It was a race that had energy, power, and heartbreak within sight of the finish line. Lewis Hamilton, the pole sitter, was turned around by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen at the start. After falling to 18th Hamilton launched his trademark, come from behind, assault. The plucky Brit would ultimately finish second and within sight of the winner, Sebastian Vettel.
Raikkonen would be penalized ten seconds and took that during a pit stop. Somehow, amazingly, he fought through the field to finish third. Valtteri Bottas, the late race leader after an incident involving Carlos Sainz and Romain Grosjean, and battling worn tyres, would be overtaken by team mate Hamilton with just four laps to go. He would finish fourth.
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo could count himself lucky to finish fifth. Max Verstappen was on track to round him up with just minutes left in the race, only to be retired on team orders due to a suspected gearbox problem.
Renault’s Nico Hulkenburg kept out of everyone’s way and finished sixth, twenty eight seconds off the lead. It was enough to hold out the Force India entry of Esteban Ocon, McLaren and Fernando Alonso, a delighted Kevin Magnussen from Haas for the team’s first points at Silverstone, and Sergio Perez from Force India would complete the top ten. Perez’s tenth came courtesy of Pierre Gasly being penalized five seconds by the stewards post race, after being deemed to have been too aggressive on a late race pass.
But it was Hamilton that had the Silverstone crowd on the edge of their seat. Even though he’d reported damage the car’s pace was hot, with Hamilton back to 11th after just six laps. Five more laps had the Mercedes driver into fifth but it was here that his charge momentarily stalled.
In the interim Raikkonen’s own race strategy was coming into play. After finally having his team accept his continued calls for a tire stop, and completing his penalty stop, the swap to medium tires quickly paid off. The Finn’s ice cold driving style had him lapping two seconds per lap than the lead cars in the field.
Vettel’s lead gave him breathing space for a tire swap to the mediums on lap 20. Hamilton was in fifth but still some twenty seconds adrift of the lead. Bottas took a pit stop a lap later and came out behind Hamilton. The team called Hamilton in a few laps later, a decision that would ultimately work in his favor.
Marcus Ericsson appeared to have a DRS system failure and crashed at turn one. The field was compressed behind the resulting safety car and Mercedes left Hamilton on circuit, rather than swap to fresh tyres. Although Hamilton objected to the call, his third position, behind Vettel and Bottas who lead, had him better placed to make his charge for the win.
Shortly after the restart Grosjean and Sainz came together, taking both cars out, and bringing out the Safety Car. Bottas again lead the restart however some brilliant tactical driving from both Vettel and Hamilton relegated him to third. Raikkonen divebombed as well, sneaking into third.
Vettel’s win also marks him as the only driver to have completed every lap and score from every race this season, whilst his Ferrari team mate Raikkonen becomes the second longest serving Ferrari driver. His 140 starts has him sitting behind the legendary Michael Schumacher’s 179 race starts for the red team.
There’s another milestone that Raikkonen has chalked up, albeit one rather unwanted. Finishing third has him on the podium twenty seven times without a win.
Silverstone sees the end of three race weekends in a row and leaves two races, Germany and Hungary, before the northern hemisphere summer break. Germany sees the F1 teams for a July 20-22 weekend.