The British Grand Prix has been run at Silverstone for 33 years and it never fails to deliver a dramatic race weekend. We saw a dramatic late return to F1 for Nico Hulkenberg after Sergio Perez tested positive for coronavirus just coming into the weekend. On the track, there were plenty of spins, the lap record kept tumbling in Qualifying but the ultimate talking point after the Grand Prix was the tyres after a host of tyre deflations. That is where this review will begin.
Tyre manufacturer Pirelli has a mixed relationship with Silverstone and that revealed itself again in the final stages. Daniil Kvyat had already crashed out earlier in the race to bring out the second Safety car after a rear right tyre deflation before Valtteri Bottas suffered a similar deflation on the front left. Carlos Sainz too suffered a suffer deflation and the race leader, Lewis Hamilton, on the final lap. Hamilton managed to get it to the finish line, I don’t know how he did it. This is not the first time though. 2017 saw the Ferrari’s of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel suffer late deflations in quick succession while in 2013, no less than six drivers suffered tyre blowouts.
The onus is on Pirelli and they believe they now know what happened and attributed it to long stints and the ‘biggest forces ever seen on tyres‘ that the 2020 cars generate. Unlike what happened in 2017, it is not just one team this happened to; it happened to drivers of three different teams. It is unlikely that all three teams are running the same set-up that could have caused it. Most of the drivers pitted for the Hard tyres on lap 11 or 12 behind the second Safety Car with 40 laps until the chequered flag. Pirelli had said these tyres could do 40 to 45 laps so they did not go as far as expected in the case of Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton. Max Verstappen didn’t suffer a deflation but his tyres had abrasions and little cuts as well which could’ve added another tyre to the scrap heap.
All this is also significant for next weekend as Pirelli will be bringing the softer tyre compound available to them. It’s not that the tyre compounds were too soft this weekend, they were the hardest Pirelli make. Temperatures are also expected to be higher as well which with the softer tyres. Pirelli have responded that the tyre pressures will be higher for the next race as well as reviewing their tyre selections for later races and that we could expect to see a two-stop race.
For the race winner, it was a rollercoaster of emotions for Lewis Hamilton. The world champion unusually spun in Q2 which put a whole load of pressure on himself and could easily have compromised his entire weekend. Hamilton’s confidence wasn’t knocked though and went on to take a sensational pole position with two efforts worthy of pole. After an initial slower getaway off the grid, he managed the race majestically including the two Safety Car restarts. He did have to fend off his teammate as they traded fastest laps and tenths but then disaster struck on the final lap, a lap he called ‘the most challenging laps I have ever had’. He was fortunate in that his puncture happened then at Luffield and not the previous lap but I really don’t know how he managed to get that car home from there and some of the speeds he reached on three wheels was insane.
It did not look pretty but it secured Hamilton his 7th British Grand Prix; taking the record for wins at a drivers home Grand Prix for his own (was shared with Alain Prost’s 6 at the French GP) as well as the record outright for most wins from start to finish (20, was 19 shared with Ayrton Senna). It was his 87th win so he is now just four wins away from equalling the once untouchable 91 career wins of Michael Schumacher and next weekend at Silverstone he could equal the German’s podium record of 155. The advantage in the title race was also extended and he has a 30 point lead. That is a significant lead in any season but one such as 2020, with a limited number of races it is all the more advantage Hamilton as he hunts for his 7th title.
2020 British Grand Prix Qualifying
Q1: 1st Valtteri Bottas 1:25.801……………15th Lando Norris 1:26.855; 16th Kevin Magnussen +0.303, 17th Antonio Giovinazzi +0.309, 18th Kimi Raikkonen +0.511, 19th Romain Grosjean+0.788, 20th Nicholas Latifi +0.850
Q2: 1st Valtteri Bottas 1:25.015………10th Lance Stroll 1:26.501; 11th Pierre Gasly +0.000, 12th Alex Albon +0.044, 13th Nico Hulkenberg +0.065, 14th Daniil Kvyat +0.243, 15th George Russell +0.591
Q3: 1st Lewis Hamilton 1:24.303, 2nd Valtteri Bottas +0.313, 3rd Max Verstappen +1.022, 4th Charles Leclerc +1.124, 5th Lando Norris +1.379, 6th Lance Stroll +1.536, 7th Carlos Sainz +1.662, 8th Daniel Ricciardo +1.706, 9th Esteban Ocon +1.906, 10th Sebastian Vettel +2.036
I will say it again but the Mercedes is clearly the class of the field again in 2020. The Brackley outfit got off to a slow start in the Friday practice sessions nut demonstrated their full performance in Qualifying. They were 1.1s clear of third-placed man Verstappen which quite frankly terrifying pace. For much of the race, it seemed they were set for a relatively comfortable 1-2.
