Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain celebrates after winning the British Formula One Grand Prix at the Silverstone racetrack on Sunday. Photo: Luca Bruno/AP

LONDON  World champion Lewis Hamilton delighted a huge home crowd with a record sixth career win at the British Formula One Grand Prix on Sunday  after getting some help from the safety car.

Hamilton won an action-packed race from Mercedes team-mate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas after taking the lead when the safety car came out in lap 20 after Antonio Giovinazzi's Alfa Romeo spun and got beached.

And Ferrari's Charles Leclerc was swept into third on the podium after Sebastian Vettel shunted his Ferrari into the rear of Red Bull's Max Verstappen in their battle for a final podium spot.

Vettel's mistake, for which he got a 10-second penalty, stood in sharp contrast to an earlier duel between the youngsters Verstappen and Leclerc which thrilled the fans just as Hamilton's latest win.

The Briton's sixth Silverstone win puts him one British GP victory ahead of Frenchman Alain Prost. He now has seven season wins and 80 overall, just 11 shy of Michael Schumacher's record 91.

"I can't tell you how proud I am to be here," Hamilton said after completing the out-lap with a Union Jack in his hand. "You think you'd get used to something like that, but it feels like the first time."

Bottas said "it was not really my day" while Leclerc spoke of "probably the race I enjoyed the most in my Formula One career" as he made the podium a fourth straight time.

Hamilton is firmly on course towards a sixth world title with now 223 points, 39 clear of Bottas and 87 ahead of Verstappen. Vettel is now 100 points back in fourth.

Mercedes recovered well from their first season defeat in Austria where Bottas came third and Hamilton fifth as they recorded a seventh one-two finish in 10 season races.

Bottas made the most from pole when he covered Hamilton at the start to lead the race while Vettel gained one place into fifth past Red Bull's Pierre Gasly.

Hamilton nudged ahead of Bottas in lap four amid a big roar from the crowd but in a stunning wheel-to-wheel duel the Finn countered just seconds later to stay in front.

Behind them a Verstappen tried in vain to get past Leclerc while Gasly moved past Vettel into fifth  before then being the first top driver in the pits.

Leclerc and Verstappen followed in lap 14, and the Dutchman got ahead as they exited the pit lane  only to make a small mistake which Leclerc instantly used to get ahead again  two weeks after Verstappen passed Leclerc for victory late in the Austrian GP in a tight manoeuvre.

But the order was then shaken up when Giovinazzi lost control of his Alfa Romeo which brought out the safety car.

Hamilton and Vettel pitted immediately  and Verstappen and Leclerc following for a second stop  giving Hamilton the lead ahead of Bottas who had to slow down because of the safety car.

Vettel gained three spots into third ahead of Gasly, Verstappen and Leclerc.

Hamilton won the restart in lap 23, while Verstappen and Leclerc were at it right away again, even making contact and Verstappen running wide and still defending himself  before moving past his team-mate Gasly into fourth and trying to hunt down Vettel.

He got past the German in lap 38 and Vettel's ill-timed counter sent both spinning off the track. Both were able to continue with Verstappen finishing fifth and Vettel limping home in 16th place as his dim title chances took another big hit.

DPA