To be the best at a sport you have to have incredible talent, dedication, focus, and a little bit of luck. Some drivers — Hamilton being one — seem to get that luck more than others, and today was one of those days.
The first of two Silverstone races saw many of this season’s trends continuing: a dominant Mercedes trailed by Verstappen’s Red Bull; Leclerc outperforming a difficult Ferrari; and close running amongst the McLarens, Renaults, and Racing Point (singular– unfortunately).
With Sergio Perez testing positive for Corvid-19 earlier in the week ,an opportunity was thrown to Nico Hulkenburg to showcase his talents in the Racing Point. Now, Hulkenburg — or The Hulk — has not been granted the best luck in F1: a Le Mans winner who convincingly won throughout lower formulas before entering F1 in 2007, he now holds the unenviable record of the most F1 starts without a podium. Such a shame: the guy has serious speed and talent but sometimes things just don’t fall right for you. Surely this weekend — after an 8 month break and the fastest F1 car of his career underneath him — luck could be a bit kinder? Or not, as a clutch bolt issue sees the Racing Point the fail to even make it to the grid. What are the chances? Hopefully the Hulk will get another shot at it next weekend. Perez is said to be doing well, however he is likely to miss next weekend’s race as a result of isolation rules.
To the racing action: a clean start sees Hamilton, with an initially slow getaway, take the lead, followed by teammate Bottas, Verstappens’ Red Bull and Leclercs’ Ferrari. Sainz and Ricciardo are the winners up to fifth and sixth, having pushed Norris and Stroll down to seventh and eighth. On the final corner of the opening lap Magnussen runs slightly wide, and upon returning to the racing line he obviously didn’t expect Albon to be there. The resulting clip sent K-mag in to the barriers and out of the race. A safety car is deployed to enable the removal of the stricken Haas car.
The restart sees a great battle between Ocon and Stroll — the Racing Point man managing to keep his rival Renault behind him for the time being. The Mercedes — in a league of their own — begin to pull away from Verstappen, whose pace in turn is no match for fourth place man Leclerc. The Ferrari’s poor performance is evident in its inability to keep up with the Red Bull, and painfully highlighted by Vettel’s lack of pace. The German languished in tenth for most of the race, being outpaced and overtaken by Ocon’s Renault and later on the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly: both talented drivers, but in teams– and therefore cars — without the finance and might of Ferrari.
Another safety car was brought out after Daniil Kyvat’s Alpha Tauri suffered a rear puncture at 190mph, leading to a big crash at Maggots– yes, Silverstone has a corner called Maggots. Thankfully the Russian walked away unharmed, retiring from what was undoubtedly his best performance of the season, having made up seven places in twelve laps.
All but two cars pit under the safety car for fresh tyres. Albon, who had previously stopped after his run-in with K-Mag, and the Haas team’s Romain Grosjean, both remain out. Last time out in Hungary the Haas team employed the same strategy — opting to gain track position and pit later — ultimately leading them to their first point of the season. Hell, may as well give it another shot! The cars that did pit did so on lap 13 and 14 — out of 52 — opting for the hard tyres which have a life of 40 laps. What could go wrong?
Haas’ strategy is a good call: they have nothing to loose and Grosjean, now in fifth, keeps better pace than expected. Ultimately, however, the cars behind him — Sainz, Ricciardo and Norris — do get passed before he pits. Grosjean displays unsavoury behaviour, dangerously moving whilst being overtaken by Sainz and, later on, Ricciardo. Drivers are allowed to make a clear change of direction to defend their position before the car behind makes a move to overtake. This means that you can’t change direction whilst being overtaken as this runs the risk of serious collision. Grosjean didn’t seem to get the memo.
The race again falls into the same theme — dominant Mercedes, with a gap to a lonely Verstappen, with a gap to a lonely Leclerc. Following the Ferrari is another gap to a close running train of mid- fielders: at one point there is less than one second between each car running seventh through to fourteenth. I get a sense this may be a microcosm for the season.
Bottas pushes Hamilton throughout the race, staying within or around one second to him. They repeatedly trade fastest laps, neither resting on their laurels, with their team mate waiting to take any opportunity to pull away or overtake.
At last we begin to see the real potential of the Renault — both Ricciardo and Ocon are having the best race of their season, the former keeping up with the McLarens, having a few on track battles with them, and ultimately pipping them to a well deserved fourth place. In contrast, however, the Racing Point of Stroll never quite delivered, and seemed to slow near the end of the race — whether this was a set up issue, concerns over tyres or Stroll not quite clicking with the car this weekend, I’m not sure — I guess we’ll find some answers next weekend when we race again.
So, two laps to go — surely the Mercs have it in the bag? The race was great, but if you only have a spare 5 minutes, watch the last three laps, then watch them again, and then for a third time to really take it all in! Bottas’ impeccable race is ruined when his front left tyre deflates. The Finn had kept Hamilton honest for the whole race, only falling back in the latter stages — presumably to manage tyres — and this is his reward. Remember that luck I was talking about? Bottas doesn’t seem to get much of it, and he limps around three quarters of the track to get back to the pits for a fresh set of tyres — ultimately finishing eleventh — one place out of the points. With nervousness setting in about the longevity of these tyres, Leclerc reduces pace, as does Hamilton. Verstappen — with a thirty second gap to Leclerc behind — pits and re-joins the race in second, with a chance at the fastest lap. Tyre Russian roulette takes a pop at fifth place man Sainz: his left rear punctures on the last lap, dropping him out of the points, and finally it’s Hamilton’s turn. The Leader’s left tyre wobbles and deflates with more than half a lap to the chequered flag. With the team relaying the diminishing gap to Verstappen in his ear, the current world champion performs an astonishing feat to not only complete the race but win the damn thing! I think this is a first for F1: a race victory with only three functioning tyres! Astonishing talent to be able to keep that car going at that pace, but also — as we heard over Verstappen’s team radio — Hamilton is “a very lucky boy.”
I’m not downgrading his talent and abilities, which are obviously fantastic, and the feat to win a race minus one tyre is remarkable: but luck did have a say here — a puncture for Bottas meaning no points, the same puncture for Hamilton and he still wins.
Versptappen gets second — and fastest lap — but could they have snatched the victory without that last minute pit stop? Possibly. Would Verstappen’s tyre have failed without the stop? Equally possible! Better to get an unexpected second than lose a potential victory, I suppose. Leclerc came in third, followed by Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris.
Three front left tyre failures within two laps cannot be a coincidence and Pirelli are investigating as we speak, downplaying suggestions that the softer compounds they are due to bring to next week’s race may need to be changed. We’ll have to wait and see.
Driver of the day– Lewis Hamilton
Honourable mentions- Gasley, Sainz.
Numpty of the day– Romain Grosjean
British Grand Prix F1 Race Results
- Verstappen (fastest lap)
Watch the race Highlights here-
Next up is F1’s 70th Anniversary GP, held at Silverstone. Will the tyres hold out? Can anyone beat Hamilton? Will The Hulk get to race at last?
Where to watch –
USA Sunday 9th August live on ESPN — race starts at 9:05am EST
UK Sunday 9th August live on Sky Sports F1 — race starts at 2:05pm
Highlights on Channel Four at 6:30 pm and Sky One at 5:50pm Sunday 9th August.