Lewis Hamilton achieved Silverstone redemption as he won the British Grand Prix to close in on Nico Rosberg in the drivers’ championship.
Cutting a forlorn figure on Saturday having made an error in qualifying, Hamilton started the race in sixth but, either side of a red flag following a major shunt for Kimi Raikkonen, he navigated his way up the field before taking the lead as Mercedes team-mate Rosberg ran into mechanical problems.
Having seen Hamilton endure the majority of hard luck with reliability heading into the 50th grand prix staged at Silverstone, Rosberg suffered a gearbox issue which saw him retire from the lead 21 laps from the chequered flag.
Hamilton cantered to his fifth win of the season and his second career victory in front of a home crowd to move to within four points of Rosberg, while Williams overcame a miserable weekend to seal a memorable second place through Valtteri Bottas.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo took third ahead of Jenson Button, who ran out of time as he closed in during the final laps, finishing within a second of the Australian.
Rosberg got off the line well as Button overhauled a poor-starting Vettel to move into second place, with McLaren team-mate Kevin Magnussen also passing the German.
Hamilton moved up to fourth following a close battle with Vettel’s Red Bull, with the two touching in the opening corners, but his charge was soon halted when a heavy crash for Raikkonen brought out the red flag. Raikkonen ran wide at Aintree and, as he bounced his Ferrari back onto the track, he lost control and slammed into the wall near to the bridge on the Wellington Straight.
As his spinning car made its way across the track it tagged Kamui Kobayashi’s Caterham, which took to the grass to avoid major contact.
Fast-approaching Felipe Massa took avoiding action, but his Williams still hit the Ferrari and was forced to retire, cutting short the Brazilian’s 200th grand prix, while Raikkonen’s collision with the barrier meant an hour-long delay ensued as repair work was carried out.
Max Chilton was another casualty of the incident as his car was hit by a stray tyre and, in pitting under the red flag for a new nose, the Marussia driver was handed a drive-through penalty.
The race restarted behind the safety car with the drivers lapping in the order at the time of the red flag and it was Hamilton who again continued to move closer to Rosberg at the front of the field.
He had a good run at Magnussen after the safety car pulled in and benefited from the Dane running wide at Copse, with the second McLaren of Button dealt with swiftly at Brooklands as Hamilton set off in pursuit of his untroubled team-mate.
Another man finding overtaking easier than some others was Bottas for Williams who, fresh from his maiden podium in Austria, was quickly cutting through having started down in 14th.
Fernando Alonso had started the race on the hard tyre having qualified in 16th but, following the shunt for team-mate Raikkonen, he restarted on the faster medium compound and showed his race craft to work his way quickly up to seventh place.
He was sixth by the time he was handed a five-second stop/go penalty for being out of his grid position at the start of the race, but would still play a part in an enthralling conclusion.
Hamilton began to reel in Rosberg at the head of the field and, with the gap dropping to under two and a half seconds, Rosberg came in on lap 18 with a 2.7-second stop for another set of medium tyres.
Despite being on the perceived slower compound, Hamilton lit up the timing screen and was soon homing in on his rival again, taking more than two seconds out of Rosberg’s lead on lap 28.
Rosberg reported to his garage that he was suffering from an upshift issue and he retired on lap 31 with the problem proving terminal as he eventually lost drive.
The fight for the remaining steps on the podium was also hotting up with Bottas pulling away in second place with the likes of Ricciardo, Button, Alonso and Vettel all in contention for third.
Alonso again produced some superb overtaking manoeuvres as he steamed past Vettel at Copse.
The two drivers continued to fight wheel to wheel, giving fourth-placed Button chance to put breathing space between himself and the duelling pair. The 34-year-old has never finished on the podium in 15 attempts at Silverstone and, even though he closed the gap on Ricciardo, the Australian held on to prevent Button from breaking his duck.
Vettel finally found a way past Alonso with five laps remaining as the reigning champion took fifth place with the Spaniard having to settle for sixth.