Controversial Hamilton Homecoming Victory

British Grand Prix Race Report 2021

Hamilton snatched victory from Leclerc in the final moments of the F1 British Grand Prix from Silverstone after a dramatic opening lap collision with Verstappen, which saw the championship leader crash out.

With Verstappen lining up on pole and Hamilton in second position, the two main championship rivals did not go easy on one another from the start. Off the line, the two were wheel to wheel, battling around half of the circuit until turn nine where—almost inevitably—the two came together. They were both fighting hard and refusing to give in. Hamilton sent his Mercedes down the inside of Copse Corner, where his front left wheel clipped Verstappen’s back right wheel, sending the Dutchman into the barriers. The Grand Prix was red-flagged and Verstappen walked away from the high-speed incident, being taken to hospital as a precaution.

As the top two collided, Leclerc, who made a great start from fourth on the grid, sailed past the championship contenders into a surprise race lead. Further back, the main gainers included Vettel and Sainz, who both made up two places, Stroll who made up three and Raikkonen—with another great start—who gained four places.

With Verstappen’s Red Bull cleared and the barriers fixed, the race can get underway again and the cars line up for a standing restart. Off the line, Leclerc makes a good start and maintains his lead. Norris manages to jump Bottas and move into third place, whilst Hamilton maintains his second position. Sainz again makes up places—with an initial grid place of the eleventh the Spaniard now runs in sixth position. Stroll, too, is another winner. Originally lining up in fourteenth, he’s now up in eighth. Alonso and Vettel go wheel to wheel when the German spins and drops to the back of the pack.

After deliberations, the stewards hand Hamilton a ten-second penalty, deeming him at fault for the collision with Verstappen. As usual with these incidents, Hamilton believes Verstappen did not give him enough space. Red Bull, meanwhile, believe Hamilton to have driven dangerously and to have been at fault. It was a very optimistic move from Hamilton—he managed to pretty much get alongside Verstappen, but did not reach the apex of the corner. Therefore, when Verstappen turned in for the corner, Hamilton was in the way. I feel it was a racing incident but can understand why a ten-second penalty was given. Personally, I do think Verstappen could have just given Hamilton space and then used the Red Bull’s speed advantage to retake the leader later on in the lap. At his next pit stop, Hamilton will have to remain stationary—with mechanics doing no work to the car—for ten seconds. Despite the penalty, with his main competitor out of the race, this is a massive chance for Hamilton to claw back valuable points in the championship and he does not give up on a full points haul.

As the race settles down, Hamilton is unable to get past Leclerc. At certain points, the Mercedes driver gets in DRS range but is still unable to make a move on the Ferrari. This turns out to be a theme of the race—drivers can catch others but are unable to pass. Sainz lies behind Ricciardo within DRS zone for many laps, unable to pass the Mclaren, and Stroll is unable to dispatch Alonso ahead. Further back, there’s a line of cars from ninth to twelfth all unable to get by one another. Perez is the only car on the move, the Red Bull driver being out of place, having had to start from the pitlane and steadily making gains through the pack.

It’s a one-stop race for almost all drivers today, with Norris and Sainz both losing out with slow stops. Bottas manages to jump Norris’ Mclaren due to his slower pit stop and Sainz remains stuck behind Ricciardo. Alonso too has a slow stop coming out straight into a battle with Stroll, but the Spaniard manages to retake his positions and keep the Aston Martin at bay.

Hamilton is desperate for the win and, after the pit stops, lies in fourth position. The faster Mercedes soon chases down and passes Norris’ Mclaren to take third place. Shortly after teammate, Bottas is given the order to let Hamilton past. With twelve laps remaining, Leclerc has a nine-second advantage over Hamilton, but the Brit is reeling him in by a second a lap in what is a tense closing chapter to the race. Leclerc needs some good luck or backmarkers to get in his opponents’ way, but, unfortunately for him, this doesn’t happen and Hamilton takes the lead with only two laps to go. It’s a shame for Leclerc, who has driven an impeccable race and thoroughly deserves the victory.

