After the high of the Austrian GP, things at Silverstone turned out even more exciting than everything this season had to offer until now. Fantastic battles spread throughout the race, a lot of ups and downs for fans of all teams and drivers, a great Sunday afternoon.
Things got interesting in qualifying too when Valterri Bottas pipped home-hero Lewis Hamilton to take pole position at Silverstone. Just seven-hundredths of a second between the two silver arrows as they locked down the front of the grid yet again. Charles Leclerc managed tobe third quickest in his Ferrari while Sebastian Vettel couldn’t qualify better than sixth fastest. The Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly between them, fourth and fifth fastest respectively. They were also sporting special 007 James Bond themed stickers, celebrating not only title sponsor Aston Martin’s association with the international spy but also it being the 1007th Formula 1 Grand Prix that weekend. Nice.
Renault was able to get both drivers into Q3 with Daniel Ricciardo qualifying 7th fastest while Nico Hulkenberg secured 10th on the starting grid. The two has 2019’s top-performing rookies between them – Lando Norris qualifying 8th fastest for McLaren and Alexander Albon 9th fastest for Toro Rosso.
When the lights went green on Sunday, not many could have anticipated what happened next – Bottas fought Hamilton to stay in the lead. First three laps, with no DRS, the Finn fought off the Brit at every corner, driving the defensive line, both laden with the extra weight of the fuel, weaving this way and that. Then lap 4, DRS enabled, Lewis was able to get ahead of Bottas. But his lead lasted only two corners and Bottas came down the inside, into Copps corner to take the lead once again.
Meanwhile, behind them, the battle between Leclerc and Verstappen was brewing as the Red Bull kept up with the Ferrari. After their previous encounter in the final laps at Austria, this was going to be personal and also a great display of young racing talent. By Lap 11, the two were driving wheel-to-wheel, Max with the advantage of DRS as well. Their battle continued for a few laps more till both entered the pits at the same time, Ferrari’s garage one before Red Bull. The red crew took 2.9 seconds and the blue crew took 2.3 seconds, both cars driving side-by-side in the pit lane (allowed in Silverstone). But Max was about a metre ahead and Charles had to concede and so they rejoined the race having switched places. Two corners later, the unsettled Red Bull leaves a door open and the Ferrari flies past down the inside and the dance resumes.
Lap 20, everyone but Lewis from the top 6 has pitted and then Giovinazzi beaches his Alfa Romeo Sauber in the gravel, bringing out the Safety Car. Now, Lewis can pit and stay ahead of Bottas who had to drive slower as per the rules, the Finn beaten by plain bad luck. At the restart, Hamilton took off like a rabbit and that pretty much settled the case of the winner. Bottas tried to stay close, within a couple of seconds, but his opportunity was gone. He also had to make a second pit stop to put on a second compound for the race. In the end, it was a Mercedes one-two in that order.
However, to cement his dominance in his 6th win at Silverstone, Hamilton broke the lap record on the final lap with hard compound tyres that were 32 laps used. Whether you like him or not, he truly is one of the best ever to race in F1.
But that was just the front lines, the real drama was behind them of course. After another shamble of a strategy during the Safety Car period, Ferrari had got Vettel upto P3 and Leclerc was now behind both Gasly (P4) and Verstappen (P5). The young Ferrari driver had another go at Max shortly after the race restart but couldn’t make it stick. As if bringing his team’s brand line into reality, the Dutchman indeed seem to have sprouted wings and flew off, past Gasly and on to chase down the other Ferrari for a podium finish.
Leclerc may have been out of the fight but he delivered a gem of an overtake on Lap 36, as overtook Gasly around the outside and holding line into the next corner. A clean, clinical, smooth move that was surprisingly breathtaking to watch.
On the next lap, Verstappen had already caught up with Vettel and with the DRS advantage was able to get past him on the straight. But his late braking into the corner made him take a wider angle, allowed Vettel to be right behind him as they headed into the next turn, when it all went wrong. Seb tried to go inside but there was no space, realised it wouldn’t work and tried to switch to the right of the Red Bull in the last second. But he was carrying too much speed and the dirty air of the car in front didn’t help matters as he slammed on the brakes, locking up his fronts and shunting into the back of Max’s car, sending both cars into a spin. The Red Bull even got some air as it went over the curb. Miraculously, both cars were still running with no significant damage and were able to rejoin the race.
