SILVERSTONE, England (Reuters) - Lewis Hamilton apologized to a huge throng of fans on Sunday for failing to deliver a fifth successive home British Grand Prix triumph in a race that left the Formula One world champion physically and emotionally drained.
Hamilton went from pole position to last and then back up to second after a first-lap collision with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen.
The 140,500 strong crowd had come expecting another coronation at a sunny Silverstone but instead witnessed a superb fightback and plenty of emotion as the Mercedes driver dug deep to finish behind Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel.
“This is the greatest race of the year and this is the greatest crowd and I’m sorry I wasn’t able to bring it home for you today, but thank you for your support,” Hamilton told them after he had calmed down.
“It’s you guys that helped me get through today. We’ll take it on the chin and keep pushing hard, because believe me I will not give up. I will not give up,” he added.
Hamilton had wheelspin and was slow off the line, passed by Vettel and Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas.
Raikkonen then made contact in an incident that the Finn accepted he had been to blame for, with stewards imposing a 10- second penalty.
After nine laps Hamilton was back up to seventh place, but 26.3 seconds adrift of Vettel, before two safety car periods threw everything back up in the air.
In the cool down room before going on the podium, Hamilton appeared to avoid eye contact with Raikkonen while shaking Vettel’s hand.
The Briton denied he was angry with the Finn, however.
“It’s easy for you to sit and watch the race. I sweat my arse off in that race. I pushed absolutely 100, 1,000 per cent. Every bit of energy I had,” he told reporters.
“I didn’t have anything left when I came in. People expect you to get out of the car and wave and smile and all that. I gave everything I could, I was struggling to stand. It’s so physical nowadays.
“It’s different when you’re in the lead and can control the pace. I was coming from last. So, I didn’t have much to give at that time and needed to take a deep breath. I don’t have any problems with Kimi.”
Hamilton had started the day one point behind Vettel after nine of 21 races but ended it eight adrift at the season’s midpoint.
The next race is a home one for Vettel, the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond