Lewis Hamilton says his “heart nearly stopped” when his front-left deflated on the final lap of the British Grand Prix, as he held on for victory at Silverstone.
Hamilton never relinquished the lead during the 52-lap race from pole position, despite the constant threat from Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
Three laps from the chequered flag Bottas suffered a tyre delimitation that saw him tumble down the order, with Hamilton warned to look after his rubber to avoid a repeat scenario.
Red Bull opted to pit third-placed Max Verstappen to go after the point for fastest lap, which gave Hamilton a 32-second margin heading on to the last lap.
The six-time world champion then suffered the same front-left puncture as Bottas whilst exiting Luffield, with the gap to Verstappen disappearing rapidly.
But on three wheels Hamilton limped home to cross the line just five seconds ahead of Verstappen in a dramatic finish to the race.
“Up until that last lap, everything was relatively smooth sailing,” Hamilton said, as quoted by Motorsport.com.
“The tyres felt great. Valtteri was really pushing incredibly hard, and I was doing some management of that tyre and he looked like he wasn’t doing any.
“When I heard that his tyre went I was just looking at mine and everything seemed fine. The car was still turning. No problem. So I was thinking maybe it’s OK.
“Those last few laps, I started to back off and then down the straight, it just deflated. I just noticed the shape just shift a little bit. That was definitely a heart-in-the-mouth kind of feeling, because I wasn’t quite sure if it had gone down until I hit the brakes, and you could see the tyre was falling off the rim.
“Then just driving it, trying to keep the speed up, because sometimes it will fly off and break the wing and all these different things. Oh my God, I was just praying to try and get around and not be too slow.
“I nearly didn’t get around the last two corners, but thank God we did. [I] really owe it to the team. I think ultimately maybe we should have stopped towards the end once we saw the delaminations.”
In spite on the late puncture, Hamilton insisted he didn’t feel any pressure in the situation as his race engineer Pete Bonnington informed him over team radio of the gap to Verstappen.
The win extended Hamilton’s lead in the world championship to 30 points due to Bottas’ non-score in 11th place, and put him within four victories of Michael Schumacher’s record tally of 91.
“You may or may not be surprised, but I was really chilled for some reason at the end,” Hamilton said.
“Bono was giving me the the information of the gap. I think it was 30 seconds at one stage and it was coming down quite quickly, and in my mind I’m thinking ‘OK, how far is it to the end of the lap?’
“But the car seemed to turn okay through Maggots and Becketts, thankfully. I got to [Turn] 15 and that’s where it really was a bit of a struggle, and I could hear the gap coming down from 19 to 10.
“So I thought I would just give it full gas out of 15 down to 16, and then the thing wasn’t stopping. I got to the corner, a lot of understeer and I heard him go ‘9, 8, 7’ – and I was like, just get back on the power and try to get the thing to turn.
“Oh my god. I’ve definitely never experienced anything like that on the last lap. And my heart definitely probably nearly stopped.
“I think that’s probably how cool I was, because my heart nearly stopped.”