A sunny Sunday afternoon at Silverstone. Perfection on any day, but when Formula 1 puts on a show like that of the 2018 British Grand Prix it makes you wonder why the sport ever goes anywhere else.
There is a cloud to this Silver(stone) lining though…
As it stands, you, me and the 340,000 spectators across the 2018 British Grand Prix weekend have just witnessed the penultimate grand prix at Silverstone. Unthinkable, isn’t it? And yet, until Formula 1’s owners and those that hold the circuit’s purse strings can strike a deal, 2019 will see Silverstone’s swansong.
But hey, for now, let’s remember a gloriously sunny weekend where we forgot about Brexit, the dwindling Bumble-Bee population and all manner of negative and controversial matters, and revel in a fantastic weekend of British sport, culminating in a thrilling British Grand Prix…
DELIBERATE OR INCOMPETENCE
With “It” coming home, Lewis Hamilton’s stunning pole-position lap was the cherry on the icing on the St George Cross cake that has been the British sporting summer thus far.
His commitment through the iconic Copse, Maggotts, Becketts section was enough to knock the socks off even the most seasoned viewer. That the Scuderia Ferrari pair of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Räikkönen were less than a tenth-of-a-second adrift made the effort even more gripping.
Indeed, such was Hamilton’s supreme effort in qualifying in front of his home crowd, he was visibly shaking when he first leapt from the car. It was Hamilton’s sixth pole position at Silverstone – a record – and arguably his best.
But all that hard work on Saturday was undone come turn three of the grand prix. Hamilton had by that early point lost the lead to a fast starting Vettel and been beaten to second by his team-mate Valtteri Bottas.
It was Räikkönen though, in his attempt to snatch third place from Hamilton that caused the Brit the biggest heartache. Kimi peeked through the open door at the inside of turn three, Hamilton having left it cautiously ajar.
The Finn locked his front right and clipped Hamilton’s rear, sending the home hero into a half spin.
Hamilton dropped to last and Kimi received a ten-second penalty, at odds, bizarrely, with the five-second penalty Vettel received at the French Grand Prix for a similar faux pas with Bottas.
The incident gave birth to two fascinating talking points. The first was Hamilton’s incredible comeback drive. From last on lap one he finished second, just over two-seconds adrift of eventual race-winner Sebastian Vettel.
His cause was aided by two late safety car periods of course, but nonetheless, Hamilton’s recovery this Sunday past was up there with some of the greatest comeback drives of all time. It’s up there with Vettel’s pit-lane-to-third drive in Abu Dhabi 2012, perhaps up there with John Watson’s twenty-second-to-first drive in the 1983 United States Grand Prix.
The effort took it’s toll on Hamilton as even the ultra-fit four-time world champion struggled to stand post race. But as he recovered, question marks were raised over Ferraris tactics and the incidents in France and Britain that could come to colour the overall picture of this year’s world championship.
Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport team boss Toto Wolff quoted his technical director James Allison, when he said: “do you think it is deliberate or incompetence?’
It’s a bold suggestion. One, that Ferrari, current leaders in both the drivers’ and constructors’ championship, are incompetent but two, that the opening lap collisions had been an act of deliberate derailment.
Silverstone gave us the best Ferrari v Mercedes on-track battle of 2018 yet, and off the circuit, the cracks are starting to show…and there’s eleven rounds still to go!
FERRARI IMPROVEMENTS EXPOSE RED BULL
Silverstone and the Silver Arrows of Mercedes have long been entwined with one another. Not only is it the Brackley-based squad’s home circuit but it has been a Mercedes stronghold since 2013.
Ferrari’s raft of updates brought to Silverstone however, helped the Scuderia to their first British GP win in seven years. Mercedes suggested that Ferrari’s new floor offers the Italian outfit three-tenths-of-a-second per lap in extra pace.
It means Ferrari may well have just edged ahead of Mercedes in the development race. But it was Aston Martin Red Bull Racing who were stung by Ferrari’s gains in Silverstone.
Off the back of Max Verstappen‘s victory in Austria, Red Bull were left firmly behind by F1’s top two teams in Britain. Verstappen would ultimately retire, while Daniel Ricciardo gamely clung onto the coattails of Valtteri Bottas to claim fifth.
“We were just hugely exposed today, in both defence and attack,” Christian Horner, Red Bull’s team boss said.
“You could see at the restart with Kimi, it was a bit like Mexico 2015 the amount of additional power.
“We ran our qualifying mode at the restart versus Kimi’s and you can see the difference.
“You could see how hard Max was having to work to keep Kimi behind him – their overspeed at the restart was insane.
“And at the second restart he had a moment at Stowe yet was still all over Max into Turns 2 and 3.”
And that’s with Honda power still to come for Red Bull in 2019…
Treat yourself. Watch the highlights of this year’s British Grand Prix. Hell, re-watch the whole thing. Watch Räikkönen and Ricciardo go tit-for-tat through Copse on the opening lap. Watch Verstappen swing around the outside of Kimi at Luffield. And watch Vettel surprise Bottas with a daring, five-laps-to-go move for the lead at the end of the Wellington straight.
Or, even, simply watch the onboard of Hamilton’s pole-position lap. Silverstone’s iconic ribbon of tarmac is one of few places in the world that a lone Formula 1 car can be as impressive and awe-inspiring as a string of them, wheel-to-wheel.
We wonder who or what will save Silverstone’s long-standing relationship with Formula 1. The answer, surely, is Copse, Maggotts, Becketts, Chapel, Stowe, Vale and the rest of the circuits eye-widening, white knuckle, gasp inducing twists and turns.
Formula 1 was born at the Northamptonshire circuit; when Formula 1 comes to Silverstone, it’s coming home. It’s only right that it continues to do so beyond 2019.