Events

Two V’s Crash As Two Silvers Lock Out Silverstone

The unstoppable steam train that is Lewis Hamilton has won the Rolex Formula 1 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, with his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas placing second. Both had held the lead during the race however a smart call for tires and a super pitstop during a safety car period saw Hamilton be given the lead ahead of the Finn.

There was plenty of action elsewhere with Alexander Albon knocked out of the points whilst in sight of the chequered flag. Desperate for a tire swap, his car had been deemed unsafe to pit due to a perceived high voltage issue and on fading rubber Albon’s chance to take a point faded with them. The safety car had been called thanks to Antonio Giovinazzi spinning his Alfa Romeo into a gravel trap and needing a lift out.

Sergio Perez was also looking good for a better finish than the 17th he ultimately scored. In that safety car break, Perez says there was an issue with both the steering and his brake bias. Coming in hot in a corner, Perez had little control over the Racing Point car and hit Nico Hulkenberg, damaging his car’s front wing and necessitating a pit stop.

It was the two V drivers, Sebastian Vettel and Max Verstappen that were locked in an enthralling battle, with Verstappen passing Vettel on lap 37. The German driver in an Italian car racing on a British racetrack attempted a redress and misjudged, by his own opinion, where the young Dutchman would go. Under heavy braking, Vettel slammed into the rear of the Red Bull, leaving a frustrated Verstappen with a car that was severely damaged yet he somehow muscled it home for a 5th.

Perhaps the happiest driver at race end was Charles Leclerc. He’d been dicing with Verstappen, gone back to 6th after pit stops, but a dogged and determined drive saw the Monagesque claim his fourth successive podium position for a well deserved 3rd place.

Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen were carpeted by Haas team boss Guenther Steiner after a first lap coming together that led to the pair garaging their cars inside ten laps. An understandably angry Steiner fumed later: “I’m just stating the obvious here. The best that our drivers could bring to the battle was a shovel – to dig the hole we’re in even deeper. We need to go back, regroup, and see what we do in future.

The race started under leaden grey skies and a temperature of 28 degrees. Rubber choice saw Mercedes start on the medium rubber as did Red Bull, with Ferrari going for the soft along with Haas and Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat. Moments before the cars were released for the sighting lap, Verstappen’s rear wing was replaced, with an end plate issue being the cause. Race start and Bottas flies from the starting line, with Hamilton in his wake and immediately complaining of front end handling problems. It’s seconds later where the two Haas cars come together with Grosjean seeming to push Magnussen wide in the first couple of corners, and eyes are on Lando Norris making a move on Daniel Ricciardo.

Lap 4 and Hamilton’s apparent front grip problems aren’t enough to stop him dive-bombing Bottas for his first tilt at the lead. Bottas pushes back and retakes the lead, with Hamilton moving wide to allow his team mate clean race pace. The two Haas cars pit and retire after their first lap impact. Verstappen and Leclerc are dueling but suddenly Pierre Gasly sneaks a move on Vettel in lap 12.

Ricciardo is hunting Norris at the same time but gets the call to pit for new rubber. A pit call comes for Verstappen and Leclerc, with the two both pitting on lap 14. They’re released at the same time and Leclerc holds his nerve, allowing Verstappen to nose ahead without impact. Seconds later Verstappen misjudges and Leclerc makes his move and passes. Norris pits but it’s a lap too late as Ricciardo now has his lead.

Lap 17 and race leader Bottas pits for new mediums, aiming for a long term lap strategy. However, the regulations state that two of the three compounds made available need to be used, meaning Bottas HAS to pit again. This puts him behind Leclerc and Hamilton who are both yet to pit. lap 20 and Hamilton’s tires are failing. Just as the call is about to go out to “box, box, box”, Giovinazzi hits the kitty litter. It’s a safety car and Hamilton pits, as do Verstappen and Vettel. Leclerc also pits and Ferrari go for the hard compound.

The safety car departs and the restart has the Sainz and Hulkenberg clash. Gasly has been taking it up to Verstappen and Vettel, however Red Bull pull team orders and push Verstappen past Gasly. This leaves Verstappen to get his racing eyes on, and he has the German in his sights.

Lap 30 and Norris is grumbling about his medium rubber. It means a likely second stop whereas Ricciardo and Sainz can make it through to the flag without a further stop. Lap 33 and Gasly is monitoring his mirrors. They’re full of Ferrari and Leclerc. Lap 36 and his mirrors become clear again as Leclerc makes a brave move on the outside. Verstappen and Vettel are still ahead of him, though.

Lap 38 and it’s here that Vettel’s momentary brain fade occurs, and it’s a substantial impact with Verstappen’s Red Bull being lifted up and off the tarmac. Vettel pits for a new front but incredibly Verstappen continues. Vettel rejoins down in 17th and the stewards have hit him quickly with a ten second time penalty. Lap 44 and Hulkenberg has been seen moving slowly, but there is no call from the Renault team to pit. It’s a momentary glitch and he’s quickly back up to pace. Bottas finally pits for the soft compound and he’s in a good position, coming back out in 2nd and in the hunt for the extra race point for the quickest lap. Hamilton is advised to consider pitting for fresh rubber, and it’s a call he ignores, and to good effect.

Mid pack and Carlos Sainz is looking out for the Australian driven Renault. Ricciardo has been quiet since the early part of the race. The pair pit with just a couple of laps to go and re-enter in close proximity.

It’s the chequered flag and Hamilton has won his sixth British Grand Prix, and bags the quickest lap for good measure. Vettel makes his way over to Verstappen and immediately apologises for the impact, and Sainz has beaten Ricciardo to the line for 6th and 7th. Gasly managed to sneak under the radar and finish 4th ahead of the ailing Verstappen Red Bull. Kimi Raikkonen’s 8th went unrecognised as the veteran ran an untroubled race. Kvyat and Hulkenberg finish the top ten with Norris missing out on a point by 1.5 seconds. Albon takes 12th and Lance Stroll managed to finish, albeit in 13th, continuing his run of scoreless efforts. George Russel, Robert Kubica, and Vettel were teh remaining drivers.

Of the race, Hamilton would say: “I remember my first win here in 2008 and the feeling that I had coming out of Brooklands and going down the straight and seeing the crowd, it felt so reminiscent of that today – the excitement and happiness and joy that I felt were exactly the same as back then.” Bottas: “I’m disappointed because the win was definitely possible for me today.”It looked for a second as though he was pulling to the middle of the track, but then he stayed left and then I was too close and couldn’t avoid the crash.”

Verstappen said: “I guess he misjudged his braking in there – but I already spoke to him, he apologized to me immediately out of the car, and that’s it. It’s disappointing but you can’t change it now.” The other V driver: “It looked for a second as though he was pulling to the middle of the track, but then he stayed left and then I was too close and couldn’t avoid the crash.” said Vettel.

Hamilton’s record sixth British Grand Prix win, his seventh from ten in 2019, sees him now on 223 points, ahead of Bottas on 184 and Verstappen on 136. The next race is the German F1 Grand Prix in two weeks time at the Hockenheimring.

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David Conole

Dave Conole is the former long-term circuit commentator for Sydney Motorsport Park, has worked trackside at the Australian F1 Grand Prix in Melbourne and is self-employed as an automotive content producer.

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