Brought to you by TheJudge13 contributor Mattpt55
Ambient 21° Track 33° Humidity 65% Wind 2.5 m/s
The back of the grid became much more interesting as news of Ricciardo’s taking a new PU (including new MGU-H) meant that he would be starting P19 under the roiling skies that dominated the circuit at Silverstone. Spits of drizzle and howling winds ripped through the paddock in the runup to the GP. But it was not just the weather that was disturbed, as continued rumours of Carlos Sainz decamping to Renault, possibly for Hungary, continued to take shape with better and better sourcing, but no outright confirmations. There was, however, an outright denunciation from Abiteboul. About the mid-season switch, that is. Also winging about was the story that with the diss from Sauber, Honda might well be finding a new home with Toro Rosso, along with a potential divorce from Red Bull, though whether that might be more of a HAAS situation has yet to be firmed up.
Carlos Sainz also was in the news as it turns out a rear suspension failure was responsible for his less than stellar showing in Q2, as the repair limited him to 1 run which was not, according to him, entirely ideal. After the evidence of Austria, look for Kimi and Ocon to be managed to limit competition with their teammates, though if Ocon gets the jump on Perez it’s likely to be Ocon that gets the nod. Hulkenberg found himself worried about the race pace of his Renault, despite the new floor and bargeboards, and if that’s the case a 3 way battle with Force India, Hulkenberg and Grosjean could be spectacular, particularly if the Williams can repeat the race day performance they had in the last Grand Prix.
Bottas coming from P9 on the Soft tyre is also an interesting story as unlike Hamilton in Austria there is a real performance difference between the compounds at this track. Data divers having examined FP2 carefully note that the Soft suffers from no degradation and generally just got faster throughout the stint as fuel burned off and the car got lighter. Other technical notes, new images of the Red Bull front wing at speed showed an extraordinary degree of deflection, despite easily passing the FIA static deflection test. No doubt this will be responsible for a few late nights for Ross Brawn, in the near future.
Happily enough for race fans, the difference between 1 and 2 stops is minimal, and the strategy will be very complicated given the large number of drivers starting out of position and the potential complications of the impending weather.
Unhappily enough, however, Martin Brundle was taken ill before the start of the Grand Prix and was sent to the Medical Centre, where he remained. Sky had set up some special recognitions for him given his 20 years on the grid and with no word as the start of the race approached, we all wish him well…
Yikes! As the cars rolled around for the formation lap, Palmer radioed in a BBW failure, and he was told to go to neutral and stop the car. Before Hamilton even got to his grid spot it was called that there would be a second formation lap. Smoke poured from the Force India brakes in particular, with Perez looking to have hotted his brakes up the most, as the grid waited to head off on the second formation lap.
A second lap saw Palmer cleared and grim faces in the garages as managing the delicate thermal conditions of the cars suddenly became massively complicated by having to sit and wait for the 2nd formation lap. Vettel’s rear brakes were slightly on fire, as the field took its place for the second go at starting the race.
Lights Out!!!! It was a rocking start by Hamilton, slow by Vettel, and as they hit T1 it was Verstappen getting round and a battle down the way to T3 as both drivers were loathe to yield position though Max got the better of it in the end. Ocon absolutely rushed the start and was in P5 whilst it was Sainz off at Chapel. Hulkenberg was not one to give up easily, and regained the position by going round the outside through Stowe and it was Kvyat immediately called as being responsible for the Sainz off as the Safety Car was deployed.
Lap 2 and it was Hamilton in the lead, with Raikkonen, Verstappen, Vettel and Hulkenberg making up the rest of the top 5 as the field lolled about behind the Safety Car. Other winners at the start were Ricciardo, who was up to P14, and the pair of Williams, with Massa up to P10 and Stroll P12. The less than stellar start of Grosjean saw him sandwiched in between the pair of Williams.
Bottas too, was able to get some momentum, up to P7 as the marshals continued to clean the track Lap 4. Wehrlein in and out with a set of Softs under the SC meaning he was good to go as far as the tyre regs were concerned.
End of that lap saw the safety car in and it was time for the restart bingo. Boom! Hamilton lit the afterburners and was off with Raikkonen in tow, setting a purple S1 in pursuit of the Mercedes. Bottas filled the mirrors of Ocon and got that job done with a minimum of effort. It was up the road he went, then, in pursuit of his next target.
