Lewis Hamilton won a record 7th home Grand Prix at an eerily quiet Silverstone circuit, with the absence of the fans very noticeable. Valtteri Bottas finished seco.. wait, no he didn’t. In a rare circumstance, it wasn’t a Mercedes 1-2! Max Verstappen finished second for Red Bull, with Charles LeClerc picking up a surprise 3rd in the unfavourable Ferrari.
There was drama before the race weekend even started, with Racing Point’s Sergio Perez testing positive for COVID-19 on Thursday and thus being unable to race. The pink team had to find a replacement driver quickly, and rumours started circulating as to who it could be. They couldn’t use their reserve drivers, as Stoffel Vandoorne was away racing in Formula E, and Esteban Gutierrez’s super license was on the brink of expiration. That left one name on the lips of fans and pundits alike: Nico Hulkenberg. The German has been out of F1 since being replaced by Eseban Ocon at Renault at the end of last season and made a very welcome return to the sport in place of the poorly Perez.
Hulkenberg impressed immediately, and although he was outqualified by team mate Lance Stroll, he did well for a driver who hasn’t raced an F1 car in 9 months. It wasn’t to be the fairytale we were all hoping for however, and a power unit issue on Hulkenberg’s car left the German stranded and unable to even get to the grid to start the race, so the race got underway with 19 drivers. Hulkenberg should still be in the car for this weekends race, also at Silverstone, so hopefully we can see what he can do behind the wheel for a long distance.
There was action in the race a few laps in, with Kevin Magnussen in the Haas and Alex Albon in the Red Bull tangling at the final corner, with Magnussen spinning off and heavily into the wall, which brought out the safety car. Hamilton and Bottas already had a healthy lead over the rest of the field, so seeing the safety car come out, coupled with seeing Magnussen clamber out of the ruined Haas unharmed, was a welcome relief. As soon as the safety car peeled into the pits though, Hamilton was gone. Bottas couldn’t challenge him at the restart, and it settled into a comfortable 1-2 for Mercedes, quickly pulling out a lead over Max Verstappen in the Red Bull.
Some more drama occurred later on, with Daniil Kvyat in the Alpha Tauri experiencing a huge tyre failure that pitched him into the wall at high speed, completely wrecking the car. Kvyat was uninjured but visibly upset when he got out of the car, leaning over the barriers and pushing the camera out of the way when it tried to film him.
Those were the only three retirements in a largely dull race, but we can always rely on Romain Grosjean to be a talking point, can’t we? The French driver came under criticism multiple times in the race for moving under the braking zone to defend his position. You’re only allowed to make one move to defend and then stay on that line, but Grosjean moved back aggressively in front of Carlos Sainz in the McLaren, followed by Daniel Ricciardo in the Renault. Those actions got Grosjean a black and white flag for unsporting behaviour. Not the sort of racing you would expect from the chairman of the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association!
Tyres Tyres Tyres!
The race settled again into a bit of a procession, until the final few laps. Then it got interesting! Both Mercedes drivers had been complaining of blistering on their tyres, as almost all the field had pitted after the Magnussen/Albon incident for Hard tyres to get them to the end of the race. With only a handful of laps to go, the cameras cut to a Mercedes going slowly, and it was Valtteri Bottas, as one of his tyres had let go in the most unfortunate of places: the pit straight. He had to do an entire lap with only three wheels on his wagon, and quickly lost second to Max Verstappen and then plummeted down the order. The unlucky Finn finished in 11th place, and scored no points. A dent in his championship challenge.
Carlos Sainz became the next victim, with one of his tyres failing as well. The McLaren driver was in a good points scoring position and eventually finished outside the top 10, understandably fuming at the outcome.
Red Bull elected to pit Max Verstappan, knowing that if they pitted for fresh rubber, they wouldn’t risk a puncture and second place was secure. But what might have happened if they didn’t? As on the final lap, Hamilton’s tyre blew as well. He had to do half a lap with only three wheels, with Max Verstappen bearing down on him on fresh soft tyres. And he had one more tyre than Lewis.
He couldn’t catch him in time however, and Lewis Hamilton stormed (or limped) to a 7th win at his home Grand Prix, but one disappointingly without a crowd. Red Bull would be left to rue their decision to pit, as if they hadn’t, they may well have won that race for the first time since Mark Webber in 2012. They played the safe game though, and got fastest lap and an extra point.
The Points Finishers
Due to the carnage that unfolded with tyres, Charles LeClerc finished 3rd in the Ferrari, with Daniel Ricciardo a fine fourth for Renault. Lando Norris picked up his third 5th place finish in four races. The rest of the points places were made up by Esteban Ocon sixth for Renault, Pierre Gasly a decent seventh in the remaining Alpha Tauri, Alex Albon a disappointing eighth for Red Bull, Lance Stroll ninth in the only Racing Point to take the start and Sebastian Vettel tenth in the other Ferrari. A season to forget so far for the 4 time World Champion.
Williams remain the only team yet to score a point this season, but they will be buoyed by their performance, with both drivers putting in consistent times and fighting with the teams around them.
Where Are We Heading Next?
Nowhere! The next race is in a weeks time at…Silverstone again! A fantastic track for racing, and one that should be interesting as Pirelli are bringing softer compound tyres to the race. Following on from their issues at the recent race, it’ll be fascinating to see how the teams approach this coming weekend.
Lewis Hamilton now leads the championship by 30 points from Bottas, his nearest rival. Verstappen is third with Lando Norris in a brilliant fourth.
As always, stay safe out there and I hope you’re looking forward to the next race!