The British GP was the definition of don’t leave till the end after the majority of the first laps were under safety car it seemed a foregone conclusion all the way up until the last 3 laps and while it did end in another race win for Hamilton it was a win like no other.
The weekend already kicked off in style on Thursday when Sergio Perez had an inconclusive COVID-19 test meaning he couldn’t enter the circuit. He was then re-tested and confirmed to be positive meaning he would not take part in the race. The race was then on to find a replacement, the two main candidates were Esteban Gutierez and Stoffel Vandoorne the latter though had commitments in Formula e. Then out of nowhere, Nico Hulkenberg got the call flying to the UK that night. He did well given it was his first time in the car, but it was not to be as the RP20 was unable to start and he missed the start of the race.
Let’s start with the incident that kicked off everything off. Lap one, final turn and Albon (seeing Magnussen had hit the previous kerb too hard and gone wide) tried to dive down the inside. And despite him pulling out at the last second he hit Magnussen’s rear sending him into the air and then the wall. While some have said it was a racing incident as he did try to avoid a collision, in my opinion, it was still a very audacious move and quite frankly was only gonna go one way. As such I think the stewards were right to hand Albon a penalty given he was unscathed and Magnussen DNF’d.
This incident brought out the first of two safety cars which led the majority of the first 20 laps.
The second was caused by Daniil Kvyat spinning on the entry to maggots. It is clear that the crash was not his fault as you can clearly see the car dip at the rear indicating a puncture mid-corner. You have to feel sorry for him as he clearly blamed himself and took it pretty hard.
It was at this point that many decided to take an early pit stop on to hards confirming that it would be a one-stop race.
At this point, the Mercedes ran off into the distance, Verstappen was in no man’s land (at one point reminding his engineer to stay hydrated) and the rest of the field remained pretty stagnant although there were some good moves such as Lando Norris taking Ricciardo on the outside of luffield (not a fanboy, just passionate).
Then in the closing stages of the race drama started brewing, both Mercedes cars had visible blistering on the front-lefts and Verstappen all of a sudden started closing the gap to Bottas who had himself been complaining of vibrations. And with 2 laps to go the camera suddenly switched to Bottas going off at turn 3 after his front-left tyre finally popped sending him falling down the order with almost a full lap to go before he could pit, not long after his teammate suffered the same fate although the Brits tyre retained some structure allowing him to limp the car around the final lap without pitting. When Verstappen got the message he was told be get a move on if he wanted to take an unexpected win. This is where Verstappen and Red Bull made a huge mistake as the Dutchman pitted onto softs, this put him over 30 seconds behind Hamilton giving the latter a big enough gap to take a 7th British GP win with only 3 tyres left intact.
Had Verstappen not pitted he almost certainly would have won despite Christain Horner saying his tyre did have lacerations that could have seen the same thing happen, but these were not visible on track whereas Mercedes had been anticipating problems for a number of laps.
Another casually of the exploding tyres was Sainz who dropped from what would have been a season-best 4th to 13th promoting Ricciardo to 4th and his teammate to 5th.
After an investigation, Pirelli has concluded the tyre issues were a result of longer than expected stints due to the early safety cars and the faster cars compared to 2019. It also brought into doubt plans to bring softer tyres this weekends race at the same track on safety grounds.
Thankfully it’s been confirmed that the tyres will not change which I feel is a good decision. Main reason being that while softer tyres would mean a blowout is more likely that would mean teams are forced on to a two or even three-stop strategy which will bring a lot more uncertainty and make the race more exciting.
Overall the British GP was a borefest only saved by the Mercedes tyres exploding and the drama that insured. But that is exactly what is set to make the next race such good one with a range of strategies we rarely see in F1 these days.
Finally I would like to wish Sergio Perez a speedy recovery and we’ll see you back on the track soon.