After the umpteenth success of Lewis Hamilton at the Hungarian Grand Prix, the Circus moves to Great Britain for the fourth round of the season, scheduled for 2 August 2020. In the journey to Silverstone gives some time for reflection: in Maranello it is necessary to draw conclusions after three Grand Prix with mediocre results, and a single seater that is increasingly unmanageable. It is not acceptable to continue like this and Ferrari knows it, but even more so there is the need to understand, and explain, why after the SF90 - a single seater without balance and with poor cornering performance - the team in Maranello has once again made a mistake with a car without any improvement in terms of performance.
In addition, there is a young driver who is a little too impatient to reach success and a four-time World Champion who is clearly struggling. All of this led by a team principal who is trying to juggle in a rather unusual position for Ferrari as competitors: the center of the standings. However, we must not forget that it is in Ferrari's DNA to attempt to climb back up, and therefore it is time for changes. Mattia Binotto had announced a change of course that arrived shortly after the conclusion of the Hungarian Grand Prix: for now, however, no dismissals have followed. Ferrari's management chooses the path of continuity, instead of modifying the structure desired by former president Sergio Marchionne. The men of Maranello are now called upon to take on their responsibilities in a new vertical and pyramidal organization: there is a need for clear leadership, men in the front line who take on the direction of this project called SF-1000.
For this reason, a new area called Performance Development was created, entrusted to the engineer in charge of aerodynamics, Enrico Cardile. Alongside him, now promoted to the top of the new group, will be the aerodynamicist David Sanchez and the engineer Rory Byrne. The other areas, instead, remain unchanged; we will find Enrico Gualtieri as head of the power unit development, Laurent Mekis as sports director and Simone Resta, recently returned to Ferrari after a brief stint in Alfa Romeo, as head of the chassis engineering department. With the full confidence of the top management in Maranello, Mattia Binotto remains at the helm of the group as team principal, commenting on this reorganization:
"As we had anticipated in recent days, we wanted to intervene on the organizational structure of the technical area in order to make the process of designing and developing the performance of the car faster and more efficient. There was a need to give a turn, identifying more clearly responsibilities and processes and, at the same time, reaffirming the company's confidence in this technical group".
And regarding the creation of the new technical area, he explains that:
"The area entrusted to Enrico Cardile, who will make use of the experienced contribution of Rory Byrne and will continue to count on a skilled technician such as David Sanchez, will be at the heart of the development of the single-seater's performance. We are convinced that the value of Ferrari people is of absolute level and has nothing to envy to that of our major competitors, but we had to intervene to give a strong signal of discontinuity, raising the bar of responsibility of the leaders of each area. We've said it many times, but it's worth repeating: we've begun to lay the foundations of a process that must lead us to build a new winning cycle that will last over time. It's a long path, which may suffer setbacks like the one we are currently experiencing in terms of results and performance, but that must see us react with strength and determination to return as soon as possible to be absolute protagonists in this sport. This is what we all want and what our fans all over the world expect".
The news, however, are not finished, as the season’s calendar continues to lengthen by welcoming, or rather welcome back, the Imola circuit as the Emilia-Romagna Grand Prix. On 1 November 2020, therefore, a race will be held on the historic circuit named after Enzo and Dino Ferrari, where Formula 1 has been missing since 2006, the year in which Michael Schumacher triumphed with Ferrari. The Romagna circuit, together with Monza on 6 September 2020 and Mugello the following weekend, will form an Italian triptych never seen before in history: the only other country to have hosted three races in one season was the United States in 1982, in Long Beach, Detroit and Las Vegas.
The return of this historic circuit after fourteen years means a lot to an Italy, recently brought to its knees by the Covid-19 emergency. The president of the region Stefano Bonaccini, in fact, announced the news with great joy. Bonaccini, as well as the Councillor for Tourism Andrea Corsini, have worked silently to ensure that the queen class of engines would return to Imola and in the end they got the better of it, getting the timing and opportunities right. Liberty Media, the U.S. company that manages Formula 1 after Ecclestone, gave the go-ahead after visiting the renovated circuit in terms of both facilities and safety. The request was to be able to count on an economic sustainability from the organizational point of view, and in this sense the Region has made available one million euros, plus an additional fund that will be made available close to the date.
For the fans, to see Formula 1 cars running in Imola once again recalls lots of memories. The last time, in fact, Michael Schumacher won, in what seems to be another era, perhaps because Ferrari was the undisputed master on all circuits, or perhaps because some of those tracks have not been seen for so long. The return of Imola, as well as the Nürburgring, in the calendar brings Formula 1 back to its origins, with its rough, characterful and sometimes dangerous tracks. It is also the year in which Motorsport returns to celebrate the great drivers of the past: at Imola the race will be run thinking of Ayrton Senna and Roland Ratzenberger, who died on the tragic weekend of the Grand Prix held in 1994, but also of Michael and Ralf Schumacher, who for love of this sport chose to race in 2003 on this track, despite the death of their mother a few hours earlier. At the Nürburgring on the other hand, thoughts will inevitably run to Niki Lauda, trapped in the flames in 1976.
