Winners and Spinners - The British Grand Prix
Well that was a weekend to forget if you're Red Bull, but what about everyone else?
Also, sorry this is late, I'm on holiday at the moment and literally posted this from a Center Parcs in my underwear eating a variety pack box of cornflakes. I'm living my best life y'all.
Some of these shots aren't going to be brilliantly framed as I'm more used to shooting slower moving classics.
Lewis Hamilton - Yes, I know it seems odd to be singing praises to a man who sent a fellow driver to the hospital at one of the fastest corners on the track. But once you put Lewis under pressure you see him at his best, and this weekend has proved to be just that. The sprint qualifying saw him lose out to Max and come into the race already on the backfoot, this meant that from the off it was Hammer-time. No doubt something that would contribute to him coming together with Max a few turns in. Pushing hard with one of his best chances to claw back a vital victory over his championship rival Lewis was pushing to his absolute limit from the off, hence why he took a far compromised line into Copse, getting onto the brakes later to inch his car far enough ahead that should it all go wrong, it wouldn't look like a total dive bomb. Retrospectively, it's a very clever move weighing up the risk, the outcomes, and just how much he could stand to gain if he pulled it off successfully. Although that didn't happen, he clipped Max and had to serve a 10-second penalty. This seemed to only stoke the fire further. I'd assumed that he was going to pull a two stopper to avoid a repeat of his tyre failure here last year; especially given how hard he'd been pushing to pull a gap to Bottas and Norris behind to cushion the blow of his penalty. Even after his pit stop, he was driving exceptionally hard to track back down the podium places but still managed to keep enough life in his tyres for the duration to make it safely to the end. The pace he was extracting was far beyond that of the drivers around him, especially compared to his teammate who was kinda nowhere this weekend. The form he delivered in the second half of the race was classic Lewis and a brilliant display of why he's a seven-time world champion. He flew through the pack ahead of him, aided a little by some early season team-orders, sent one up the inside of Charles, who chose life and got out of the way. When he got out of the car it was clear he'd been pushing himself to extract that pace and it was a clear depictor that he is still fighting hard for the championship.
But we ought to talk about that crash. Who was to blame? I think both drivers are equally. Hard headedness from both, with neither wanting to concede position; if Lewis backed out of it, Max would have shot off through Maggots and Beckets where the nailed down RB16B would have easily outpaced the W12, then he'd simply have taken Lewis to Gapplebees and called it a day. If Max backed off through that turn and took it wider, Lewis would have had an advantage going through to lap two, but it would have been quite easy for Max to either send one around the outside at Stowe or up the inside through Abbey, regaining his lead and again, dropping Lewis. I feel the real issue here was Lewis had a compromised line going into Copse, too tight to the old pit wall, his only line through the turn would be to run it wide on the exit, this would have involved crossing Max's line, which was truer to the ideal approach to the turn. I feel it's this compromised line that swings the argument in Max's favour, it was his corner and while he was fairly aggressive in defending it, putting him at risk of Hamilton running wide into him, he had every right to be there. The remaining question is, was the punishment for Lewis steep enough? I'm not going to call it a desperate move. Barely a third of the way into the season, it is early for desperate moves, but one thing that I do feel about this crash is that it was very Spain 2016. Off the line, defending into a turn where your turn in and entry are so key to a good run that it'd be easier to defend the attack later than sooner. Regardless, was 10 seconds enough of a slap on the wrist? I don't think it was. In the race, yeah, 10 seconds was enough to hobble Lewis, and Mercedes did seem to fluff his stop as well, it took about 14 seconds, but regardless it changed the way Lewis and Mercedes were going to run their race. But after the race? Penalty points? A race ban? It wasn't anywhere near as destructive as Romain Grosjean's crash at Spa but you could apply the same message from the FIA to this crash; "The stewards regard this incident as an extremely serious breach of the regulations, which had the potential to cause injury to others,". Lewis' actions had the potential to cause injury to others. Romain got a race ban for this, so, should Lewis?
Pushing hard through Copse, a corner that'd come to play a key part in the weekend.
