Ambient 16° Track 21° Humidity 92% Wind 7.0 m/s
As the pit lane opened with 30 minutes to the race, the weather remained changeable, the pitlane wet but the track looking dry. Massive clouds hanging over the track split by blue sky, and rain still hitting parts of the circuit. By time the interviews started spits of rain started to appear on camera lens.
Well entertainingly enough Pirelli have prescribed maximum laps for the various tyre compounds on their latest infographic. 26 for the Hard, 28 for the Medium and 15 for the Soft. But never you mind, that tyre failure last week was definitely debris. None of that will matter if teams have to start on the Inters or Wets, or possibly even a Safety Car which the sudden appearance of umbrellas across the grid intimated as the wind whipped the flags at the circuit into a fury.
Ericsson starts from the pitlane with the reserve chassis after being approved to race and Vettel was kicked down to P11 thanks to his worthless gearbox giving it up.
And not entirely surprisingly, with 10 minutes to go a Safety Car start was announced (Inters or Wets as a result), ruining half of the race for P1 most unfortunately, just as the sun re-emerged. Nigell Mansell in an interview said that track limits would only be enforced if an advantage was gained whilst the FOM app confirmed the zero tolerance approach to Stowe, Club and Copse and the threat of 5s penalties as well. Guess we’ll find out who’s right in a bit.
And off they go! Kidding as the field began by trundling around behind the Safety Car on full Wets even as the sun gleamed overhead, though heavy clouds still fringed the circuit. Typical British Summer I’m told by experts. Lewis radioed in halfway thorough S1 that the SC was too slow to get temps in and Vettel reported large quantities of standing water.
Into Maggots Maylander nearly lost the rear of the SC and Rosberg was well into DRS if they were actually racing.
Into lap 2 and Hamilton continued to set purple sectors with Rosberg closing up. Verstappen behind managed to stay close to the Silver Arrows as they continued to lap and Hamilton again radioed in to complain about the slow pace of the Safety Car, the only car that the mighty Mercedes seemed to have difficulty passing.
Joking aside by lap 4 teams were in agreement that it was almost time for Inters, meaning the field had simply been used as a very expensive track drying machine. Toto Wolff also almost had cause to institute his new rules for Mercedes on Mercedes contact as Hamilton just about collected Maylander whilst he tried to keep his tyres and brakes switched on.
And then that was that SC in end of lap 5 called as Hulkenberg announced it was still very far from dry conditions.
And off they go!! Again!! Lewis backed off then got a good jump as it seemed everyone below P4 dove for Inters in the pits as the leaders stayed out. Hulkenberg almost taken out by Toro Rosso in pits but thankfully no carbon fibre this time round. Verstappen all over the back of Rosberg as Hamilton disappeared up the road. Again Nico seemed to have issues switching the tyres and brakes on in the wet, which wasn’t helped by the time stuck behind the SC.
Raikkonen, Bottas, Sainz, Hulkenberg, on Inters with Ricciardo Massa, Button, in the following lap. Yellows out S1 lap 7 turned rapidly to VSC with Wehrlein having permabeached his car.
Taking advantage Mercedes stacked the pits and in came Lewis and Rosberg, exquisitely choreographed and yielding a massive advantage for the team, followed by the Verstappen all out on the Inters.
Green track lap 8 but the VSC had allowed Perez to leapfrog Ricciardo for P4 in the meantime. So after the entertainment it was Hamilton then Rosberg followed by Verstappen, then Perez, Ricciardo and Raikkonen.
Bottas in P9 followed by Hulkenberg and Alonso was the immediate hotspot with the trio all within 1s of each other. Hulkenberg pulled alongside Bottas briefly but was unable to seal the deal. Haryanto went for a spin to try and make his teammate feel better lap 11. Verstappen began to apply the loud pedal as well, turning in a 1:51 and ratcheting up the pressure.
Into Vale Bottas followed Haryanto’s lead, spinning off the track and losing P9, making it back onto the track P13. Ericsson back into the pits with mechanical issues and it looks like the rebuild of his car might have been a bridge too far for the Sauber team. But plucky to the last, back out he went once the team had a go at his car.