The last new entry is the Grand Prix of Portugal, which will be held on the Portimao circuit, bringing Formula 1 back to Portugal after twenty-four years, but on a different circuit. The introduction in the calendar of these three appointments brings to a total of thirteen the Grand Prix announced so far. The FIA believes the season will end in the Middle East, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi, thus reaching the quota of fifteen appointments needed to fulfill Formula 1's television obligations.
News aside, it is now time to focus on the fourth round of the season, the British Grand Prix, historically held on the Silverstone track. On the English circuit, in fact, composed of 5891 meters and 18 corners, the first race of the Formula 1 World Championship was held in 1950. The favorites of Sunday's race are the Mercedes. Not only because the race takes place just a few kilometers from Brackley, but also because the W11s seems to have been designed for the layout of the track, with its iconic corners such as Maggots-Chapel-Becketts, Stowe and Copse.
Friday opens in an unusual way: maybe it's the considerably high temperatures for the English track, 36 degrees and 49 of asphalt, or an unstoppable wind that touches 25 km/h; but more likely it's a driver remedied at the last minute to replace Sergio Perez, found positive to Covid-19, to arouse the attention of the first hours. After the news of the Mexican's positivity, in fact, it was initially thought of Stoffel Vandoorne as a replacement, but the Belgian will be busy for the next weekends on the Berlin circuit, where the last six stages of the Formula E championship will be held. The possibility of having Esteban Gutierrez has also been discarded; the candidate ready to return to the track in such a short time is only one: Nico Hulkenberg.
The German driver, after having concluded his experience in Formula 1 with Renault the previous year, is free and available, and for this reason he was called to fly immediately to England for the seat test and the necessary pads in order to be able to be admitted in the paddock. For him, the prospect is to dispute at least two Grand Prix, so we will probably see him in action on August 9 as well. The German immediately represents the best candidate not only for his responsiveness, but also because he already has experience with Racing Point, having raced for the team in 2012 and then from 2014 to 2017, as well as having tested both the Mercedes power unit and the latest generation of Pirelli tires.
"I was on my way to the Nürburgring for another sports project when Otmar called me. It was less than twenty-four hours ago, so it's a bit surreal for me right now, but I like challenges and this one certainly is".
It is therefore time for the first free practice of the day, which is of great importance for all the teams. Mercedes will have the opportunity to test their actual readiness for this circuit. Chasing the black arrows will be Red Bull, Racing Point and McLaren, all in excellent shape. Ferrari, on the other hand, will have to do an impressive job to make up for the early stages of this season, especially on this unfavorable track. At 12:00 a.m. the light turns green, but in the first fifteen minutes there is no action. The only one to join the track is Hulkenberg, who completes just one lap without setting any time. In the following minutes only four drivers get on track, including Lando Norris who sets the best time. The Englishman race wears a new helmet for his home, designed by a six-year-old girl.
Half an hour before the start of the first free practice session, Kimi Raikkonen loses the rear of his car and ends up in the gravel. As if that wasn't enough, a couple of minutes later the other Alfa Romeo driver, Antonio Giovinazzi, spun off at Becketts corner. The Italian's tires are completely in tatters, so much so that a neutralization is required, and the red flag is shown to remove the debris. While waiting for the restart, even in the Ferrari box the weekend does not start in the best way: Sebastian Vettel ends the session before it even begins, due to a problem with the intercooler system. The mechanics prefer to skip the first free practice of the morning, in order to get the car back on track for the second session in the afternoon.
At 12:40 a.m. the track is reopened and Lewis Hamilton, after a precautionary replacement of his MGU-K, dominates the classification with a lap of 1'28"343. Great control also for Valtteri Bottas, in second position. With an hour to go, Max Verstappen unexpectedly takes control with a super lap of 1'27"422. Meanwhile, Nico Hulkenber seems to have settled into Sergio Perez's Racing Point, taking sixth position. Charles Leclerc is just ahead of him with a time of 1'28"221. At 1:30 p.m. this first free practice session ends, with Verstappen in the lead, followed by Hamilton and Stroll.
Shortly after the conclusion, Antonio Giovinazzi receives an official warning from the race direction for causing the neutralization, joining the track with destroyed tires, and thus scattering pieces of rubber on the track. The second practice session of the afternoon starts at 4:00 p.m. and ends at 5:30 p.m.. Temperatures are even more torrid, with 34 degrees and 49 of asphalt temperature, practically scorching. The session starts immediately with Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat on track, with the Australian being the first to set a 1'30"518 lap time. A few minutes later it is Charles Leclerc who takes the lead on Medium tires, with a lap of 1'27"773. But then, in an attempt to further improve, the Monegasque goes into a spin at turn 4, fortunately without consequences.
