Lewis Hamilton’s joyful tears, F1 British GP win put two doubt-filled years to rest

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SILVERSTONE, UK — Lewis Hamilton had never cried after winning a race before Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

Across 103 grand prix victories and seven world championships in close to 20 years on the Formula One grid, never had he felt the staggering rush of emotion that came at Silverstone upon crossing the line.

Hamilton had not won since the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix in December 2021. A 945-day drought, at long last, is over. Two-and-a-half years filled with hard lessons, big life choices, and (remarkably for the most successful driver in F1 history) some serious self-doubt.

It flooded out of him all at once.

“I can’t stop crying,” Hamilton said with a chuckle, sniffing to compose himself for the post-race interview as he stood draped in a British flag collected from a marshal on the cool-down lap. The crowd cheered his name.

He fought through tears on the cool-down lap as his race engineer, Pete Bonnington, radioed his congratulations. Another wave came when he met his father, Anthony, in parc ferme, and they shared a long embrace. It brought to mind their long, sacrifice-laden journey over the past 25 years.

As they parted, Hamilton wiped the tears from beneath his visor before going to see his mother, who reached up to her son, arms wrapped around his shoulders.

The release of emotion meant so much to Hamilton. Nearing the twilight of his F1 career and into his final season with Mercedes ahead of his switch to Ferrari next year, he inevitably wondered if he’d scored his last race win. If he’d forever be stuck on 103 and seven world titles.

“There’s definitely been days between 2021 and here where I didn’t feel like I was good enough or whether I was going to get back to where I am today,” Hamilton admitted.

The tears had dried when Hamilton arrived at the post-race news conference, though his voice remained heavy with emotion, eyes glistening. He spoke warmly of his family, noting how they’d all wanted to be at Silverstone for his final British Grand Prix in a Mercedes and how different this felt from the other monumental moments in his career.

“My mum was there when I won a championship, my dad was there when I won a championship,” Hamilton said. “(But) it’s always been just at a different point of life. The first world championship was incredible, but it was really difficult to absorb it all, the age I was at. This weekend, I think just within life, your parents are getting older, you’re traveling so much, time with family is a constant challenge.

“To be able to see them there and have them share that experience, they wanted to be there for my last British Grand Prix with this team that has been so incredible to us.”

The pending Ferrari move meant this race held extra weight for Hamilton. Silverstone is just 10 miles from Mercedes’ factory in Brackley, and together, they had won seven times at the track. His final year in silver, everyone at the team felt, should not go by without a win.

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Hamilton won for the first time since 2021. (ANDREW BOYERS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Mercedes has toiled to make it possible. The past two years have been filled with missteps in its car development, only for recent developments to put it back in contention. Hamilton’s teammate, George Russell, was there to snatch victory when Lando Norris and Max Verstappen collided in Austria one week ago. Hamilton was left wondering when it would be his turn.

What made the win even sweeter was that this one came on merit. Mercedes had the pace to win throughout the Silverstone weekend, locking out the front row before defeating McLaren and Red Bull in a straight fight on Sunday. Miscues from McLaren and Norris cost them, yes. But Hamilton was at the peak of his powers in the damp conditions. Mercedes got its pit calls spot on. They seized the opportunity to lay to rest the demons of the past two years.

Through Mercedes’ dip in performance and the domination of Verstappen and Red Bull, there were moments when Hamilton genuinely wondered if he’d won his last grand prix. It made this win feel different from the previous 103.

“There are so many times when you feel like your best shot is not good enough, and the disappointment sometimes that you can feel,” Hamilton said. “We live in a time where mental health is such a serious issue, and I’m not going to lie…”

He paused to search for the right words.

“I have experienced that. There have definitely been moments where (I) thought that this was it, that it was never going to happen again. So to have this feeling coming across the line, I think honestly, I’ve never cried coming from a win. It just came out of me.”

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Hamilton paid tribute to the home crowd as soon as he could. (SIPA USA)

It was perhaps the biggest burst of emotion seen from Hamilton since Abu Dhabi 2021, the infamous race where a mistake by race director Michael Masi resulted in Verstappen passing Hamilton on the final lap of the final race of the season and the Mercedes driver losing out on a record-breaking eighth world championship as a result.

Did this win, the first since that day which will forever be a flashpoint in Hamilton’s career, the lowest point when the pinnacle was within his grasp, help complete the healing process?

“Only time will tell,” Hamilton said. He deviated to express his adoration for his job, how much he loved F1, how much confidence he took in his decisions for the future and all he was doing. But then he opened up a little more.

“Honestly, when I came back in 2022, I thought that I was over it, and I know I wasn’t,” Hamilton said. “It’s taken a long time for sure to heal that kind of feeling. That’s only natural for anyone that has that experience.

“I’ve just been continuing to try and work on myself and find that inner peace day by day.”

Crossing the line to the adoration of 140,000 British fans at Silverstone on Sunday will have gone a long way to giving Hamilton that inner peace.

The drought is over. The doubt is gone, too. Even for a day, Lewis Hamilton is back on top of the F1 world.

Top photo: Mark Thompson/Getty Images 

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