The Silverstone Circuit is often referred to as the ‘Home of Formula 1’ which is also why it hosted the sport’s 70th anniversary celebration as part of the double-header in the 2020 season. It’s also been a track that has been dominated by Lewis Hamilton, and there’s even a straight named after the 7-time world champion. It’s his home track. Even though Red Bull and Max Verstappen started the weekend with a decent lead in the championship standings, they were always going to be on the back foot against Lewis and Mercedes at the 2021 British GP.
This GP got even more interesting when F1 announced that it will be the first to host the Sprint Qualifying format that the sport is experimenting with this year. The weekend’s main stages were as follows: regular qualifying on Friday that decided the order of the sprint on Saturday and the results of the 17-lap sprint gave us the starting order for Sunday.
Hamilton qualified fastest on Friday despite a big slide on his final run which would have put him well clear of Verstappen who was second fastest. Valtteri Bottas was third fastest and Charles Leclerc continued his strong run at Silverstone by being the fourth-fastest in regular qualifying. The Ferrari man was only a few hundredths of a second quicker than Sergio Perez. The second-fastest Brit of the current grid, Lando Norris, was sixth fastest on Friday and teammate Daniel Ricciardo was just two-thousandths of a second slower. It was the best quali-run for George Russell in his Williams to be eighth fastest as he continues to push that car to get the team back into the middle order. Carlos Sainz and Sebastian Vettel made up the fifth row of the starting grid.
A 100km dash to decide the starting order of the main race the next day is F1’s current experiment to spice up the three-day GP weekend. The 17-lap stint at the British GP was the first test run and we got mixed results. Since this is a high risk and high reward situation, most were expecting drivers to take it relatively easy to avoid sabotaging their Sunday. But these are racing drivers and many of them are driving to keep their seats after the season.
Most drivers started on the Medium tyres while some took the risk of starting on the Softs. Verstappen’s brakes were literally on fire while the grid was waiting for the lights to out but luckily he got a better start than Hamilton off the line. Max was ahead at Turn 1 and after defending hard against Lewis on the opening lap, he was able to keep the lead till the end. This earned the Dutchman 3 extra championship points and Pole position for Sunday while the reigning champion got 2 points and would join him on the front row. Bottas finished third for 1 point and Leclerc held onto P4.
Perez had a rough start and lost a few positions on the opening lap before spinning out on Lap 5. He managed to keep the car operational and rejoined the race in last place but had to retire before the chequered flag. This meant he’d start from the pit lane on Sunday Carlos Sainz got bumped by Russell on the opening lap which meant the Ferrari dropped a few spots as well. As a result, George got a 3-place grid penalty and started the main race from P12.
Fernando Alonso was the star of the sprint format. He started 11th on the grid, moved up to P5 on the opening lap and was fighting the McLarens of Norris and Ricciardo for most of the race. Towards the end, he was defending against his former title rival Sebastian Vettel but managed to finish ahead of him to start his Sunday on P7. Check out Alonso’s start below:
The Start Of The Race
It was set to be an epic battle, the fiercest we’ve seen in the turbo-hybrid era so far. Verstappen on Pole alongside Hamilton at a packed Silverstone Circuit. When the lights went out, the two drivers had an equally good start and Max knew that he was going to have to defend aggressively to hang onto P1 for the first couple of laps. Both drivers were side-by-side into Turn 1 with Max going wide to stay on the outside of Lewis and getting the optimal line for Turn 2.
Hamilton kept going for the inside line and trying to out-brake Verstappen but the Dutchman would just about hang onto P1. The Mercedes just looked quicker than the Red Bull. Hamilton got his nose ahead down the Wellington Straight but Verstappen defended the inside line and was able to get ahead again since the Merc understeered. Lewis then set himself up for a faster exit out of Turn 8 (Woodcote) and was alongside Max again. That’s when everything went wrong for the Dutch racer.
The Big Crash
Copse corner (Turn 9) of the Silverstone Circuit is taken flat out in the current F1 cars. It’s one of the fastest corners in the entire calendar. There’s only one optimal line through it and if two drivers find themselves alongside, one or both needs to compromise to avoid an incident. That Sunday afternoon, we had Hamilton fighting at home and feeling the pressure of being behind in the championship for the first time in a while. Verstappen was making his first world title challenge and was already known for not being the kind of driver to yield easily.