Moving to the head of the pack, Hamilton and Bottas are fighting for the first place, with Bottas who doesn't lose any time and sets the fastest lap, 1'28"039 on Medium tires, ahead of Albon and Verstappen. Immediately afterwards, however, Hamilton steals the first position, only to give it back to his teammate. Not so lucky is Sebastian Vettel, who after having skipped the morning free practice due to a problem with his pedal set, continues to experience discomfort and therefore decides to go down personally to check. At the Ferrari box it is decided to replace it, hoping to make it in time to be able to score at least one lap. On the track, in the meantime, Stroll sets the pace while waiting for the qualifying simulation of the two Mercedes, followed by Albon and Leclerc.
A few minutes later Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen start with soft tyres and set some interesting times. Also in this second round the red flag is shown: this time it is Alex Albon who causes the neutralization, having crashed into the barriers at Stowe corner, forty-five minutes before the end of FP2. The cleaning operations last about ten minutes and at 4:55 p.m. the session resumes. Sebastian Vettel returns to the track on Soft tires, while the McLarens start a race simulation on Medium tires. The German enters in eighteenth position, after raising quite a bit of dust on his lap, at Becketts corners.
As time goes by, it becomes evident that the Soft tires cannot stand the heat; as a matter of fact, Lewis Hamilton, having run a few laps with this type of tire, switches to Hard. Charles Leclerc seems to be suffering even with the Medium, as he’s setting such slow times. Meanwhile, good times for Max Verstappen, despite the fact that he is also running on Medium.
At the end of this session, the ranking is unusual: in fact, in first place we find the Racing Point of Lance Stroll with a time of 1'27"274 on Soft tires. Behind him, at 90 thousandths, before ending up against the barriers and causing a red flag, the Red Bull of Alex Albon. The interruption of the session prevented his teammate Max Verstappen, who had been the best in the morning, to complete his work. Mercedes kept a low profile in this session, but it is hard to believe to this lack of performance, as the teams knows well their advantage in the race. Between Hamilton's second place and Bottas' fifth place, there is Charles Leclerc's Ferrari: he completed a good dry lap, while struggling as always on the race pace.
This day of free practice ends with an excellent outlook for both Mercedes and Racing Points. The first two rounds were played with an unusual sultry heat that has warmed the asphalt, but for Saturday's qualifying milder temperatures are expected. Saturday opens with the usual excitement, first for the last free practice session and then for the long-awaited qualifying. As expected, the weather is cooler, with 20 large and a track temperature of 29 degrees. There are also clouds and, above all, a sixty percent risk of rain.
At 12:00 a.m. everything is ready, the green light goes off and the third and final round of free practice begins. The first to get on track are Lando Norris and Romain Grosjean, followed by Pierre Gasly, Kevin Magnussen and Danil Kvyat, the only one to test on soft tires. The first driver who has to face the stopwatch is Sebastian Vettel, who sets a very slow lap (1'29"562) compared to Friday afternoon's times. The German driver then tries again, momentarily taking the leadership, which will then be taken by Carlos Sainz, with a time of 1'28"539. In the first quarter of an hour only six cars join the track; a few minutes later, however, Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc and Ocon enter the track, all on soft tires. The Finnish driver takes the lead with Leclerc right behind him, but a few moments later the British driver takes the lead with 1'26"825.
In the Red Bull box, meanwhile, the team works non-stop on Alex Albon's car, still damaged by Friday's impact and with a further electrical problem. Besides him, Verstappen, Stroll and Hulkenberg are also missing on the track; the latter, however, after the first half hour from the beginning of the session, finally get on track. Hamilton continues to improve, while Pierre Gasly moves into third position on medium tires. Bottas, in contrast, mounts the Softs already used during the first practices and launches himself into a lap that ends with a time of 1'25"525, enough to conquer, momentarily, the top of the ranking. Right behind him are Hamilton and Verstappen, who is on his first lap. Behind them, Hulkenberg and Stroll do battle: the German driver is fifth, five hundredths behind the Canadian. At the end of the first half hour of free practice, Hamilton rejoins the lead of the group on lap nine, with Soft tires.
The second part of free practice opens with the usual qualifying simulation: Vettel opens the series with a new set of Soft tires. The German, however, scores a lap a bit too dirty, reaching fifth place, almost a second behind Hamilton. Then his teammate, also on soft tires, joins the track and finishes fourth after a first lap marked by a mistake in turn 4. Ahead of him, Norris and Verstappen. Afterwards Bottas and Hamilton are on track with soft tires; the Finn goes to take the leadership, while Hamilton has to abort his first attempt. Once the technical problems are solved, Alex Albon can try his lap that ends with a time of 1'28"398, later cancelled for going long at Copse corner.
