Having concluded the fourth round of the season with an extraordinary victory on three wheels by Lewis Hamilton, it is now time to move on. The Circus, in fact, is getting ready to run the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, while remaining on the Silverstone circuit. The Covid-19 pandemic imposes necessary changes to allow the season to continue, and so in this 2020 World Championship we find ourselves racing twice in a row on the same track.
The restrictions, however, also offer the opportunity to celebrate an important anniversary for Formula 1 at a historic circuit like Silverstone. Here, in fact, on 13 May 1950, the first Formula 1 race valid for the World Championship was run. Among the audience at Silverstone to witness the debut of Formula 1 there were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. And then there were the drivers, with light overalls, non-full-face helmets, and big goggles instead of visors, as well as the single-seaters, at the time travelling at less than 200km/h, not much by modern standards, but exceptional for being the first race cars – even tough without any protection. The rest is history, and even if during this first event few newspapers recorded it as a historical event, after seventy years we still race here, on a circuit that recalls the origins of this sport.
Of that first edition, it is curious to remember that Ferrari was the great absentee, since Enzo Ferrari did not agree on the economic compensation and therefore did not send his cars to Great Britain, preferring to devote himself to a Formula 2 race in Belgium, in Mons. So, on the historic circuit in the English countryside, in front of several spectators that, according to the press of the time, oscillated between 100.000 and 200.000 units, in the front row there were only the Alfa Romeos. Speaking of Ferrari, the wind seems to be blowing in the right direction after Charles Leclerc's third place finish, but Maranello's technicians remain aware of the difficult season ahead of them. In fact, CEO Louis Camilleri, during the conference call related to the publication of the second quarter accounts, reiterates that:
"The 2020 season is tough. Our competitors are strong. Our team works day and night, we have real talents and I have confidence in the team. It will take time but our ambition in Formula 1 remains intact".
Camilleri then goes on to talk about Ferrari's accounts as well, explaining how the pandemic has also created difficulties from an economic standpoint:
"Ferrari remains stronger than ever, but the pandemic has been a huge challenge to overcome. A doubly unfortunate timing as it has engulfed us in a critical moment, the delicate phase of industrialization of the new models presented last year. We had already anticipated in May that the second quarter results were weak in all key indicators, but in line with our expectations. These results reflect the very difficult times we have experienced. I would like to underline the resilience, commitment and determination that have been highlighted by all my colleagues here in Maranello and in our markets. Our order book is very solid, 2021 will be a positive year".
Chairman John Elkann also returns to comment on the disappointing performance of the SF1000, asking for patience from fans and reiterating full confidence in the group and its team principal:
"We haven't won a Constructors' World Championship since 2008 and a Drivers' World Championship since 2007, but today we are laying the foundations to be competitive and return to winning when the rules change in 2022. This year we are not competitive also because of mistakes in setting up the car. We saw it on track, and we will see it again. Mattia Binotto has all the skills and characteristics to start a new winning cycle. He was at Ferrari with Todt and Schumacher, he knows how to win, and from next year he will work with two young and ambitious drivers. We are laying the foundations to build something important and long-lasting, as the contract with Charles shows: five years, never so long in Ferrari's history. Leclerc and Sainz will take up residence in Maranello, they will stay close to our engineers. The new car will be born with them".
On the eve of the 70th anniversary Grand Prix, the press conference is all about couples, who goes and who stays. Charles Leclerc is among those who stay, with a future already written in Ferrari and a lot of determination. The Monegasque, in fact, does not let the Mercedes domination get him down and looks to the future with optimism:
"For the second time this season we are competing on the same track for two consecutive Sundays. Fortunately, we are at Silverstone, a track where it is always nice to drive and where we got a podium that gave morale to the whole team. The work done last week can be a good starting point for the weekend we are going to face, even if every race is a different story. Like on Sunday, we will still have to be able to avoid making mistakes in order to take advantage of every opportunity that may arise. The Mercedes are at a very high level and winning will be very difficult, but I will give everything on the track to get the best".
For Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, the moment of saying goodbye to Maranello is getting closer and closer, but the much sought-after redemption has yet to arrive. The German driver is now pinning his hopes on the second round at Silverstone, where perhaps he will be able to find a good feeling with the car:
"I'm coming back from a rather difficult race, as far as I'm concerned. I think that having the chance to race again at Silverstone just a week away gives me a good chance to get the feeling I missed last weekend. On Friday we will go on track counting on the data collected by the team during the first weekend and this should help us because it will allow us to work in a more focused way on the details to find the right tuning with the car".
And on the future, the German does not get unbalanced yet:
"I have so many possibilities, actually not so many in Formula 1 maybe, because you can do the math and see how many seats are already occupied. But the most important thing, as I have always said, I think is that I am happy with this choice. Time will tell what that choice will be, and then we'll see. I'm not too stressed about it. Do I have any in other categories? No, the possibilities are either in Formula 1, or on the couch, or with board games".
Then there's Valtteri Bottas to make headlines, with his contract just renewed for another year.
"I am very happy to stay with Mercedes in 2021. Thank you to the whole team and the Mercedes family for their continued support and faith in me. I am very proud to represent this great team and the three-pointed star in our journey together again next year. I am very proud to represent this great team and the three-pointed star in our journey together again next year. The past few years have been focused on continuous improvement, working on every aspect of my performance. Today I feel as strong as ever, but I can always raise the bar. Mercedes embraces this same philosophy: they always want to improve and are always hungry for victories. Ever since I fell in love with Formula 1 as a child, it has been my dream to one day become World Champion".
The Finn continues:
"I'm fighting for the title this year and staying with Mercedes puts me in the best possible position to compete again next season. I want to give my all in every single race we face this year. Last weekend's puncture was a big blow in my fight with Lewis, but I'm determined to come back with even more conviction in the next Grand Prix".
His teammate Lewis Hamilton, on the other hand, has no hurry. The six-time World Champion certainly doesn't lack the desire to win, but as he says in a press conference, at the moment his priorities are others:
"When I think about so many people in the world who have lost their jobs, people who are unemployed, it's hard then to sit down and negotiate a big contract. It just doesn't seem like the most important thing and the thing I need right now. The thing is, I want to continue with the team, and it's not going to be a big deal for us to sit down and work out a deal. Right now I'm not comfortable with it, and so I'm going to wait a little longer. I'm not talking to anyone else, and I'm looking forward to continuing with the team, especially since we're just starting a new chapter as a team. I am excited about what is possible at Mercedes, this team is always moving with an eye towards the future. So at some point I know this will be done as well, I'm not stressed".
After the usual conferences with the journalists, it’s time for the first free practice on Friday. Shortly before the start, however, comes the official announcement of the ruling regarding the Renault complaint: the French company, in fact, had accused Racing Point of having built the front and rear brake sockets too similar to the Mercedes W10, a charge now accepted by the FIA, which establishes the sum of fifteen points less to the British team and 400,000 in fines. The future Aston Martin, therefore, goes down from fifth place with 42 points, to sixth with just 27, behind Renault that has 32 points.
The fine, however, is limited to cover the Styrian Grand Prix, while as for the Hungarian Grand Prix and that of the previous weekend, the punishment consists in a reprimand. For the rest of the season, Racing Point will therefore be able to continue running with the components deemed illegal, despite the protests. The fourteen-page verdict, in fact, does not leave the teams satisfied, including Ferrari, which has already sent an official letter to the FIA and obtained a clarification. In this regard, the team principal of Ferrari, Mattia Binotto, stresses that the problem does not regard just the components in question, but the entire design of the car:
"We will carefully study the fourteen pages of the ruling, there are possibly twenty-four hours to decide to appeal. First of all, there is an admission that Racing Point made a regulatory error, and this is the starting point. Then it is to be understood if the penalty is enough or not. But in our opinion it is not so much and not only the issue of the brake air intake that needs to be contested, but the entire concept of the Racing Point car. For us, copying is a wrong and not a legal process".
The issue of the RP20's rear and front brake air intakes is complex, as the first step consisted in attesting what kind of infringement this was. The copied parts, in fact, were taken from the W11 in 2019 when teams were still allowed to switch components between each other. The swap, on the other hand, has been prohibited since 2020, but because Racing Point took advantage of the possibility as long as it was allowed, it only broke the sporting regulations and not the technical ones, for which it would otherwise have been disqualified. Nicholas Tombazis, FIA technical manager, explained in fact that:
"The air intakes, particularly the rear ones, were not designed directly by Racing Point because a lot of information was transferred from Mercedes legitimately in 2019, but then Racing Point did not develop its own design for 2020. That's why the stewards applied a sport penalty, because the components themselves were legal, but not the process by which they came to use them".
The British team was then able to copy from Mercedes thanks to images captured in the paddock by 3D cameras, followed by the process of reverse engineering, or the reconstruction of the components through photos. About Racing Point drivers, Sergio Perez has served his quarantine but remains positive to Covid-19, hence the British team confirms Nico Hulkenberg for this Grand Prix. The German, after being stuck in the pits last weekend, is now hoping to get on track and be able to score points in the race. In the meantime, Pirelli has concluded its investigation into the series of punctures on the front left tires that affected Valtteri Bottas, Carlos Sainz and Lewis Hamilton last weekend. According to the statement released, there isn’t a specific cause, but rather several factors:
"The reason is due to a series of concomitant causes determined by an extremely prolonged use of the second set. In particular, the second Safety Car pushed almost all the teams to anticipate the pit stop and therefore to carry out a final stint of about forty laps: more than three quarters of the race, on one of the most severe circuits, on the tire side, of the entire Formula 1 World Championship. This, combined with the high pace of the 2020 Formula 1s, faster on a dry lap by 1.2 seconds than the 2019 pole, made the final laps particularly critical. A combination of elements that on the left front tire, notoriously the most stressed on the English circuit, very worn from the many laps completed and therefore less protected in the face of limit stress, were extreme".
Despite these difficulties, Pirelli confirms its decision to use softer compounds for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix compared to the previous week. The C2, C3 and C4 tires will therefore be used. Five minutes from the start, the Silverstone track is scorching hot: 26 °C atmospheric temperature and 35 °C asphalt temperature. It will therefore be a challenging Friday for the drivers, who will have to manage unusually high temperatures, with even softer tires. The first free practice session of the weekend starts at 12:00 and the first driver to get on track is Max Verstappen, followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo. On the other Alfa Romeo, in place of Antonio Giovinazzi, there is Robert Kubica, who will take part only to the first round. Some technical innovations will be tested in this session: Racing Point, in fact, will bring a new rear wing to try to reduce drag without losing aerodynamic load, while Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari will run with two cameras mounted on the bottom, to evaluate high speed deformations in that area.
In the first five minutes almost all the drivers join the track on C4 tires, except for the two Ferraris that are still not showing up for the traditional installation lap. After fifteen minutes of free practice, the first one to set a timed lap is Kimi Raikkonen, with a time of 2'06"440. Sebastian Vettel then takes control of the session with a lap of 1'28"520, but Charles Leclerc does slightly better and takes the lead with a time of 1'28"306. Raikkonen, Grosjean, Magnussen, Ricciardo and Kubica follow, the only drivers to have set a time in the first twenty minutes of free practice. Leclerc, however, improves again, getting to four tenths from Vettel, now followed by Albon, Gasly and Kvyat. Still in the pits, instead, are the two Mercedes driven by Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton, who show up after half an hour from the start of FP1 and immediately take the lead, both on soft tires: 1'27"400 for Bottas and 1'26"842 for Hamilton. In the meantime, Max Verstappen has returned to the pits after the first few laps and is still not back on track. Pierre Gasly, on the other hand, gives us his first feedback on Soft tires, which have been put under stress by the high temperatures:
"I can see that they are already damaged after only two laps launched".
Halfway through the first free practice, all the drivers return to the pits to mount their first set of tires of the weekend, soft for everyone. The first driver to return on track is Sebastian Vettel, with new red tires, followed by Bottas, Hamilton and Grosjean with the same tires.
Bottas scores the first lap, taking the lead in the classification, while Raikkonen, Magnussen, Kubica, Ricciardo and the two Ferraris are also back on track. Just during his installation lap, however, the Danish driver makes a mistake by making a big block, damaging the left front tire. In the meantime, Nico Hulkenberg goes to third position, soon ousted by Max Verstappen, with a gap of seven tenths. Some small squabbles between the Dutch driver and his engineers followed: Verstappen, in fact, was not alerted to the sudden arrival of Leclerc, after having gone wide to let Vettel pass. But his engineers will admit:
"Charles was on a slow lap, we didn't expect him to come so fast".
A few minutes later, everyone is waiting for the race pace simulation, which usually takes place in the last quarter of an hour. The first drivers to get back on track are the two Mercedes drivers, with Bottas being asked to keep using the kerbs to put maximum stress on the tires, in order to study their degradation with a high fuel load. Gasly and Norris are also back on track, but they soon start complaining about the wear of the rear tires, which presents some blistering. The first free practice session of the weekend ends at 13:30 with Mercedes dominating: Bottas was in fact the fastest with a time of 1'26"166, followed by Hamilton at one tenth. Verstappen is third at seven tenths, followed by the Racing Point of Nico Hulkenberg, who looks in great form. The two Ferrari are in fifth and seventh place, which is not much, but that bode well for the rest of the weekend.
Hamilton and Toto Wolff joke about the fact that they will not stay in Mercedes as they are thinking of going to Mars to look for new challenges. But then Toto Wolff becomes serious again when talking about the Patto della Concordia, the commercial agreement between ten teams, affirming that he is not willing to sign it. The agreement, in fact, has always guaranteed a favorable treatment to Ferrari by virtue of its historical role, being the only team to have taken part in all the seasons of the championship and, above all, being its presence inevitably linked to the image of Formula 1. Mercedes, on the other hand, according to Toto Wolff, is not recognized for its contribution to Formula 1 so far:
"We also have the driver with the most appeal, but we have not been treated as we should have been. Therefore, we are not ready to sign the Concord Pact. We want a fairer distribution of the prize money, instead we are the biggest victim with respect to the economic side. Ferrari has maintained an advantageous position. Red Bull balances out with AlphaTauri. So, we are the ones who are the most damaged. How long can we take to come to an agreement and sign? It will depend on the others. If the teams are willing to sit at the table, address the thorny issues, discuss them, and maybe come to a compromise, then I think we can sign quickly. But I haven't seen this approach".
Mattia Binotto responds on behalf of Ferrari, but does not consider these critics:
"I don't know what Mercedes' arguments are, we have been discussing the Concord pact for months: we are ready and happy to be able to sign it because it helps the small teams, as well as recognizing Ferrari, present in Formula 1 from the beginning as it always will be, the role it has in this sport".
Apart from these discussions, at 4:00 p.m. the second free practice session gets underway, under an even hotter sun and an asphalt that touches 45 degrees Celsius. In the first few minutes, few drivers join the track, with Antonio Giovinazzi who in the meantime has taken his place aboard his Alfa Romeo. First to break the wait are Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean, both on Medium tires. The best time, however, is set by Daniiil Kvyat: 1'27"468, also on Medium tires. On track now Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Giovinazzi and Stroll. The Australian moves into second position on Hard tires, while Stroll is third on Soft.
The two Ferraris also start, both on Medium tires, while Hulkenberg, the only one on track on Soft tires together with Stroll, beats the time set by his teammate, positioning himself in front of him. In the meantime, Grosjean complains at turn-9, without specifying what the issue is. Shortly after, Bottas takes the lead of the session: 1'25"917 on Medium tires for the Finnish driver, who distances the two Racing Points by one second and two tenths. Fourth position for Albon on Medium tires, who tries in every way to redeem himself from the difficulties experienced so far. Nico Hulkenberg doesn't give up and takes the second position, exactly one second behind Bottas. Third place now for Lando Norris, on track with Soft tires, like his teammate Sainz and Lewis Hamilton. In the meantime, the two Ferrari set their times, which appear to be anything but positive: tenth position for Charles Leclerc, fourteenth for Sebastian Vettel, respectively at 1.7 and two seconds from the leader, on the same tire compound.
Not too much time passes before the reigning World Champion reaffirms his dominance: 1'25"911 is the time set by Lewis Hamilton, who takes the first position, six thousandths of a second behind his teammate. Bottas decides to go back to the pits and mount soft tires, and shortly after the Finnish driver leads the session with fresh tires, but with a minimal advantage. From these free practice sessions, therefore, it seems clear that the Soft C4s in these weather conditions provide a weak improvement over the Medium C3s.
Despite this, Leclerc and Vettel also fit a new set of Soft tires and return to the track to try to improve. In contrast, Stroll and Hulkenberg now test Medium tires. Leclerc finishes in sixth, with Vettel close behind in tenth. The two teammates pass each other a gap of four seconds, while Charles is still distant from the two Racing Points, immediately ahead of him. Now it's time for Lewis Hamilton to attempt a fast lap on Medium tires, which are the best at the moment: 1'25"606 for the Briton, who takes the lead, bringing to 176 thousandths of a second the gap from his teammate. Max Verstappen, however, does not let himself be influenced and returns to the track with Soft tires, improving only by a few thousandths. Positive instead is the time of Daniel Ricciardo, third on the same tires and eight tenths of a second behind Hamilton.
Half an hour from the end of this second free practice session, there atmosphere on track is calm. We wait for the race pace simulation, with Leclerc and Vettel being the first to try Medium and Soft tires respectively. Hamilton and Bottas then take the lead, followed by the Racing Points and the two Ferraris. In the meantime, Leclerc's times drop, probably due to blistering on the right rear tire. Shortly after, Vettel returns to the pits to fit Medium tires, and on his return to the track he improves by two tenths. The two Mercedes return to the pits after having completed their respective race simulations, while Stroll, Mangnussen and Raikkonen end up wide at the exit of the Becketts, perhaps due to the strong wind in this part of the track. A few minutes before the end of the session, a dramatic turn of events takes place for Sebastian Vettel: the engine of his Ferrari breaks, and he is forced to stop at the trackside after leaving a strip of oil on the asphalt.
After a very short Virtual Safety Car, we start again for the last four minutes, but immediately Antonio Giovinazzi stops in the Becketss area for a technical problem, thus decreeing the end of the second free practice session. Definitely not a good moment for Ferrari, with Leclerc in seventh place and Vettel in fourteenth. This is the end of Friday's free practice, with unreliable engines and battles between Racing Point and all the others. During the morning of Saturday, August 8, 2020, the last tests take place, in anticipation of the qualifications that will allow to know the starting order on Sunday.
The last sixty minutes of preparation of this morning will be very important especially for Sebastian Vettel, once again left stranded by his Ferrari. The day opens with good and rising temperatures, 26 °C the atmosphere and 37 °C the asphalt, but with a strong wind that could create problems. At 12:00 starts the last free practice session of the weekend: Charles Leclerc, Kevin Magnussen, Romain Grosjean and Daniil Kvyat go on track for the installation lap. However, Lando Norris is the first to set a time of 1'29"236, followed by his teammate at four tenths. The two Ferraris start on Medium tires: despite a strong wind, Charles Leclerc sets the best time, followed by Sainz who, with the same compound, takes third place, two tenths from the leader. Vettel also improves, getting the same time as Leclerc.
Shortly after Pierre Gasly surprises everyone and takes the lead with his AlphaTauri: 1'28"040 for the Frenchman, with Lance Stroll right behind. Leclerc is now third, three tenths behind. However, when the two Mercedes cars join the track, there is nothing left for anyone. Valtteri Bottas with Soft tyres lowers the time limit to 1'27"509, while Hamilton is second, at seventeen thousandths of a second, with the same compound. Soft tire also for Max Verstappen who is third. The wind, meanwhile, creates the first pitfalls for George Russell, who goes off the track, but manages to come back without any problems. The one who is not affected is Lewis Hamilton, who takes the lead with a lap of 1'27"280, while Verstappen scores 1'27"615 thanks to the Mercedes' slipstream. Nico Hulkenberg scores a good time too, 1'27"692, placing himself in fourth place.
Shortly after it's Lando Norris to surprise, setting a time of 1'27"202 on Medium tires. The two Ferrari improve as well, but always on Soft tires: 1'27"328 for Leclerc, who climbs to third place, and 1'27"811 for Vettel, who is in eighth place. The good results of the two Ferrari are however overshadowed by Valtteri Bottas, who takes back the top of the ranking on Soft tires, and Hamilton who responds by taking the lead with a lap just over a tenth better than his teammate. The battle between the two Mercedes is briefly interrupted by an argument between Verstappen and Stroll. The Canadian, in fact, slows down the Dutchman, who is busy trying to set a fast lap, and ruins his lap. The Red Bull driver, not content with his protests, slows down to wait for Stroll and complains directly to him. After restarting, the Red Bull driver improves, but not by much, placing himself only seventh ahead of Albon.
The last to improve is finally Ricciardo, who climbs to fourteenth place but remains behind Vettel. It’s the end of the last practice session of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, waiting for qualifying in the afternoon. The two Mercedes have undoubtedly confirmed their superiority, while the group that follows them is slower, but quite compact. In fact, the times are not particularly significant, even if we have to take into account Verstappen's ruined lap due to a misunderstanding with Stroll. In third place is Norris, the only one to have set a time on Medium tires, while the two Racing Point seem to have regained their spirits this weekend, with Nico Hulkenberg coming fourth, followed by his team mate. Leclerc, the two Red Bulls, Ocon and Sainz follow, all within four tenths of a second of each other. After a short break, the teams are ready to get back on track for qualifying. The temperatures are still rising, with 26 °C atmospheric and 43 °C asphalt, despite the sky being partly cloudy.
The wind, however, does not leave the circuit, blowing at a speed of 16.6 Km/h. At 3:00 p.m. the first part of the qualifying session gets underway, with Grosjean, Magnussen, Hulkenberg and Russel being the first to join the track. The German is the only one on Soft tires, while all the others have chosen Medium tires. Hulkenberg is the one who sets the best performance, with a time of 1'27"279, more than 1.2 seconds ahead of Russel and Grosjean. Then the two Alfa get back on track, but for now they set the worst times, despite the fact that they both use Soft tires. Mercedes don't wait any longer and immediately take the lead, but Verstappen fights back and takes the first position. In the meantime, an excellent Pierre Gasly is fifth, while Ferrari’s appear disappointing: sixth position for Leclerc, tenth for Vettel. The driver from Monaco improves soon after, getting the fifth position, while Vettel keeps struggling and falls in thirteenth position.
In the back of the field George Russel has some difficulties in his launch lap: in fact, Esteban Ocon is in the way, proceeding at a slow pace. The Englishman manages to avoid the collision, but it is possible that Ocon will receive a penalty for the potential risk of an accident. We are now in the final moments of Q1, and the drivers are completing the exit lap to know the first five eliminated. The best time goes to Bottas, followed by Hamilton and Albon. The first five eliminated, however, are respectively Kvyat, Magnussen, Latifi, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen. An unfortunate result especially for the first three, considering that their teammates instead crossed the finish line in time to enter Q2. After a few minutes of waiting, at 3:25 p.m. qualifying resumes with the second session. Max Verstappen goes on track straight away, trying to set a fast lap on Hard tires. No one, however, runs on Soft tyres. Bottas sets the first fast lap time of 1'25"785, almost half a second ahead of Hamilton. Ricciardo is third, at 881 thousandths, while Verstappen's choice of tires does not seem to pay off, considering the gap from the leader.
Problems also for Hulkenberg, who runs the risk of crashing into the barriers on his launch lap. In the meantime, the two Ferrari get back on track, with Leclerc in fourth position, while Vettel is at risk of elimination being in eleventh position. Tire change for the German, who goes hunting for Q3 on Soft tires, even if the choice could put him in trouble ahead of the race. Unfortunately for him, though, there's nothing to do and at the end of this second session the eliminated are Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Grosjean and Russell. All times so far have been obtained on Medium tires, except Vettel on Soft and Verstappen on Hard. At 3:48 p.m. the traffic lights go off, kicking off the third qualifying session. Everyone on track is on Soft tires, except Ricciardo and the two Red Bulls who are on Medium tires. Hamilton takes the first place for now, with a time of 1'25"284, one tenth better than Bottas. Ricciardo is third, Hulkenberg fourth, followed by the two Red Bulls and Leclerc.
The clock is ticking and it's down to the last few minutes for the last attempts. Hamilton and Bottas fight for the pole position on Medium tires, but in a surprise move it's the Finnish driver who takes the first place on the grid. Bottas thus thanked Mercedes for the renewed contract, adding this pole to the twelve already in his career.
"It's a great feeling, a special lap. I managed to give my best, I got the most out of the car and we made progress compared to last weekend. I'm satisfied, it's great to be able to drive an amazing car. Obviously when you start from pole you can only think about winning the race. We have the race pace. My first task is to start well at the start, as I did last weekend, but then continue. My mentality is to try to win tomorrow".
Lewis Hamilton spends kind words towards his teammate, acknowledging the good job done:
"Valtteri did a great job and deserved the pole. My last lap was not perfect. I don't think anyone can do a one-stop strategy tomorrow with these tires, we already saw seven days ago how difficult it was, we'll see how it goes, the battle tomorrow".
Impressive the time of Nico Hulkenberg who placed third, the only one less than a second behind Mercedes. The German says he is happy with this result, after last week's disappointment:
"It's been a really crazy two weeks. Last week there was a high peak and then I had a sharp low, a bit between two extremes. This week I had more time to prepare. Complicated qualifying, in Q2 I made a mistake, and I was afraid I had damaged the car. But then in Q3 I pushed hard. I am surprised to be here. I have a big smile on my face, even if you can't see it. My neck will hurt tomorrow, everything is new to me with this car, but I will try to learn quickly and put the car in the positions it deserves. Market? Too early to talk about it now, I want to think about Sunday. The moment is good for me but it's not time to exult yet. Let's see tomorrow".
Fourth instead is Verstappen, followed by Ricciardo, Stroll, Gasly, Leclerc, Albon and Norris. Behind the top four, the positions remain mixed, with notable differences even between teammates. Remarkable is, for example, the fifth place of Daniel Ricciardo, while his teammate Esteban Ocon did not manage to enter Q2, and the excellent seventh place of Pierre Gasly, who reached Q3 differently from Daniil Kvyat, eliminated in Q1. Important differences also persist at Ferrari, as Charles Leclerc is satisfied of his eighth place, acknowledging that it is a realistic position considering Ferrari's performances, while Sebastian Vettel failed to get beyond twelfth place:
"Maybe it's more realistic where we are today, with the Softs we lost something, we struggled to keep the tires in the last sector, it will be a very difficult race tomorrow and keep up with the others, but let's try to be optimistic".
Sebastian Vettel, as mentioned, stopped at Q2. The German thanks the engineers who are trying everything, but acknowledges that there are problems that keep persisting:
"We tried a lot of things. I have to congratulate my engineers who have done a great job changing a lot of things, but we are not progressing, it seems like we are going against a wall. I was happy with my laps, instead it's disappointing to be twelfth and have this gap from the other car, I don't think there was more to extract from this car. We were clearly and cleanly beaten by those in front of us, it wasn't bad luck. It seems like there's something we can't change".
