Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, Silverstone, 2019

Hamilton and Formula 1 at their best in Silverstone spectacular

2019 British Grand Prix review

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The British Grand Prix was a race to sit back and enjoy rather than forensically deconstruct. Or, at least, one to take time to fully appreciate before delving into the data to work out why everyone finished where they did.

Yes, there was a Safety Car and a few pit stops and other distractions. But mostly this was about the world’s best drivers racing the world’s fastest cars around one of the world’s greatest loops of asphalt.

The joyous news that we’re set for five more years at Silverstone capped a superb weekend for Formula 1.

Hamilton outmanoeuvres Bottas

Start, Silverstone, 2019
Bottas kept the lead but Hamilton maintained the pressure

Charles Leclerc didn’t find enough purchase from his soft tyres at the start to get in among the Mercedes. Instead, the silver cars set about fighting each other, while Leclerc led a chasing pack comprising the two Ferraris and Red Bulls.

Lewis Hamilton, who’d been denied a fifth consecutive pole position in his backyard by a mere six-thousandths of a second, was on his team mate’s tail from the off. After qualifying the world champion said he’d found a race set-up he liked and didn’t want to deviate too far from it. And boy, did it show.

On a track with few slow corners and a fresh coating of a new, custom-made Tarmac mix, the 2019 cars attacked the course and each other with incredible commitment. But few more so than Hamilton, who relentlessly hounded Valtteri Bottas through the opening laps.

When he grabbed a DRS-boosted run down the Wellington Straight and lunged for the inside line on his team mate at Brooklands, it looked like the job was done. But Bottas found ample grip on the outside and clung on, edging Hamilton wide at Luffield. The world champion came out of the corner ahead, Bottas tucked under his rear wing.

Approaching the super-fast Copse Bottas swung to the inside and Hamilton, showing perhaps an excess of fairness to his team mate, ceded the inside line. Bottas was quick enough on the short straight to claim the corner, obliging Hamilton to accept second place. But such was his pace it was surely an inevitability that the order would eventually be reversed.

That eventually came about as a result of the Safety Car, which was triggered between Hamilton and Bottas’s first pit stops. Bottas, lacking data on the hard tyres, opted for a second set of mediums when he came in on lap 16, boxing himself into a two-stop strategy. Others had been content to take the gamble: Pierre Gasly prompted the rush for the pits when he traded his mediums for hards four laps earlier.

With Bottas’s strategy now obvious, Hamilton extended his first stint. He would have gone further than lap 20 had Antonio Giovinazzi not spun into the Vale gravel trap. As a tractor needed to cross the pit lane entrance to retrieve the car, the Safety Car was summoned, and Hamilton’s path to the lead was eased. But, as he pointed out afterwards, without it he would have just put the hard tyres on and waited for his team mate to make the inevitable extra pit stop.

But if the Safety Car deprived us of a fight between the Mercedes drivers, it injected further drama into the best battle of the race: Max Verstappen versus Charles Leclerc, round two.

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Vettel error hands Leclerc podium

Max Verstappen, Sebastian Vettel, Silverstone, 2019
Vettel shunted Verstappen out of third place

“I think he was a little bit sore still from Austria so he was defending really hard,” quipped Verstappen after the race. “But it’s fine, I’m all for that.”

There certainly was a much harder edge to Leclerc’s driving as he and Verstappen thrilled Silverstone with a no-holds barred scrap for supremacy. But he also produced the kind of opportunistic moves his rival would have been proud of.

Leclerc’s soft tyres faded quickly: He never got out of range of Verstappen’s DRS at the start of the race. But on lap 10 the gloves truly came off. The Red Bull got a run on the Hangar straight and Leclerc moved late and decisively to cut him off – a response which looked like it was straight out of the Verstappen textbook. It set the tone for what was to follow.

Leclerc dawdled at the apex of The Loop, then ran Verstappen out wide (perhaps with a smirk as he remembered the Red Bull Ring), which brought Sebastian Vettel into the fight. Verstappen closed him down hard, covering the inside line approaching Brooklands and turning in early to repel one Ferrari before going after the other one again.

Vettel then fell back into the clutches of Gasly, who passed him with ease going into Village. It looked toothless from Vettel, but he knew his best chance of profiting was to keep his soft tyres alive.

Gasly pitted at the end of that lap which triggered the pit stop sequence for the leaders. Leclerc came in the next time around and Verstappen, unusually, followed him. If this was a vote of confidence in his pit crew they responded superbly, getting Verstappen out a nose ahead of Leclerc.

But Leclerc was in no mood to give anything up. He grabbed the racing line at Village then threw his car for the inside at The Loop. It was never likely to stick, but it succeeded in spooking Verstappen into running wide, and now Leclerc had the inside line and with it the position.

His reward for that gem of an opportunistic pass should have been a place on the podium, but the Safety Car period made life much harder for him. First, it handed third place to Vettel, who had eked out his soft tyres to lap 20, and fourth place to Gasly. Furthermore, Ferrari didn’t want to risk losing track position, so left Leclerc out, only for Verstappen to come in and grab fresh tyres – a ploy both obvious and impossible to guard against.

