Race Review: Britain 14th-16th Of July, Round 10

Introduction

Now before I start on this weeks review; I want to make it clear that this post will not be filled with opinion about the possibility of F1 losing the British Grand Prix at Silverstone as a venue after 2019. I have already done a separate post on that topic and why I think that there are some positives to take from the situation: it can be found here. In the same way that the Vettel-Hamilton Baku incident was not allowed to dominate last week’s review of Austria, the same can be said of this situation. However, I do understand why so many are so upset about Silverstone being lost as a venue on the calendar. After all, it has hosted the third highest number of races in F1 history, only being outscored by Monaco and Monza. It also hosted the first ever World Championship Grand Prix in 1950. Therefore the fast 3.6 mile track, which straddles the borders of English heartland counties Northamptonshire and Buckinghamshire, will understandably be missed.

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Race winner: Lewis Hamilton.

Known by admirers as the “Home Of British Motor Racing” this circuit has also seen many remarkable races in both recent and distant memory. Those old enough will recall Nigel Mansell’s memorable over-take of team-mate Nelson Piquet in 1987, allowing the Brit to win by just 1.9 seconds. The next season the very same fans might have witnessed a characteristically dominant performance from one Ayrton Senna. The Brazilian’s great rival Alain Prost is also a name that is embedded in the history of this track; having won the record number of events here at 5, tied with the great Jim Clark: another legendary figure of the sport. Coincidentally this brings us to today; where the contemporary British great Lewis Hamilton was seeking to equal that win record around the track. Join me to see how he did so, as we also explore all the other rumours, happenings and performances around the paddock.

Mercedes (1st & 2nd)
Mercedes-AMG-Petronas-F1-Team-LogoLewis Hamilton, P1: This is a massive massive win for Hamilton; not merely because it allows him to equal the all time win record of Jim Clark and Alain Prost but also because of what happened to Sebastian Vettel behind him. The German’s last lap puncture allows Hamilton to gain hugely in the championship fight, narrowing the gap to just 1 point. Having started from pole, equalling Jim Clark pole record for British GP to boot, Hamilton look serene right from the start. He got away well from the lights as everyone else behind squabbled, helping him to build 4 Second gap by the end of lap 16. It stayed incredibly comfortable as his pace built and built. No one really challenged him at all. The momentum is well and truly with him now; we will probably look back at this race as to when Lewis re–gained control of the title. The first man to win 4 times in a row at Silverstone as well; what a weekend. A thoroughly deserved crowd-surf as well.

Valtteri Bottas, P2:  Bottas put in an excellent support role for Mercedes today, even despite the grid penalty that dropped him down to start 9th on the grid. He was one of a few drivers who carved through the field today: by lap 7 he was up to 5th. Then the battle ahead of him between Vettel  and Verstappen allowed the Finn catch up into podium contention. But it seemed that he would not be able to taste champagne today after he failed to over-cut Vettel and Raikkonen by going on long on his soft compound tyres. But by bolting on the super soft compound he managed to close the gap on the Ferrari’s who had old tyres on; starting to gain by lap 40. In the end he was slightly gifted the 2nd place by two disastrous punctures for Ferrari; but his pace was what made that opportunity possible.

Team Summary: The weekend for dreams for Mercedes started fairly worryingly with Bottas’ grid penalty; but it just got better and better for them. I don’t think they would ever have believed entering the weekend that they would have completely decimated Vettel’s championship lead. They are now back on for the double title win for the fourth year in a row. Whilst I personally do not want to see that, as I want F1 to have some proper competition and variety, at least this time it will be exciting and fully earned.