Further down the pecking order, the theme of being unable to overtake continues as, once again, Sainz is within a second of Ricciardo but is unable to pass the Mclaren, and Stroll can’t get past Alonso. There’s also a train of cars just out of the top ten, including Raikkonen, Tsunoda, Russell and Giovinazzi—all running closely but not overtaking. Again, the only one making moves is Perez in the out of place Red Bull, who has made more pit stops than his competitors.

At the front Hamilton takes the victory from Leclerc, demoting him to a bittersweet second place. Bottas comes in third and Norris fourth.

The Teams

Red Bull: Understandably disappointed by today. The team seemed adamant Hamilton’s driving was dangerous, Verstappen labelling him ‘unsportsmanly’ and ‘disrespectful’. The victory really would have been theirs; the sprint race and other sessions showed Verstappen had the pace to beat Hamilton, so the team were understandably disappointed and angry not to walk home with the win. But, that is racing; the main thing is Verstappen is unharmed and can take the fight to Hamilton at the next round. Perez struggled to make real grounds in the race, having started from the pit lane. He did manage to make it up to around tenth but, with an additional pitstop, he didn’t have any chance of getting into the points. The only consolation for Red Bull was denying Hamilton his fastest lap point by pitting Perez (again) for some fresh rubber and sending him out at the end of the race to set the fastest lap.

Mercedes: Lucky. Very lucky! They were not the fastest car this weekend and I think they knew that. Hamilton won because Verstappen was out and Bottas came third because of Norris’ slow pit stop. Still, good results are good results and they have clawed valuable points back to their rivals Red Bull.

Ferrari: Oh-wee! Team of the race. Leclerc’s epic performance really did deserve the victory. Despite battling an engine mapping problem, the Monegasque lead almost the whole race and massively outperformed the Ferrari. Sainz too had a great race, gaining five places from the start. Without the slow pitstop, I think he would have jumped Ricciardo for fifth place.

Mclaren: Another good race. Norris would have been on the podium without that slow stop, but still put in a good drive for a solid fourth-place finish. Ricciardo, although still slower than teammate Norris, seemed much more connected to the car, found decent pace and was able to keep Sainz at bay for fifth place.

Alpha Tauri: Unlucky for Gasly, who was running in the points throughout but had to pit with a late puncture seeing him finish eleventh—despite a valiant effort to make places up at the end. Tsunoda ran for most of the race out of the points, but gained from Gasly’s puncture and a spin for Raikkonen, which promoted him to the final points position in tenth. It looks increasingly like the Alpha Tauri’s don’t have the pace of the Mclaren’s and Ferrari’s ahead of them, and are battling more with the Alpines and Aston Martin’s.

Alpine: Team should be happy with a double points finish, with Alonso in seventh and Ocon in ninth, outscoring the Aston Martins and Alpha Tauri’s. Ocon will be happy to be back in the points for the first time since Monaco. Alonso had a very good weekend, being the star of the sprint race and managing to make the Alpine very wide for competitors in both races. Alonso seems to have found his rhythm again and opened up a performance in the Alpine—it was good to see him back! Expect to see him frustrating drivers in faster cars around him as he gets in front and denies them any way past.

Aston Martin: After an early spin, Vettel couldn’t get back into the race and ended up retiring near the end. Stroll had a storming start, gaining six places, but was unable to get past Alonso, who he followed for much of the race, and finished behind in eighth position.

Alfa Romeo: Super starter Raikkonen moved into the top ten and ran there for the first part of the race. He got into some good on-track fights with Perez. The last of these saw him spin off the track and drop down the order and he finished sixteenth. Giovinazzi—like many others—was unable to make the overtakes and finished thirteenth. The team show glimpses of promises; Giovinazzi’s qualifying performances are becoming very strong, Raikkonen’s starts and race pace is good, but the team are still unable to really break into points-finishing positions.

Williams: Russell managed to find some amazing pace in the Williams on Friday and Saturday sessions, but just couldn’t convert that into the race, finishing twelfth. Latifi came in fourteenth.