Ricciardo too was wasting no time in gaining spots, nabbing P13 from Magnussen and going on to take P12 from Stroll. And then things went all pear shaped, Ricciardo throwing it all away with a massive off that dropped him back to P15. Lap 8 and Bottas was up to P5, Hulkenberg helpless in light of the massive power of the Mercedes PU. Vettel had closed up to Verstappen who struggled a bit off the restart and Sebastian just loitered menacingly just out of DRS on the Red Bull driver.
The following lap saw Force India’s worst nightmare come true, with Perez having closed up inside DRS on Ocon, early in the race. Ricciardo continued the recovery from his recovery, up to the back of Alonso, who was doing his best to get round Stroll. Perez had dropped back from a bit from his teammate and the queue that ended with Ricciardo stretched all the way up to Perez in P8.
Lap 11 and Kvyat was dinged for rejoining in an unsafe manner, a drive through penalty his penance on the day as Ricciardo lined up Alonso and rocketed past the following lap, Stroll having effectively backed him directly into the Red Bull’s greedy maw.
3 laps later and the battle for the podium got ugly as Vettel got a good run on Verstappen and Max ran Seb wide into Vale, bringing the hand from Vettel and some rather angry messages as well. This maneuver brought Bottas well into range and lap 15 saw the intensity of this fight ratchet up considerably.
That situation percolated for the next few laps and then it was Vettel again having a go under DRS and the first reports of rain began circulating on team radio. The inability of Vettel to get round Verstappen saw a change of strategy, as into the pits he went lap 19, to emerge on a set of Softs, with which Ferrari likely planned to hit the end of the race.
Verstappen covered the following lap and as Vettel rocketed around it was Sebastian easily ahead, the undercut having proved brutally effective. This also unblocked the dam for Bottas who put his head down and began to chase the Ferrari of Raikkonen. Hamilton also lifted his pace, resetting fast lap and the gap to his teammate was already outside 20 seconds that was the effective pit window for Lewis.
A balky wheel nut turned out to have slowed Verstappen’s stop, and handed the last podium spot to Vettel with little drama. Ocon was in and out with the Soft tyre on and this meant that Perez would likely be stuck with the long game.
The chase for Bottas was also to clear Vettel from his pit window, a game which Ferrari were all about as they set nearly identical lap times. Hamilton, too, continued to lift his pace and the trio were by far the fastest on the tracks, nearly a second a lap quicker than Raikkonen, whose chances once again looked to be sacrificed on the altar of expediency for Vettel.
Lap 23 saw Stroll in and it was Ricciardo who was carving his way through the field, taking advantage of the excitement at the front to quietly go P7. Ocon had moved up to P11 from the P16 he emerged in from his stop and Perez was in and out behind his teammate, with nary but 2 seconds between them.
Raikkonen was the next domino to fall, out with on lap 26 and retaining a 5 second advantage over Vettel as he rejoined. This brought the inevitable reaction from Mercedes and was Hamilton out just in time to maintain the lead over Bottas, who was yet to stop. Raikkonen meanwhile was setting fast lap and Bottas lost time to Vettel, with the German solidly 3 seconds into his pit window, leaving the Finn a bit of work to do.
Whilst that transpired, Perez had caught up to the tail of Ocon, who was stuck behind Magnussen and looking for a way past. Interesting echoes of Perez in Canada and as that drama waited to play out, it was Raikkonen complaining of something loose in his cockpit as lap 29 ticked off the clock.
Kvyat was in the following lap for a stop onto SuperSofts as the commentators argued that Ocon should be swapped for Perez. At the front, the delta between Bottas and Vettel continued to drop and it now looked like Mercedes were aiming to give as large as possible a tyre offset to Valterri as he would be going onto the SuperSoft tyre for his final spot.
Lap 33 was the time and Mercedes called the Finn into the box, and he headed out between Verstappen and Vettel with fast tyres and just Kvyat to clear. Except that Wehrlein chose that same lap to pit, slowing him down. Ricciardo was in as well, for a 2nd stop from P6, leaving Magnussen the longest of the runners. Ricciardo emerged directly behind the Force Indias, giving Perez something different to pay attention to.
It was just 2 laps for the Aussie to get the job done, and then the scythe of doom swung for Alonso, with a bricked PU. Bottas was rocking a second a lap faster than the leaders and he was within 5 seconds of Vettel as the 36th lap entered the history books.