With less than ten minutes to go, the two Racing Points join the battle, but unfortunately Hullkenberg goes long at turn 3 as well, hence not completing his lap. Lance Stroll is fourth, seven tenths behind Bottas, while Hulkenberg is ninth. The German driver complains of neck discomfort, after nine months of inactivity. Meanwhile, Sebastian Vettel is out of the car, after having felt again some discomfort to the pedal set. He is now waiting for his mechanics, hoping to be back on track for the last few minutes. After a while, in fact, the problem seems to be solved and the German gets back into the car, placing thirteenth, just behind Albon, who has now managed to set a clean lap.
At the end of the third and last free practice session of the Silverstone Grand Prix, Bottas leads the time classification, with Hamilton and Verstappen following. Excellent result for the Racing Point of Stroll, but also Nico Hulkenberg, who placed in ninth position after his comeback in the series. The two McLarens of Sainz and Noris are fifth and seventh respectively. However, for now, Ferrari's weekend doesn't go as planned, with Leclerc sixth and Vettel fourteenth. The first part of the day ends and it's time to prepare the qualifying strategy. The temperature compared to the morning is rising again - 22 degrees and 40 on the asphalt - while the risk of rain remains at sixty percent. Either way, Daniil Kvyat will receive a five position grid penalty for changing the gearbox.
At 3:00 p.m., the first round of qualifying gets underway. Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Magnussen and Raikkonen immediately get on track. The Finnish driver is the first to set a time of 1'27"941, but his teammate Giovinazzi is immediately ahead, with a lap of 1'27"924. Both Alfa Romeos are overtaken by the two Haas: first Magnussen and then, at 76 thousandths, Grosjean. In the meantime, Mercedes and Ferrari join the track as well, all on Soft tires: the situation gets interesting when, with the same tires, it's the Russian Daniil Kvyat to take the leadership, almost one second ahead of all the Ferrari powered cars.
But this lead doesn't last long, as Charles Leclerc takes the leadership with a five thousandths advantage over Stroll, Gasly, Kvyat, Hulkenberg and Vettel. In the meantime, the two Mercedes drivers conclude their lap finishing first and second, with Bottas placing a distance of 339 thousandths between himself and Hamilton. Leclerc, now third, is more than four tenths of a second behind. The two Red Bulls are still missing, but there is no hesitation from them. Verstappen, in fact, soon gets to second position on soft tires, just 23 thousandths behind Bottas.
The Finn, however, doesn't want to risk and therefore improves again, setting a lap of 1'25"801. Hamiton, Verstappen and Leclerc follow. Meanwhile, five minutes from the end of this session, among the excluded for now we find Magnussen, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Grosjean. Hamilton returns on track with his old Soft tires, but as he tries to complete his lap, Nicholas Latifi goes into a spin at Turn 7, declaring the end of Q1. The eliminated, therefore, remain Magnussen, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi, Latifi and Grosjean, with Bottas, Hamiton and Verstappen leading the pack.
While waiting for Q2, there is turmoil in the Williams box. Latifi's accident, in fact, is not the only problem for the team, as the other driver, George Russel, could receive a penalty for not having slowed down in the section marked by yellow flags. It is not so much the qualifying that is at risk, but rather the situation on the starting grid: the Englishman could be penalized by three positions, as already happened to Hamilton in the Austrian Grand Prix. At 3:25 p.m. we start with Q2 and Hulkenberg and Albon are the first to get on track with Medium tires. The impressions of the free practice are confirmed, and Medium tires appear to be the best choice for Sunday's race. On track, in fact, we find mostly this kind of tires, with the exception of Ocon, Vettel, Ricciardo, Sainz, Russel and Norris who opt for the Softs.
Five minutes before the start, Valtteri Bottas sets the new track record with a time of 1'25"015, one second ahead of Leclerc and Verstappen on the same type of tires. The unexpected, however, is always around the corner and in fact, after a Lewis Hamilton spin at Luffield, the race direction decides to neutralize the qualifying to free the track from the gravel brought by the British driver. The race restarts at 3:38 p.m., and with still eight minutes to go Hamilton immediately launches himself on track to complete his first lap, moving into second position. Singular appears then the choice of Vettel, who decides to try to qualify on Medium tire after a first attempt on Soft. Later on, also Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen and Leclerc join the track, all on Soft tires, but it is possible they won't set a better time in order not to lose the advantage of starting the race on Medium tires.