Ferrari (3rd & 7th)
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Kimi Raikkonen, P3: What a strange race for Kimi. It is said that Silverstone this year was a marginal 1 or 2 stop race and certainly Raikkonen fell on the wrong side of that; as did his team mate. From he start he stayed in 2nd but lost time to Hamilton by compromising his line into the first few corners by battling Verstappen. From there it was fairly plain sailing until the end of the race; but on lap 49 disaster struck as a puncture claimed his front left tyre. He lost second and third momentarily to and up in 4th. However, with his team-mates puncture just a lap later he gained third place again. The good news is that this is a podium first and foremost.On top of that he was on the pace all weekend and just seemed to be quicker than his team-mate. There are also rumours starting to surface from French media that Kimi might yet again be staying another year at Ferrari, as Vettel wants him in the team as a clause in his own new contract.

Sebastian Vettel, P7:
This could well be the weekend that we look back on as the race that lost Sebastian Vettel the chance at a 5th world title. I am fully aware that is a big statement as we are only at race 10, but it seems clear to me that the momentum has been transferred to both Hamilton and Mercedes in the last few races. Even from the start Vettel was having a hard time: his brakes were steaming hot at the start; meaning he was jumped by Verstappen into 3rd. He was stuck behind him all the way to lap 19, including a fantastic battle on lap 14 into Stowe, but eventually under-cut him to gain into the podium places. However, he still couldn’t get close enough to Raikkonen for it to be proper for Ferrari to swap the drivers. What ruined Sebastian’s race was that very under-cut though; because he didn’t stay out so long on the Super Softs he has to run long on the Softs to get towards the podium. As his tyres lost pace he was pressurised by Bottas, finally being overtaken and pushed down into 4th on lap 44 after a simply huge lock-up into the final corner. The end of his race had highs and lows within seconds; with Raikkonen’s puncture Vettel once again was on course to keep 15 points in the championship but then within half a lap he got a puncture himself! Suddenly he was faced with having to pit again, which dropped him all the way down into 7th. The gap has come down to 1 point and Sebastian might well feel incredibly under-pressure coming into Hungary. The season swings again.

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Vettel’s car in practice, testing the suggested “shield” head protection for the future of F1.

Team Summary: Trying to go for the under-cut on both of their cars was what did the damage for Ferrari. Had they not done so though, it might not have even be possible to hold those podium places on track from the cars around them at the time. So it was a tricky one. But they simply MUST arrest this slide next Grand Prix. A win is sorely needed for Vettel and the team to try to retain their slipping grip on the trophies. If it is true that Mercedes simply now have a faster car, then Hungary could indeed provide the place to get that win. It is far from over, but this was a big big body blow.

Red Bull-Renault (4th & 5th)
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Max Verstappen, P4: Max will be very pleased to have halted his recent string of engine failures and similar retirements. Because of his team-mate’s grid penalty he also outscored Ricciardo for the first time since the Chinese race at the start of the year. His race was punctuated with a big battle with Vettel for third from the very moment the lights went out. However, he soon lost out as he failed to stop stop the German’s undercut on lap 20. From there he kept his pace consistent and managed to gain enough time for a free pit-stop; which was sorely needed in the end. He was also in a risk of getting a puncture much like the Ferrari’s ahead of him, so his team stayed safe and that was a good decision.

Daniel Ricciardo, P5: In many ways this race can be viewed as being the Daniel Ricciardo show. It was always going to be interesting to see how the Australian did from the back of the grid with Fernando Alonso. But unlike Alonso he had the car underneath him to carry him from over-take to over-take as he simply carved through the field. His progress was pretty serene, save for a scary moment early on after the safety car, where he was squeezed out wide into the gravel by the damaged Toro Rosso of Kvyat which dropped Daniel back into 18th. But from that moment onwards he was sublime, especially on lap 36 when he overtook all of Ocon, Perez and Magnussen to get into 7th. His performance was enough to earn him the driver of the day for the race and it was thoroughly deserved.

Team Summary: A much more solid weekend for Red Bull who have enjoyed more patchy races of late. This is of course mainly down to Verstappen actually being able to finish a race for the first time in 4 races. But a solid points haul which will be greatly enjoyed, especially as they saw their driver’s battling competitively all day long.

