“I didn’t see it coming!” a gleeful Max Verstappen said after winning the Formula One 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone. And he wasn’t the only one.
Mercedes had been utterly dominant in qualifying on the previous day, having locked out the front row by almost a full second. On Saturday night another one-two finish seemed a certainty.
But unbeknownst to the paddock, the German marque was harbouring a critical weakness.
Mercedes’s tyres and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari relationship engage in a race to see which can dissolve faster. Lawrence Stroll kidnaps himself.
It’s hard to believe only a week after three tyre blowouts marred the end of the British Grand Prix that we’re praising Pirelli for spicing up a race, but little in 2020 has gone according to expectation.
Whereas previously the soft tyres seemed destined to only increase the requirement for tyre management, instead it forced teams to consider multiple stops, and the combination of softer compounds at higher pressure and the warm, high-energy circuit meant not everyone got their thinking correct.
Mercedes, so dominant last week that Lewis Hamilton won on three wheels, seriously misjudged the tweaked conditions. Using only one set of mediums during practice and saving both hards for the race, the reigning constructors champion didn’t sufficiently grasp the effect high pressures would have on tyre life.
Max Verstappen has broken Mercedes hearts with a perfectly judged strategy at a sizzling Silverstone to snatch his first win of the season.
Verstappen qualified fourth on the grid behind an all-Mercedes front row, but poleman Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton’s races came undone when their Mercedes car struggled to keep its tyres alive in the heat.
All three got good starts — Verstappen scythed past Racing Point’s Nico Hulkenberg to take third on the first lap — but Mercedes immediately fell into a rhythm of tyre management to make sure the medium-compound rubber both drivers started on would make it to the first pit stop window.
Verstappen had no such troubles, starting on the hard after an astute qualifying gamble. He was free to close in on the two leaders unimpeded while both Bottas and Hamilton complained of severe blistering.
By lap 14 — barely one-quarter distance — both Mercedes cars had switched onto the hard, but while they had a momentary boost in grip, before long the more durable rubber too started to expire on their rims.
Verstappen, having inherited the lead, was suddenly able to build an advantage over the stricken black cars, and Red Bull Racing smelt opportunity.
Waiting until lap 26 to make his first stop, he raced with Bottas for the lead as he exited pit lane and dispatched the Finn. He matched the times of the Mercedes cars behind, and when he and Bottas stopped on lap 32 and rejoined the race in the same order, Verstappen was able to gallop away and secure victory.
“I didn’t see it coming!” Verstappen said. “An incredible result to win here.
“We had a lot of pace in the car. We didn’t really have a lot of tyre issues at all we just kept pushing.
“Everything worked out well — we had the right strategy, everything was running smooth.”
The victory took Verstappen up to second in the drivers championship, 30 points behind title leader Hamilton.
Hamilton had been left in first place after Verstappen’s final stop, but his tyres were badly damaged. After considering and dismissing an unlikely defence of the lead without another set of tyres, he dived into pit lane for fresh rubber on lap 40.
But catching Verstappen was never going to happen, with 12 seconds to make up in as many laps. Instead Hamilton’s final stop allowed him to fight with teammate Bottas for second.
The Finn was at a nine-lap tyre disadvantage and could offer little defence, the Briton cutting past him with two laps to spare to consolidate second place.
“It was a massive challenge,” he said. “Definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hardcore as we experienced it, but I’m really grateful to have progressed and manage my way through the race.
“I’m sure the team will be working as hard as its can because we’ve not had that before.”
It left Bottas to trail home a disconsolate third, now third in the title standings and 34 points behind his teammate. … Continue reading
Max Verstappen pushed Mercedes to its limits in the heat of Silverstone to clinch victory in the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.Continue reading on RACER
You wouldn’t have guessed after the triple failure one week ago that tyres would be the saviour of the second race at Silverstone, but at the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix the sport owes a great deal to Pirelli for spicing up the race.
Pirelli some time ago made the decision to bring a set of tyres one set softer to the second race at Silverstone, in part addressing concerns that back-to-back races at the same venue would be a recipe for repetition.
At first glance the extra step seemed unlikely to make much difference, but not much in 2020 is going to plan.
Valtteri Bottas will start the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix from pole position after pipping teammate Lewis Hamilton at the death.
Racing Point supersub Nico Hulkenberg qualified a sensational third in just his second weekend back in F1 filing in for the COVID-19-infected Sergio Perez.
Mercedes was in a class of its own in the battle for pole, the black cars qualifying almost a full second quicker than Hulkenberg’s pink machine, but the intrateam battle for pole was tight.
Valtteri Bottas snatched pole from Lewis Hamilton on another Saturday of Mercedes qualifying domination, but Racing Point super-sub Nico Hulkenberg stole the show with third.Continue reading on RACER
Lewis Hamilton was quickest in final practice for the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone in a strange session of tire preservation ahead of qualifying.Continue reading on RACER
Lewis Hamilton gained the top spot of the practice time sheet at Silverstone, leading teammate Valtteri Bottas in FP2 for the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.Continue reading on RACER
Mercedes has picked up where it left off at Silverstone, with Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton leading FP1 for this weekend’s F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.Continue reading on RACER
Episode 5 presented by Nash Advisory features legendary F1® TV commentator Murray Walker, reflecting on his long career in broadcasting ahead of this week’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone, while also looking at all the talking points to come out of a frantic finish to Sunday’s British Grand Prix.