Haas: Again, the Haas’ brought up the rear of the pack. It’s clear they haven’t developed the car and are all in for their 2022 season. Mazepin finished seventeenth with Schumacher in eighteenth.

Final Thoughts

At the race weekend where we saw the first glimpse of the 2022 car—designed to allow close racing, following and overtaking—this race displayed why we need this in F1. Although it was an interesting race, not without incident and intrigue, ultimately it suffered from many cars simply being unable to overtake those around them.

But, the race will be defined by that crash—the moment that had been coming all season—when Hamilton and Verstappen came together. The question for me is how much will that incident change the dynamics of the season? Red Bull were furious, with team principle Christian Horner calling it a “professional foul.” Will they and Verstappen be able to put aside the red mist and concentrate on their own races? For them, the ten-second penalty obviously wasn’t enough as it did not prevent Hamilton from victory. The penalty did not fit the crime. Will the drivers be able to move past this incident without it affecting the upcoming races? I feel the fallout from this incident may hang over, if not the next few races, then perhaps the rest of the season.

Seasons are often defined by pivotal events and this could be the one for 2021.

Driver of the day: Leclerc

Honourable mentions: Alonso, Hamilton, Sainz

Good guy of the day: Vettel— the four-time world champion spent hours litter picking in the grandstands after the fans had left. Legend.

Sprint Race

Sprint Race Saturday saw the first-ever F1 sprint race in a trial format for this weekend. Qualifying was held on Friday to set the grid for a seventeen lap race held on Saturday afternoon. The result of this short race determined Sundays Grand Prix grid—with three points handed out for a win, two for second and one for third.

So, did it work? Personally, I think yes. It was fun and exciting. Hamilton had a poor start off the line and Verstappen managed to take the lead with the two going wheel to wheel on the first lap to the crowds’ delight. Verstappen managed to get the better in the exciting duel and from then on Hamilton couldn’t catch the Dutchman, who went on to win the inaugural sprint race, taking three points and lining up for pole in today’s race. Hamilton and Bottas came in second and third. The opening lap was full of close racing, Russell and Sainz having a small coming together which dropped the Ferrari driver down to eighteenth. Alonso stormed the start, gaining six places, and spent the whole race heavily defending from cars behind. Still, the Spaniard came out with a net gain of four positions. Perez had a spin that dropped him down to the back of the pack and will start last in the main event.

The race did settle down towards the end and it seemed a little like drivers were unwilling to risk their grid positions, but also their tyres were pretty worn by then. The drivers and teams are used to the rhythm and strategy of a longer race, and therefore may need some time to understand and prepare themselves for these shorter races and how they should undertake them.

We have two more of these sprint races this year so it’ll be great to see how the other two pan out. My general thoughts are that it worked well, it was fun, there was action and excitement. It brings another layer of jeopardy into the race weekend, as an incident in this race can affect your position in the main race—as it did for Perez this weekend. But this can make for exciting racing opportunities too. I think over time it could be successfully incorporated into an F1 weekend, as long as the logistics are all sorted out behind the scenes.

British Grand Prix Race Results

  1. Hamilton
  2. Leclerc
  3. Bottas
  4. Norris
  5. Ricciardo
  6. Sainz
  7. Alonso
  8. Stroll
  9. Ocon
  10. Tsunoda

Fastest lap went to Perez—who didn’t get the fastest lap point because he finished out of the top ten.

Race Highlights

Next Time

Hungary! The Hungaroring is a challenging track that almost always makes for an interesting race.

Where To Watch

USA: Sunday 2nd August Live on ESPN race start at 9:00 am EST
UK: Sunday 2nd August Live on Sky Sports F1 race start at 2:00 pm GMT
Highlights on Sky One and Channel Four, Sunday 2nd August, time TBC

Written by Jenny Alderton

Jenny is a freelance writer based in Wales with keen interest in Motorsports. An avid follower of Formula one for over twenty years she has recently branched out into watching other vehicles driving around in wiggly circles. Namely, Motogp, World Superbike championship, and British Superbike championship.

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