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Lewis Hamilton threw the grand old cup high into the air and crowd-surfed on the hands of patriotic fans in the old world war aerodrome called Silverstone.

But as the world champion multi-celebrated his victory at the British Grand Prix, he still had time to scratch his head about the question that was vexing us all — the one that went to the heart of motor racing. Why on earth did the race start under a safety car?
Hamilton was of the view that the greatest 22 drivers on the planet, mostly handsomely rewarded, should be able to handle a rain shower without the nanny-ish intervention of officialdom.

He called on Charlie Whiting, the race director, to get the action under way during the five-lap spell when safety car driver Bernd Maylander was setting what could only loosely be described as the pace. ‘We can go, Charlie,’ cried Hamilton pleadingly over the radio.

What a damp squib that start was, after rain fell as the cars took to the grid. Bernie Ecclestone grabbed an umbrella. And, granted, it was slippery out there, with riverines on parts of the track. But a sanitised non-race was not what a crowd of 139,000 paying up to £375 for a grandstand ticket had come to watch.

They had paid for the vicarious thrill of seeing men more daring than they are doing something they couldn’t. That is what makes motor racing special. Danger and even death lurk with macabre attraction around every turn. Acknowledging that risk is the pact that every competitor at any level of motor racing makes with himself.

Yes, there are some risks too great to make sense. But three world champions inside Silverstone thought starting freely without a safety car on Sunday did not fall into that category. As Hamilton said: ‘There were some patches. It was tricky, but that’s what motor racing is about. There was just as much, if not more, water in 2008 when we started on the grid.’

Hamilton, perhaps most notably here in the shipwreck weather eight years ago, when he won by a minute, has proved himself repeatedly in such conditions and it is a measure of his stature as a champion of the first rank that he has.

With the safety car start, we missed out on the most tantalising prospect of the afternoon: seeing whether Hamilton and Rosberg would close dance at the start. Would one turn in on the other, as they had in Austria seven days earlier?

With victory secured, the flag-waving crowd streamed down the start straight. It had echoes of Mansell Mania. ‘I could see the fans out of the corner of my eye right there with me,’ said Hamilton.

His lap of honour included a tour of the grandstands to wave his thanks to the people. He jumped barriers to be carried by them. He even bowed theatrically. It was a wonderful British vignette on a great weekend for our sport.

Speaking of Mansell, Hamilton’s victory was his fourth at his home race, equalling the 1992 world champion’s record for a British driver. In each of the years Hamilton has won at Silverstone, he has gone on to win the title, in 2008, 2014 and 2015. A more instructive statistic is that Rosberg’s lead after 10 rounds is now just one point, down from 43 five races ago.

Back at a relieved Mercedes motorhome, Wolff was saluting the perceived wisdom of starting under the safety car. ‘Do you want to see a lot of cars spinning off the track?’ he asked rhetorically.

Well, as Hamilton would tell him, it would at least be nice to see them grappling with the problem.

 

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