This is how this Saturday of qualifying ends, and silence falls on the Silverstone circuit. It is now time for the teams to retire and analyze the best strategy for tomorrow's race, also in view of a very unusual heat for Great Britain, which will subject the tires to great stress. Who knows, in fact, that Sunday may hold some surprises. Race morning begins, as always, with great frenzy in the paddock. The teams are working on the final touches, while the drivers are trying to concentrate. Mario Isola, Pirelli Director of Formula 1, when asked what the best strategy is, answers:
"This Sunday, with C2, C3 and C4, we could have a great stress for the tires, especially if the temperatures will exceed thirty degrees for what concerns the atmosphere and fifty for what concerns the track. Last Sunday we were faced with an extreme and completely unexpected situation. In the last ten years, we have never seen temperatures of this type. It is very likely that the race, in the event, will be a two-stop".
The fastest tactic, in fact, should be to start with Medium tires, then switch to a new set of Medium and finish on Hard. Alternatively, the Medium-Hard-Medium strategy is an equally valid option. Max Verstappen, the only one to start on Hard tires, could opt for a Hard-Hard-Soft strategy. Five minutes from the start, the forecasts are confirmed: Medium for everyone except Verstappen, Vettel, Sainz, Kvyat and Raikkonen who choose Hard tires. All the teams discard the Soft tires, which last too short. The weather doesn't hold any surprises: the sky is partly cloudy, with 23 °C atmosphere and 40 °C asphalt, and no chance of rain in the next two hours.
At 3:10 p.m. everything is ready for the start and the single seaters take off for their usual formation lap. A few minutes later the lights go out and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix begins. Valtteri Bottas has a great start, followed by Lewis Hamilton and, surprisingly, by Max Verstappen who burns Nico Hulkenberg at the start. Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, spins and loses control of his car after climbing on the kerb in turn 1. The German, who started in eleventh position, is now eighteenth.
On lap five, Bottas is 1.6 seconds ahead of his teammate, despite Hamilton's attempts to overtake him. Hulkenberg, on the other hand, is always slower than Verstappen, who manages to distance him by a good four seconds. Leclerc, meanwhile, dropped to tenth place, stuck behind Alexander Albon. Around the tenth lap the first problems with the grip of the Medium tires appear: the first to stop at the pits for a tire change is Albon, who chooses the Hard. Gasly and Giovinazzi then follow, allowing Leclerc to overtake in eighth position, positioning himself between the two McLaren.
A little later Magnussen and Latifi come back to the pits to replace their tires, while it seems that Verstappen's Hard tires are still holding up well. The two Mercedes choose not to stop, but they still go into tire management mode, as we can see from the high times. The two black arrows are not able to break away from the rest of the pack today as they are used to, also because the rear tires on Hamilton's car are already starting to show some blistering. Charles Leclerc climbs to seventh place, thanks to Lando Norris who pits on lap 12. Like him, Bottas, who has priority over Hamilton being in the lead, comes back to the pits during the thirteenth lap and chooses to mount Hard tires, returning to the track in sixth place. Soon after it's his teammate's turn to mount Hard tires, but unfortunately, he doesn't get back on track fast enough and is only eighth. Hamilton re-enters the race behind Charles Leclerc, but with new tires the Mercedes driver overtakes him a few laps later.
Sebastian Vettel, in the meantime, is busy climbing up: from eighteenth place he is now at eleventh, managing to get rid of Grosjean. The German, however, has not yet made a pit stop, as he was starting with Hard tires and will therefore have to deal with the slowdown due to a stop. On lap 15 Nico Hulkenberg pits. In the lead is Max Verstappen, who has a 10.6 seconds over Stroll: behind the Canadian are Bottas, Hamilton and Leclerc. At lap 18 the top ten is composed of Verstappen, Stroll, Bottas, Hamilton, Leclerc, Sainz, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Kyvat and Ricciardo. Many among them, however, have yet to stop, such as Verstappen, Leclerc and Stroll.
It's at the end of the eighteenth lap that the Monegasque and the Canadian make their first stop of the race: Stroll is sixth, while Leclerc is twelfth. Immediately behind, Gasly and Albon are fighting for thirteenth place in a tight duel. Leclerc, however, draws attention to himself with a great overtaking move on Norris, braking to the limit in turn 3 and sliding inside. On the next lap the Englishman tries to regain his position by taking advantage of the DRS on the straight, but the Monegasque resists and holds on tight. At the head of the pack Verstappen continues his progression, taking a good fifteen seconds off Bottas' Mercedes. The Finn, however, is put under pressure by his teammate, who is getting closer and closer and is now 2.6 seconds away. At the back of the pack, Albon pulls off a fantastic outside overtaking move on Raikkonen at Copse, then goes on to attack Gasly at Luffield.
Meanwhile, on lap 24 Sainz pits and loses a few seconds at the restart to avoid an unsafe release. Only Raikkonen and Verstappen haven’t gotten back to the pits yet, but according to the Dutchman's team radio, the tires are still in excellent condition. As a matter of fact, the Red Bull driver continues to gain pace on the Mercedes. Hamilton, then, tells his engineers that he is in trouble because of a marked blistering on the right front, which leads him to lose two seconds compared to Verstappen, on the same tire compound. On lap twenty-five of the total fifty-two, the top ten includes Verstappen, Bottas, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Ricciardo, Leclerc, Norris, Albon and Ocon. On lap twenty-six Max Verstappen returns to the pits to mount Medium tires.
The Dutchman comes back second, five seconds from Hamilton, but still behind Bottas, who took advantage of the leader's pit stop. Vestappen's fresh tires, however, are undoubtedly more performing, and so the Dutchman overtakes Bottas on the outside at turn 7, regaining the leadership of the Grand Prix. In the meantime, Kevin Magnussen receives a five second penalty due to an irregular manoeuvre on Nicholas Latifi. The Dane, in fact, went wide at the exit of the Stowe, risking hitting the car of the Canadian on his return to the track. As for Ferrari, Sebastian Vettel is at the bottom of the group in thirteenth position, and does not spare a harsh criticism to his wall:
"This is a gap we don't like, we talked about it this morning, but you know, you guys messed up".
Charles Leclerc, on the other hand, proves to have a good pace setting the fastest lap time of 1'30"668. At the front of the group, Verstappen is given precise instructions not to worry about tire management anymore, but to think only about pushing as hard as possible. The Dutchman, in fact, has fresher tires than his pursuers and can afford to run, and then stop when the two Mercedes come back for the second pit stop. On lap 30, Nico Hulkenberg and Alexander Albon return to the pits, and the next lap the other Racing Point driver, Stroll, also stops. On lap 32, Ricciardo spun at the exit of turn 3, trying to defend himself from Sainz' attack for ninth position, but managed to get back on track.
At the head of the pack, on lap 32 Bottas and Verstappen come back to the pits together to mount both Hard tires and go out at the same time, but the Dutchman seems to be able to handle the new tires better. Hamilton, who is still on track, is now the leader with an advantage of 11 seconds over Verstappen and Bottas, but he complains over the radio about the car's performance. The British driver's main concern is the tires, but he is reassured by the race wall: the tires are fine, only blistering is slowing him down. There are now fourteen laps to go and the Mercedes box considers going all the way with this set of Hard tires, but on the next lap (the forty-first) second thoughts arise and Hamilton is called back to the pits to mount a new set of Hard tires. There are now ten laps to go and Max Verstappen is still leading the group. He is followed by Bottas and Leclerc, who still has to make his second stop. Despite the worn tires, the pace of the Monegasque seems very encouraging, being now only 1.4 seconds behind Bottas. Hamilton, meanwhile, behind Leclerc, sets the fastest lap time of 1'28"451.
In the meantime, Hulkenberg makes an unusual third stop and gives up his position to Albon and Stroll. It doesn't take long before Hamilton overtakes Leclerc, taking third place with a great braking maneuver at Stowe. While Kevin Magnussen retires from the Grand Prix, Hamilton takes a 1.1 gap from Bottas with four laps to go. From the pits comes the green light for the two drivers, who can compete for the first position, but only if they bring the whole cars back to the pits. Hamilton wastes no time and chases Bottas relentlessly, then manages to pass him on the braking at Brooklands, with the help of the DRS. Now the last lap begins: Max Verstappen, very amused, jokes with the men of his race wall, ready to take his first win of the season. At the waving of the chequered flag, the Dutchman is the first to cross the finish line, interrupting Mercedes’ domination that lasted four races. Hamilton, Bottas, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Norris and Kvyat follow, conquering the first ten positions.
This is the end of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, for which the umpteenth Mercedes triumph was expected, but instead a surprise victory by Max Verstappen arrived. The Dutchman, who started fourth, brilliantly managed the tires, showing a great race pace and putting Hamilton and Bottas in trouble: for the first time this season, in fact, the two Mercedes drivers found themselves fighting each other, but not for the first position. Verstappen, who just got out of the car, said he was thrilled with this victory, which was completely unexpected:
"I didn't expect to win, absolutely, but I had no struggles, and I was able to push as I wanted to. It's an incredible result. We had a great day; everything went in the right way and we also guessed the strategy. I don't want to manage anything; I know that my opponents are fast but I want to attack and put pressure. Until now I didn't have the opportunity to do it, I had the chance to do it".
To surprise is also Charles Lelcerc, who concludes the Grand Prix in fourth position after starting eighth and even fell to tenth place during the earliest laps. The Monegasque was also among the few, together with Ocon and Raikkonen, to have concluded the race with only one pit stop, demonstrating an excellent ability to manage the tires. Hamilton, on the other hand, is bitterly disappointed, having experienced some issues with the tires today:
"It was not the result I wanted, but it was a huge challenge: if we look at the tires, they had something more than us today. Therefore, I'm happy to have managed the race well, I pushed hard to catch Valtteri and in the end it didn't go badly. Now the team will work hard, but my Pirelli tires had some problems, they were like balloons, never had such a high pressure and they could have affected us negatively. I don't know if it happened to other teams. At the end I drove practically without tires, half of them were not there".
However, it went worse for his teammate, who started as the poleman and only finished third:
"It was very frustrating. Starting from the pole position and finishing in third position is not ideal. I think as a team, we were asleep in some moments and when Max managed to overtake us and our strategy was far from ideal, so I think we have a lot of things to learn after what happened today".
Bottas sends a strong signal to his team, saying that it seemed they were sleeping, but Toto Wolff doesn't think the same way as the Finnish driver:
"I talked to Valtteri. We were not sleeping, but I accept his point of view. I think we simply had a slower car today, we admit that. According to his point of view we should have done the opposite to Max. To tell you the truth, that wouldn't have changed anything, because Max would have gone out with a fresh tire anyway, and we would have continued with a tire that would no longer be in the best condition, and he simply made a pit stop before us. So I'm not sure what we could have done better. Obviously, he's not happy about finding himself in second place, with Lewis in third. But everything that happened on the track, it gave us a great lesson, when we took Valtteri's tire after his stop, and we saw that there was still a lot of rubber left, even though there was a lot of vibration. Therefore, it was getting faster and faster, and the tire was going down in performance, which is why we were able to extend the stint, until Lewis passed Valtteri. It's clear that he's not happy, and I totally respect that. None of us were today with the result".
