You’d be forgiven for thinking that the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was a Mercedes-flattering circuit, it has been since 2012, and if you picked Lewis Hamilton to win his 6th home race, it was a good choice. Unfortunately, Ferrari had other plans and they brought some serious performance to the British Grand Prix.
There was no doubt that after all three practice sessions a story was developing with Ferrari’s pace so Mercedes knew they had their hands full. If there was an argument to be made about how much difference a driver makes, Lewis’s pole lap was testament. IT was a close-run thing and Mercedes knew it…so did Ferrari.
As it turns out, Ferrari’s jump off the start and a turn 3 spin for Lewis Hamilton made life difficult for the 4-time champ. The race ended with a nice battle between two Mercedes and two Ferraris with Sebastian Vettel passing Bottas for the win followed by Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen for the podium.
A win for Ferrari who brought some serious performance upgrades for Silverstone. Seb had a terrific start and even when challenged twice by Safety Car sessions, he managed the disruption as well as an issue with his neck that plagued him all weekend to win. The Mercedes strategy focused on Hamilton’s recovery drive but it did leave Valtteri Bottas exposed to Seb’s fresh tires.
You may not consider the race a win for Lewis Hamilton and that’s true but his recovery drive was definitely a win. Falling to dead last after colliding with Kimi Raikkonen, Lewis began a methodical march to the front and the team’s strategy call to leave him out during the first safety car paid off as he was one of the quickest on his Medium compounds. A gamble but Mercedes knew it was the best chance they had to limit the damage and Lewis was driving wonderfully and his tires were holding on for second place.
Kimi Raikkonen had a moment in turn 3 with Hamilton and that cost him a 10s penalty for his efforts but he did fight his way back through the Red Bulls and the Mercedes of Bottas, as well as 10 seconds, to finish on the podium.
Thanks to some attrition ahead of him, Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg managed to best his normal finish position by one better in 6th. Equally, the Force India of Esteban Ocon managed to secure 7th while both their teammates struggled.
On one hand, you have a championship contender in Lewis Hamilton making an epic race back toward the front in a very inspired recovery drive and having let him down last week, they needed to try to get Lewis back on top. In the process, they left both cars out during the Safety Car period and that strategy played well for Lewis who had the pace but it didn’t work out for Bottas. Toto Wolff said it was the right call and perhaps finishing 2nd and 4th was better than what they were running before the stop but it was a reversed running order slightly better and that focus on Lewis cost Bottas. I don’t believe Bottas let Lewis by him in the waning laps because Valtteri couldn’t keep other behind him either. His tires just didn’t have it and because of that, one might argue that they should have split strategies and boxed Bottas when Ferrari boxed during the SC period.
A fail for Sauber who failed to finish both cars. Ericsson had an off on lap 33 and his teammate retired earlier with a misfit rear wheel on lap 20. That retirement hurt as Leclerc was in the top 10 once again and heading for the points.
A fail for Toro Rosso who had a suspension failure on Saturday and couldn’t get the car ready for Brendon Hartley on Sunday. They tried very hard and started from the pit lane but parked the car after one lap.
A fail for Romain Grosjean who needed to have a clean race but managed to find the same part of the track as Carlos Sainz sending both into the wall and prompting another SC period. Both drivers need to up their game. Both Haas drivers came together at the start and it damaged Kevin Magnussen’s floor hampering the rest of his race.
A fail for McLaren who had an 8th place finish with Fernando Alonso and a 12th place for Vandoorne. After jettisoning Eric Boullier, the team have a lot of work to do and admitted that it will take time and the chassis isn’t as good as last year’s car.
A fail for the Williams F1 team and even the presence of Sir Frank couldn’t solve their aero-stall issues and poor results.
Normally you hear driver asking the Safety Car to speed up so they can get heat in the tires but I loved how Vettel was asking for it to slow down so the Mercedes of Bottas would take longer to get his harder compound tires back into the heat window. Cheeky.
Okay, now I know I’m a Ferrari fan and I want to be as open-minded as I can but I am finding it very difficult to follow Lewis’s hint on the podium and Toto’s near-accusation that Ferrari deliberately spun Lewis (potentially suggesting the Bottas incident last week with Vettel). Sure, it’s the heat of the battle and you get angry and say things but those a very big accusations or implied intent. I think Jenson Button said it best when he said no one races like that anymore and it was far from deliberate…and he’s English and no big fan of Ferrari.
Just a week or so after Charlie Whiting said they would have much more leniency on 1st lap incidents, some argued the Raikkonen penalty was a bad call but Kimi himself said it was his mistake and the penalty was justified.
I think the accusations are unbecoming of Mercedes and ignores the fact that Vettel’s incident with Bottas didn’t do his race any favors. It sounds a bit like sore losers and while I have come to expect grand conspiracies and mobocracy outrage from fans on social media, I think tinfoil-hat accusation from a team is base. A poor start from Lewis left him in the clutches of Kimi but it’s the first lap and Lewis put himself in that spot with Kimi locking up trying to take the corner.
“It is a lot of constructors’ [championship] points. In [technical director] James Allison’s words, ‘do you think it is deliberate or incompetence?’, so this leaves us with a judgement.”
As I said, the Mercedes and Lewis fans may start to weave tales of cheating, tricks and nefarious acts of the “Red Team” and that’s par for the course but for Mercedes to be dog-whistling this kind of thing is unfortunate.
There was also the questions over Lewis’s absence in Parc Fermé after the race. The champ chose to go directly to the cool-down room and skip the interview. Social media was ripe with accusations of whinging and crying baby GIF’s but in the end, he had a lot of pressure on him. He wanted to deliver as England did in World Cup and he was not happy or emotionally excited so taking a moment to cool off, collect his thoughts and calm down makes sense to me. He’s an emotional guy and needed a moment to decompress. He wears his heart on his sleeve and sometimes you need time to get that heart slowed down and covered up.
|5||Daniel Ricciardo||Red Bull/Renault||52||9.500s|
|7||Esteban Ocon||Force India/Mercedes||52||29.930s|
|10||Pierre Gasly||Toro Rosso/Honda||52||34.129s|
|11||Sergio Perez||Force India/Mercedes||52||34.708s|
|15||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Renault||46||Not running|
|–||Marcus Ericsson||Sauber/Ferrari||31||Spun off|
|–||Brendon Hartley||Toro Rosso/Honda||1||Retirement|