The all-conquering Mercedes goliath has at last been stoned down after Max Verstappen and Red Bull executed a brilliant strategy to claim an emphatic 70th Anniversary Grand Prix victory at Silverstone.
Having started fourth, Verstappen had started the race on the hard compound of tyre and hunted down an ailing Mercedes duo who both were nursing tyre degradation issues of their own to take command of the race on Lap 14, only relinquishing the lead in the pitstop phases.
Lewis Hamilton put up a late charge on fresh tyres to finish second and claim his 155th career F1 podium to equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record.
Pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas initially looked on par to cruise to an unrivalled victory, keeping Hamilton at bay across the opening stint. But like his teammate, the Finn would fall victim of tyre blistering woes which hindered his challenge and ultimately finished behind Hamilton in third.
An electric start by Bottas ensured the Mercedes pilot kept his teammate at bay just as Hamilton charged back along the Wellington Straight, running into a stern defence by the Finn who shrewdly loitered on the inside kerb.
Somehow everyone behind avoided an unrestrained Sebastian Vettel who spun in an unforced error at Turn 1 to add yet another woeful chapter to the Ferrari racer’s Silverstone nightmare.
The margin between the leading duo ebbed and flowed on the fringe of the one-second DRS window as the Mercedes stablemates nursed their worn medium tyres. Starting on the hard compound of tyre, Verstappen looked in the box set to run the longest opening stint having jumped ahead of Nico Hulkenberg at the start and lapping at the same pace as the leaders.
The Red Bull driver then rapidly reeled in an ailing Hamilton despite warnings of his team to preserve the tyres and on the 12th tour, the gap between second and third had slimed to a mere four-tenths.
Bottas would be the first of the front runners to pit on Lap 14, one lap before his teammate who put in a scintillating out lap to rejoin over four seconds ahead of Hamilton.
Verstappen was thus in cruise control 14 seconds at the head of the field as everyone in the field ditched the medium tyre for the preferable hard compound. But crucially, Verstappen’s pace even on ageing tyres was equally as competitive as a freshly shod Mercedes pairing who both complained of blisters only a handful of laps into their second stint.
Hamilton’s hopes of victory quickly sweltered away in the UK sunshine as Verstappen’s incredible long-run pace ensured when he stopped on Lap 26 he emerged ahead of the defending series champion.
Bolting on a set of the medium tyres, Verstappen rejoined the race directly in the wake of Bottas before quickly scything past the Finn in a DRS-assisted move into Turn 6 to reclaim the lead of the race.
Demonstrating impressive one-lap pace in qualifying, Daniel Ricciardo got too eager on the loud pedal in an opportunistic move on the McLaren of Carlos Sainz for ninth, spinning at Turn 4 and falling outside the top-10.
The final round of pitstops was triggered by both Verstappen and Bottas as the duo stopped for a new set of hard tyres on Lap 33 with the Red Bull pitcrew keeping their star man ahead of their Mercedes rivals.
Surprisingly, Hamilton did not respond the following lap and began to ask questions into a possible one stopper as his best chance at victory. Nursing blistered tyres, Hamilton extended his second stint until Lap 41 where he at last made his final stop.
It meant the Brit only had a handful of laps to hunt down a ten second lead to Verstappen but had both his teammate and Leclerc to work himself around, the latter of which was disposed of in a late lunge at Stowe on Lap 45.
Hamilton then began to lap over a second quicker than the race leader before Verstappen was told to turn the wick up and cover off any late charge for victory, crossing home 11.3-seconds ahead of the leading Mercedes.
Bottas floundered in the dying stages of the race to drop eight seconds behind his teammate for the final podium position, ahead of Leclerc who miraculously made a one stop strategy work for fourth in yet another over-achieving drive by the young Monegasque.
Alex Albon hung onto fifth position ahead of Lance Stroll who spent most of the race squabbling among the midfield runners to finish in his sixth-place starting position.
Nico Hulkenberg made a bizarre late switch to the soft tyres seven laps from home where he failed to set the timing screens alight and would finish in seventh ahead of Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat.
Adamant he had the pace to challenge for a podium this weekend, Ricciardo failed to recover after his race was thwarted by his spin. Similarly, Vettel’s opening lap pirouette likely cost the four-time world champion a chance at a top-10 result eventually finishing 12th.