Charles Leclerc - Charles Leclerc lead an incredible amount of the British GP and then lost his lead in the final few laps as his tyres started to go away from him, and he shied away from contact with a hard-charging Lewis. All while constantly adjusting engine modes and essentially remapping his car from scratch at one of the most demanding courses on the calendar. It was these smaller details that go a long way to displaying exactly the calibre of driver he is. He came home with a good points haul that'll go a long way to keeping the battle with McLaren alive; although it really would have been salt in the wounds if the Italian outfit took the win on British soil after the Euros.
Max managed to make it around Copse this time.
Max Verstappen - Why am I putting Max in the winners' section? Well, he put in a brilliantly consistent drive throughout the weekend and looked set to capitalise on his winning streak and broaden his gap back to Lewis in the championship. The Red Bull was running an odd set up for Silverstone, focusing on downforce and not straight-line speed, creating a car that could stably take on the fast and demanding turns of the track, and using it to draw clear air before the straights where the reduced top-end speed would see rivals creep back. Max had been working this to his advantage throughout all the sessions, which is more than could be said for his teammate who faltered in the Sprint and found himself starting out of position on Sunday. Generally a strong performance, and if his pace that I saw in person on the Saturday was anything to go by, then he should have dominated that race. He does however now hold the odd title of the only driver to have scored points in a race weekend without completing a lap of the race.
McLaren - A team in the winners' section. I really feel that McLaren earned this. Throughout the weekend, they put in an exceptional performance, both on the pit wall, in the garage, the setup teams and the drivers; an all-around blinder. They had their cars performing right where they could in the field and consistently made up places from qualifying to the sprint and then the race, although both of these were from retirements ahead, they capitalised on these and fended off attacks from the rear well. A rapid Fernando Alonso proved to be problematic for the team in papaya but they had a more sustainable race pace in the blistering heat and could claw it back when the Spaniard's tyres started to fade. Lando's performance was another one of his quality drives, not a really knock your socks off one like Imola, but a solid and metered race, making the most of his strategy, the chaos ahead. While it was strange to not really see him battle Hamilton, he knew that tyre preservation came first and with the general tone that Lewis had set already, it was unsurprising how quickly drivers passed over his challenges. Daniel had a brilliant weekend also, finally looking like he's settled into his car and worked out a lot of his issues with its innate behaviours. Perhaps he's had some phone calls with Carlos to better learn its nuances and quirks. He seemed a lot more at home in the car than we have seen him all season and was able to pump out consistent lap times working as a banksman for Lando ahead without compromising his race. If he can keep this up, he could well find himself in a competent second driver role, similar to Bottas where he spends his time mopping up Lando's leftovers and still performing well; if so, this would see him become the driver that Red Bull wishes they still had.
Lance Stroll - OK, here me out, while he did have an 'eh' qualifying, he was able to make up for it easily with another ruthless strategy from the Aston Martin pit wall, and a car that finally seems to be coming together for him. Points in the bag, another clean race, more experience in the car, helping to hone a chassis that's been on the back foot for much of the season, it's reassuring for his future that we're seeing some very clinical drives where he looks to be learning a lot. If he can keep this up, coupled with a strong 2022 car from the Silverstone based outfit, he could be a weapon to watch for come the new season.
Look at this speedy Spaniard.
Carlos Sainz - I wont lie, I forgot about him and just squeezed him in now. He recovered well from his place losses in the Sprint, and brought home some points. All in, not bad, and a strong showing from a drive who looks incredibly at home in their car. For putting up with all the turmoil this weekend, winner.
Valterri Bottas - He cannot catch a break can Bottas, but equally, at this point, he isn't helping himself. He was given clear instructions from the garage about the order inversion and to not impede Lewis, it cannot be reassuring for him going into a silly season that could be the start of the end for him. Couple with this his poor starts that see him unable to keep up with Lewis and Max where he can't play his role as pressure applier he's running the risk of quickly becoming less of the bargain than he was to Mercedes. Equally, on track his performance just isn't there, he couldn't catch a slower Ferrari in a car that Lewis demonstrated that it could easily catch and pass, and then drop. Something has unsettled his rhythm in the season so far and here's to hoping that the summer break will give him chance to get naked and into his sauna to sort it out.
Sebastian Vettel - Sebastian Vettel is a good egg. A beekeeping, litter picking hero of our times that we do not deserve. But something isn't right with him at the moment. We witnessed an incredible turn of pace in Azerbaijan, another low downforce track, so you'd think we'd see that again in Northamptonshire, but it wasn't to be. A spinalla on the restart, he struggled to keep up with Lance on the track and then had to retire, although his pace could likely have been hampered by the cooling issue that eventually saw him end up in the pits. Hopefully, things will pick up for him, there's more to come from him, and like Lance, I feel the 2022 car could be something special that unlocks an invigorated Seb.