That was before the tyres came into play and for Valtteri Bottas the pain was immense. While his teammate limped home to take the win, he finished 11th and outside the points. His gap in the Championship is now 30 points. Qualifying was slightly disappointing for the Finn as after topping Q1 and Q2 he was beaten when it mattered by Hamilton. In the race, he was able to push him but he was never close enough before his front left tyre failed just as he was passing the pit lane to start the penultimate lap. Consequently, he lost time having to go around the circuit before he could change the tyre. That lap dropped him out of the points and realistically, is that his title challenge to Hamilton done already?
Mercedes still won despite the tyre issues but even Toto Wolff acknowledged they ‘…were lucky that Red Bull pitted towards the end – if they hadn’t, what looked like a secure 1-2 finish would have ended up a 2-11.’ The question is, did Red Bull throw away their chance of the win? The obvious answer is yes but that yes comes with the benefit of hindsight. Christian Horner explaining his team’s actions and ‘there was no guarantee Max would have got to the end of the race so it was wise to pit for new rubber.’ It is a hard call. They did not know Hamilton would have a puncture and there is no telling if Verstappen would not have had the same issue at any moment. Horner could easily have found himself explaining why they lost a podium. Instead, they did benefit from Bottas’s misfortune to gain 2nd and got the additional fastest lap point.
It was a sentiment shared by Verstappen himself. It is telling when someone like Verstappen is saying he is happy with 2nd when deep down he wants to win but looking at his post-race comments, I am impressed with his maturity…
‘I know everyone is asking whether we should not have pitted for the soft tyre because we could have won but could have, would have, should have. You can always ask these questions with hindsight but I don’t regret anything and I believe we made the right decision to pit for fastest lap at the end. We did the right thing and who knows if I would also have got a puncture, you just can’t predict these things as it does not happen very often in F1 these days. At the end of the day Mercedes deserved to win as they were faster than us, some people are saying Lewis was lucky but he was actually unlucky to get the puncture in the first place and so was Bottas.‘
You have to remember he is still 22. This was a big weekend for Verstappen where he matched his fathers 106 Grand Prix starts; a feat he would have done at Zandvoort had the season gone as planned. The flying Dutchman put in a fantastic performance extracting everything he could from the car in Qualifying and the race. It was a lonely race aside from the opening lap and the Safety Car restarts as he was not quick enough to match the Mercedes pair in front and too quick for the Ferrari of Leclerc behind. He was quick enough to create a gap to Leclerc to make that late pit stop for the fastest lap possible and all the while finding enough energy to remind his race engineer to stay hydrated. He might not have got the win, but it was a class act performance from Verstappen.
2020 British Grand Prix Race Result
1st Lewis Hamilton 1:28:01.283, 2nd Max Verstappen +5.856, 3rd Charles Leclerc +18.474, 4th Daniel Ricciardo +19.650, 5th Lando Norris +22.277, 6th Esteban Ocon +26.937, 7th Pierre Gasly +31.188, 8th Alex Albon +32.670, 9th Lance Stroll +37.311, 10th Sebastian Vettel +41.857, 11th Valtteri Bottas +42.167, 12th George Russell +52.004, 13th Carlos Sainz +53.370, 14th Antonio Giovinazzi +54.205, 15th Nicholas Latifi +54.549, 16th Romain Grosjean +55.050, 17th Kim Raikkonen +1 lap, Daniil Kvyat DNF, Kevin Magnussen DNF, Nico Hulkenberg DNS
Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen 1:27.097
The other case of what if for Red Bull is Alex Albon and where could they be if he could hook up a weekend together. That’s not to say it’s all his fault as the incident with Hamilton in Austria wasn’t. 2020 has just been difficult for the London born Thai driver as he certainly has the pace. Albon suffered a big spin into the barrier in FP2 and ultimately qualified four tenths behind his teammate as he bowed out in Q2 despite being on the quicker tyre. The race didn’t start well with him losing places on the opening lap before his attempted pass on Magnussen earned him a 5s time penalty. He served the penalty with his second pit stop; a decision that with fresher tyres he was able to carve his way from last to 8th and in the points. A decent recovery all things considered.