Hulkenberg continued to progress up the field, catching Massa in lap 13, and beginning to apply pressure as Williams’ tyre woes continued, the rears of Felipe’s car already showing distress. Hulkenberg had a go up the inside in Woodcote, but had to drive through a puddle and boy did that not work.
The inevitable for Ericsson was announced the following lap, retired for mechanical issues. Or financial. Take your pick.
The duel between Massa and Hulkenberg continued its slow burn and Nico had yet another go, went wide and briefly opened the door for Alonso who was lurking just astern and waiting for just such opportunities.
Up at the front, Verstappen was bringing the hammer down on Rosberg, within 1s on lap 16 as Vettel brought it in to be the first onto the Mediums. Then, on the outside of Becketts Verstappen took Rosberg round the outside. Rosberg tried but could not fight back and into P2 for the Boy Wonder 6s adrift of Hamilton.
Raikkonen brought it in lap 17 as HAAS and Palmer came in for Mediums as well. Palmer managed to pull out without a Right Rear from his pit stop, pretty much assuring an unsafe release penalty and ignominious end to any chance of a decent result for the Briton.
Hamilton and Rosberg both boxed for slicks lap 18 and it was on for Verstappen’s in lap as Young Max elected to hang it out for another lap rather than follow Lewis in.
AS that drama unfolded, Vettel managed to spin his car just as he completed fastest lap of the race. Verstappen rolled in from the lead, but the extra lap was not enough as Hamilton flashed past as he exited, but crucially he was ahead of Rosberg. Grosjean pulled off the track with transmission issues, bringing out the yellows in S3 and an early end to the Frenchman’s day.
Alonso, finally given the tyres he’d been requesting, promptly gave Macca a bollocking for keeping him on Inters so long and ruining his race whilst Sainz indulged in a lurid power slide through Abbey, impressively keeping it from spinning. Alonso had a proper go at Massa, taking his ire out on his former teammate who unmercifully squeezed him wide and just managed to keep him behind, as the narrowing dry line kept Fernando from taking the long way round as the leaders crossed the line for lap 21.
Ricciardo having gradually worked his way up to Perez in the meantime, made a decisive pass on Sergio, whilst his teammate displayed his skills keeping the car from the gravel after losing the rears a bit into Abbey. Raikkonen managed a similar move the following lap as the not quite dry conditions were keeping the spectators entertained.
Ouch and Alonso off bouncing into the deep gravel in Abbey and back on just behind Bottas P13 after off-roading through the track he ploughed on his joker lap. And then Bottas immediately went wide gifting Alonso P13. Things were getting mental as the drivers, impatient to get on with it, ventured further and further from the dry line. Haryanto took it fully off track lap 26, and this one was a race ender, putting Manor out of the race at the halfway point.
Hamilton was next to play at Abbey, going off and giving away about half of his lead, but keeping well clear of the gravel. At least until Verstappen followed suit yielding advantage Rosberg who wound up just over 1s off Young Max when all was said and done.
Lap 29 finally saw Vettel into the points as he took Kvyat up the inside and despite Kvyat hanging on to the outside, there was no hope for the Toro Rosso driver(double entendre optional).
A seemingly asleep Gutierrez held up Verstappen lap 31 and by time the pass was made the damage was done, Rosberg cemented on his gearbox and the battle for P2 back on. Good news for Lewis as it allowed him to look after his tyres for a bit longer, as Plan A seemed to be hold track position and hope the tyres last well past Pirelli’s recommended maximum limit.
Rosberg had a go into Stowe and all the way through to Abbey and just not quite enough as the fight was mooted to the next lap.
Again into Stowe and again not close enough for Rosberg as Hamilton began to run fast lap after fast lap, extending his lead over the fight to over 7s.
AS the melee continued into lap 35 Race Radio played a message from Rosberg complaining of Verstappen making 2 moves. A twitch from Verstappen opened the door and side by side through Stowe and again the Red Bull refused to be moved as Nico dropped back to have a bit of a rethink.
Whilst that was taking place Verstappen radioed that he was starting to get movement in the rears, hinting that he might need a new set of tyres to make it to the end of the race and that his defense might be getting more challenging.