At the end of the second qualifying session the eliminated are Gasly, Albon, Hulkenberg, Kvyat and Russell. We only have to wait a few minutes for Q3 and thus be able to know the poleman of the day. In the meantime, the drivers to start on Medium tomorrow are Valtteri Bottas, Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Lance Stroll. Soft tires for Sainz, Ocon, Ricciardo, Norris and Vettel, who failed to improve on yellow on his second attempt.
At 3:55 p.m. the last qualifying session begins, and all the drivers get on track at the same time, all of them on Soft tires. The confusion that is generated, however, leads Ferrari to make a trivial mistake: Charles Leclerc is sent on track just as Lance Stroll passes through the pit lane. Now it will be up to us to understand if the break-in will be worth only a fine or a penalty. In the meantime, the show doesn't stop and Lewis Hamilton amazes once again, taking pole position and setting a new track record with a time of 1'24"303, followed by Bottas and Verstappen. After them we find Leclerc, Norris, Stroll, Sainz, Ricciardo, Ocon and Vettel. It is pole number ninety-one for the British driver (and the third in a row), who at the end of qualifying, talking about the gap between him and his teammate, admits:
"At the end there is a big gap between us and third place, but it doesn't matter. There's Valtteri pushing me to the limit until the last lap. He did a fantastic job all weekend. I made some changes before qualifying, but I made it worse. I struggled so much with the wind gusts on the track hitting you in the face, sometimes in the tail, it changes everything between laps. I spun at one point, and in qualifying you have to build confidence lap by lap. I was already behind and after I spun I don't know how I tried to breathe deep, find calm and composure. Q3 started well. The first lap wasn't perfect, but it was still clean. The second one was even better. I have to thank the team, those working in the factory, which is not far from here, because they are constantly working to push forward with developments. I'm proud to be a part of that".
The only one Hamilton seems to be struggling with is in fact his teammate Bottas, who comments on second place as follows:
"It was very good qualifying for me until Q3. I felt comfortable, then in Q3 I started to skid, and I don't know why. Lewis found something more than me. That means he did a great job, and he deserves the pole, congratulations to him. In the race I think there will be opportunities at the start. Lewis last year won starting from second with a different strategy. I think there are several possibilities still open. For sure, even those who are behind will try to shuffle the cards".
Even Toto Wolff does not hide his happiness for the result and especially for the performance of the W11:
"I'm really happy with the performance in qualifying. Both cars were in a kind of league of their own. I've rarely seen anything like that. I bet we're not making many new friends".
In Ferrari, Charles Leclerc shows signs of improvement by occupying an excellent fourth place on the grid. The Monegasque driver also comments on the probable unsafe release committed in Q3, which could earn him a penalty:
"The points are made tomorrow but I'm satisfied, I didn't expect to start fourth and even more so on medium tires, this can be of great help to us. Stroll in the pit lane? I didn't see him".
Leclerc's performance was so unexpected that left everyone amazed. Someone, however, is still doubtful. Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s advisor, comments:
"It is a mystery where Leclerc found that speed from. In the straights he was faster than us, but that seems to be just his case, not Ferrari's in general. We didn't see that with Vettel. In fact Leclerc only lost two tenths in his best time of 2019".
Sebastian Vettel's weekend, however, did not start under good auspices. Disturbed since Friday by technical failures, the German driver ends qualifying only in tenth place.
"I probably struggled to find my rhythm since I didn't do many laps yesterday, the car wasn't bad but it wasn't right for me".
Max Verstappen will start from the third place, determined to do well at the same time aware of the gap to the Mercedes:
"My lap already at the end of Q2 was pretty good, but the Mercedes were too fast. You have to accept it and try to do the best in this situation. For us now it's the third place, we are a little bit closer, but it doesn't mean that I will be able to fight with them".
Theoretically, the best strategy to face the fifty-two laps of the British Grand Prix is based on a single stop, starting on Soft or Medium tires for eighteen-twenty-two laps, and then fitting Hard tires until the end. Otherwise, you can opt for a riskier, but potentially faster strategy: two stops, starting with Softs, then fitting another set of Softs around lap seventeen to eighteen and finishing with the Medium.
The day starts with a temperature of twenty-one degrees Celsius, cloudy skies and unlikely rain. Twenty minutes before the start everything seems to be ready, but as always, the unexpected is hiding behind the corner: Nico Hulkenberg's RP20 is not yet lined up on the grid and therefore will have to start from the pit lane.
The Racing Point mechanics are engaged in a race against time to try to fix an issue in the ignition system of the German driver's car, but in the end there is nothing to do for Hulkenberg; the German driver will not even be able to take part to the race. Nothing left to do but hope to see him in action next weekend, where he can maybe try getting the first podium of his career.