Sergio Perez - Ok, I'm going to get a bit analytical here, but let's compare Sergio to Valterri. Both have their seat for a reason; to be the rear gunner to their prized teammate. But I'm going to argue that Bottas has been doing a better job of it this year. For all his years of experience in F1, you'd expect Checo to have bonded with his car a lot better and a lot sooner. He still seems to be fighting issues in the car and this is hampering his performance, a problem exacerbated by Mercedes finding their feet and coming back on form. It's highlighting more of Sergio's issues than he'd like, and things are beginning to look a bit Daniil Kvyat/Pierre Gasly/Alex Albon. In pushing harder to try and perform with Max he's tripping himself up, losing the consistency and clarity of his typical performances. Bottas is now ahead of him in the points, admittedly not by a lot, but his consistency is better. He has more podiums than the Mexican and because his pace has been better, he's had the room to do an extra stop for the fastest lap, which has helped Mercedes stay afloat in a season where every point is going to count. Life for Checo isn't good and he needs to find a fix, there's only so many drivers Red Bull can feasibly cripple with their manic energy and haywire management. Could Alex Albon step back into that seat? Who knows, with this team, it's not beyond the realms of possibility.
Lando's Wheel Gunner - I won't say this cost Lando a podium, because compared to the cars ahead of him, the pace wasn't there. However, if the circumstances were right, the sticky rear right could have cost him a podium. Another time penalty, a spin, a dodgy sector, unexpected traffic, any number of things could have given him the chance to make a sprint for some silverware. Hopefully, this was just a one-off from the heat and things will go back to a steady consistency for McLaren.
Alpha Tauri - Odd to think that Yuki Tsunoda was the only Red Bull driver to score points in the race. We saw a better performance compared to his half-cocked runs in Austria, maybe the Red Bull driver training is finally doing some good for someone? Shame about Pierre who I think was running in the points until a last-minute pit stop to fix a puncture saw him tumble down the order. His consistency this season has been fairly remarkable and a bit overlooked, if he hasn't suffered a malady of some kind, he's bringing it home in the points. Overall, this wasn't the best result for the team, especially with Aston Martin now breathing down their neck in the points.
Alfa Romeo - Alfa Romeo and Williams are becoming much alike with stellar qualifying performances from one of their drivers and then it all coming undone come the race. Antonio has found some stonking one-lap pace in the C41 but cannot seem to replicate any of it when the lights go out on Sunday. Kimi's eternal consistency, driving around like a dad at go-karting showing up the young guns with a surprising pace. I feel like there's something more in the car, but maybe the team just won't develop it as aggressively as they need to be sending money to their 2022 car. A shame as it could see two incredibly charismatic drivers in the points a lot more often if they did.
Haas - This was another typical Haas performance really. Drive around at the back, get lapped, call it a day. Mick was oddly outpaced by Nikita and I haven't yet figured out why? Usually, it is down to pit calls ruining his race. Just a bit of a nowhere performance.
Williams - Another banger from George Russell, although The Sprint isn't looking to work in his favour. 100kms to be overtaken and lose out on all the hard work he put in during the standard qualifying, something he's nailed. His Q3 appearances still come as a pleasant surprise, we just need a track where he can get into that final bracket and keep his car there. It'll come. Meanwhile, this isn't going to be a week of moaning about Nicholas who had a fairly decent one. On the track, he looked to be showing some competitive pace and managed to keep clear of the UralKali sponsored clown cars. Time is becoming his friend and hopefully, he'll spend the summer break honing his skillset and be able to start to follow George into the upper echelons of qualifying.
Alpine - A bit like Alfa and Williams, the Alpine can show incredible pace for short periods of time, just ask Fernando Alonso. But then it tails off, something to also speak to Fernando about. Tyres played a key part in the drop off, but the car's pace wasn't there for the rest of the race once re-rubbered. Ocon had a much finer weekend than many of his previous, scooping a points finish to go with his teammate's to help keep the French outfit close to Alpha Tauri and Aston Martin in the standings.