Whether or not you are one of those people who like to sleep in on weekends, you probably slept through the British Grand Prix. It was a real snoozer.
Lewis Hamilton dominated in qualifying to the tune of a half second and he dominated in the race, never under any pressure. There were some impressive performances turned in by Valteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo, but by and large, the drivers held their starting places. There was no wet weather or multiple pit stops to inject any spice into the race. It was fun to see the cars whip around the high speed corners at Silverstone, but viewers couldn’t be faulted for being more interested in their coffee and breakfast than the event on tv.
The story in qualifying was the mishaps that befell some of the big names. Bottas, third in the Drivers’ Championship, had to make an unscheduled gearbox change (just like teammate Hamilton did last week). That cost him a 5 grid spot penalty. Ricciardo’s engine failed in the first round of qualifying, which meant he started on the back row of the grid. Alonso was assessed a 30 grid spot penalty for a full engine change that was necessitated by the Honda engine constantly crapping the bed.
But at the front, Hamilton was followed by the Ferraris of Raikkonen and Vettel. Many hoped that this would lead to strategic racing where one Ferrari tried to undercut Hamilton while the other tried the overcut.
The Lights Go Out
During the formation lap, native Brit Joylon Palmer lost hydraulics on his car and had to pull to the side of the track and abort his race. The other cars were sent out on a second formation lap.
When the racing finally started, Hamilton got off to a clean start and scampered free off the front. Raikkonen’s start was decent, while Vettel in P3 was a bit slow and Verstappen in P4 was fast. Verstappen immediately jumped Vettel but then had to brake considerably when Raikkonen moved to block Verstappen’s forward progress. This allowed Vettel to retake third position for about two turns until Verstappen passed him again on the outside of a turn. Good so far.
As the cars completed the first few laps, it was Hamilton, Raikkonen, Verstappen and Vettel. The Ferrari’s superiority to the Red Bull showed as the laps went on, but Vettel couldn’t execute the pass on Verstappen. After a frustrating few laps, Vettel was called into the pits to get some new tyres and resume the race in clean air.
Verstappen came into the pits a few laps later and his stop took a few seconds longer than Vettel’s because of some trouble with one of the rear lug nuts. When Verstappen came back onto the track, it was just in time to see Vettel zoom by. Vettel had achieved the “pass” via the undercut (albeit, an undercut assisted by Verstappen’s pit troubles).
With the race half over, it was Hamilton, Raikkonen and Vettel in first, second and third, respectively. But Bottas, who had started ninth because of the penalty, was working his way up the field effectively. Bottas was on the opposite tyre strategy and was able to pass Vettel on lap 44 who was on Softs while the former was on Supersofts.
With about six laps to go, Bottas had passed Vettel and was about 6 seconds behind Raikkonen. That was the order when the Ferrari’s tyres blew. First it was Raikkonen who was furiously defending against Bottas. His front left blew and he limped back to the pits, being passed by Bottas. A lap later, Vettel’s front left finally gave out as the result of a slow puncture and he dropped from P4 to P7. That drop cost him dearly in the Drivers’ Championship. Seeing these punctures, Red Bull called Verstappen in for a precautionary pit stop, which allowed Bottas to pit and come back out in the final podium position. Ricciardo was a beneficiary of the madness as he passed Vettel and Hulkenberg who was suffering from some car issues of his own.