Force India-Mercedes ( & )
SaharaForceIndiaEsteban Ocon, P8: Having jumped Perez at the start of the race with lightening reactions; Ocon made himself a large nuisance for his team-mate. A team-mate in Perez, that only last weekend was basically trying to convince the team that Ocon was being inexperienced and naive with how they were handling their on-track sparring! Ocon has truly got under Perez’ skin this season and this is another example of how Esteban is laying down a marker of his talent for the future of F1. A good weekend.

Sergio Perez, P9: Having been jumped by Ocon at the start of the race, Perez faced a tough task to track his team-mate down and pass him; especially in the latter end of the race when he had the surging Ricciardo to deal with. A fine example of how a good or bad start can make or break your race in equal measure. He certainly would have been hoping to punch above his weight and challenge further up the field; but by getting stuck in traffic it was just impossible for him to do so.

Team Summary: The main question I would ask of Force India is this: by not playing team orders did they ruin their race? Both drivers were fighting away at each other for a long time in the race, sharing in the dirty air of the car in-front and it certainly must have stopped their pace from being completely optimal. As such they were both caught and passed by by the resurgent Ricciardo on lap 36. They still extend their lead over Williams in the constructors table; but I just have this feeling that it could have been even better for them.

Williams-Mercedes (10th & 16th)
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Felipe Massa, P10: Having started 15th I think that in reality he will be pleased with even being able to take home a single point from this race. The true problem was a poor qualifying for Massa, only netting him a 15th place on the grid. From the midfield it is very hard to fight your way through; especially this season with the true order of the closely paced cars changing depending on the track. Much better weekend than his team-mate and that is after all the bench-mark of every driver.

Lance Stroll, P16: I have yet to find out why, having risen as high as points paying positions in the race that Lance Stroll sunk back down to his grid position of 16th. I have a feeling that he also suffered from poor degradation for his tyres on his second stint. A relatively low ebb for the Canadian given his last 3 races have conjured up points and a podium. Will look forward to a less power dependent circuit in Hungary.

Team Summary: Team principal Claire Williams was very forthcoming in the principal’s press conference on Friday that she wanted to see her team begin to claw back the fight to Force-India. However, this weekend will have given her no indication that this might be possible any time soon. It seems to be, as I commented last week, that William’s new aero-package has made their car hard to drive compared to before. I guess the decision they are trying to make is whether to persevere for an eventual increase in pace, or to revert back and try a new tactic to gain on the teams above.

Toro Rosso-Renault (15th & DNF)
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Daniil Kvyat, P:15 Having out-qualified his team-mate on Saturday, Kvyat should have settled down and plugged away. However, on the first lap he instead hit Sainz into retirement to bring out the saftey car  and also sustain big damage on to the floor of his vehicle. To add insult to injury he received a drive through penalty for rejoining the track unsafely, causing the accident. Having dropped right to the back with an injured car 15th was really only what he could hope for and I am even surprised he managed that. He needs to calm down, as does Sainz. But more on that later.

Carlos Sainz, DNF: Carlos’ race was brought to an early end by his own team-mate Kyvat; as discussed above. Whilst going side by side through Maggots and Becketts, he might have been a little guilty of pushing the Russian onto the grass; but he could do nothing as Daniil careered into him. Over the radio he said “tell Dani he did a really good job there” with characteristically sarcastic wit. He really wants to move on from Toro Rosso I feel, but driving and acting like he has done recently will not be helping him at all. He has dropped off the pace of late as well, only clocking 14th in Qualifying this weekend whilst Daniil managed a whole second faster.

