Ambient 19° Track 32° Humidity 51% Wind 4.9 m/s
Once again, in an effort to uncrap itself, Formula 1 has put on a race that featured the pole sitter winning. what no one saw coming was that it would be Massa and Bottas leading into from virtually the moments that the lights went out. That’s right, for the first time this season there was an actual battle between teams for the top of the podium. Sadly for Williams, they were a day late and a dollar short on strategy, as a clever pit stop by Mercedes lap 20 vaulted Hamilton into the lead and really wound up hammering Rosberg, who despite pitting with Massa wound up stuck behind Bottas. Oh and in between there was the safety car restart where Lewis lost P2 to Bottas trying to get round Massa when the Safety Car came in. Having locked up on the inside, Lewis was forced to retake the spot down the start/finish straight and fortunate to be able to do so as the Williams has betrayed the fundamental weakness of the Mercedes: in dirty air Mercedes are every bit as vulnerable as Red Bull in previous years if they are stuck in dirty air.
But that’s not all race fans, in order to keep the race entertaining rain decided to make an appearance around lap 40, immediately prompting Ferrari to make a disastrous call with Raikkonen, destroying his race and costing themselves points as the finn could ultimately only finish 8th. The rain also opened the door for Rosberg who wasted no time in getting past the Williams duo and chasing his teammate down, closing a gap of more than 10 seconds in a lap and half and forcing Lewis to make the decision of his career a last minute dive into the pits on lap 43 that saw him hit the inters at the perfect time. Holy Jenson Button Batman! That choice won him the race.
The rain crippled Williams, however, and Vettel was able to take advantage of the wet to work himself back to the podium leaving Williams to 4th and 5th for Massa and Bottas respectively. Kvyat was the sole Renault engine to finish and Maldonado and Grosjean took each other out with the knock on effect of removing button as well, the carnage from that being the cause of the Safety Car on lap 1.
Not all bad for Macca as Alonso wound up in 10th, garnering his first points of the season, which will be a small grace for them at what amounts to their home race.
The big controversy post race will no doubt be Williams’ attempt to get the drivers to work together in the early laps to get clear of the Mercedes, which went disastrously wrong as Bottas appeared to have more pace but was told to not race, then pass cleanly.
Have at it in the comments and stay tuned for the update!
Massive cotton ball clouds in an azure sky gave little hint of the madness about to come in the 2015 British Grand Prix. As always, the gremlins that like to inhabit Silverstone were active, sidelining the Sauber of Nasr on the recce lap. Despite the marshals getting the car back to the pits, it was DOA and as the lights went red, the grid was already down to 19 cars.
Lights out and straightaway it was obvious that Lewis’ call of no grip from his grid spot was no joke as both he and Rosberg were utterly swamped from the start by Massa and Bottas. In fact, it was wheel to wheel through the third turn before Hamilton was able to take advantage of a door left wide by Valterri and walked right through. Thus they went with Massa leading when the safety car was called for Button who was stranded in the gravel as further back there was some serious carnage with Grosjean off the track and half a lap later Maldonado was told to park it.
Post race investigation reveals that an off camera spin by Ricciardo kicked off the fun, though it’s hard to blame the telly director here as there was an actual fight at the front for a change. Still, would have been nice to see in relay so perhaps it’s time for FOM to loosen the purse strings and buy a few more cameras.
Perez and Hulkenberg both took advantage of the start as well, with Nico up to 5th and Perez into 11th. Both Raikkonen and Vettel lost places as their respective races did not get off to the most auspicious of beginnings.
The fun continued on the restart as Lewis tried to take advantage when Massa got a little sideways coming across the first safety car line but instead of getting by on the inside Hamilton locked up his fronts and wound up going off track, ceding 3rd to Bottas and very nearly letting his teammate by as well. That left Williams in the driver’s seat and Mercedes looking unexpectedly vulnerable to dirty air, kind of like another dominant team in recent years, Hang on, it will come to me any second now… oh yes, Red Bull, there we go.
Speaking of Red Bull, it was Verstappen the first of the Red Bull drivers to exit the race as he lost the car into the Village and wound up in the barriers with no reverse gear, complaining that something was wrong with the car again.
The race rapidly settled as for the first few laps the Merc boys prodded at the Williams and then dropped back a little to save tyres as the straightline speed of the Williams was making it impossible for the Mercs to close up even with DRS. The excitement didn’t flag however as Bottas was continuing to close on his teammate and seemed to have the pace. Williams first told him to work with Massa, then told him to make the pass clean but really by then it was too late as Hamilton and Rosberg were just hanging back like Great Whites just offshore, waiting for the pit stop window to open. In truth, the only chance Williams stood was getting one of their driver’s clear of the undercut. Bottas fans will argue Bottas could have pulled the gap but he also had the advantage of DRS which makes the call a bit trickier. Their best bet would have been the trailing driver actively trying to back the Mercs up, but that sort of teamwork is generally wishful thinking by Team Principals and not so much a reality. The best active bet would have been to undercut Massa with Bottas if they thought he had pace, possibly moving him to a 2 stop. Still, I wouldn’t like to be the one to ask Smedley about it.