Rosberg’s rethink apparently involved conserving for a lap or so and as lap 37 ticked off, he applied DRS but didn’t make Verstappen defend. A rapidly developing Vettel Massa scrap saw Sebastian clumsily take Massa and himself well off track as he tried to get by the remarkable wide Brasilian. Felipe’s radio whinging was fairly effective however as the incident was immediately placed under investigation.
Lap 38 into Stowe and this time Rosberg stuck the fork in and called it done, cleanly by Verstappen and well defended into Vale for P2. Twitch for Verstappen as he tried to give chase and Mercedes got ready to test their new Rules of Engagement.
Massa brought it in for a new set lap 40 and the following lap saw Vettel officially dinged with a 5s penalty, either added at the end or held in the pits should he come in. Palmer retired as well, for gearbox reasons, his dismal day done. Alonso got by Bottas for P13 as up at the front, Rosberg began to efficiently nibble at Hamilton’s lead. A radio call for ignored blue flags hit the airwaves lap 42 from Lewis with Massa being the offending party this time round.
With both Mercedes free and clear they began to turn identical laptimes with lap 44 just 0.006s to separate them, which was not getting the job done for Rosberg, but likely to keep Toto fairly happy. Fortunately, slightly further back, Raikkonen decided to have a go at Perez yielding some kind of fight for the telly to focus on.
The seesaw at the front continued lap 46 as a small mistake by Perez opened the door for Kimi and into Stowe he began to look racy but just couldn’t get close enough and he lapsed back into somnolence as he waited for another opportunity to present itself.
Lap 47 and disaster for Rosberg with gearbox issues and clearly instructed order to change chassis default to 0 and avoid 7th gear. By Paddy Lowe no less, not his race engineer, a likely significant detail for the investigation that was sure to follow. It was brutal for his laptimes, suddenly 2s off Hamilton’s and smelling blood in the water Verstappen put his foot into it and by the end of lap 47 hovered just 2s adrift of the wounded Mercedes as “Mack the Knife” no doubt ran through his head. Lap 49 1.2s with Verstappen and Rosberg under investigation for the comments from the pitwall. Raikkonen took advantage of the drama to put a sweet move on Perez late into Stowe to take P5 away from the Force India driver.
Lap 50 and Verstappen could get no closer as Nico got on top of his issues and it was status quo to the end. As the checkers fell, it was Hamilton for the win, then Rosberg, Verstappen, Ricciardo and Raikkonen as the balance of power between Red Bull and Ferrari appeared to have undergone a seismic shift.
Grand Chelem for Lewis but the real fight is going to be in the steward’s office over Rosberg’s P2. Honestly a good call for Merc, as the car was done without it, meaning they had nothing to lose. Brilliant drive by Verstappen as Rosberg continues to struggle to switch the car on in the wet, and their battle enlivened the race considerably. Sainz again had a solid race, despite the odd spin and slide and lots of radio entertainment today, none of which covers the fact that without sparks at the front, it’s just not as exciting to watch, at least on the telly. Great result for Force India as well as they are beginning to confirm their position as the class of the midfield.
Clearly Lewis has closed the gap to Nico, but by how much won’t be known until the stewards release their verdict, and possibly the appeal that might follow. And of course, the ominously looming engine penalties for Lewis have yet to bite.
Safety Car starts always remove some drama from the race but it was Haryanto bringing out the VSC that really made it a tale of 2 races. Cars that pitted under the VSC gained at least 10 seconds and those runners who gambled on coming in early for slicks lost out massively, which was the opposite result to Ferrari’s attempted use of the same gambit. Ricciardo and Hulkenberg were particularly hard done by in that regard. Red Bull looks to have properly swung the pendulum past Ferrari and with Allison coming back online at the Scuderia, hopefully that battle will be one that carries on to season’s end.
Massive Booing for Rosberg and the Radio Rules will no doubt bring out differing opinions so have fun sorting that out in the comments. Oh yes, and don’t forget to throw in Mercedes’ increasing unreliability.
And remember to play nice in the comments!!