As the racing action headed to Silverstone for a third-straight week of motorsport action, temperatures were unexpectedly hot as the British summer was in full swing with no showers for relief. But that didn’t stop the 100,000+ fans who came to attend and support their homeboy hero and defending World Champion, Lewis Hamilton. Lewis, who had won here a total of 5 times, 4 times in a row with Mercedes since 2014, came in as the favourite to win on this power circuit where everyone is going flat out for almost 80 per cent of the lap. But what happened on Sunday was a total surprise and we had ourselves a fantastic F1 race down to the last few laps.
Through practice and qualifying, the Silver Arrows were faster than the Reds with Hamilton topping the charts and the Red Bulls were behind them both as they lacked the straight-line speed to compete on par with them. Hamilton took pole position while Sebastian Vettel took the other front row position. Both teams’ Finnish drivers were on the second row with Kimi Raikkonen qualifying third fastest and Valtteri Bottas slower by more than two-tenths of a second in fourth. The Red Bulls were almost a second off-pace with Max Verstappen qualifying fifth fastest ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in sixth.
Lewis had a terrible start as he had too much wheelspin allowing Vettel to surge ahead and then Bottas passed him down the inside on Turn 2 with Raikkonen right beside him. Going into Turn 3, Kimi was on the inside and locked up his front right tyre while his front left banged into Lewis and sent the Mercedes into a spin. For the second time this season, a Ferrari had taken out a Mercedes in the opening lap. As the grid drove around the Mercedes, the midfield order was completely shuffled up and Hamilton rejoined at the back of the pack. There was an initial concern if his car had suffered any damage to the floor or the suspension but whatever it was got better as the race went on. Kimi had stayed on track but was also worried about damage to his front wing and was behind both the Red Bull drivers. The Finn was definitely in a mood to race aggressively today as he made an impressive overtake around the outside of Ricciardo on Turn 9 (Copse) on the same lap. Vettel and Bottas had flown ahead of the chaos with the German in full control of the race and Verstappen running in third ahead of Kimi who had been given a 10-second penalty for the incident with Hamilton.
By Lap 14, Raikkonen was pitting to serve his time penalty and switch to the Medium compound while Hamilton had already made his way back up to P6. It was like watching an LMP1 racecar makes its way past the GTE Pro category, just NO contest. Raikkonen too was able to climb back into the top 6 after his almost 30-second pit stop and was setting the fastest times on his new tyres. Clearly, he was aiming for a two-stop race with no tyre conservation on his agenda. Max and Daniel pitted soon after, allowing Hamilton to move up into third. Bottas was considerably ahead while Vettel was still leading the race. The Ferrari pitted on Lap 20 but still came out ahead of Lewis while Bottas pitted the next lap. Lewis who was in P3 finally pitted on Lap 25 and rejoined the track in P5 ahead of Ricciardo.
It seemed like a straightforward win for Vettel but then a massive crash on Lap 32 brought out the safety car and the teams hustled to get their drivers into the pits for a fresh set of Soft compound tyres to take them through to the end of the race. Except for Mercedes, who for some reason decided to keep both drivers out on track which meant Bottas took the lead and Hamilton moved up to P3 behind Vettel. At the restart, Kimi and Max had a fantastic head-to-head for P4 with the young Dutchman coming out in front before the safety car was brought out again for another incident. Once the race had resumed, again, there were just over 10 laps left and the Mercedes cars were definitely struggling on the older tyres against the pace of the Ferrari on the fresher sets. Raikkonen got past Verstappen in the second attempt, helped by the fact that the Red Bull was having technical problems. A couple of laps later Max had a spin and then retired due to what was later revealed to be a problem with the BBW system (Brake By Wire) and thus could not make the last few laps to the chequered flag.
Up ahead Bottas was doing the best he could, but Vettel wasn’t having it and made a fantastic overtake down the inside to move back up into the lead and blitz to the finish. Meanwhile, Hamilton was also able to get past his teammate quite easily in what we suspect were team orders but unfortunately for Mercedes, Raikkonen too got past Bottas to take the final podium spot. Ricciardo was catching Valtteri but there just weren’t enough laps left and had to settle for P5 to bring home some points for Red Bull Racing. An exciting race with the top three cars quite close to each other right till the very end, something we haven’t seen much of in recent years of Formula 1.
