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Lewis Hamilton is now just eight points behind Max Verstappen in the Formula 1 standings.
Hamilton won Sunday's British Grand Prix after he was penalized 10 seconds for contact with Verstappen on the first lap of the race The contact between Hamilton's left-front tire and Verstappen's right rear sent Verstappen crashing into the wall and out of the race. Verstappen climbed from his car under his own power after the hard impact and was eventually taken to a local hospital for evaluation.
Hamilton scored 25 points for winning the race after he entered it 33 points behind Verstappen for the title. The two drivers started on the front row after Verstappen won the sprint qualifying race ahead of Hamilton on Saturday. They fought brilliantly on the first lap until Hamilton went for an inside move in Copse corner on lap one.
Verstappen pushed Hamilton low entering the corner and tried to pinch him down toward the curb. The aggressiveness of both drivers resulted in contact and the right rear wheel broke off Verstappen's car as he went into the wall at a high rate of speed.
The incident was investigated by race stewards and Hamilton was subsequently penalized 10 seconds on his pit stop for the crash. The stewards ruled that Hamilton was at fault for the crash, though it seemed reasonable to think that it was simply a racing incident between the series' best two drivers going for a vital piece of track position.
Verstappen got ahead of Hamilton on the first lap of Saturday's first-ever sprint qualifying race and held the lead for all 17 laps. Hamilton knew Sunday that he could potentially stay ahead of Verstappen if he got in front on the first lap and both drivers realized how vital that track position was immediately from the start.
Hamilton rejoined the race in fifth after his pit stop. He quickly moved up to fourth when Ferrari's Carlos Sainz pitted and easily passed McLaren's Lando Norris for third.
Ferrari's Charles LeClerc had taken the lead after Hamilton and Verstappen made contact and held it for much of the race. He had the lead after he pitted and was nine seconds ahead of Mercedes' Valtteri Bottas with about 15 laps left.
But Hamilton's Mercedes was much faster on the hard compound tires than LeClerc's. Bottas pulled over for Hamilton to chase after LeClerc and Hamilton got past LeClerc with two laps to go. LeClerc finished second and Bottas ended up third.
Verstappen now leads Hamilton 185-177 in the standings through 10 of 23 races.
Has Mercedes caught Red Bull?
Verstappen's Red Bull car has been the fastest in F1 by a mile in recent weeks. Verstappen entered the British Grand Prix on a three-race win streak and all three of those wins had come in dominating fashion.
Mercedes brought upgrades to Silverstone and was competitive with Red Bull right off the bat. Hamilton outqualified Verstappen for the sprint race and had similar race pace.
But it’s easy to see how Mercedes is still the underdog even as the team has won every driver and constructor’s title dating back to 2014. Red Bull’s car has been better suited to the 2021 aerodynamic rules — the COVID-19 pandemic meant that teams used the same car builds they did a year ago — and also leads Mercedes in the constructor’s championship.
Sunday went a long way to closing that constructor’s gap too. Red Bull’s Sergio Perez also failed to score points in the race after he started last because of a crash in the sprint race. Mercedes cut a 44-point gap in the standings down to four after scoring 40 points (15 for Bottas) on Sunday. Both titles are now much closer entering the next F1 race of the season in Hungary on Aug. 1.
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