Hamilton wins his home grand prix again!
Britain’s Lewis Hamilton won his home grand prix in front of a sell out, jubilant crowd at Silverstone last weekend. After yet another horrible start which saw him slide down to third off the line, Hamilton made an inspired decision to pit late in the race for intermediate tyres just as the rain created the perfect conditions for those particular tyres. That important decision ensured victory was certain.
Thank the racing gods for Silverstone. It thankfully had everything and it was much needed after a few subdued races recently. Competitive Williams cars causing issues for Mercedes, good starts for some and poor starts for others, first lap collisions, retirements, a virtual safety car (VSC), on track overtakes, under cut overtakes, rain late on and a raucous crowd was highly entertaining. The rain at the end added to the uncertainty of how the race would pan out.
The start was the most exciting of the season so far. Both Hamilton and Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) experienced wheel spin off the line whilst both Williams cars of Felipe Massa (3rd on the grid) and Valteri Bottas (4th on the grid) flew. Massa vaulted to the front straight between the two struggling Mercedes cars like a rocket in a hurry whilst Bottas breezed past the sluggish Rosberg and almost into second place before having to yield to Hamilton who utilised the better grip of the Mercedes at the entrance of the Arena complex.
Meanwhile at the back it was a catastrophe for both Lotus drivers as they collided with each other. Having already endured a difficult weekend it was over for the Enstone based team by turn 3. It must have been “hit your team mate day” at Silverstone because immediately as the Lotus cars were colliding, Fernando Alonso in the Mclaren-Honda veered right to avoid the accident and violently hit his team mate, Jenson Button’s rear left wheel, the car broke, hopped into the air, came down with a thud and switched itself off. Thus ended yet another miserable home grand prix for Button and he was left waving at the fans from the safety of the barrier.
The accident resulted in a VSC which thankfully proved extremely effective. Rather than the tradition of sending out a safety car to bunch the pack up to a slow speed and then wasting time allowing lapped cars (if there are any) to unlap themselves, the VSC allows the lead driver to act as a safety car whilst each individual car drives to a specific delta time, so they drive safely whilst an accident is recovered. This allows quicker restarts and also helps drivers maintain hard earned gaps they’ve built up to the nearest car behind them.
At the restart Hamilton tried an aggressive overtake on Massa which saw him lock a wheel and overtaken by Bottas. For the first 10 – 15 laps from the restart, Mercedes had no answer for the Williams’ pace although it did look as though both Hamilton and Rosberg were staying back for the early part of the restart to avoid overheating their cars in the turbulant air thrown off the duelling Williams’ out front. Bottas was the faster man but stuck behind his team mate. Williams were perhaps too cautious (as they were whilst leading in Austria last year) and despite Bottas begging to be let by it was too late when chief engineer, Pat Symonds allowed them to race fully.
At the initial round of pitstops, Hamilton put in a mighty in lap to under cut the Williams cars and come out on track in first place. Williams were left to rue an opportunity missed. Had they allowed the faster Bottas to pass Massa for the lead it looked likely that he could have maintained the lead over Hamilton and Massa after the first round of stops but it wasn’t to be.
Towards the end of the race the rain came. The Williams cars looked like fish out of water and immediately fell to the mercy of the Mercedes of Rosberg who looked as though he was in his element. Thus the game of chicken began as to who would do what in terms of tyres. As with a large circuit like Silverstone, it initially only rains in certain areas. Parts of the track were bone dry, others damp and other areas wet. It takes a great deal of skill for a driver to make a judgement on when to change from slicks to intermediates. Initially, a driver will feel himself around the circuit and also rely on weather feedback from the team.
Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari was one of the first to break his nerve and risked swapping slicks for intermediates (inters). He made the wrong decision and pitted too early which meant he was slower during his outlap and subsequent laps than other runners on slicks and by the time the rain really did come, he had shredded the vital tread straight off them. Inters will tear themselves apart on a dryer circuit because they are designed to operate in much cooler temperatures than a dry circuit will generate. He had to pit again rendering him to finish in 8th.
Hamilton made an inspired decision to pit at just the right time. As the rain was falling and with Rosberg in second place catching him (both drivers were on slicks) it looked as though if the circumstances remained the same then Rosberg would take the lead. Hamilton chose to pit in response which caused a wince from many fans. In the past, decisions such as these have not always been Hamilton’s greatest asset and if he was wrong then the race was Rosberg’s. As he pitted, the rain really started to come down which ensured that the extra lap that Rosberg did was much slower than Hamilton, allowing him to re take the lead after the pit stops were over. Sebsatian Vettel of Ferrari also made a similar decision to Hamilton and got the timing spot on which deserves as much credit as Hamilton’s timing.
The rain was an element that really impacted the race. It rendered Williams useless and robbed them of not only a victory but also of a podium. A huge shame being as it was their home grand prix and there was huge support for them. It is a huge talking point that Williams were strong during the race but such a shame that their cars were so weak in damp/wet conditions. Kimi’s decision to pit when he did WOULD have paid off had it kept raining. He would have driven right up behind the front runners had it rained hard after his stop and we would now be talking about how Kimi made an inspired decision which could have gone a long way to saving his career but it wasn’t so.
Red Bull looked much improved…..until of course Daniel Ricciardo suffered a problem and retired towards the end of the race. Danil Kvyat drove a stirling race and it was believed by many that had Kvyat not spun on his in lap (he lost around 12 seconds) for his final pit stop, and had the race been slightly longer then he could have overtaken the Williams cars and Vettel for third place. Despite the rain helping some teams to perform better than others, the Red Bull was fairly consistent over the course of the entire grand prix. It was feared that Red Bull would be obliterated due the combination of their low powered Renault engine and the high speed circuit of Silverstone but it seem to go more their way which should be encouraging for them.
Lewis Hamilton was emotional after yet another win at his home race. It was once again a weekend of records for him. He is now one of only a handful of British drivers who has won the British grand prix 3 times or more, he was the first Brit to win a British grand prix from pole since Damon Hill back in 1994 and he is now third on the all time list of pole positions following behind the two greats of Michael Schumacher and Ayrton Senna. The next record he will want is to beat the number of wins that Vettel has (40 wins), although Hamilton (38 wins) doesn’t seem as concerned about records as the statistically obsessed Vettel is.
Due to the cancellation of the German grand prix earlier this year it is time for a three week break from Formula One before we head to Hungary…one of Hamilton’s most successful stomping grounds. As we enter the mid phase of the season proper, news and developments will be coming thick and fast. The aftermath of the British grand prix threw out more talking points than George Osbourne’s summer budget so stay tuned, news and updates will follow to keep you informed before the season commences once again in the tight, twisty dust bowl that is the Hungaroring.