It may have been a celebrity-packed paddock at Silverstone for a rain-lashed British Grand Prix, but Lewis Hamilton proved to be undoubtedly the biggest star of them all by thoroughly trouncing every one of his rivals to triumph in front of his home fans and launch himself right back into title contention.

Describing the success as probably his greatest-ever victory, it was difficult to argue as the Stevenage-born ace answered all of his critics with aplomb to cap a flawless performance by grabbing a share of the world championship lead - and with not a trace of scarlet in sight up on the podium afterwards on a bleak, error-strewn day for the Scuderia, it made it overall for the Briton just the perfect race.

With the track still very wet but the sun trying to break through, the dilemma before the start was whether to risk wet weather rubber or intermediates, with Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari and Hamilton's McLaren-Mercedes both looking particularly twitchy on the latter on the way around to the grid, but front row starters Heikki Kovalainen and Mark Webber seeming to suggest inters could well be the better choice.

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Indeed, all drivers ultimately plumped for the hybrid option, and the predicted chaos subsequently ensued. Whilst Kovalainen made a good start, Hamilton's was better still, as the Briton and fellow second row starter Raikkonen went either side of Webber's slow-starting Red Bull Racing.

Indeed, so good was Hamilton's getaway that he even got a run on his team-mate into Copse, and only Kovalainen holding on bravely around the outside - the two Silver Arrows even coming close to touching wheels as both cars twitched in unison on the slippery surface - prevented the home hero from sensationally shooting by into the lead.

Behind them, Red Bull's dream Saturday was fast turning into a nightmare Sunday, as having already dropped back to fourth place, Webber then spun on the Hangar Straight, falling down to 18th in the process. Team-mate David Coulthard, meanwhile, brought a premature end to his final British Grand Prix, as the experienced Scot and Scuderia Toro Rosso ace Sebastian Vettel - ironically, the man most believe will take the 37-year-old's place at RBR next year - indulged in some synchronised spinning in the stadium section, both ending their races beached firmly in the gravel trap on the opening lap.

Webber was joined at the rear of the field by world championship leader Felipe Massa - who spun an extraordinary three times over the course of the first few laps - and Williams' Kazuki Nakajima, another early spinner, whilst significantly further up the order Renault's Fernando Alonso got back past rookie team-mate Nelsinho Piquet, who had overtaken him at the start, for fifth place.

Though Kovalainen's advantage at the end of lap one had been 1.3 seconds, Hamilton was pushing extremely hard behind, with the pair of them and third-placed Raikkonen streaking away from the chasing pack. That was led by Nick Heidfeld - who would soon be displaced by a charging Alonso - Piquet, an impressively fast-starting Jarno Trulli up seven spots in his Toyota and BMW-Sauber star Robert Kubica.

With the gap being reduced to just four tenths of a second at the front, though, Hamilton was not to be denied, delighting the partisan crowd by diving courageously past Kovalainen up the inside into Stowe Corner on lap five after almost finding a way by along the start-finish straight a couple of tours earlier. By the end of that lap alone, the 23-year-old had already pulled 1.8 seconds clear, and he would increase that advantage to an astonishing 4.2 seconds a lap later still.

Behind the leading trio, Alonso was also undeniably on the march, lapping over a second quicker than any of the drivers ahead of him. Some way further back, the delayed Webber too was on a charge, stealing away the Spaniard's fastest lap as he made his way back up through the order, passing the Force Indias of Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil and S?bastien Bourdais in the STR before setting off after the Hondas of Jenson Button and former Silverstone winner Rubens Barrichello in tenth and eleventh positions respectively.

The next drama was provided when Kovalainen pirouetted briefly at Abbey, losing second place to Raikkonen in the process and allowing the feisty Alonso to close right onto the back of him. In 13th position, meanwhile, Sutil undid his good work from the early laps by losing his Force India on the way into Abbey, very nearly collecting the closely-following Bourdais as he shot across the gravel trap and ended his grand prix on only lap twelve.

By lap 18 Raikkonen was really beginning to turn the screw on race leader Hamilton ahead of him, lapping almost a second quicker as his Ferrari proved better suited to the tight, technical nature of Silverstone's third section.

