ANALYSIS: 2019 British Grand Prix – Assessing the field

by Sudha Sundararaj

The British Grand Prix produced an enthralling race with great wheel to wheel racing from start to finish. If the Austrian Grand Prix produced some edge of the seat action in the final laps, the British Grand Prix topped that with multiple battles and sustained action all-race long.

Fearless wheel to wheel racing with a bit of wheel banging produced a riveting race for the fans. One of those battles between Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel ended in tears.

Amidst all the action, the Mercedes juggernaut rolled on with the seventh 1-2 finish in ten races. But the return to domination by the Silver Arrows after the blip in performance in Austria was barely noticed on this day.

Top of the class…

Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.006s

Race margin to team-mate: -24.928s

Lewis Hamilton scored a record sixth British Grand Prix victory in front of his adoring home crowd. This was the seventh win in ten races this season and the 80th win of his career. It was not all smooth sailing this weekend for the defending champion though.

An uncharacteristic error in the first flying lap in the final qualification session saw him lose pole position to team-mate Valtteri Bottas by the narrowest of margins, 0.006 seconds. Bottas led him into Turn 1 and fearlessly battled him through the first laps.

Hamilton took the lead briefly but lost it to a determined Bottas in the early laps. Bottas pitted early and was locked into a two-stop strategy as he was fitted with the medium compound tyres. Hamilton benefited from extending his first stint to twenty laps and pitted under the Safety Car for the hard compound tyres.

The Briton emerged from the pits as the race leader and with the advantage of just having to make one pit stop. Though the Mercedes team wanted to pit Hamilton in the final laps because he had a free pit stop, Hamilton decided to stay out as he was confident he could make the tyres last.

The extra point Hamilton added to his tally by setting the fastest lap on the final lap of the race on thirty-one lap old hard compound tyres validated the Briton’s decision.

For a driver who is a slow starter and ramps up his performance in the second part of the season, the seven wins in the first ten races scenario offers infinite record-breaking opportunities for the rest of the season.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1150660014006140929

Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes AMG Petronas Motorsport

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.006s

Race margin to team-mate: +24.928s

Valtteri Bottas finished second best to his team-mate again. But the Bottas 2.0 version was on full display this weekend. The Finn was fast all weekend and he denied Hamilton his seventh Silverstone pole position with his fourth pole position of the season.

In the opening laps, Bottas showed his steely grit in his wheel to wheel combat with Hamilton. Though he lost the lead briefly to Hamilton on lap 4, the Finn came right back to retake the lead. Bottas pitted early after a first stint of sixteen laps and was locked into a two pit stop strategy.

Hamilton stayed out and benefited from pitting during the Safety Car period. That was the move that ended Bottas’s hopes of a win. It was unfortunate for the Finn but was probably brought about by one of his weaknesses.

In race trim, Bottas is unable to match the race pace of his team-mate and also make the tyres last as long as Hamilton. The early first pit stop was followed by a second pit stop which was mandatory as he had to use the two compounds of tyres. But the Finn was also experiencing vibrations in his tyres in his second stint and had to pit in a hurry.

Bottas is now thirty-nine points behind Hamilton in the drivers’ championship. He has two wins to Hamilton’s seven wins. But the Finn is keeping Hamilton honest and keeping him in his sights.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1150441575060819969

Charles Leclerc – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.615s

Race margin to team-mate: -73.713s

Charles Leclerc had the measure of his experienced team-mate Vettel all weekend. The young Monégasque driver was quicker in the practice sessions and qualification. He was in the hunt for pole position until the final part of qualification.

In the race, he started in third position and stayed ahead of Verstappen in the opening laps. By lap 11, the two young drivers were battling wheel to wheel in a grudge match after the battle for the win in the previous race.

Both drivers then pitted on the same lap and the Red Bull Racing team’s quicker pit stop let Verstappen exit the pits just ahead of Leclerc. But Leclerc managed to pass the Dutchman when he ran wide and another battle royal ensued.

Leclerc got the better of Verstappen and stayed ahead of the Dutchman. During the Safety Car oeriod, Red Bull immediately pitted Verstappen. But Ferrari kept Leclerc out for an extra lap as they pitted Vettel. The move dropped Leclerc to sixth position behind Verstappen.

After another battle between the two drivers, Verstappen kept fifth place and then overtook Pierre Gasly for fourth position. On lap 36, Leclerc executed a text book overtake on Gasly to take fifth position.

The clash between Vettel and Verstappen for the final podium place ended in disaster and gave Leclerc his fourth podium finish in a row. Leclerc is in fifth position in the drivers’ championshop, just three points behind Vettel.

Leclerc seems to have eliminated the early season errors and inconsistencies in form. His battles with Verstappen in this race alone can fill a whole highlight reel.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1150461455654801408

Pierre Gasly  – Aston Martin Red Bull Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.314s

Race margin to team-mate: -4.766s

Pierre Gasly finally had a race weekend he can savour. The Frenchman had a miserable Austrian Grand Prix and the Red Bull team management indicated that they were running out of patience with his lack of performance.