When the race restarted Leclerc was chasing Verstappen, Gasly and Vettel. Leclerc got alongside Verstappen through the Vale chicane and briefly had the position but Verstappen, putting all four wheels wide at the run-off, stayed ahead. Surprisingly, the stewards ruled Verstappen’s move legal, and let them get on with it.

Red Bull swiftly ‘corrected’ the running order of their two drivers, pointing out to Gasly that the two cars were on “different strategies”. As neither had any further pit stops to make at this point, and both were running on hard tyres, that is a debatable point, but one Gasly conceded as soon as Christian Horner came on the radio and told him to pull over.

The final act came on lap 37. Verstappen, having tested Vettel’s defence on previous laps, cruised past him with DRS on the Hangar straight. but he ran slightly wide at Stowe and Vettel came back at him. Verstappen clung to the inside line at Vale – what else was he going to do – and Vettel clumsily ran into the back of him. After Leclerc had spent lap after lap fighting the 33 car cleanly but fairly, this was a dismal display of racecraft from the four-times champion.

However, it meant Leclerc ultimately prevailed in his fight with Verstappen. This was both in spite of and thanks to errors in the rest of the Ferrari team. Vettel was given a largely meaningless 10-second penalty for his blunder.

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Hamilton’s coup de grace

The circumstances of the race made Hamilton’s superiority less obvious than it might have been. The bonus point for fastest lap offered the chance to correct that. Bottas made his extra second pit stop – entirely unnecessary other than to satisfy the regulations – and put on a set of soft tyres. He reeled off a 1’27.406 on lap 47, well over a second faster than anything anyone else had done, and seemed on course for a damage-limiting extra point.

But Hamilton, who had turned down the option of an extra pit stop for softs to cover Bottas, liked the feel of his hard tyres. And his experience in France had shown him what was possible with a late push on old rubber.

As the final lap began he cranked the Mercedes up and savoured his final flying lap of Silverstone. He produced a 1’27.369 – a scant 0.037 seconds quicker than Bottas – and capped a perfect drive with the final extra point on offer.

First-lap disaster at Haas

Antonio Giovinazzi, Alfa Romeo, Silverstone, 2019
Giovinazzi brought out the Safety Car

The Safety Car period had consequences for the midfielders too. The likes of Lando Norris (11th) and Sergio Perez (17th) had hard luck stories to tell about how the timing of the Safety Car wrecked their afternoons.

A late second pit stop for hard tyres backfired for Norris. Perez had a problem with his steering wheel after the Safety Car period, couldn’t adjust his brake balance, and skidded into Nico Hulkenberg, costing him a place to Kimi Raikkonen. Again the stewards stayed their hands, creating a distinct impression they had been told to go easy on the drivers.

The Safety Car landed perfectly for Carlos Sainz Jnr, who made his sole pit stop and grabbed seventh place as a result. He led home Daniel Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Daniil Kvyat and Nico Hulkenberg.

The latter claimed the final points place from Alexander Albon with two laps to go. The Toro Rosso driver had to run a 39-lap stint on medium tyres, 10 laps longer than any other driver, as an electrical problem on his Honda power unit meant his mechanics couldn’t touch his car. He therefore slipped out of the points in the final laps, and his despondency cannot have been helped by his team telling him he now had to jump clear of his live car.

Norris took 11th place off him, while Lance Stroll was the leading Racing Point driver at the flag in 13th place. George Russell took 14th for Williams – the best result of the season so far for the team which won its first race at this grand prix 40 years ago.

Haas’s awful season continues to find more ways to go badly. Before the weekend began they suffered the ignominy of apparently being publicly dumped by title sponsor Rich Energy, amid an emerging internal battle over control of the company. Haas put a brave face on the situation.

Then Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen blundered into each other at the start, leaving each with race-ending damage. Team principal Guenther Steiner, understandably, was furious, not least because Grosjean had been running the team’s Australia-specification aerodynamics which appeared to be generating some useful insight into why their upgraded car has been performing so poorly.

Mercedes back on form

The British Grand Prix confirmed the impression that Mercedes’ form in Austria was a blip. They romped to a one-two, Hamilton showing much the same kind of form he enjoyed in France.

Happily for Formula 1, the two races since that lifeless encounter at Paul Ricard have been immensely superior sporting spectacles. This is not to say all is rosy in the F1 garden, but it does show that given the right circumstances we can still get great races.

In the championship, however, the prospects of anyone not in silver overalls getting their hands on the silverware continues to fade. But when the racing is this good, it matters much less that the same two cars keep finishing first and second.

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Author information

Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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21 comments on “Hamilton and Formula 1 at their best in Silverstone spectacular”

  1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
    15th July 2019, 18:46

    For me Formula 1 is a joy to watch at the moment, with a British driver at the top of their game and a team that is also performing so elegantly… it is the perfect combination. Bottas is proof, if it were needed, that in an equal car Hamilton is in a league of his own… and with so much potential simmering away just down the field, the thrill really is in the chase. I’m ignoring the naysayers, this is awesome stuff.

  2. Hamilton did great. But let’s stay realistic, it wad the SC that handed him the victory and a strategy by merc that was to his advantage.
    Bottas defended great and retook the lead in a fierce battle.