At 3:10 p.m. the lights go out and the British Grand Prix officially begins. Bottas starts well, but Hamilton remains at the head of the pack; the Englishman, in fact, is already trying to take an advantage over Bottas, Verstappen, and Leclerc who has to watch out for Sainz. The Spanish driver took advantage at the start to move up to fifth position, followed by Daniel Ricciardo, to the detriment of Norris and Stroll.
Two laps pass and the safety car joins the track, after Magnussen and Albon collide at the last corner, with the Danish driver ending up spinning in the gravel. At the restart, at the end of the fifth lap, Sainz wastes no time and attacks Leclerc. The Monegasque driver struggles to counterattack but keeps the fourth position. A little further behind, Ocon and Stroll fight for the eighth position: the Spanish driver shows himself inside Stowe, but the Canadian driver defends himself well. Meanwhile, Alex Albon gets back on Hard tires after his collision with Magnussen, for which he is currently under investigation.
At the front of the pack, Max Verstappen keeps up with the Mercedes, despite Hamilton relentlessly trying to increase the gap with the rest of the group. Charles Leclerc follows at a second's distance, continuing to resist Sainz's attacks despite a mistake at the Club. The race continues without major surprises until lap thirteen, when Kvyat goes off the track at high speed at Becketts, crashing into the barriers. The Russian driver gets out of the car, while the Safety Car gets on track again.
Therefore, the strategy changes for the drivers up to the seventh position, who manage to go back to the pits to make the stop. With one lap of delay, the first six drivers manage to stop, all switching to hard tires, in order to reach the finish line. The only one who didn't stop was Grosjean, who kept the medium tires used since the start. On lap 20 the Safety car leaves and immediately a fierce fight between Ricciardo and the McLarens ensues. The Australian attacks the British at the Loop, but Norris responds at Luffield. Meanwhile, the investigation for the contact between Albon and Magnussen ends with a five second penalty for the Thai driver, now fourteenth.
Further on, Sainz repeatedly attacks Grosjean for fifth position and manages to get the better of him at the second attempt. The Frenchman now tries to resist in sixth position, but the worn tires penalize him too much, hence Norris passes him too at Stowe. At the head of the group Hamilton manages to lengthen his pace and put two seconds between him and Bottas, who however doesn't give up and sets the fastest lap time of 1'29"764. Halfway through the race, the first two positions seem unassailable.
The right front wheel mounted on Verstappen's car immediately shows blistering problems, caused by the bursting of air bubbles created by the high temperatures inside the rubber compound, while at the back of the group Alex Albon stops to serve his penalty and mounts new tires. Latifi overtakes Raikkonen at Stowe for fifteenth position, while Antonio Giovinazzi is placed under investigation for irregular conduct during the second Safety Car, and later penalized five seconds. Grosjean, meanwhile, maintained the seventh position, but Ricciardo had no intention of staying behind him for long. On lap 37 he overtakes him and shortly after Stroll passes the French driver on the Hangar Straight. At this point Grosjean gets in for the pit stop, opting for Hard tires.
On his return, however, after having already received a warning for an incorrect defense during an attempt to overtake Sainz, the Frenchman makes the same mistake again with Ricciardo and risks the black flag. Just behind, Gasly overtakes Vettel for tenth position, bringing the only AlphaTauri left in the race into the points zone. Alex Albon attempts a comeback by overtaking Raikkonen in fifteenth position but is then blocked by the drivers proceeding him. At the front of the pack, instead, Hamilton increases the gap from his teammate, reaching almost three seconds.
Meanwhile, the Renaults go on the attack: Ricciardo for sixth on Norris and Ocon for eighth on Stroll. Pierre Gasly is then under investigation for his overtake on Vettel: it seems that the Frenchman took advantage of the outside of the track, as well as the kerb, at the exit of Stowe. In the middle of the group, Russel and Giovinazzi have been joined by Albon and the trio is now fighting for twelfth position, conquered by the Thai driver with an overtaking move on Russell. The Red Bull driver continues his race and ousts Giovinazzi as well, while Ocon finally manages to pass Stroll conquering the eighth place. The Canadian, however, makes a risky move in an attempt to defend himself and receives the black and white flag as a warning. Meanwhile, Kimi Raikkonen loses a piece of his front wing due to a structural problem with the C39.
At the fiftieth lap, another twist of fate rekindles interest in a race that appeared unenjoyable so far: Bottas left front tire fails, followed a few seconds later by Sainz, who is promptly overtaken by Verstappen. The Finnish driver drops to eleventh place, while the Spaniard is thirteenth. Leclerc, on the other hand, takes third, while Verstappen decides to make one last stop, in an attempt to gain the additional point granted by the fast lap. A few moments before the end of the race Lewis Hamilton, leader of the Grand Prix since the first lap, is slowed down due to a puncture in the left front tire and desperately tries to get to the finish line, while Max Verstappen, with fresh tires, gives him no respite and gets closer and closer.