Charles Leclerc says he is thrilled by this fourth place, which seems like a victory to him:
"This fourth place almost feels like a victory, it's bad to say that but we have to look at what the situation is now. If this morning, from eighth place, they had told me that I would have finished fourth I would have immediately signed, it was unhoped for. I'm very happy, honestly I don't understand where we found this performance because even at the end of the run on hard tyres I was doing very well. For a moment I even thought of attacking Bottas, something I didn't think could happen this year. I am very happy, now I would like to analyze the data to understand where this performance came from. With the hard tyres we were going very fast, today everything was very positive. The fight with Hamilton? You have to know how to choose the moments to fight, at the beginning (i.e. after the first stop), I let him go because it was not the case to fight, at the end instead I believed in it because a podium would have been totally unexpected and exceptional, I tried but I did not succeed".
Sebastian Vettel, on the other hand, crossed the finish line disappointed with his twelfth place and with his race wall, for stopping him earlier than he wanted:
"We are coming from two very negative weeks, I don't know what happened in terms of pace: it's a bit strange, certainly not the best days for me and it's a bit frustrating. Today we tried but I spun on the first lap: I don't know what happened, probably I had a hit from the kerb and it caught me by surprise. We got back to the group pretty quickly, but the strategy wasn't great, we did what we wanted to do and I don't know what we thought at that moment: let's move on".
Ferrari’s team principal, Mattia Binotto, disagrees with these statements, recalling that it was Vettel alone having compromised the race:
"This is definitely a difficult moment for him, but I don't think he has lost confidence in the group. He had difficulties yesterday in qualifying and in two races here he didn't find a feeling with the car, then he spun at the start putting the tires on the grass and so he had an uphill race. As far as the strategies are concerned, I think there is little to say, it is probably true that we brought forward his stop by a few laps compared to the ideal one, and this made him lose a position on Kimi, which we knew he would have recovered without losing time, and on the contrary, it allowed Charles to continue his comeback. Overall, for the team it was the right choice, I think we did not penalize him with this decision, because as I said he regained immediately on Kimi and he would not have been able to make an overcut on Kvyat, who was going more or less as fast as him, and after that he made an undercut on Sainz. He finished 12th and unfortunately 12th would have finished anyway, his race was compromised at the start. I think this is the reason more than the strategy. A chassis change? From our side I have not heard about it, we will evaluate everything we need to help him, Barcelona will be a different track than Silverstone, this is the first element that changes, on a track that he knows as well as this one. We will go with a different aerodynamic load, the maximum available, in very different conditions, if we need to change the chassis to help Seb we will do it".
Then, talking about Charles Leclerc's fourth place, the team principal admits:
"The two Mercedes and Verstappen are faster than us, so I would say that fourth place is the best we can do. I think today's race was fundamental for Charles' comeback, tenth after one lap and fourth at the end. He found a new rhythm compared to the qualifying, yesterday we had difficulties with the softer tires, we were not able to use them well in the dry lap and we found ourselves in a position that did not favor us for the race. For the current situation we had a good pace, it was a good fourth place. We were losing a lot in the fast corners, this happened last weekend as well as in this one, it's also due to the balance of the car. Surely today with these environmental conditions and the type of tire he found the right balance, being able to push a little bit more and be fast in those corners, this allowed him to have a good pace".
After the race, there are updates on the Racing Point case: after several teams had promised to give battle to overturn the judgment, at the end of the ninety-six hours allowed for the appeal, only Ferrari and Renault have decided to continue in the dispute, while Williams, Red Bull and McLaren have pulled back, claiming to have changed their minds. The date of the hearing will be announced in the coming days by the International Court of Appeal of the FIA, in order to reach the final judgment.
"On the Racing Point issue, Ferrari spoke on Friday. There were protests, there was a verdict and the verdict said that what was done was illegal. This is a starting point, then you can be furious or not, but there was an irregularity. The violation is like when there is an assignment in school, there are those who copy it and there are those who pass it, I think there is nothing to add on this. For us the facts are obvious, it is not a question of being angry or furious, we are competitors, and it is normal that at some point everyone looks at their own interest. For our part we look at what has been done and the outcome that has been given, the judgment starts from the Stewarts, we have put our intentions on appeal, and we believe that the judgment or the penalty is not appropriate, we have four days to confirm it, then we will move forward".
Says Mattia Binotto on the Racing Point case, which receives another reprimand from the sporting commissioners, adopting the same measure taken in the Hungarian Grand Prix and the British Grand Prix. The same brake air intakes that had been used in the last three Grands Prix were mounted on the British team's cars, although before this race the ruling was published in which the FIA clarified that the contested parts are regular for technical regulations and illegal for sporting ones.
Finally, Kevin Magnussen, in addition to the five second penalty he received in the race, without however having had any practical considering his retirement, suffers the subtraction of two points on his Superlicence due to a dangerous re-entry on the track and the consequent near collision with Nicholas Latifi. It is the end of a Grand Prix which appeared to be full of surprises and certainly more animated than last weekend’s, with an unexpected victory of Max Verstappen. The appointment is now for next week with the Spanish Grand Prix, which will take place on the Barcelona circuit, concluding the first triple-header of the season.