There was plenty of action in the middle order including the incidents that brought on the two safety car periods. Starting with Nico Hulkenberg for finishing P6, the best result he could have hoped for after starting 11th on the grid. However, his teammate Carlos Sainz who had started 16th on the grid and was also in the points did not get to finish the race. He was trying to overtake Romain Grosjean around the outside of Turn 1 when the Haas had a bit of a wobble which took it into the side of the Renault and both cars skidded across the track and into the barriers. Grosjean had done well to start eighth on the grid but after the chaos on the opening lap had lost quite a few places. Meanwhile, his teammate Kevin Magnussen continued his strong form of point scoring results as he finished P9, which wasn’t what he would have been hoping for considering he had started seventh on the grid. Problems continue to hinder Force India this season as Perez had a spin on Turn 1 at the start of the race that put him at the back of the grid after having started 12th, but was able to recover and make the most of the chaos to finish in P10 with a point. Esteban Ocon had a better weekend qualifying tenth fastest and finishing the race in P7 to earn his team some crucial points.
Alfa Romeo Sauber looked like they were ready to impress with their rookie star Charles Leclerc qualifying ninth fastest and running in the points. However, when Leclerc came into the pits, there was a mistake in the rush to get him out ASAP and he was forced to retire after coming back onto the track, a disappointing day for the youngster who had shown great pace all weekend. But it was Marcus Ericsson who brought an end to Sauber’s run at Silverstone when he lost control of his rear end going flat out into Turn 1, flying through the gravel before coming to an abrupt halt in the barriers. This was the first safety car incident and luckily Ericsson was able to walk away from it. Another instance where the new Halo proved to have saved the driver from the possibility of further injury in a crash.
That was actually the second time the Halo played a role at Silverstone this weekend as Brendon Hartley in the Toro Rosso had a big crash in final practice with the left front tyre breaking off due to a suspension failure and the car flying headfirst into the barriers. He too was fortunately uninjured and started the race from the pits but retired after the opening lap. His teammate didn’t have a particularly great weekend either as Pierre Gasly qualified 14th fastest and finished in P13, his race including a clumsy collision with Perez in the final laps for which he was given a 5-second time penalty.
The orange flurry of McLaren was able to get some points again thanks to Fernando Alonso crossing the line in P8 despite starting 13th on the grid. The high-downforce chassis still costing them pace in qualifying, especially around the power-circuits even with the Renault engine. Stoffel Vandoorne started 17th and crossed the line in P11. The Williams team had the worst start as both drivers started from the pits due to last minute changes to the cars but they did manage to finish the race with Lance Stroll in P12 and Sergey Sirotkin in P14.
After three consecutive weekends of racing or a tripleheader as it is sometimes known, the teams and their drivers would be looking forward to the short break before the action heads to the Hockenheim Ring in Germany. Ten races in and Daniel still hasn’t signed for the next season and the last two performances would definitely be weighing heavy on his mind. Lewis had taken a jab at Ferrari for possibly taking out a Mercedes car as a dirty tactic but has since retracted those sentiments following Kimi’s apology for the incident. The defending champion is now 8 points behind Vettel and was visibly distraught to have lost his home race after all the build-up, but he has a chance to level the score with Seb as they head to Germany next. Eleven races to go and it’s all really close. What a phenomenal season this has been so far with a few more races to come before the summer break so stay tuned and subscribe to The Auto Loons for plenty more updates to come.
Final Race Standings:
- S. Vettel Ferrari – 1:27:29.784
- L. Hamilton Mercedes +2.264
- K. Raikkonen Ferrari +3.652
- V. Bottas Mercedes +8.883
- D. Ricciardo Aston Martin Red Bull Racing +9.500
- N. Hulkenberg Renault +28.220
- E. Ocon Force India Mercedes +29.930
- F. Alsono McLaren Renault +31.115
- K. Magnussen Haas Ferrari +33.188
- S. Perez Force India Mercedes +34.708
- S. Vandoorne McLaren Renault +35.774
- L. Stroll Williams Racing Mercedes +38.106
- P. Gasly Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda +39.129
- S. Sirotkin Williams Racing Mercedes +48.113
- M. Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing DNF
- R. Grosjean Haas Ferrari DNF
- C. Sainz Renault DNF
- M. Ericsson Alfa Romeo Sauber Ferrari DNF
- C. Leclerc Alfa Romeo Sauber Ferrari DNF
- B. Hartley Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda DNF