HAD the British Grand Prix lasted two or three more laps, Lewis Hamilton might well have regained his championship lead — but it was not to be.

A first lap crash with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen spun pole-sitter Hamilton around and left the Mercedes lead driver down in 17th place, and seemingly out of contention.

But Hamilton then produced a cracker of a drive, scything his way through the field and, with help from teammate Valtteri Bottas, closing within two seconds of winner Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari.

It was an all-action race right from the start and the fast Silverstone circuit, newly extended by 750m to 5.9km, remains one of the quickest on the F1 calendar.

Raikkonen was given a 10-second penalty for tipping Hamilton around, but he too made a great comeback to claim third place after a very spirited battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen late in the 52-lap race.

Verstappen also contributed to the spectacle tally, spinning his Red Bull on lap 50 after the brakes locked up — and coming within a whisker of taking teammate Daniel Ricciardo into the weeds with him.

However, Ricciardo, who was having a ding-dong battle with Bottas, escaped contact  by millimeters and went on to finish fifth.

hamilton could have used a couple more laps - first lap chaos - Hamilton could have used a couple more laps
First lap chaos in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone

Bottas, who led for many laps after Vettel pitted for fresh tyres, later fell victim to the Ferrari twosome and also obeyed a Mercedes team call to allow Hamilton to overtake him so that the Englishman might, with luck, catch Vettel and reclaim his lead.

In other incidents, Marcus Ericsson was lucky to walk away from a huge crash into the tyre wall in his Alfa-Sauber which ran off the track at 305km/h, then there was a big collision between Carlos Sainz in a Toro Rosso and Romain Grosjean in the Haas.

Filling sixth place, well behind Ricciardo, was Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault, with the Force India of Esteban Ocon seventh.

Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso waged a great battle for eighth place, swapping position multiple times with Alonso finally winning the spot on the final lap.

A similar last lap fight raged between Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly and Sergio Pérez in the Force India, with Gasly squeezing past the Mexican to claim the last championship point.

Charles Leclerc was unlucky to have to retire his Alfa-Sauber with a tyre problem on lap 19 after he had held sixth spot, but it was a better-than-expected day for Williams, with both cars still running at the finish after having to start from pit lane.

Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen both expressed frustration with the top speed of their Red Bulls.

“We just didn’t have the legs today,” Ricciardo said.

“We had some good battles but we just didn’t have the speed on the straights to do much and behind Ferrari and Mercedes.

“We tried at the end to pass Bottas as he was struggling with the tyres but as soon as I got really close to him, I felt like my tyres were the same age as his, you just lose the downforce and really struggle.

“I might feed it (the Red Bull) some schnitzel in Germany. Maybe I said something wrong to it at Silverstone.”

Next race is the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim on July 22.

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Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.