F1's most dominant drive of the last 25 years

Luke Smith

One of the most frequent rebuttals to misty-eyed folk remembering 'the good old days' in Formula 1 is how one-sided the results were in the sport's supposed heyday.

Long gone are the days of six cars finishing and races being settled by minutes or even laps, with improved reliability and closer competition making this one of the fairest eras in F1 history - even if it may not feel that way at times.

In recent F1 history, very rarely has the majority of the field been lapped. In last year's Hungarian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton lapped all but the three cars behind him, but the race was only won by 17 seconds over Max Verstappen.

Verstappen himself was alone on the lead lap with Ferrari drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel at the 2018 Austrian Grand Prix, while just three cars completed the distance in Spain in 2017. Hamilton won the race by three seconds from Vettel, with third-placed Daniel Ricciardo over 70 seconds further back.

While this shows the disparity in the field, the victory margins were still somewhat respectable.

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren MP4-23

Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren MP4-23 Motorsport Images

Motorsport Images

Hamilton was still hopeful of a first win at home heading into the race given the heavy rain forecast.

He wasted little time in delighting his fans cowering under umbrellas as the showers continued at the start, vaulting Webber and Raikkonen on the short run to Copse before going side-by-side with Kovalainen. A brush of contact between the McLarens gave Kovalainen a snap, but the Finn caught his car and maintained his lead in the early stages.

But drivers were struggling further back. Webber and championship leader Massa were just two of the drivers to spin on the opening lap. It would be the first of five spins for Massa on a day where the gulf in wet weather performance between himself and Hamilton looked greater than ever, the Brazilian ultimately finishing two laps down as the last classified finisher.

Rubens Barrichello, Honda RA108

Rubens Barrichello, Honda RA108 Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Barrichello's charge would be stunted when he was forced to pit again due to a fuel rig issue, dropping him back to third behind Heidfeld, but they were the final drivers remaining on the lead lap entering the closing stages. Even as the skies brightened, their rivals behind were still slipping off the track - and Hamilton was continuing to push on ahead, not missing a single beat.

And he wasn't even pushing at times. "If I go any slower, I'll stop," Hamilton had told his McLaren team over the radio in response to concerns he was risking too much with such a huge lead.

"The team were telling me: 'You're five to seven seconds faster than the guy behind you,'" Hamilton recalled later. "I thought: 'What's going on?' I said, 'I'm comfortable at the pace I'm going.' Then I had to think about it - imagine if I'm a minute ahead and I go off. That would be the most embarrassing thing, I'd have to retire!"

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F2008 Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

Andrew Ferraro / Motorsport Images

"It is definitely and by far the best victory I've ever had," Hamilton said after the race. "It was one of the toughest races I have ever done. I was thinking out there if I win it will be the best race I have ever done, not just because of the home crowd.

"I couldn't see through my visor. Through Turn 1 and 2 I had to clean my visor, put it up and back down again, on every lap especially when it was raining. I couldn't see anything. It was so extreme, so tough, a real mental challenge. On the last laps I could see the crowd starting standing up, and I was praying, praying 'just finish'. You can imagine the emotions going on inside and I wanted to get it around." 

Hamilton's official margin of victory over Heidfeld was 1m08.577s, with Barrichello a further 14 seconds behind. Nine cars were one lap down, with Massa a distant two laps behind the race winner.

Even for all of Mercedes' success through the V6 hybrid era and the 'big three' domination post-2016, no victory since Hamilton's 2008 Silverstone win has been so large. The closest anyone has got is the 37-second gap over the field Nico Rosberg enjoyed at the 2016 Chinese Grand Prix.

Podium: second place Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber F1, Race winner Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, third place Rubens Barrichello, Honda Racing F1 Team

Podium: second place Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber F1, Race winner Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, third place Rubens Barrichello, Honda Racing F1 Team Sutton Images

Sutton Images