    1. And again. It’s your site and you can write what you like and censor what you like.

    2. Did you even read the report?

    3. Bottas defended great and retook the lead in a fierce battle

      Bottas defended so great he destroyed his tyres, costing him the race win to Hamilton who was just driving much better.

    4. no, the SC didn’t win HAM the race. The strategy chosen by Bottas (or chosen for him by the team) was way worse than the one-stopper Hamilton was addamant to try. I never understood the strategies for Bottas, Leclerc and Max. Why put them again on Mediums (and force them to do another stop later on) instead of trying the Hard tyre for the second stint? If the Hard was not good enough to last untill the end, OK, then do another stop. But at least you have the option to stay out in case the tyre lasts.

  3. Totally missed (second race in a row) Hamilton. Who cares what the mercs are doing anymore? They’ve become a side kick to the rest of the field.

    1. He won the race @Mayrton

      1. Who? Oh that lucky Louey kid? Yeah we were all watching the real talent behind…

      2. Thanks Tom. Lewis is great, don’t get me wrong. Just happy fights are taking place

    2. Indeed, even Ham has got to be worried (and I think he is by the amount of complaining he does..) about the legacy of his gifted ‘championships’.

  4. Excellent write up, Keith.

    Truly enjoyed reading it.


  5. Excellent race.

    Interesting that in this race and the previous one there was plenty of close following and challenges for overtakes right throughout the field.

    Perhaps people should stop with the “it’s impossible to follow” content refrain. Some drivers seem to have that capability, some don’t. Maybe DRS has meant that some drivers just haven’t bothered to skill up on how to follow when your downforce is disrupted or some designers haven’t put the work in to accomodate it.

    In some ways, given the two cracking races we’ve just had (albeit on old, “real” circuits) I fear a little that the upcoming “radical overhaul” of the technical regulations migh do more harm than good.

  6. It surprises me how many people who claim to be F1 fans are so quick to write off Hamilton as a man in a quick car, while claiming Vettel to be done kind of God.

    Just compare their wheel to wheel racing. Vettel is one of the worst in the current field at it. Hamilton one of the all time greats. Vettel is fast, but fragile.

    1. *some* kind of God, obviously.

      1. Vettel is still one of the best out there I think Max braked late just like at Baku with Ricardo nothing much Vettel could do and he vene locked up to avoid hitting max but it was inevitable, everyone bashes seb but forget to look at his opponents errors too just because his prone to silly mistakes and overlook the errors of his opponents in most cases.
        I think it was a fair fight for both of them just both unlucky…. I can remember Vettel ‘s race craft and amazing over takes on Bottas at Malaysia or is it Bahrain at the put straight into turn one that dummy was one of the best overtakes done, also the one he did to Perez at japan over taking two Cars and he Overtakes at Spoon curve at Sochi which no other driver could attempt , Vettel makes overtakes at places where no one would think of doing it and he most times makes it work….. Hamilton is the best on the grid as things stand but I still then Sebastian is still one of the best out there

        1. Blaize Falconberger (@)
          16th July 2019, 8:21

          If you’re in front you can brake as late as you like for a corner. Anyway, if Max braked late, Seb was even later…. which renders your criticism invalid somewhat.

          I agree with @sham – Seb has flashes of pure brilliance, but only ever won the WDC because HE had the fastest car. Now he’s spooked and is going in the wrong direction… in my opinion.

        2. I think Max braked late

          I actually thought Max braked rather early, but it was the only thing to do after taking the inside line. You need to brake earlier to make the corner when coming from such an acute angle. Vettel, on the other hand, had a fixation on the inside line, hoping it will become available. Which it didn’t.

        3. everyone bashes seb but forget to look at his opponents errors too just because his prone to silly mistakes and overlook the errors of his opponents in most cases

          Seb is a great driver, I agree. However, if you look at his recent form, there is something wrong. He is making a lot of mistakes, and his racecraft just isn’t up to the standard we came to expect from him. His recent mistakes are more like the kind of thing we would expect from a rookie than a four time world champion.

          He needs to get his head straight and get back in the game. I hope he does so soon.

  7. Completely disagree. There was action, some nices fights, a 9, but you’d have to close your eyes to whats underneath, this race is a summary of what is ruining f1. from this race you can deconstruct everything that’s wrong, team orders, tyre drama, bias, stewards, rules, drs, camera shots and directing everything.

    1. Eh?

      Team orders: Where? I didn’t notice a single instance of a team asking their drivers to either hold position or let the other past.
      Tyre drama: I wouldn’t call it drama. Those who did well went on a better strategy. This has always been a big part of F1 (“Be on the right tyre at the right time”).
      Bias: Lol
      Stewards: Stayed out of the race, for the most part, and let the drivers get on with it.
      Rules: Yeah, let’s get rid of the rules and just let the drivers and teams do what they want. We hate rules! Wah!
      DRS: While I would refer it DRS was removed, or at least the rules around it radically overhauled, it didn’t have that much of an effect on this race.
      Camera shots, directing everything: Yeah, they are SUCH big problems in the sport….

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