For Kevin Magnussen, the shunt at the end of the first lap ended his race. The Danish driver had taken too much kerb on the previous turn putting him out of shape and opened the gap for Albon, Most drovers would consider making a move and originally I thought it was a racing incident. That was the opinion of Horner and Albon at Red Bull while Gunther Steiner of Haas would not be drawn on it. That said, I can understand why the stewards gave a penalty as another driver could’ve waited to pounce on an out of shape Magnussen along the pit straight. Magnussen was disappointed as he’d made a decent start gaining a couple of places and a decent result might’ve been on for them. He did also out-qualify his teammate which is slim pickings really as they both bowed out in Q1 which Steiner felt wasn’t unexpected.
Despite the disappointment, there were some positives for Haas. The car is still more drivable this season and the pace seemed decent at Silverstone in race trim, oh and their drivers did not come together this year. Instead, Romain Grosjean got in some hot water elsewhere. With Haas struggling at the back of the midfield, they have to try something different like they did in Hungary and at the second Safety Car elected to keep The Frenchman out on Medium tyres. It elevated him to 5th and some questionable defensive driving as he was shown the black and white flag for unsportsmanlike behaviour changing direction in the braking zones against Sainz and Ricciardo. As President of the Grand Prix Drivers Association, their next meeting will certainly be interesting. For his troubles, he had a warning from the stewards and finished 16th.
Let’s turn to the front of the midfield battle; McLaren and Renault. It was really interesting and entertaining to see these two teams locking horns for position throughout the race with one team the engine supplier and the other the customer that is leaving them at the end of the year.
McLaren won the Qualifying battle and probably would have won the race battle too if not for Carlos Sainz’s tyre deflation. The Spaniard was 5th when his front left tyre gave up after another consistent race performance. He looked comfortable in the car throughout the weekend but found himself qualifying behind his teammate when it mattered in Q3 having lost some time on his last run. The race start though made up for it as he claimed two positions on the opening lap and after a brief attempt by his teammate upon the second Safety Car restart he was driving comfortably in 5th. He was left ‘a bit lost for words’ after the tyre failure on the penultimate lap which ultimately cost him 4th as he came home 13th.
Lando Norris with the helmet designed by 6-year-old Eva had another impressively strong Grand Prix weekend. He recovered from some balance issues in the Friday practice sessions to produce a lap when it mattered in Q3 to qualify 5th. Race starts have been a bit of an Achilles heel for the Brit in his short F1 career and for the second successive he lost positions on the opening lap; two as he battled his teammate and Ricciardo at Luffield. He made a move stuck on his teammate for next year stick at the same turn following the second Saftey Car but lost out to him again in the closing stages as he admitted the Mclaren was not so strong on the Hard tyres. He kept his run of gaining places on the last lap through his teammates misfortune to record his third top 5 finish of the season.
Renault ultimately won the race battle with their haul of 20 points their best since Monza last year with both drivers putting in a good performance. Daniel Ricciardo was the more consistent of the two and took the inter-team battle in Qualifying and the race. The honey badger couldn’t match the McLaren over a single lap but in race trim, he was excellent claiming two positions on the opening lap. He lost out to Norris upon the Safety Car restart but he was able to gain that place back and pile pressure on Sainz as the race wore on before the Spaniard’s misfortune meant he inherited 4th. That equals his best race finish for the team as a podium eludes them but he led the way in one of Renault’s best results since they returned to the sport in 2016.
Similarly, Esteban Ocon had his best result of the season at Silverstone with his most impressive performance since his return after a year out. The Frenchman was evenly matched to Ricciardo in Qualifying although he did make Q3 this time. It wasn’t that straight forward and he was fortunate not to be penalised for impeding Raikkonen in Q1. In the race he fell a little bit under the radar as he couldn’t quite get into the McLaren battle and found himself battling Stroll; the man who replaced him at Racing Point. That said, he wasn’t helped by losing time in the pit stop phase as Renault double-stacked their cars (that is the risk) but he will no doubt have enjoyed passing Stroll on lap 46. The Frenchman finished 8th for his best race finish since Monza 2018 (6th). He is clearly getting more comfortable in the team.
2020 British Grand Prix Points
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton 25, Max Verstappen 19, Chalres Leclerc 15, Daniel Ricciardo 12, Lando Norris 10, Esteban Ocon 8, Pierre Gasly 6, Alex Albon 4, Lance Stroll 2, Sebastian Vettel 1
Constructors: Mercedes 25, Red Bull 23, Renault 20, Ferrari 16, McLaren 10, Alpha Tauri 6, Racing Point 2
What a weekend that was for Racing Point at their home circuit though! It all started looking pear-shaped when Sergio Perez first returned an inconclusive coronavirus test and later confirmed to be positive. The team could have gone with Mercedes affiliated reserve drivers Stoffel Vandoorne or Esteban Guttierez but the former was in Berlin for Formula E and the latter has not raced in F1 since 2016. So, that meant a call for Nico Hulkenberg who on Thursday afternoon was in France and not expecting to be driving an F1 car around Silverstone. The team deserve credit for getting everything in place so quickly; the paperwork, two COVID tests, suit fitting, renewing his super licence and all the other paperwork done as well as the driver in for some simulation work all before FP1. Fantastic effort!
