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Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes on the way to victory at the British Grand Prix
Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes on the way to victory at the British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton closed the gap on championship leader Max Verstappen to eight points, but was accused of "dirty driving" after a stunning first-lap crash between the title rivals at the British Grand Prix.

An eighth triumph in his home race for Hamilton came after he passed the Ferrari of long-time leader Charles Leclerc on the 50th of the 52 laps, but it was a highly controversial victory. Leclerc took second place, with Valtteri Bottas third.

The scathing remark about Hamilton's driving at the start of the race came from Verstappen's Red Bull boss Christian Horner, who was furious with the seven-time Formula One drivers' champion.

Pole-sitter Verstappen and Hamilton, second on the grid, came close to making contact before they finally did so at Copse Corner. Hamilton was looking to overtake Verstappen on the inside, but clipped the Red Bull driver's right rear wheel.

The tyre came flying off and Verstappen's car went crashing across the gravel and into the barriers at high speed, crumpling badly. Verstappen was able to walk away, but was said by Horner to be "massively winded". He later went to hospital for precautionary tests. 

It caused the race to be red-flagged, with a delay of around 40 minutes before the grand prix resumed, Mercedes star driver Hamilton served with a 10-second penalty.

Hamilton's reaction to the crash had been to declare on team radio: "I was ahead going in there, man. He turned in on me, man. I gave that guy space."

But Red Bull team principal Horner was livid, describing the punishment as "pretty light" and telling Channel 4: "I think it was a desperate move. Copse is one of the fastest corners in the world, you don't stick a wheel up the inside, that's just dirty driving."

Hamilton came in for his time penalty just after halfway through the 52-lap race, returning to the track behind Leclerc, Mercedes team-mate Bottas and Lando Norris of McLaren.

Hamilton surged past Norris at Copse to climb to third place, before Mercedes told their drivers to switch positions with 11 laps remaining. Leclerc was suddenly under huge threat, Hamilton driving exceptionally well and bringing down the Ferrari driver's lead to barely one second with three laps remaining.

He got past at Copse, ironically, as Leclerc ran wide, and was roared home by the British fans.

Hamilton's 'professional foul'  

Formula One has seen a host of famous instances of great drivers colliding during championship battles, and this was a highly dramatic instance as Hamilton and Verstappen fought for supremacy. Their title battle now has plenty more added spice. Horner felt Hamilton got away lightly, saying: "That is a really nasty accident. The biggest result is Max got away unscathed. It's like a professional foul at the end of the day, it's just not on." 

Leclerc so close  

Leclerc and Ferrari are not experiencing the season they might have hoped for, but there was almost a victory for the great Italian marque here. Entering the final 10 laps, Leclerc was holding the Mercedes pair at bay, but once Hamilton jumped ahead of Bottas it was a case of whether there was enough time to chew up the Monegasque's shrinking lead. There was, and of course Hamilton's overtaking manoeuvre was fated to come at Copse, with Leclerc running off the track as the British driver took the inside line.

IN THE POINTS 

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 
2. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +3.871 seconds 
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +11.125s  
4. Lando Norris (McLaren) +28.573s  
5. Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +42.624s  
6. Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +43.454s  
7. Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +1:12.093s  
8. Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +1:14.289s  
9. Esteban Ocon (Alpine) +1:16.162s  
10. Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +1:22.065s 

CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS 

Drivers 

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) – 185  
2. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) – 177  
3. Lando Norris (McLaren) – 113  
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) – 108  
5. Sergio Perez (Red Bull) – 104 

Constructors 

1. Red Bull – 289  
2. Mercedes – 285  
3. McLaren – 163  
4. Ferrari – 148  
5. AlphaTauri – 49 

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