LONDON, July 6- An unexpected start, a dramatic opening lap and two late rain showers enabled Formula One to answer its critics in emphatic fashion as Lewis Hamilton triumphed on home soil in Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
One dazzling day in the English sunshine, punctuated with rain and a series of incidents, may have thrilled the crowd of 140,000 at Silverstone and a worldwide television audience, but it remains to be seen if it can silence the sport’s detractors.
“Is that it? Crisis called off now?” said Mercedes team chief Toto Wolff after the 52-lap thriller in changeable conditions had seen his drivers deliver another convincing one-two finish.
“If that’s boring, I would like some of it,” said Ferrari team chief Maurizio Arrivabene. “I’d love to be as boring as Mercedes and always be first and second.
“They deserve to be where they are, but we are working hard so that the podium looks less boring in the future .”
Two-time champion Hamilton’s win extended his lead in this year’s title race to 17 points ahead of his Mercedes team-mate German Nico Rosberg and lifted spirits in the paddock after weeks of negative publicity resulted last week in a raft of proposals to overhaul the sport.
“Sometimes these things just happen at the right moment as there was a race with all the ingredients necessary for excitement this time,” said Wolff, who praised Hamilton for his decision-making and his speed.
He also admitted to some relief after the team’s strategic blunder at the Monaco Grand Prix when they called Hamilton in unnecessarily for a pit stop that deprived him of victory.
“We cock-up together and we win together,” he explained. “When the rain hit us, he was so calm on the radio about the options. It was Lewis’s call. He made that pit call at the right time, using the right information.
“In Monaco, we had a problem in our system. Here we were concentrated, calm and focused on the priorities and that was part of getting it all right.”
Although Sunday’s incident-filled drama boosted morale, it was not enough to convince Wolff that the sport was without need for any running repairs.
“We still need to ask how we can make it better so we can convince the critics that this is a great sport,” he said.
Wolff admitted that the way in which both Williams cars, driven by Brazilian Felipe Massa and Finn Valtteri Bottas, had powered past his pair to take first and second places off the grid was confirmation that Mercedes have much work still to do.
“They were very fast and we were helped by the rain,” he said, before heaping praise on Hamilton.
“If you are a double World Champion and win so many races, you are a complete racing driver,” he said.
“You can’t put him in a box and say he has only God-given talent. He has to have a view of the whole picture and that was clear here.
“This was Lewis’s home Grand Prix, there were great crowds and it was a relief from the talking down of the sport we have had. We also had the fastest ever pit stop – 2.4 seconds… including reaction time.”
Looking beyond the upcoming Hungarian Grand Prix later this month, Hamilton welcomed the prospect of changes in the sport starting from next month’s Belgian race – where drivers will have fewer electronic aids – and the possible introduction of a sprint race next year on Saturdays.
“I have been here for nine years now and it’s always the same,” he said. “It would be cool and I would be happy if they freshened things up a bit.”
Given his form on Sunday, Hamilton is ready to prove himself as a man for all seasons as he heads towards a likely third drivers’ world title.