Getting up to speed and familiar with the car to the extent he was competitive was always going to be a tall order for Hulkenberg. It always is for any driver who is drafted in this quickly and you could tell he wasn’t used to it as he complained of a burning ass cheek in FP2. Pace-wise, he wasn’t naturally at the same level of Stroll who has had so much more time with the car but he did appear competitive enough to be in and around the top 10. He failed to make Q3 though with Racing Point trying to get out of Q2 on the Medium tyre. Disaster struck in the race as a Power Unit issue meant that after all that, he couldn’t even take the start. That is really unlucky.
This meant there was an opportunity for Lance Stroll to shine and show that he can lead a team. Initially, it seemed he was doing just that as he went quickest in FP2. I have been critical of him and I’m not a fan of how he got in that team but he does have some pace when he can extract it. The Canadian scraped into Q3 on the Medium tyre but starting on that less grippier tyre perhaps backfired a bit as he lost two places on the opening lap. He couldn’t make any headway into the McLaren-Renault scrap and found himself going backwards after losing his battle with Ocon. For his efforts, he was shown a black and white flag for moving under braking. It wasn’t the best of weekends for Stroll as he came away with only 2 points for 9th when they arguable expected more.
The rumours of Sebastian Vettel to partner him next year are gaining pace with Sky’s Ted Kravitz believing that a deal is very close if not done and there was a very friendly elbow greeting between Vettel and Lawrence Stroll. On the track, it was a torrid weekend for Vettel in his Ferrari. The four-time World Champion suffered reliability issues that hampered his Friday practice running and he never seemed comfortable with the car. He only qualified 10th after his final Q3 effort was deleted for exceeding track limits and he never seemed able to push the car. The race continued in the same vein. He struggled to keep cars behind him and was passed by gasly and Albon in the closing 10 laps. Only the tyre issues of those ahead meant he salvaged a point though he did have to defend it in the final corners against Bottas.
Contrast the German’s struggles to his teammate and Charles Leclerc who had a very strong weekend. The young Monegasque had excellent pace all weekend and put the Ferrari 4th on the grid in Qualifying! That was certainly more than they hoped for. Leclerc had a fantastic start too and was momentarily 3rd in the opening turns but once Verstappen got back ahead he settled into a rhythm. He did have to defend from Sainz after the second safety car restart but after that, he was comfortably ahead of the Mclaren-Renault battle behind but not close enough to Verstappen ahead but he was best placed to capitalise on Bottas’s tyre woe to gain a podium finish for 3rd. It was the same position he finished at Silverstone last year and his 2nd of the season in a car that really does not have the pace for it.
On balance, Alpha Tauri had a decent weekend at Silverstone. After their reliability exploits in Hungary, they had no reliability issues in practice and both drivers were equally matched. Daniil Kvyat was always going to struggle with a five-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change (probably why he only set one time in Q2). Qualifying 14th meant he started 19th and the Russian had a great start to regain those positions on the opening lap. The Russian was driving well until he crashed out on lap 12 at maggots and Beckets. Thankfully he was ok but was understandably frustrated. Initially, he thought he was at fault but it was a rear right tyre failure that promoted the incident and brought out the second Safety car.
The onus fell on Pierre Gasly to deliver and he had much more fortune after his nightmare in Hungary. He had shown decent pace before missing out on Q3 but 11th in Qualifying seems to be the maximum for that car. The Frenchman’s pace translated into the race where he finished an impressive 7th after what he described as ‘one of the best ones’. He held 11th until the second safety car where he lost a couple of places in the pit stops but that did not stop him as the race came back to him as it went on with an excellent move on the outside of Vettel at Stowe and an equally strong move on Stroll on the inside of Abby a few laps from the end. That put him in 9th before the late tyre drama promoted him to 7th. They weren’t expecting that.