Problematic indeed for Ferrari was the basic fact that Vettel was making no headway whatsoever on Kimi while Ricciardo too Magnussen at full throttle into Copse, stunning to see. Hulkenberg was the next target, 10 seconds up the road.
Lap 38 and Lewis called in his tyres were starting to blister, but without a great deal of urgency as the Force Indias continued to jink about, with Massa fast approaching. Lap 39 saw Magnussen out of the way, and the Force India duel now took center stage. Lap 40 saw Perez take just a tenth out and the good news for Ocon, sort of, was that Massa was now almost into DRS on Perez.
Whether or not it was that, or just being into free air, Ocon edged Perez the following lap, though only by a couple of hundredths. Ricciardo continued to chase Hulkenberg down for his P6 and Bottas made some progress on Vettel, coming into DRS with 9 laps left and a massive tyre advantage.
Vettel wide and suddenly into Stowe lap 42 Bottas tried to take maximum advantage, around the outside and they almost touched. Vettel held his position and as they dueled it was Vettel, staying inside and braking late with a huge lockup, just able to retain his spot as the battle continued into the following laps.
Easy breezy at the end of lap 44 then, the uber patient Bottas making it look easy as he cruised round Vettel and set off in pursuit of Raikkonen. Further back, Stroll was in for a second stop as was Grosjean, who was shown in slo mo going well off circuit and complaining bitterly about someone being stupid. Kimi joined the fun, criticising his team for putting the wrong numbers on the board.
Lewis’ serene swanning to victory was interrupted by the need to get by the intramural Force India battle. Both cars were fairly cooperative and their battle was reset to 1.5s with 3 laps to go. Ricciardo was told that lap 50 would be when he caught Hulkenberg, promising to deliver at least some momentary excitement at the end of the race.
Nico complained of derates as a sudden issue with Raikkonen’s front left saw him dropping like a stone through the field with his front left tyre having shredded itself on lap 49. Into the pits he went, stating that his front left tyre broke, not what Pirelli wanted to hear. Verstappen followed him in, ostensibly to protect against that exact issue. And then Vettel was off the following lap with the same issue in the same place, immediately bringing to mind what kind of set up they were running, especially given that Bottas ran a similar length stint without his tyres going boom. On the other hand mention Pirelli and Silverstone in the same breath and the word fraught immediately comes to mind. at any rate, the blame game between the teams and the tyres will likely help fill the soul sucking void between Britain and Hungary.
Ricciardo got by Hulkenberg on the penultimate lap and it was Vettel out of the pits with his championship lead in massive peril. As he set out to limit the damage, Hamilton crossed the line well ahead of Bottas in P2 for the win, the best possible outcome for Mercedes. Out of the sheer chaos behind, Raikkonen retained his 3rd with Verstappen and Ricciardo finishing out the top 5 and it was Vettel, the biggest of losers down to P7 with his championship lead down to a single point, and looming penalties ahead.
Tying up the other bits and pieces, it was Ocon retaining his lead over Perez and Massa claiming the final points position for Williams, who will need to get their qualifying sorted if they don’t wish to risk losing P5 to Toro Rosso, assuming their drivers stop running into things and breaking down instead of finishing races. Hulkenberg parked it just past the finish line and an overheating exhaust turned to be the author of his miseries.
Speaking of miseries, it was a stomach virus that had done in Brundle’s race and wishing well to all the messages of support, he headed home to recover for the next race.
It didn’t take long for the tyre blaming to kick off, as Sky post race were already stating that nothing unusual had been done with the tyres and the likely recriminations from the chaos will no doubt be filling the pages of all the usual suspects. The likeliest response will be a return to ridiculous starting pressures for Hungary ala the response to Spa, the last time we’ve seen this sort of tyre tragedy for Ferrari.
And thanks to a website glitch eating a couple of paragraphs, I can share Pirelli’s official response before signing off. Vettel’s puncture was down to flat spot, and effective end of tyre life. In contrast Raikkonen’s tyre was still inflated when its top surface delaminated, with Pirelli saying it was down to Ferrari having to work its tyres too hard. TL;DR Ferrari should have been watching the telemetry a bit more carefully and changed the tyres, instead of gambling on getting to end.
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