Team Summary: Desperation for both drivers who are fighting for their right to be in better cars and ultimately to stay in F1 is what caused the collision. Franz Tost simply has to find a way to put a stop to this unrest as soon as humanly possible; it is clear that both drivers are ambitious. Kvyat understandably still has a chip on his shoulder from begin dropped by Red Bull, as does Sainz who still will be smarting from the fact Red Bull chose Verstappen to be the Russian’s replacement instead of him. The Spaniard has also made it clear he wishes to leave the team to try to get to a top team elsewhere and as a result is starting to panic and drive much less well than he is capable of. There is far too much wrong at Toro Rosso for it to be a happy place at the moment.

Haas-Ferrari (12th & 13th)
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Romain Grosjean, P12: Overall Grosjean fell from his 10th place on the grid to 12th; which is obivously not ideal for him. The most exciting part in his race, or perhaps frustrating is a better word, is when he was clipped by the Sauber of Ericsson towards the end of the race when he was trying to pass. He eventually did get that 12th position, but that was just papering over the cracks of the lack of pace from the Haas team today.

Kevin Magnussen, P13: Magnussen was another driver who got caught up in the Sainz and Kvyat incident on lap one. The rear end of his car was clipped by Sainz as the Spaniard skidded across the surface of the track. Perhaps we can say that his inherent race pace was lessened by that incident as he sustained light damage to the floor of the car. Fundamentally 13th was probably a fair result.

Team Summary: Haas had a very quiet weekend this time out as their cars seemed to converge in pace during the race despite the large gulf between 17th placed Magnussen and 10th placed Grosjean due to the rain in Q1. Below them Renault made up a large chunk of points with Hulkenberg and are beginning to reel them in. They will of course want to stop this as soon as possible at tracks which are more suited to their car.

Renault (6th & DNS)
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Nico Hulkenberg, P6: Strong solid weekend in both qualifying and the race for Nico. Consistent and quick throughout he quietly plugged away as various incidents and battles exploded around him. He did have a small problem for engine energy recovery at the end of the race; allowing Ricciardo to close up and over-take him for 5th, but the 8 points gained from a 6th place is vital to the team and for Nico himself as he climbs to 10th place in the driver’s table.

Jolyon Palmer, DNS: Jolyon just cannot seem to catch a break. I really feel for him this time around as yet again his car let him down; even before the start. This is his home race and he should have started from 11th and he has been agonisingly close to the first points of his F1 career in recent weeks. But sometimes it doesn’t rain, it pours. He reported a “long brake pedal” with loss of hydraulic pressure on the formation lap, prompting an aborted start for the race for everyone else as well. That was all she wrote.

Team Summary: Another poor weekend for Jolyon will have been overshadowed by a good points haul for Hulkenberg who again wiped the floor with the Brit in qualifying. It seems that Renault intermittently have a very good car depending on the circuit; so perhaps they are starting to make in-roads towards where they want and should be in terms of pace. I have a feeling they might improve even further compared to everyone else around before the season’s end.

Sauber-Ferrari (14th & 17th)
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Marcus Ericsson, P14: Ericsson’s race was punctuated with a side by side battle with his team-mate entering Stowe and into the last corner. But apart from that there is very little to write about. He tried to go long on his tyres to enter the points but it wasn’t to be. Most importantly down at the bottom he beat Wehrlein in the race. All he can ask for.

Pascal Wehrlein, P17: Last of the finishers is not much to shout about for Wehrlein if he is trying to convince Mercedes to think of him if a seat becomes available anywhere in the future. But let’s be honest his career won’t be defined by one Grand Prix. He will want to do better, but it is ‘as you were’ for Pascal.

Team Summary: The big battle between the two drivers on lap 7 through Stowe was the height of excitement for Sauber’s race this time. Next weekend in Hungary might be a good place for them to target points once more given the relatively low dependency on power around that track. We will see if they can extend their lead over McLaren or vice-versa!

