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Vettel stops Mercedes’ Silverstone dominance
The last time Ferrari won a race at Silverstone was in 2011 when Fernando Alonso finished ahead of Red Bull drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Fast forward seven years and Ferrari driver Vettel claimed victory ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Räikkönen. In the intervening period Mercedes had won five out of the six Grand Prix and Hamilton was looking to take a new record of six victories at the British Grand Prix but Ferrari ended that dominance.
The four-time world champion qualified in second place on the grid but made a much better start come Sunday afternoon. When the lights went out the German pulled ahead of Hamilton, who had a slow getaway, and into the lead as chaos ensued behind. Vettel controlled the front of the race but started to struggle with degradation on his left rear tyre until his first pit-stop. He re-emerged into second place but retook the lead once Valtteri Bottas had pitted.
After all the frontrunners had taken their pit-stops, Daniel Ricciardo had just pitted for the second time when Marcus Ericsson crashed his Sauber at Abbey. The safety car was called into action and Vettel took the opportunity to pit once again, returning to the race behind Bottas. After the race had resumed another safety car was needed just a few laps later when Romain Grosjean and Carlos Sainz collided.
The race proper restarted on lap 42 when a battle between the Ferrari pair and Mercedes duo materialised. Bottas held onto the lead as long as he could but Vettel eventually got past, Hamilton followed shortly after and Räikkönen a few laps after that. Hamilton was unable to close the gap to Vettel and the German held on for the 51st win of his career and extended his championship lead to boot.
The Brit used all his effort to put his Mercedes on pole position for his home Grand Prix but things did not go to plan on race day. When the lights went out, Hamilton did not get away instead there was some wheelspin on the line and Vettel came charging past. Going into the first corner the Brit was having to fend off his team-mate as well as Räikkönen, Bottas got past but the Hamilton kept the other Ferrari driver at bay until turn three. Hamilton was on the outside with Räikkönen on the inside, when the Finn locked up and his front left tyre tapped Hamilton’s right rear causing the Brit to spin off the track and into last place.
At the end of lap 10, Hamilton had made into sixth position but in terms of time was still a whole pit-stop behind leader Vettel. The pit-stop window opened and Räikkönen was the first of the frontrunners in. The stewards decided that the Finn had caused the collision with Hamilton and therefore had a ten-second penalty which he served in his first stop. Hamilton was the last of the front six to take his pit-stop returning to the field in sixth place.
After Ericsson’s crash Hamilton had risen to third with Ferrari and Red Bull pitting their drivers and the Brit claimed another place when his team-mate began to struggle on his tyres. Second place was the best that Hamilton could manage as he won ‘Driver of the Day’ and ended the triple header eight points behind Vettel in the championship.
On a power hungry circuit with three DRS zones, Red Bull were always likely to struggle with Max Verstappen remarking that the Milton Keynes-based team were missing ’70-80′ horsepower. In qualifying the Red Bull duo qualified in fifth and sixth position. On Sunday it was Verstappen who seemed to have more pace, as in the early stages of the race he was staying ahead of Räikkönen while team-mate Ricciardo was also closing up to the Finn.
Although it was clear that the Ferrari was the faster car, Verstappen was defending hard and making it very difficult for the Finn to pass. However, it was the lack of speed on the straights that eventually ruined their chances of scoring more points. When Bottas dropped down to fourth, Ricciardo did try to close the gap and move up another place but it was not possible. Verstappen did not finish the race, as after the second safety car had returned to the pits the Dutchman had a problem and was stuck in fourth gearSpeaking to the Formula One website, Team Principal Christian Horner said:
“[It was] a tough race today. Max initially got up to third place from the busy start with Daniel also moving up a place to run in fifth. Then after the safety car we felt that strategically we made the right call putting both drivers on the medium tyre to the end of the race, though as you could see both of our drivers were unfortunately powerless to attack or defend against our opponents today and we were extremely exposed on the straights.”
Many of the F1 teams have factories in Britain and count the British Grand Prix as a home race due to it being home to so many of their workforce. Force India’s factory is based at Silverstone, just outside the circuit and they had another reasonably successful race. After the back of a double points finish in Austria, they followed it up with another at the British Grand Prix and now sit sixth in the constructors’ championship.
Esteban Ocon had a good race, he qualified his car in tenth place and managed to finish in seventh. The Frenchman kept the likes of Fernando Alonso and Kevin Magnussen behind him to secure another six points. Team-mate Sergio Perez had a trickier race as he spun across the circuit and the pit lane at the start of the Grand Prix. However, the Mexican recovered to 10th and was fighting with Pierre Gasly over the final point when the Frenchman forced him wide. Gasly finished the race in 10th but was given a five-second penalty and Perez was promoted into the points. Team Principal Vijay Mallya spoke to Formula One after the race:
“To score seven points in our home race feels good. Esteban didn’t put a wheel out of place today and showed excellent racecraft to hold off the cars behind which had a tyre advantage. Sergio dropped to last on lap one after spinning at the first corner, which proved costly. It’s the fifth time this year that one of our cars has suffered a first lap incident and it’s hurting us in the constructors’ championship. Despite the spin, [Checo] battled back, pushed hard, and overtook a lot of cars. To score the final point was a remarkable recovery drive.”
Silverstone basks in sunshine, strategy and safety cars
There was something unusual about the 2018 British Grand Prix… the track temperature was a balmy 52°C. At the previous race in Austria high temperatures played a part in the strategy and this weekend was no different. Sebastian Vettel had clear blistering on his front left tyre during the first stint and Daniel Ricciardo had to take his second pit-stop on lap 31.
Before the race began there was a 60% chance that the race would feature a safety car and it ended up having to two thanks to the incidents involving Ericsson, Sainz and Grosjean. The timing of the safety car periods meant that teams could take advantage and pit without dropping down the field. Ferrari double-stacked their drivers, while Red Bull’s Verstappen also changed his tyres; however, Mercedes left both of their drivers out.
Ultimately the strategy paid off for Hamilton, who finished the race in second but Bottas lost out as his tyres faded in the final laps and he dropped down to fourth. There was also talk from the Brit after the race about whether Ferrari had deployed any ‘tactics’ to disrupt his race. Even though, Räikkönen admitted in interviews afterwards that the collision was his fault. Hamilton was clearly not in the best mood post-race, he did not give an immediate interview in parc ferme and instead spoke on the podium. The Mercedes driver has since apologised for his comments citing mental and physical exhaustion post-race.
After the triple header, Formula One takes a week off and returns for the German Grand Prix which takes place between July 20th – 22nd.
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