Three reasons why we won’t forget the 2019 British GP
Tradition? Yes, that’s a big reason why the new deal that secures the future of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for another five years is great news. But there’s much more to it than heritage, as the race on Sunday proved with emphatic conviction.
The circuit, which has changed dramatically since its first world championship grand prix in 1950, has moved with the times because it has had to – but that evolution has surely been worth it. The 2019 British GP was not only the best of the season so far, but also represented a cast-iron modern classic, offering not only landmark history in its result, but also clear signposts to a bright future for the sport itself.
And, lest we forget, fantastic wheel-to-wheel racing worthy of any era, in front of one of the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds F1 will play to this season.
Of course F1’s bosses agreed to a new deal to keep Silverstone on the calendar. If only every grand prix could be like this.
Hamilton’s historic sixth
You’d need a heart of stone not to have felt for Valtteri Bottas on Sunday afternoon. The Finn had that haunted crestfallen look we’ve seen before, and for good reason – because not for the first time he was blameless in defeat at the hands of Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton.
Having claimed a fantastic pole position on Saturday, Bottas had driven a great race, hadn’t put a wheel wrong – and still found himself losing out.
Immediately once the lights were out Hamilton had been on him, but when his moment came to take the lead, Bottas bit back. Hamilton’s brilliant undercut at Brooklands looked to be enough, but his team-mate had his nose up the inside at Luffield and that gave him the momentum to streak back ahead into Copse. Classic Silverstone stuff.
But a moment of fortune on tyre strategy and the timing of a safety car, to clear Antonio Giovinazzi’s beached Alfa Romeo, handed Hamilton what amounted to a free stop – and a lead he would not lose.
Would he have passed Bottas anyway? Probably. Bottas had committed to two stops, whereas Hamilton’s single-stopper looked to be the better bet. But that safety car never gave us the chance to see this one play out naturally.
All we can know for sure is the victory, cheered by the wonderful Silverstone crowd, made it six wins at home, and secured another record for happy Hamilton. This one moves him beyond Jim Clark and Alain Prost, both of whom shared with him the record of five British GP wins. At this rate, he’ll soon be in a class of his own – at least as far as stats are concerned.
Leclerc vs Verstappen, part two
Just as they had in Austria, F1’s pair of 21-year-old stars put on a thrilling show of racing at Silverstone, with Charles Leclerc defending brilliantly against a typically determined Max Verstappen in the early stages.
The resumption of their personal battle, which had ended in controversy at the Red Bull Ring, was predictably hard-fought on both sides – but pleasingly always fair on this occasion. These two, along with others including Lando Norris and potentially George Russell, could be thrilling us in this fashion for years to come. That’s an increasingly tasty prospect.
Silverstone encapsulated current F1 form in a snapshot on Sunday: the Mercs had a clear edge in performance, while Ferrari and Red Bull – neither too far behind the silver cars – were locked in close combat, clear of an intense midfield pack currently led by a rejuvenated McLaren. Sure, Mercedes has dominated, but on this evidence there are reasons to be optimistic that the second half of the season will be better than the first.
Vettel’s latest blooper
Another recurring theme reared its head on Sunday, as Sebastian Vettel made yet another crucial misjudgement by slamming into the back of Verstappen at Vale.
The Red Bull had just pulled off a DRS-assisted outside pass at Stowe, but that left Max scrabbling for grip on a wide line out of the corner, giving Vettel a run on him. But successful and immediate retaliation was never on, Verstappen covering the inside. For a second it looked like a gap might open up, but Vettel’s optimism was misplaced and he later held up his hand to the mistake, diffusing a row by apologising before the fiery Dutchman had even pulled himself from the cockpit.
The incident did at least gift Leclerc back a podium he’d looked certain to have lost after another strategy misfire by Ferrari. Leclerc dropped to sixth after the safety car and stops, but gained a place back by passing Pierre Gasly (who notably put in a well-timed competitive performance in the second Red Bull), then rose back to third as Verstappen and Vettel recovered.
But pressure on Vettel will only increase as he heads to his home race at Hockenheim – scene of his most costly error last year when he slithered off in the rain while leading. Speculation that his future at Ferrari might be in doubt is exactly that right now. But such talk is at the very least a distraction for the four-time world champion, who desperately needs a shot in the arm in Germany. Then again, we’ve said that before during this difficult season for Vettel.
But overall, what a race – and what a day for Silverstone. Okay, perhaps later events at Wimbledon and Lord’s overshadowed the British GP on an unforgettable day for sport. But the home of British motor sport had more than done its bit and showed the world once again that it’s among the best F1 theatres in the world.
Photography courtesy of Motorsport Images.