McLaren-Honda (11th & DNF)
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 Stoffel Vandoorne, P:
A strong qualifying for Vandoorne will be the highlight for both McLaren and the driver himself; it will show the pace in the Honda spec 3 engine has been improved at a demanding circuit in Silverstone. It is also the first time that Stoffel has beaten Fernando in qualifying all year; so despite missing out on the points in the race there is cause to be happy for the Belgian.

Fernando Alonso, DNF: This weekend was always going to be a difficult one for Fernando as he brought in as many engine components into his “pool” for the future of the season as possible. This meant he started plum last on the grid with 30 places of penalty. The highlight of the weekend for me was when Alonso set a wonderful lap at the end of Q1 on a drying track to top a session for the first time in 3 years! Quite a sight and he got a great reception from the crowd. The race was far less appealing, as despite rising up to 16th on Lap 1 due to safety car, good start and Sainz’ retirement he eventually retired on lap 34 with a lack of power after a fight with Ricciardo. Hungary has been a very good track for Alonso in these McLaren-Honda years so maybe points again next time out!

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Alonso tops a session for the first time in around three years!

Team Summary: As I said above this weekend has given a cause for optimism over at McLaren as Stoffel managed to get into Q3 on his own merit and without help from the weather or other interruption. However, Alonso’s spec 3 engine did still give up. I am confident the team will get points in Hungary unless reliability hampers their progress; so probably about 50/50 chance on that one!

Race Review & Analysis

This British Grand Prix was the perfect response to the possibility of losing the race after 2019. It showed Liberty Media that the race here is exciting, well received and dynamic: the latter especially with the new generation of cars. The speeds carried through Copse, Maggots and Becketts was quite ridiculous at times and I wish I had been able to make it down for this race this weekend. The race was once again a sandwich of intrigue, but this time with a big filling of Ricciardo rampage. The safety car on lap one after Sainz was hit from behind by Kvyat gave us the hope of another tussle for the lead, but Hamilton to his credit kept his head. However, it did allow Vettel to close up more on Verstappen and the resulting battle was one of the highlights of the race as the German dived down the inside into Stowe only to be re-overtaken in Club corner before the restart of the lap.

The Ricciardo filling spiced up the middle of the race as he continued to surge through the field. He claimed Magnussen, Ocon and Perez all on the same lap of 36. It does make you wonder what a spectacle F1 would be if reverse grid was implemented. I have often thought about this and have had to concede that whilst it is fundamentally anti-competitive, it would make for exciting racing. My proposition would be this: the grid is not done reverse order of qualifying as then teams would just go as slow as possible to get pole and that would be absurd. It would be done in reverse constructor championship position, so for now Mercedes would start at the back. But to maintain the event of qualifying the order that those two drivers in the same team started would be determined by whether they beat each-other during Qualifying. Perhaps if that was not good enough then a point incentive for each driver could be given for qualifying too.

Anyway, moving on from that ramble. The end of the race was one of the craziest implosions of a team I have seen in recent years as tyres let go on both of the Ferrari’s, collectively robbing them of 12 points. The biggest disaster for them is that Vettel’s lead in the championship is now down to just 1 point ahead of Hungary. If Hamilton goes on to win the title now, this will for sure be seen as the turning point! What will happen next is just tantalising and I hope you are enjoying this season as much as I am!

Driver’s & Constructor’s Championship Tables (BBC Infographics)
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Next Time Out

In two weeks time Formula 1 will make it’s annual visit to the Hungaroring. The race, first held in 1986 behind the Soviet “iron curtain” has often been described as a track similar to “Monaco without the barriers” and as such has been a happy hunting ground for cars that lack outright power. Indeed, one of Fernando Alonso’s best finishes since his switch to this inferior incarnation of McLaren-Honda has come at this circuit: a 5th place. Back in 2015 the slighty inferior Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel managed to claim victory from both Mercedes in a hectic race, being followed by both Red Bull drivers. There will be plenty to aim for as the teams try to make up ground or extend leads. I hope you join me then, for another instalment of this Grand Prix season.

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