Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc were RaceFans’ Star Performers of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Here’s why.
It proved a worthwhile decision, however. From fourth position Verstappen quickly dispensed with Nico Hulkenberg’s Racing Point into Abbey at the start.
Verstappen stayed close to the Mercedes drivers throughout the first stint and applied fierce pressure to Hamilton as the Mercedes driver began to struggle on his medium tyres. The Red Bull was so quick on its hard tyres Verstappen was able to run longer than Hamilton and jump ahead.
Had it not been for a slightly slow pit stop he might have emerged from the pits ahead of Valtteri Bottas as well. Not that it mattered, for he easily passed the leading Mercedes through Brooklands and Luffield.
Bottas’ older hard tyres were no match for Verstappen’s new mediums, which he dispensed with after six laps. He ran a set of hard tyres to the end and became the first driver this year to beat Mercedes to victory.
Ferrari were clearly less competitive in the second weekend at Silverstone – a combination of the rising temperatures and softer tyre compounds. Leclerc felt he maximised the car’s pace in qualifying, but it was only good enough for eighth.
He dropped two positions on the opening lap and stopped on lap 18 for hard tyres. Having urged his team to let him run a one-stop strategy, he stretched his second stint out to 34 laps, rising to third until Hamilton’s much faster Mercedes appeared in his mirrors. This was the longest stint of any driver, and though his tyres weren’t in great shape by the end of it, he was the first one-stopper home in an excellent fourth place.
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Vettel stopped with more reliability problems at the end of second practice and had his whole engine replaced as a precaution. On Saturday he was eliminated in Q2 for the second week in a row.
Starting first of those on new tyres in 11th should have given him an advantage. But he spun it away at the exit of Abbey, which left him on the back foot for the rest of the day.
His comeback drive wasn’t aided by an awkward strategy which saw him run on the hard for 11 laps in his second stint and the medium tyre for the final 22 laps of the race. He was unhappy at being dropped back into traffic, but that spin had already wrecked his afternoon.
Being out-qualified by the substitute driver was another reminder Stroll still needs to work on his one-lap pace. He ran behind Hulkenberg until his team mate began to suffer tyre blistering and had to make an extra pit stop.
Stroll was likely never going to be able to keep the faster Red Bull of Alexander Albon behind him, but Hulkenberg’s pit stop spared his blushes.
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And the rest
Bottas snatched pole from Hamilton by less than a tenth and stayed ahead at the start, but both drivers struggled with blisters during the first stint. Hamilton’s longer middle stint gave him fresher tyres to attack Bottas at the end of the race; his defenceless team mate dropped to third with three laps remaining.
Hulkenberg qualified a superb third but a blistered left-rear tyre cost him the chance to finish ahead of his team mate.
Qualifying was Albon’s weakness again: He was just under half a second slower than Verstappen in qualifying and started ninth. An early pit stop forced him onto a two-stop strategy and while he struggled to make headway at first, once the ‘DRS train’ thinned out he picked off the cars ahead with a series of eye-catching overtakes. Fifth place was a good recovery, again.
Esteban Ocon struggled in qualifying and picked up a three-place grid penalty for blocking Russell during Q1. However gained two positions on the opening lap and, like Leclerc, was patient enough to make the one-stop strategy work. He rose six places to finish eighth.
From fifth on the grid after a fine qualifying effort, Daniel Ricciardo got stuck in traffic after his first pit stop which destroyed his tyres. He dropped down the order even further when he spun on the inside of Carlos Sainz Jnr at Abbey. Ricciardo made up a couple of places following his spin and finished 14th.
Lando Norris out-qualified Sainz, who was having to use less efficient bodywork to aid his engine cooling. They started 10th and 13th respectively. Sainz was making good progress until an equipment failure caused a slow pit stop. Norris chiselled out a ninth-place finish on a day when the McLaren wasn’t at its best.
AlphaTauri had the makings of a great weekend for Pierre Gasly but squandered it with his strategy. Gasly took his car into Q3 – Daniil Kvyat having gone out in Q1 – but an early pit stop after starting on mediums left him in heavy traffic. He finished behind Kvyat, who bagged the final point.
Magnussen lacked pace compared to Grosjean all weekend; he suspected the floor change following his British Grand Prix crash was responsible for much of his seven-tenths deficit in qualifying. He made a great start, gaining four positions, but his pace remained poor in the race. Magnussen struggled to look after his tyres as well, and the team eventually decided to retire him rather than throw a set of softs at the car. Grosjean started on the medium which slightly compromised his race and he finished 16th.
Alfa Romeo occupied the back row of the grid, Antonio Giovinazzi fractionally faster than Kimi Raikkonen. However Raikkonen’s one-stop strategy moved him up to 15th in the race, which appears to be close to the ceiling of performance for the C39.
Giovinazzi gained four positions on the opening lap but was jumped by Raikkonen’s quicker strategy after a seven-lap opening stint which forced him to run longer on his next two sets of tyres.
George Russell’s Q2 appearances are starting to look routine. Unfortunately so are his indifferent starts. Russell sustained his run of finishes ahead of his rookie team mate, both having been forced to make extra pit stops after reporting serious tyre worries.
Over to you
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2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
- 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix Star Performers
- Williams expect to compete for points “on merit” soon
- Wolff “happy to go to court” as Horner calls for FIA to examine Mercedes’ role in Racing Point case
- Albon eager to understand how his “amazing” Red Bull improved
- Verstappen at his irrepressible best as tyres trip Mercedes