Outside the points and there were some encouraging signs for Williams. George Russell made Q2 for the third successive race however his effort to get into Q2 saw him given a 5 place grid penalty for ignoring yellow flags. He argued he lifted and the telemetry would support him but he went green in that sector. Ironically, the yellow flag was caused by Nicholas Latifi spinning at Luffield. Both drivers showed ok race pace as Latiffi recovered from an off on the first lap with an eye-catching pass on Raikkonen as he finished 15th. It was his best performance so far but not totally convincing either. Russell meanwhile recovered from starting 20th and finished ahead of his teammate and close enough to Giovinazzi to be classified 12th. Another decent drove from Russell but mistakes are starting to creep in but he deserves to be in a more competitive car.
Alfa Romeo suffered another difficult weekend. Both drivers spun in FP1 but showed improved pace in FP2. Unfortunately, the pace did not come in Qualifying as both cars bowed out of Q1. They remain the only team not to get a car out of Q1 in 2020. Kimi Raikkonen lost out as he felt he was impeded by Ocon and Antonio Giovinazzi won the inter-team battle in 17th. The Italian had a decent race and finished 12th on the road but a 5s time penalty for a safety car infringement saw him drop to 14th in the classification. Raikkonen struggled in the race despite gaining a place at the start and he had already been passed by Latifi when his front wing failed, puncturing his front left tyre prompting a late pit stop as he came home the only driver a lap down at the back of the field.
There may well be a question mark over the 2007 Champions future. I wondered before the start of the season whether this would be The Iceman’s final F1 season with him being 41 in October. However, if he is going to be propping the field will he still want to be doing this. Remember when he joined Alfa Romeo, he said he still enjoyed the sport. Will he be enjoying this as much? Time will tell but if Perez is to leave Racing Point this year then it could be an avenue for the Mexican to explore.
2020 British Grand Prix Ratings
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton 9, Max Verstappen 9, Charles Leclerc 9, Daniel Ricciardo 8.5, Lando Norris 8, Esteban Ocon 7.5, Pierre Gasly 8.5, Alex Albon 6, Lance Stroll 5.5, Sebastian Vettel 5.5, Valtteri Bottas 7.5, George Russell 7.5, Carlos Sainz 8, Antonio Giovinazzi 6.5, Nicholas Latifi 6.5, Romain Grosjean 5.5, Kimi Raikkonen 5, Daniil Kvyat 6, Kevin Magnussen 6.5, Nico Hulkenberg 5.5
Constructors: Mercedes 8, Red Bull 8, Renault 8.5, Ferrari 7.5, McLaren 7.5, Alpha Tauri 7.5, Racing Point 5.5, Williams 6.5, Alfa Romeo 5.5, Haas 6
In terms of the Championships, for a bit of excitement, they probably needed Lewis Hamilton not to win it as he takes a commanding 30 point lead over his teammate after crossing the line in 1st while Bottas failed to score a point. Max Verstappen has closed to 6 points behind the Mercedes and he will be hoping t make it difficult for the pair. Lando Norris remains 4th after his third top 5 finish of the season which I wasn’t expecting this year and after his second podium of the season, Leclerc is three points behind in 5th. After his struggles, Sebastian Vettel is all the way back in 13th.
The Constructors Championship looks convincingly in Mercedes’s hands already with them having almost double the points of their nearest challengers red Bull. Impressive stuff! Renault’s 20 point haul elevates them to 6th and 10 points behind Racing Point who themselves were leapfrogged by Ferrari over 4th spot. McLaren are impressively 3rd!
With all that action, I almost forgot we had three more races announced for this season since I last wrote on F1.
F1 will be returning to two classic European circuits in the shape of the Nurburgring and Imola. I’ve never witnessed a race at Imola before and its last running in 2006 was just months before I started to gain an interest in the sport. The event, entitled the Emilia Rogana Grand Prix (the third race in Italy this year) will only be the Saturday and Sunday of Halloween weekend with only one practice session before Qualifying so that will be interesting. The Nurburgring hosts its first race since 2013 on October 11th, two weeks after the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi. After the race Hockenheim produced last year, it was a shame the circuit did not get a race but I will be excited to watch a race at the Nurburging.
After the Nurburging, there is a Portuguese Grand Prix for the first time since 1996 but it will be a first time for F1 cars racing around the Algarve International Circuit at Portimao and they are hoping for this to be a ticketed event with spectators. That will be interesting. The circuit looks relatively short though and I will be expecting to see some very quick lap times when that takes place on October 25th; a week before Imola.
After all the late drama, F1 is back racing at Silverstone this weekend for what is officially called the 70th-anniversary edition Grand Prix which is a tribute marking the fact Silverstone hosted the first-ever F1 Championship Grand Prix back in 1950. Will we have more tyre drama in the race and could Lewis Hamilton make it another victory?