F1 British GP: Hamilton takes pole ahead of Bottas

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SILVERSTONE, UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 01: Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes F1 W11 EQ Performance during the British GP at Silverstone on Saturday August 01, 2020 in Northamptonshire, United Kingdom. (Photo by Mark Sutton / LAT Images)

The modern era of Formula 1 started at a former airfield in Silverstone which is a village and civil parish in Northamptonshire, England. The track is known for its windy nature but Friday’s practice session was a sweltering affair with temps in the 90’s and tires struggling.

Saturday’s practice session was a cooler affair but it also saw major electrical issues for Alex Albon’s Red Bull and seemed to suggest that Mercedes are still the team to beat. Perhaps if the heat had lingered, Mercedes would struggle more during qualifying but as it was, the cooler weather moved in with a 60% chance of rain during the session.

The narrative out of all three practice sessions was Ferrari and Ferrari-powered cars were down on power and straight-line speed. Nico Hulkenberg’s return to F1, via a COVID-19 positive Sergio Perez, was proving to be a wise choice given his immediate pace. Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari looked like a wild stallion that was nearly impossible to tame in all three sessions.

Q1

The Haas duo set the initial times with Kevin Magnussen leading Romain Grosjean but given their lack of straight-line speed on Friday, qualifying is going to be a real challenge for them. Daniil Kvyat jumped the Haas cars and he’ll need a good quail effort as a gearbox change will see a 5-place grid penalty for his Alpha Tauri.

Valtteri Bottas jumped to the top of the time sheets with a 1:26.092 ahead of his Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, three tenths down in second with 9 minutes left in the session.

Alex Albon managed to get his car up to 6th and his teammate, Max Verstappen, split the Mercedes jumping ahead of Hamilton in 2nd. With just 7 minutes left, it was the McLaren duo making things a bit nervous languishing down in 9th and 10th for Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris respectively setting the exact same lap time to the thousandth.

With 3 minutes left, the teams were getting ready for their final runs and it was Vettel struggling down in 11th who had a lot of work to do. Both Alfa Romeo’s were in the elimination zone as was both Haas F1 cars and Nichola Latifi. Latifi’s last run was marred by an off and that ended his efforts. His teammate, George Russell, made it into Q2 once again in his Williams F1 car. However, the race stewards were looking at his lap closely as he didn’t yield to yellow flags caused by his teammate.

Out in Q1- Latifi, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, MagnussenGrosjean

Q2

It was Albon and Hulkenberg out first on Medium tires. The Yellow Mediums was the tire of choice but Vettel was on the Soft tires with his teammate’s Ferrari on Mediums. Both McLaren’s were on Soft as were the Renault’s.

It was Bottas who jumped to the top with a 1:25.015s while his teammate, Hamilton, spun on his attempt. Hamilton was trying to have another go but the track was red-flagged due to the amount of gravel that he brought on to the track via his spin.

Vettel could only manage 7th quickest on Soft tires with his teammate, Leclerc, in 3rd on Mediums. Verstappen jumped to 2nd on the time sheet but over 1.1s off the pace of Bottas. It was a sign of just how good the Mercedes was in the cooler temps.

Ocon was sat in 4th at the time of the red flag and his teammate, Ricciardo, was down in 13th. Hulkenberg was on the bubble in 10th with his teammate, Lance Stroll, in 8th.

With the session restarted and 8:40s left to get your lap in, it was Lewis Hamilton out first on a brand new set of Yellow Medium compounds and this meant that it may change his race strategy given that the Yellow sets would all be used come Sunday. Lewis jumped to 2nd but was +0:332s off his teammate’s pace. This bumped Hulkenberg into the elimination zone.

With 3:39s left in session, Vettel came out on a set of Yellow Mediums in a gutsy move given his struggles all weekend long. Stroll joined him on Yellow’s with all the other cars on Soft’s. Stroll remained in P10 and Vettel stayed in P9. Alex Albon was out in Q2.

Out in Q2- Albon, Russell, Gasly, Kvyat, Hulkenberg

Q3

The McLaren of Lando Norris was first out on track. Hamilton jumped to the top with a 1:24.616s which is a track record. Bottas was a tenth off Hamilton’s pace in 2nd and Lance Stroll ahead of both Ferrari’s. Then Max Verstappen moved the Racing Point and Ferrari’s backwards by taking his Red Bull into 3rd. The damning message to the paddock? Mercedes was over one second faster than the rest of the field.

With 3 minutes left in the session, both Ferrari’s were out on new Soft Red ties with Hamilton leading Bottas out.

Ricciardo jumped up but Stroll and both McLaren’s moved ahead. Leclerc took his Ferrari up to 4th behind Verstappen while Vettel languished down in 10th.

The theoretically quickest strategy for the 52-lap British Grand Prix is a one-stopper, assuming that temperatures remain similar to today. The fastest way is to start on the soft tire for 18 to 22 laps and then move onto the hard until the end.

Second-fastest is a two-stopper, also starting on the soft. After 16 to 18 laps switch to the soft again for another 16 to 18 lap stint, before going onto the medium until the end. The hard tire can be used as an alternative to the medium: either for the middle or the final stint.

Third-quickest is a different one-stopper: starting on the medium for 21 to 24 laps, then hard to the end. It’s not advisable to do a soft-medium one-stopper, as tire wear then becomes too marginal.

FOCUS ON

  • Strategy. Many of the drivers started Q2 on the medium tyre, with both Mercedes drivers, Max Verstappen (Red Bull), Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Lance Stroll (Racing Point) setting their best times on this compound. As a result, they will start the race on the yellow tire tomorrow.
  • Temperatures. Today’s temperatures were cooler than the extreme heat of yesterday, with track temperatures of around 40 degrees in qualifying. Tomorrow’s conditions should be similar to today.
  • Wind. The cars were affected by gusting winds throughout qualifying, which influenced aerodynamic grip.
  • Speed. The track record was already broken by Valtteri Bottas in the early stages of qualifying, before being lowered again twice in Q3 by Hamilton. This year’s pole was 1.2 seconds faster than the 2019 pole, on the same tires.
  • Close racing. Racing Point’s Lance Stroll and Alpha Tauri’s Pierre Gasly set exactly the same time in Q2 (albeit on different tyres), but only Stroll went through to Q3 as he set the time first.
POSDRIVERTEAMGAP
1Lewis HamiltonMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team1m24.303s
2Valtteri BottasMercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team0.313s
3Max VerstappenAston Martin Red Bull Racing1.022s
4Charles LeclercScuderia Ferrari1.124s
5Lando NorrisMcLaren F1 Team1.479s
6Lance StrollBWT Racing Point F1 Team1.536s
7Carlos Sainz Jr.McLaren F1 Team1.662s
8Daniel RicciardoRenault DP World F1 Team1.706s
9Esteban OconRenault DP World F1 Team1.906s
10Sebastian VettelScuderia Ferrari2.036s
11Pierre GaslyScuderia AlphaTauri Honda2.198s
12Alexander AlbonAston Martin Red Bull Racing2.242s
13Nico HulkenbergBWT Racing Point F1 Team2.263s
14George RussellWilliams Racing2.789s
15Kevin MagnussenHaas F1 Team2.855s
16Antonio GiovinazziAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN2.861s
17Kimi RaikkonenAlfa Romeo Racing ORLEN3.063s
18Romain GrosjeanHaas F1 Team3.340s
19Daniil KvyatScuderia AlphaTauri Honda2.441s
20Nicholas LatifiWilliams Racing3.402s
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