The Frenchman started out brightly at Silverstone topping the first free practice session. He stayed ahead of team-mate Verstappen in every practice session. Gasly qualified ahead of the Ferrari of Vettel in fifth position, just behind Verstappen.

A good race followed that saw him racing hard with the two Ferrari drivers. When Verstappen and Vettel crashed into each other and fell back, Gasly was in a position to capitalize. Gasly finished in fourth position just ahead of team-mate Verstappen for his best finish of the season.

Gasly termed this weekend as a massive step forward for him. The Frenchman needs to build on this race weekend and show his team that this was not an one-off performance.

Carlos Sainz – McLaren F1 Team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.193s (Q2)

Race margin to team-mate: -20.642s

Carlos Sainz finished “best of the rest” again for the fourth time this season. Sainz started in thirteenth position and finished in sixth position in the race. Sainz was involved in a stirring battle with Daniel Ricciardo in the final laps as he fended off the Australian to retain his sixth position.

This was another stellar performance to match the eighth position Sainz clinched after he started nineteenth on the grid at the Austrian Grand Prix. Sainz has been outqualified by his young team-mate Lando Norris seven times in the ten races.

But the Spaniard has performed well in the races as he sits in seventh position as “best of the rest” with 38 points in the drivers’ championship. Echoes of a fellow Spaniard called Fernando Alonso in the way he moves forward in the race from any starting position.

At the British Grand Prix, Sainz had a poor qualification session that he said “snowballed into a disaster”. If he can sort out his qualifying woes, the Spaniard can only improve upon his current good results.

Homework to do…

Sebastian Vettel – Scuderia Ferrari

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.615s

Race margin to team-mate: +73.713s

Sebastian Vettel was on the backfoot the whole weekend. His team-mate Leclerc was ahead of him during the practice sessions. Things got worse in qualification as Vettel qualified in sixth position behind the Red Bull drivers.

A long first stint saw the German pit during the Safety Car period and sit in third position. But Verstappen was hunting him down and overtook Vettel on lap 37 for the final podium place.

But Vettel tried to regain the place and locked up and slammed into the back of Verstappen’s car that sent both the cars spinning into the gravel. Both of them rejoined the race and Vettel had to pit for a new front wing.

The race stewards imposed a ten-second time penalty for the Verstappen incident and Vettel finished in sixteenth position. Vettel is now a full 100 points behind arch-rival Hamilton in the drivers’ championship.

Team-mate Leclerc has finished ahead of Vettel in all three races since the Canadian Grand Prix. Leclerc is now just three points behind Vettel in the drivers’ championship. Vettel is under pressure on many fronts as the errors keep mounting for the German.

Antonio Giovinazzi – Alfa Romeo Racing

Qualifying margin to team-mate: -0.027s

Race margin to team-mate: N/A

Antonio Giovinazzi unwittingly played a part in the final race result. The Italian locked up and slid into the gravel on lap 20. This brought out the Safety Car that helped the eventual race winner Hamilton pit and gain an advantage over team-mate Bottas.

Giovinazzi qualified ahead of team-mate Kimi Räikkönen in eleventh position. Even as team-mate Räikkönen finished in eighth position after a well-crafted race, Giovinazzi went backwards.

For good measure the excursion into the gravel also meant a premature end to his race. The Italian finished in tenth position and scored the very first Formula 1 point of his career in the previous race. This was a poor follow up race for Giovinazzi.

https://twitter.com/F1/status/1150401161092050944

Kevin Magnussen – Haas F1 team

Qualifying margin to team-mate: +0.315s (Q1)

Race margin to team-mate:  N/A

Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean’s names can be used interchangeably on this list. Such is the miserable depths the Haas F1 team is plumbing at the moment. This was the fourth non-scoring race for the team and overall the seventh non-scoring race in the ten races this season.

Magnussen was ecstatic after he qualified in fifth position at the Austrian Grand Prix. But except for flashes of one lap brilliance, the team and both the drivers have dealt with poor race pace.

The two drivers did not help matters as Magnussen and Grosjean banged wheels on the first lap and suffered rear tyre punctures. Both drivers retired in the early laps because of the damage to their cars.

Haas F1 Team Principal Guenther Steiner was furious with both his drivers and did not mince any words after the race. The hot-headed Magnussen needs a lot of patience to deal with the current woes of the team.

The rest…

Alfa Romeo Racing must get an honorable mention again as Räikkönen finished in eighth position after a well-crafted race.

The Renault team had a good result with Daniel Ricciardo and Nico Hulkenberg qualifying and finishing in seventh and tenth positions respectively.

Daniil Kvyat qualified in a poor seventeenth position but brought home the points for Toro Rosso with a creditable ninth position in the race.

The Racing Point team did not score any points for the third race in a row. The Silverstone-based team counts the British Grand Prix as a home race and it was another disappointing outing for the team.

All the teams will assemble for the German Grand Prix at Hockenheimring in two weeks time (July 26-28 2019)

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