Webber and Kovalainen were the first to blink at the end of lap 19, and crucial to Kovalainen was the fact that he rejoined just ahead of Kubica, who had found a way by Trulli but seemingly had no answer to the pace of team-mate Heidfeld for the first time in a while.

Alonso's pit-stop a lap later saw the Spaniard re-take to the track between the warring Toyotas of Trulli and Timo Glock, but still behind Kovalainen, whilst next time around Hamilton and Raikkonen came in as one, McLaren's stop half a second slower but the Briton's prior advantage being narrowly enough to keep his nose just in front.

Heidfeld just failed to jump back past Alonso again following his own first pit visit, rejoining the fray behind the Renault and Glock in the Toyota, with none of them a million miles away from third-placed Kovalainen, the pole star still disappointingly struggling in the tricky conditions.

Heidfeld was on the move, though, driving around the outside of Glock in the stadium section before diving up the inside of Alonso onto the start-finish straight, taking two cars in as many corners to regain a net fourth position. Nakajima spun again further down on a dark day for Williams on home soil, with team-mate Nico Rosberg having begun the grand prix from the pit-lane following his qualifying woes.

Alonso's pace, meanwhile, had dropped off by some two seconds as a result of having kept the same tyres on at his first pit-stop, and the same dramas were afflicting Raikkonen, who 25 laps in had fallen ten seconds away from Hamilton - a man who only a few laps earlier he had been harrying for the lead of the race.

Lapping five seconds a lap slower, Ferrari were handing the race away, with Kovalainen closing in on the back of compatriot Raikkonen in second place and the rain falling down hard once more. The struggling Alonso, meanwhile, fell back behind both Glock and team-mate Piquet as his tyres became ever harder to handle, electing to pit to change rubber soon afterwards.

With Kovalainen being held up by Raikkonen, Heidfeld was able to close in on the back of the duelling Finns, and as the McLaren finally found a way past on the entry to the pit straight on lap 27, the BMW shot by the pair of them, blocking the pit-lane entry to Raikkonen in the process and dashing any thoughts his Ferrari rival may have had of changing tyres that time around.

With Fisichella spinning off and very nearly taking race leader Hamilton with him for good measure, Heidfeld continued to put the hammer down, lapping four seconds quicker than either McLaren on lap 28, with the halfway stage approaching - and you couldn't help but think that the action was a long way from over yet.

There was a sweet moment for Hamilton as he put world championship leader Massa a lap down in 15th place, whilst Heidfeld had soon pulled an incredible 18 seconds out over the struggling Kovalainen.

Behind them, Kubica was proving BMW's wet weather prowess by moving up into fourth, ahead of the rejuvenated Piquet, an impressive Barrichello - Silverstone being the scene of one of the Brazilian's most famous triumphs in similar conditions for Ferrari five years ago - and the Toyota pairing of Glock and Trulli, with the German getting rather frustrated with Massa as he lapped the Ferrari, the S?o Paolista now running 16th and dead last.

There was little better news for the field's only world champions Alonso and Raikkonen, the pair running together in tenth and eleventh places - albeit both going on to the end of the race without having to pit again.

Kovalainen's nightmare continued, however, as the Finn found himself under attack from Kubica, who was lapping a staggering four seconds a lap faster than the McLaren and scythed up the inside into Stowe with 27 laps remaining, demoting Kovalainen to fourth. Piquet too would find a way by the pole-sitter before the lap was out, and though Kovalainen was quick to pit, he would rejoin outside of the points.

There were spins for Glock - who lost a place to team-mate Trulli in the process - Raikkonen twice, the Finn now a full 91 seconds adrift of Hamilton, and the hapless Massa once more, though all would live to fight another day.

There was misery, however, for Piquet, who spun away fifth place at Abbey, with Barrichello and Button queuing up in the pit-lane for Honda but both being delayed as a fuel rig problem on the Brazilian's car saw to it that no fuel actually went in - and meant he would have to stop again before the race was out.