After seconds of pure tension, where fans have their hearts in their throats, until the fifty-second lap the checkered flag waves: Lewis Hamilton wins his home Grand Prix, crossing the finish line on three wheels. On the podium together with the British driver go Verstappen and Leclerc, while the points zone is completed by Ricciardo, Norris, Ocon, Gasly, Albon, Stroll and Vettel.
Once at the pits, the first three drivers are interviewed by David Coulthard; Hamilton, the creator of a masterful victory with one wheel down (as only Jim Clark did before him in 1967) gets out of the car and scrutinizes it, almost as if to ask himself how it was possible to get there. The British driver says he's thrilled, but exhausted from the last moments of the race:
"Last lap? Until that moment it was a race that went like clockwork, without any problem. Valtteri pushed very hard, to the maximum. I managed the tire a little bit. When I heard that his had a problem, I looked at mine and everything seemed to be in order. The car was running without any problem, so I didn't think it would happen. Then on the straightaway the tire popped. I noticed that it bent to one side and my heart was in my throat because I didn't know if the car was going to make it to the finish line or if I was going to go off the track as soon as I hit the brakes. I was still trying to maintain speed without everything starting and breaking the wing. All those things could happen, but also trying not to be too slow. I don't know how I got to the last corners, but I still have to thank the team. They did an exceptional job. Maybe we should have stopped after seeing what happened with Bottas. I was very calm towards the end. They gave me the lead information, at one point it was thirty seconds, then it went down very quickly, but I stayed focused on finishing the lap and the race. The car was running pretty good, then I struggled more in the last few corners. I felt the gap decrease, fifteen, then ten seconds. I tried to push hard in turns 15 and 16, the car almost stopped. The gap was going down, nine-eight-seven seconds, and I tried to put my foot on the gas again giving everything. I've never felt anything like that on the last lap. My heart almost stopped, but that shows how calm I was no?"
Red Bull celebrates with a hint of bitterness for that last pit stop that, if avoided, would have allowed Max Verstappen to win the race:
"Pit stop? There is an aspect of luck but also of bad luck. Ten laps from the end, the tires didn't seem to be in great condition. We consulted each other on the radio and after Bottas' puncture we decided to go into the pits to try for a fast lap. But then unfortunately Lewis had a puncture too. Anyway I'm happy with the second place, it's a very good result for us. Solo race? Yes, I told my engineer to remind me to drink, because it is important in this heat. But it was a lonely race. I simply tried to manage the pace and the tires".
Astonishment then in the Ferrari pits. Charles Leclerc's third place was as unexpected as it was deserved.
"The race was very complicated, as soon as I heard that Valtteri had a problem with his tires I slowed down a lot. Carlos also had a problem on the next lap, and Lewis. For me it was a fluke, but beyond that we did the best we could do today. I'm very happy with how I was able to manage the tires from the beginning of the race. I'm also very happy with the balance of the car. We saw the performance potential of the car. It's still not what we want, but today we were able to take every opportunity and I'm very happy. Tires for next week? I don't know what caused the problems today. Maybe debris on the track. But I think Lewis punctured in one corner and Valtteri in another. Maybe they will revise the choice, I don't know, I can't say. That's up to the Pirelli guys, who will definitely investigate".
In fact, the tire issue will certainly have to be explained, as in today's race alone, three drivers suffered from tire failures. From a first analysis of the punctured tires, some cuts were noticed, probably caused by the debris left by the piece of front wing lost by Kimi Raikkonen. In the meantime, however, there is only room for celebration and even Mattia Binotto, after a complex weekend, allows himself words of optimism:
"Charles was very good, yesterday in qualifying and today in the race. Especially in managing the tires. We knew that with this wing configuration we had an advantage in qualifying, and then the tire wear had to be managed. Our engineer did a good job from that point of view, giving continuous indications, not taking risks, Charles was very patient from the first lap. He never pushed in the fast corners, avoiding stressing the tires too much. Going slow to get to the end, that was his race. Managed very well, and then rewarded at the end with what happened to the opponents".
Ferrari's team principal reiterates the excellent atmosphere in Maranello, despite the difficulties experienced in the the most recent weeks:
"I feel good in this company for many years, I feel good with my managers. We share our vision and objectives on a daily basis. I would like to thank both Elkann and Camilleri for their continuous support. The team is cohesive and has the will to do well. The situation is difficult, we recognize that, but the team is united, despite the difficulties. We are hungry and want to do better. We are not going to wait until 2022 to get better results, in 2022 we need to take advantage of a strong regulatory discontinuity as was the case with Red Bull starting in 2010 and Mercedes starting in 2014. Those who have worked well by gaining an advantage in regulatory changes have then maintained it. We have to work in this perspective, but this does not mean that until 2022 we will not do our best".
For Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, there are other considerations to make: the German driver, in fact, is in his last season with Ferrari and therefore cannot fail to reflect on the intense love story between Vettel and Ferrari, and on what is to come. There are no regrets for the German, who after having spent the last six years dressed in red now smiles looking to the future:
"As far as I'm concerned things are pretty clear, I'm not hurt, I think it's important to look ahead and I think as a professional I've accepted the choice. I was simply surprised because I was expecting something different, since the communication was going in a completely opposite direction. So, that was the surprise. But I'm moving on".
"I still have a job to do here and I'm willing to do it to the best of my ability, it's the least I can do to give something back that's worthwhile to all the people inside this team who have sacrificed their time and put in the maximum effort to help me. I'm not the kind of man who lives with regrets and looks back, if things end both sides have to look to the future. In any case I feel competitive, mentally and physically I have nothing less than in the past, I want to make the best choice for me, maybe in two weeks or more I will be able to say what I have decided, I am not in a hurry".
Was it a happy or unhappy love affair with Ferrari?
"Both: we had very good times with great races and we fought for the World Championship, I think in most seasons, but unfortunately we couldn't win it. If you measure it by success then no, we didn't have what I would have wanted and what the team probably wanted as well, so yes, a little bit happy love and a little bit unhappy love".
If Vettel were to quit Formula 1, what would he like to do?
"I don't want to talk about it...I'm very interested in a lot of different things, I don't have specific plans since I've lived for a long time in an environment that consumes a lot of your time while off the track there's plenty to fill. A few ideas I have, maybe go back to school and study, or try different things to figure out what I really like. I'm pretty happy with the life I've had, maybe I've missed some family time, with three kids you want more and it's never enough, but I don't think I'm the first person on this planet who struggles with the fact that the day is only twenty-four hours".
President John Elkann said that when you build a cycle it is more difficult to ask a champion to be patient - which confirmed the fact that Ferrari is in trouble. Have these arguments relieved Vettel after the voices that circulated about the non-renewal deriving from a lack of trust in his performances?
"I don't think there is a connection. I came to Ferrari after many years of success and the challenge was to rebuild. At that time we were certainly in a better position than now, I came here with a lot of passion, will and determination to make the team grow, it was also the promise that Mr. Marchionne made to me when he explained that they were looking for someone to rebuild the team. At the time I was the candidate, but not anymore. Today I think it is important to tell the fans the truth, and the truth is that we are going through a difficult time, we have seen it in the first three races and we will continue to see it in the next ones. Getting out of these situations takes time. Personally I've been through similar situations in the past, maybe for Charles it's different, what he's going through is maybe the first step back".
Has Vettel ever felt alone?
"I think here and there maybe I didn't have the support I needed, wanted or requested, but overall I think I received it, I had people close to me always ready to give me a hand both on the track and in Maranello, where they were always very open".
Don't you think that sometimes you could have made fewer mistakes?
"I think there aren't many people who look back and don't say they could have done better, I think you always learn, there are always little mistakes along your way, on mine sometimes I made them other times the team, but this is not a game of blaming each other. I don't regret the time I've had here, and then I'm very optimistic, I'm looking forward to the future, even if I don't know what it is".
Is this year's car suffering because of a depowered engine or because the aerodynamics are wrong?
"We suffer from the engine and our chassis doesn't adapt to it, we're not as competitive on the straight as before and that's why we struggle not only with Mercedes or Red Bull, but also with the others. We have become part of the midfield in the sense that we are fighting with McLaren, Renault and other teams. The base of this car was set on the one from 2017 which was very strong, but since then the others have worked better, Mercedes has proven to be superior and everyone has been pushed to grow, the regulations have changed a little bit. We not only this year but also in the previous ones never had the right package to challenge Mercedes until the end. But having said that, I don't think it's right for our chassis department to say that there's an error in our car, I think it's solid but not like the others, even if I know that in Italy when you don't win people say that it's all an error".
The technical department in Ferrari has been reorganized, will it be enough to turn things around?
"I hope it has very quick effects this year, otherwise I don't care as it does not concern me anymore".
What about the fight against racism?
"It's shocking that it's still an issue. We take a knee, it's just a gesture, but I hope it's a sign. You don't have to do it only in front of the cameras but fight in everyday life".
What will remain with you after these years in Italy and with the Italians?
"The uniqueness of Ferrari. And a piece of personal life that won't ever end".
This is the conclusion of the British Grand Prix, which confirms what was now clear to everyone: Formula 1 is commanded - performance-wise - by the unbeatable Mercedes. The appointment is now for the following week, with the Grand Prix of the 70th Anniversary of Formula 1 that will be run again in Silverstone.