibly proud of my team. They were phenomenal throughout the whole weekend, not just today,” said Hamilton. “They did everything.”
“Tonight, we’ll take a look at the stats but probably will not celebrate. I couldn’t celebrate today because we weren’t ahead of Valtteri on the starting grid but I knew he’d battle back. Congratulations to everyone on a great job.”
“I worked so hard with Martin Whitmarsh to take this one to myself,” said Formula One’s now-eight-time champion Sebastian Vettel, who almost sealed the world title for Ferrari a year ago before he was out-pitted by Hamilton.
“I don’t think anyone else deserved this one more. I would have loved to have had it with the crew I had. It was a little bit of luck today, too.
“I just wish Lewis could have brought it home for his own people, but he didn’t quite have it today.”
With half the 34 championship points made up in the last lap, Hamilton fell short of passing his late hero Schumacher’s mark, on his home track at Sainte Devote, but by forcing four laps extra than he usually does had maintained possession of his title before he even got behind the wheel.
Bottas was in a position to deprive the Briton of the top title finish — and the first one-two ever achieved at Silverstone — but he simply could not cope with Hamilton’s all-round speed in the wet.
The Finn nearly pipped Hamilton to the final podium position at the previous round in Belgium, but with the score level here it is now a mathematical certainty that Hamilton will become Britain’s only ever double champion in his country this month.
“It’s the greatest feeling I’ve ever had in my life,” said Hamilton, who is set to switch from Mercedes to rival Ferrari next season.
Hamilton leads Vettel by 44 points going into Sunday’s Belgian Grand Prix, the next event on the calendar.
Vettel paid tribute to Hamilton, saying: “We’ll see next weekend how much he’s improved but there is no question he is the number one.
“What we saw today was not pretty but it didn’t really matter. He is just a fast driver and we all know that. He’s such a special guy, who brought this team and country to such a pinnacle.
“He’s done it on a different level and it’s not what you always expect from him, with the cars and so on.
“He’s always managed to outpace me and I’ve never had a season like this. He’s been absolutely world class for the championship, he’s an incredible driver and I know he’ll always be here for our team and the sport.”
Hamilton’s last title was won with his former title rival Felipe Massa in 2014, but the Brazilian was very much a team player and was certainly in no position to offer advice as he battled with Bottas for second place.
With three races to go in the championship, Hamilton needs the two teams that broke their monopoly on the title to pick up a point apiece to ensure he will become the first British driver to win the title since Jackie Stewart.
At Silverstone, Red Bull pair Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen failed to finish after they pitted twice in the first 30 laps as rain fell rapidly throughout the race.
The duo, third and fourth on the grid, pitted for intermediate tires after three laps and then again for wet tires after five laps.
But their second pitstop had more of an impact than the first as the trio fell apart in the wet with Ricciardo dropping to fifth while Verstappen was sixth and then dropped back to eighth.
Click for more from Sky Sports.