Hamilton and Kubica both endured grassy moments with 24 laps remaining - though the incident did little to affect the former's 25-second lead over Heidfeld - but all eyes were on Barrichello, who as the only driver on extreme wet tyres was now lapping some eight seconds faster than anyone else on the circuit, unlapping himself from Hamilton and passing Alonso for fourth position, Trulli for third and charging up behind second-placed Heidfeld in quick succession.

The next drama came as Kubica threw his points and even podium hopes terminally into the gravel trap with a high-speed off, leaving Heidfeld as BMW's sole representative in the grand prix, whilst an error from Rosberg saw his Williams clout the rear of Glock's Toyota, losing his front wing in the process.

With Button's retirement, Hamilton - now some 46 seconds to the good after 45 laps - was left as the sole remaining Briton in the field, and lapping a gaping six seconds faster than any other driver shod on intermediate rubber. Barrichello - now second - was three seconds quicker still - and such was his advantage that, though he lost out to Heidfeld when he did come in again for fuel and inters with 14 laps to go, he rejoined comfortably in front of the battle for fourth position, being disputed between Trulli, Alonso, Kovalainen and Raikkonen, with amazingly Nakajima sitting in the final points-paying position.

Trulli pitting with twelve laps to go and another spin from Glock dented Toyota's hopes of a good result somewhat, whilst Massa spun for the fifth time going onto the pit straight - much as team-mate Raikkonen had done a handful of laps earlier - and Webber did likewise not long afterwards.

As the rain consistently eased off and the sunshine began to fight its way through, the race entered its closing laps with Hamilton now more than a minute ahead of Heidfeld and clearly still pushing very hard indeed in the treacherous conditions. Kovalainen's hard work in passing Alonso for fourth was undone when he spun with just ten laps left to run, letting both the Renault and Raikkonen by, with the pair proceeding to go at it hammer-and-tongs as Hamilton lapped all three of them and Massa went for spin number six entering Abbey, pitting shortly afterwards.

Kovalainen - clearly happier with his McLaren as the track slowly but surely dried out - was quick to close back onto the duelling Alonso-Raikkonen battle again, in a near replay of the trio's Melbourne squabble in the season curtain-raiser back in March. Raikkonen had a look at Alonso in the complex with seven laps remaining, only for the Renault to fend the Ferrari off, but the game was over when the Finn got a slipstream down Hangar Straight and was fairly unopposed as he swept past into fourth, leaving the Spaniard to deal with the attentions of Kovalainen behind.

With six laps to go, Barrichello had closed to within as many seconds of Heidfeld in second, and seemed to fancy a sniff at the runner-up position. Kovalainen had a think about attacking Alonso down the Hangar Straight, with neither Nakajima nor Trulli far behind the pair and closing in at the rate of more than a second a lap and Rosberg rapidly coming along to play too. With less than four laps left, Kovalainen's time was fast running out, and though he kept getting a peek, he could not quiet find a way by.

With two laps remaining, Kovalainen finally got past into the final corner - to roars of approval from the watching crowd - leaving Alonso under pressure from the two Toyota-powered machines behind him, and struggling to fight them off as the race entered its final lap.

As Hamilton sped on to take the chequered flag an incredible 66 seconds ahead of Heidfeld - thereby ticking off another box on his 'to-do' list, having already triumphed in the Monaco Grand Prix earlier this year - Honda's audacious roll of the dice paid of with interest as Barrichello held onto third place to seal an unhoped-for rostrum finish for Honda and his first podium since 2005, with all three drivers visibly emotional at the result.

With Hamilton having lapped all bar Heidfeld and Barrichello at the close, Raikkonen ultimately came home a lonely fourth, followed by a disappointed Kovalainen and Alonso, as Trulli drew on all of his experience to expertly nip past Nakajima on the very final tour for seventh place. Rosberg, the luckless Webber, Bourdais, Glock and Massa - an unlucky 13th and last - rounded out the classified finishers.

As the crowd was left to go home happy, fans have also been left with a mouth-watering prospect for the second half of the campaign - with Hamilton, Raikkonen and Massa all tied on points atop the drivers' standings, and post-Montreal leader Kubica a scant two markers adrift in fourth place. It's game on!

To see the race results in full, click here