Post race the confusion continued as a contentious Smedley actively denied the teammates were told not to race whilst the drivers were simultaneously giving interviews and saying the opposite. Should be fun times tonight in the Williams debrief.
Ricciardo was first of the 2 stoppers to rock into the pits on lap 12, heading back out on the Hard tyre for a few more tours before his engine decided to turn itself off and hitting him with a loss of power around lap 17 and sending him to the showers early by giving up for good lap 20.
Vettel followed Ricciardo in a few laps later and even Mercedes looked to be bringing Rosberg in before their minds were changed, by what was not reported. It already seemed clear that Mercedes were displaying unusual flexibility by letting their drivers run different spec clutches and apparently being behind has unlocked their strategic freedom as Hamilton closed right up on the Bottas/Massa not quite battle thing and blew everyone’s mind by going undercut lap 19. Raikkonen had shown the way 2 laps earlier by setting fast lap on the hard tyre and Lewis executed to perfection. Mercedes’ pit crew had a blinding 2.4s to help him out and before Massa knew what was up, Lewis was in front as he barely got out ahead of Rosberg (who pitted on the same lap), just getting his nose in front of Nico and having to run the inside line all the way to pit exit before Rosberg let up.
So the middle part of the race was shaping up quite nicely with Ferrari trying to jump Force India with the undercut as and Mercedes trying to get Rosberg to make “Plan B” work, most likely an extra stop for the brand new set of Mediums he had saved from the qualifying session.
Ferrari came good lap 20 when Hulkenberg came out behind both Vettel and Raikkonen. AS they settled themselves back down it was Carlos Sainz who provided the next talking point as he continued Renault’s day of woe by grinding to a halt on the exit of Club, in a rather dangerous position and bringing out the Virtual Safety Car. Interestingly, despite the Ferrari lap times being reported as 4 seconds quicker, the gap at the restart was actually a bit wider than when the VSC was enacted.
The big knock on effect from the VSC was to guarantee that the rain would happen prior to the end of the race and happen it did, lobbing yet another grenade into the strategists computers around lap 37, Ericsson, Alonso and Stevens were first to blink, jumping onto the inters lap 39. Ferrari gambled too, tragically moving Raikkonen onto the inters just as Vettel caught him up. As the next laps unfolded it became obvious that though track was incredibly slippery, with both Hamilton and Rosberg having offs, overall the slicks were still quicker.
Quickest of all was Rosberg, who proved genius at maintaining his tyre pressure and temperature in the cool and wet conditions. First he picked off Bottas, then Massa and by lap 43 was on the gearbox of Hamilton who at the very last moment chose to dive into the pits from the lead for inters, a move that stunned the commentariat but in hindsight proved to be perfectly timed. And for the benefit of the comment thread, by all accounts it was down to Lewis who made that choice. By time Rosberg made it round again the rain was coming down hard and he lost the better part of 10 seconds. Williams as well were losers as they had to stack both their drivers and Vettel, having pitted with Hamilton, neatly scooped the last podium position. It was not looking so good for Raikkonen as he had already burned up his first set of inters and would be forced to come back in for a second set.
The biggest sad faced emoji was reserved for Ericsson, who came into early for inters, then chnaged onto slicks and was forced to come back in for inters again. Some days you bite the bear, some days the bear bites you.
In any event with the podium set it was a time of general breath holding to see if anyone else would lose it in the tricky and rapidly changing conditions. More than a few drivers had the occasional off, but on the whole it was kept tidy. Kvyat had a monster run at Bottas who did not seem to be enjoying the wet at all and managed to take a massive 21 seconds out of the Williams man. Valtteri was lucky indeed the checkers fell when they did as with another lap he looked to be easy prey for Kvyat, who proved that it was possible for a Renault engine to finish a race.
Happy days to for McLaren who had no engine failures today, with a bonus that Alonso also scored his first points of the season. Sad for Button though as his first lap crash put paid to any dreams of beating his teammate today, glory being a long gone concept for the suffering pair of World Champions.
And just like that with the Checquers came the sun, shining down on what certainly has to be the most interesting race of the season. Hamilton extends his lead to 17 points and Mercedes total domination campaign comes in for its biggest scare of the season, before coming good with some artful strategy and generally brilliant driving by Rosberg and Hamilton. Ferrari gained some small measure of redemption with Vettel’s podium and Williams will have to console themselves with what might have been’s and the fact that 4th and 5th will give them more points than the 3rd and 8th of Ferrari.
Enjoy the break and anyone putting all 4 off in the comments will have their lap time deleted! Happy arguing!