Max blocked the feasible inside line for Lewis who was simply faster in that section. The Brit dived deeper, alongside the wall, to make the pass into Copse and was fully alongside. However, Lewis had to brake harder to make the turn which allowed Max to get his nose ahead again as they approached the apex. Verstappen turned in tighter to squeeze Hamilton while still leaving a car’s width on track but the Brit had mild understeer and clipped the rear wheel of his Red Bull rival. At those speeds, that was enough to break off Max’s rear-right tyre and send him flying into the barrier.
Later reports stated an impact of 51Gs being experienced by Verstappen who came to a full stop when he hit the tyre wall in flying Red Bull. It was a relief to see Max climb out and walk to the medical car before he was escorted to a nearby hospital for a full examination.
With that, Verstappen was out of the race and Hamilton would still be able to fight for the win. The race was red-flagged to repair the tyre wall at Copse which allowed Mercedes to carry out crucial repairs to Hamilton’s car that could have been terminal. The stewards were investigating the incident and eventually gave Hamilton a 10-second penalty that would be served when he’d make his pit stop.
While the incident has been hotly debated this whole time and will continue to be discussed by the warring camps of Mercedes and Red Bull, I think this video from Chain Bear is an excellent analysis of the situation:
Rest of the Race
Charles Leclerc had passed Valtteri Bottas halfway through the opening lap and took the lead of the race after the Hamilton-Verstappen crash. So when the race was to restart from the grid, it was Leclerc on Pole with Hamilton alongside him. This time, Lewis was not as aggressive in the first couple of corners (perhaps confident in his car’s ability to pass the Ferrari in front and was awarded his 10-second penalty the following lap) while Bottas’ sluggish start allowed Norris to pass him into Turn 1.
Alonso and Vettel were getting feisty on the restart and were side by side through Turn 6 but on the exit of 7, the Aston Martin spun around. Seb was able to keep it out of the wall and rejoin the race at the back of the pack. Alonso’s initial pace wore off after a few laps of trying to keep up with Ricciardo in P6 and began to drop back the order somewhat.
While Leclerc has always been strong at this circuit and pushes the car beyond its expected performance, it was still surprising to see him keep the lead from Hamilton and stay out of DRS range. With Hamilton’s penalty, it seemed like Charles had a good chance at a surprise race win that Sunday. But on Lap 15, Ferrari fans got a scare when the broadcast played a snippet of his team radio of Leclerc saying that the engine was cutting out intermittently. For the next few laps, Charles’ engineer was guiding him through various settings to try and fix the problem since they were able to diagnose that it wasn’t a mechanical issue. All of this while trying to hold off the 7-time world champion who is racing at his home and has already wiped out his title rival earlier that day.
McLaren kicked off the pit stops when they brought in Daniel Ricciardo on Lap 21 and Lando Norris on Lap 22. Norris was in P3 and a few seconds clear of Bottas at the time of his stop but a hiccup while changing the right rear tyre lost him his advantage. Mercedes jumped on the opportunity and pitted Valtteri the following lap to rejoin the race ahead of Norris and effectively move up to P3. Meanwhile, Ferrari and Hamilton were going long on the first stint. With the others having stopped, Charles and Lewis were nearly a pit stop clear of the pack by Lap 25.
Mercedes brought in Hamilton on Lap 28 but the 10-second penalty meant that the car was stationary in the pit box for 14.2 seconds. This meant he rejoined the race in P5, behind Norris. Ferrari was briefly running first and second in the 2021 British GP. Sainz made his stop on the next lap and Leclerc the lap after. By Lap 30, all the front runners had made their stops and were running on Hard tyres. Lewis, running in P4, had 22 laps to make up over 15 seconds to catch Charles.
Hamilton caught up to Norris on Lap 31 and was able to make an easy pass down the inside of Copse corner since Norris stayed on the outside line. Bottas got the message to let Lewis by and so the Finn allowed his teammate to pass him on Lap 40. With 13 laps left, Leclerc was only 8.8 seconds ahead. The Mercedes W12 does struggle in dirty air but in the clean air with Lewis as the helm, it’s pretty darn fast. By Lap 47, Hamilton had Leclerc in his sights.