Vettel pitted to get a new front wing and was handed a 10-second penalty for causing the collision, making little difference as he was at the back of the order already and finished P16. Meanwhile, Verstappen was able to take his Red Bull across the chequered flag for a P5 result behind Gasly. A disappointing result despite spectacular effort for Max Verstappen in the end, but his role in making it such an amazing race will be remembered for many years. It was also nice to see Vettel go and apologise to Max for his error immediately after the race. But as a result of this, Charles Leclerc was able to secure a P3 finish, his fourth podium of the season. Not the way he would have wanted it, but an earned one for sure.
There was even more racing action behind them, believe it or not, between the Renault-powered yellow and orange racecars. Norris had an amazing start but a poor call on strategy during the Safety Car left him with struggling for grip and an extra pit stop too far into the race. He had started on Softs, pitted early for Mediums, pitted late for a Hard compound set and eventually had to settle for P11. His teammate Carlos Sainz, started 13th on the grid on Mediums, pitted during the Safety Car for Hard compound and managed to finish P6, best of the rest.
Renault did manage to get both drivers into the points with Ricciardo finishing P7, pitting him a second time during the Safety Car as well to switch from Medium to Hard Compound tyres. However, Hulkenberg barely managed to keep pace towards the end of the race as crossed the line in P10. He was on a single-stop strategy and had pitted on Lap 13. He did the remaining 39 laps on the Hard Compound tyre. Only Gasly had more done more laps on a single set of those – 40.
Sauber’s Antonio Giovinazzi’s retirement can be seen as the catalyst for the final order of things at Silverstone this time, but it wasn’t all bad for the team. They got another points finish with Kimi Raikkonen crossing the line in P8, having a relatively less exciting race than those around him. But it was the excellent drive from Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat that seemed to go under most people’s radar. He started 17th on the grid and finished the race in P9, thanks to some clean driving and a responsive strategy on the team’s part. Meanwhile, his teammate who had started in the top 10, Albon, secured a P12 result, in part due to the ill-timed Safety Car.
The struggle continues for Racing Point with another difficult weekend. Sergio Perez had qualified 15th fastest and was even competing for a points position sometime during the race. But a mistimed lunge left him in need of a new front wing and a third pit stop put him in last of the running order for a P17 finish. Teammate Lance Stroll, qualified 18th and finished P13. Williams F1 may have been celebrating their founder that weekend for being the longest-serving boss in F1, but they had little joy in the race itself. Starting from the back again, George Rusell finished P15 and ahead of teammate Robert Kubica yet again.
However, it would seem there is even more chaos in the Haas camp during this period. The controversy and drama surrounding their 2019 title sponsor Rich Energy aside, the team can’t seem to get it right with either the car or their drivers. It was bad enough when Romain Grosjean spun out on pit exit during Friday’s practice but it got a whole lot worse on Sunday. At the start, on Lap 1, the two Haas driver’s banged wheels going side by side and somehow managed to severely damage both their cars. Kevin Magnussen retired on Lap 6 and Grosjean on Lap 9. We can only imagine the wrath of team principal Gunther Steiner but we’ll have to wait and see what changes. Haas is currently second last in the constructor’s championship.
The whole shebang resumes at Hockenheim after a week’s gap which is home territory for Vettel who’ll be looking to rectify his no-win record at that circuit. But can Ferrari bring the pace to catch up to Mercedes? Or will they be caught up by Red Bull Honda first? The championship battle may be a bit stale at the moment, but the competition is starting to get heated up. Stay tuned and don’t forget to subscribe for updates on the latest posts and join the tribe too on DTB.
Final race standings:
- L. Hamilton Mercedes — 1:21:08.452
- V. Bottas Mercedes +24.928
- C. Leclerc Ferrari +30.117
- P. Gasly Aston Martin Red Bul Racing Honda +34.692
- M. Verstappen Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda +39.458
- C. Sainz McLaren Renault +53.639
- D. Ricciardo Renault +54.401
- K. Raikkonen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari +65.540
- D. Kvyat Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda +66.720
- N. Hulkenberg Renault +72.733
- L. Norris McLaren Renault +74.281
- A. Albon Scuderia Toro Rosso Honda +81.086
- L. Stroll Racing Point BWT Mercedes +1 Lap
- G. Russell Williams Racing Mercedes +1 Laps
- R. Kubica Williams Racing Mercedes +1 Lap
- S. Vettel Ferrari +1 Lap
- S. Perez Racing Point BWT Mercedes +1 Lap
- A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Sauber Ferrari DNF
- R. Grosjean Haas Ferrari DNF
- K. Magnussen Haas Ferrari DNF