The No.44 Mercedes was right on the tail of No.16 Ferrari on Lap 50. They were approaching Copse corner with Hamilton taking the inside line once again, this time taking a tighter line to avoid an incident with Leclerc. The Ferrari got twitchy at the exit and went onto the dirty run-off area which allowed the Mercedes to come through and take the lead with little over two laps to go. It was crushing for the Tifosi and especially frustrating for the Monegasque to concede the race win in such a manner.
That was the end of it. Lewis Hamilton took the chequered flag at his home Grand Prix for the 8th time in his F1 career. He’d been part of a major incident on the opening lap and even served a 10-second time penalty but was simply unstoppable that afternoon. Charles crossed the line in P2 for his third British GP podium in his three years as a Ferrari driver (almost 4 seconds behind Lewis) and Valtteri picked up the final podium spot.
Hamilton made quite a show of his victory, doing the parade lap with a British flag sticking out from his cockpit and then running around the stands with it. This didn’t sit quite well with Red Bull Racing or Max Verstappen but I’m not sure there’s a rule that stops Hamilton from celebrating his win as he did, no matter what happened in the run-up to it. Sergio Perez did not score any points either. He was among the top 10 at one point but Red Bull decided to take away a point from Mercedes, so they pitted him towards the end to set the fastest lap. Checo did so, but since he finished P16, he got no points for it. Not only did Red Bull walk away from the British GP with no points, but their lead in the constructor’s title was also down to 1 point and they had a wrecked RB16B which is especially stressful in a season with budget caps. On the bright side, Max was cleared by the hospital and had a week’s break to recover till the next race while still leading the driver’s standings.
It was a great result for McLaren with Norris and Ricciardo finishing the race in P4 & P5 respectively. Daniel had been fending off an attack from Carlos for the last few laps, the Mercedes engine really coming in use against their rivals.
Fernando Alonso was able to capitalise on his bold strategy over the weekend to finish P7. His Alpine teammate Esteban Ocon managed to score some points too for the first time since Monaco as he crossed the line in P9.
Aston Martin seemed poised for a strong result in their home race too but Sebastian Vettel’s car had to be retired after 40 laps. Still, Lance Stroll was able to get them some points by finishing P8.
The final point of the race was scored by Yuki Tsunoda who’d started P16 while Gasly ended his point-scoring run (not including DNFs) by finishing P11. and did the longest stint of 30 laps on the Medium tyres. He also benefitted from Perez dropping back in the later stages and Kimi Raikkonen’s spin on Lap 47. The Alfa Romeo driver was fighting with Checo for P10 when the incident occurred. Kimi had raced Sergio in the first half of the race as well which was clean and very satisfying to watch:
Williams and George Russell still haven’t scored their first point but they’re getting closer one weekend at a time. Russell finished P12 after a strong performance in qualifying on Friday. Both of Ferrari’s customer teams haven’t made as much progress as their midfield rivals with Alfa Romeo struggling for points and Haas making up the rear of the grid.
The final race before the mid-season break will be the Hungarian GP after a week’s gap. It’s another circuit dominated by the Lewis-Mercedes combo but Max could end the streak this time. Share your predictions for the next race’s podium in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe for plenty more automotive content and follow us on Twitter & Instagram (@autoloons).
- L. Hamilton Mercedes — 1:58:23.284
- C. Leclerc Ferrari +3.871
- V. Bottas Mercedes +11.125
- L. Norris McLaren Mercedes +28.573
- D. Ricciardo McLaren Mercedes +42.624
- C. Sainz Ferrari +43.454
- F. Alonso Alpine Renault +72.093
- L. Stroll Aston Martin Mercedes +74.289
- E. Ocon Alpine Renault +76.162
- Y. Tsunoda AlphaTauri Honda +82.065
- P. Gasly AlphaTauri Honda +85.327
- G. Russell Williams Mercedes +1 lap
- A. Giovinazzi Alfa Romeo Sauber Ferrari +1 lap
- K. Räikkönen Alfa Romeo Racing Ferrari +1 lap
- N. Latifi Williams Mercedes +1 lap
- S. Perez Red Bull Racing Honda +1 lap
- N. Mazepin Haas Ferrari +1 lap
- M. Schumacher Haas Ferrari +1 lap
- S. Vettel Aston Martin Mercedes DNF
- M. Verstappen Red Bull Racing Honda DNF