Race Report: Hamilton wins dampened British GP

The British Grand Prix is known to offer dodgy weather and Sunday was no different when rain began to fall 15 minutes prior to the start of the race. The cars had all made reconnaissance laps on dry tires but now they would start of full wet tires. The race ended with sunshine and a 3rd win on the trot for Lewis Hamilton much to the fawning crowds delight.

Lewis and teammate Nico Rosberg stayed out on full-wets when the Safety Car came in on lap five but a majority of the teams dove into the pits for intermediate tires and to me, it added to my frustration with the entire race in which it was started behind the SC in intermediate conditions preventing what otherwise may have been a terrific start in the rain—the last time I checked, Formula 1 does race in the rain. I was very disappointed but lest you feel I know nothing of which I speak, perhaps you’ll listen to Lewis:

“I think we could have started on the grid,” said Hamilton. “There were wet patches all over the place, but that is what racing is about.

“We stayed out [behind the safety car] far too long, it was [time to switch to] intermediates by the time they let us go.

“There was more water on track in 2008 when we started from the grid.”

I tweeted it yesterday. Rain was exactly what Red Bull wanted and I suggested that if it was a wet race. there may be a cat amongst the pigeons and that’s exactly how it played out with a terrific performance by Max Verstappen to pass Rosberg and close the gap to Lewis. As the asphalt started to dry out, his car fell prey to the power of the Mercedes. Regardless, he, like most of the other drivers, managed a set of medium compounds to finish on the podium and beat his teammate, Daniel Riccardo, and one can Danny’s comments about Max this weekend and see there is tension amongst the ranks at Red Bull.

WinWin

A big win for Lewis Hamilton who scored his third victory in a row at the British Grand Prix and the crowd loved it. He loves the fans as well and it was terrific to see him crowd surf and embrace the throng of fawning fans who got to see what they came to see—a British champion win the British Grand Prix. Lewis had one moment where he ran wide—so did nearly everyone at the corner—but otherwise had a flawless race to the flag. A great drive in the changing conditions and those are the kinds of conditions that Lewis does very well in.

A win for Max Verstappen on many levels to be honest. He not only scored a podium finish but he out-qualified his teammate and then beat him in the race as well as took advantage of Red Bull’s wet weather performance advantage and passed Nico Rosberg for second at one point. He managed a set of medium compound tires and drove a remarkably astute and measured race under serious pressure from Rosberg.

After a miserable Austrian Grand Prix, Force India delivered a double-points finish with Sergio Perez in 6th and Nico Hulkenberg in 7th. The team perhaps left Nico out a lap too long in Inters but regardless, they delivered much needed points for their owner, Vijay Mallya, who was in attendance at the race despite being on the lam from Indian authorities.

FailFail

A fail for Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel who had a ragged weekend with a gearbox penalty reducing him to 11th for the start of the race and then a few spins and another 5s penalty for forcing Felipe Massa wide. The only upside is that his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, did exactly what they re-signed him to do—score points and finish as high in the order as he can when Vettel struggles. He claimed 5th and had a few good battles on track. Raikkonen feels Ferrari’s lack of performance was a one-off affair at Silverstone.

A fail for McLaren who turned up at Silverstone with an upgraded engine but was unable to deliver a top 10 performance even though Fernando Alonso was trying everything he could to deliver. Jenson Button claimed 12th and in changing conditions, he is normally a force to be reckoned with but not today. Alonso was behind in 13th and felt the team waited too long (12 laps on the inters) and should have been more aggressive in their strategy.

A fail for Williams who were struggling all day with Valtteri Bottas running off track several times and Felipe Massa becoming a mobile chicane. Massa and Bottas finished 11th and 14th respectively and were under serious pressure from McLaren at this track.

A fail for Manor as both Pascal Werhlein and Rio Haryanto retired in the beach having spun in drying conditions and Renault also had a miserable day with Jolyon Palmer released without a right-rear tire and suffered a 10-second stop-go penalty and later retired. His teammate, Kevin Magnussen also retired from the race as well.

WTHWTH

Just like I said in Austria, the booing is really base behavior and I dislike it very much. Lewis didn’t deserve it a week ago and neither did Rosberg at Silverstone. It denigrates the sport, shows a complete lack of respect for the drivers and exposes the bottom-feeder in everyone who does it. It’s not even “fun” controversy that gets people talking about F1 like a Lewis/Nico collision or controversial tracks and political machinations of the owners, it’s just boorish behavior from the mob and I hate it.

The Safety Car start will be defended by journalists that were there and that’s fine but from my historic vantage point and the comments from the man who actually won the race, I feel confident that it was the wrong call. You can argue Japan, Monaco or other instances but when half the field dives into the pits for inters, you have your first clue that it wasn’t the right call and deprived us of a possible great start. What if the Mercs had a slow start and Verstappen got in front? All the what-if permutations could have added to a great race but instead, we knew where this one was always going to end up given the processional start and that’s a shame. Imagine Lewis getting a bad start and slicing his way back through the field…that would have been great to see. Sure, there are drivers who felt it was the right call but historically F1 has started in rain and the drivers have to rise to the occasion.

What could be argued, to give voice to the alternative opinion, is that Sebastian Vettel said it isn’t a case of the SC start, it’s a case of the drivers/teams not having confidence in the full-wet tire and that it’s only good for following the SC around such is its performance. Perhaps that’s the reason and if it is, once again, we are held captive by this silly tire nonsense instead of just making great tires and let the engines and chassis make the difference.

It would be difficult to give a full-on “Fail” to Nico Rosberg as the race started behind the SC and there wasn’t an opportunity to get the jump on his teammate but he did lose a position to Max Verstappen in changing conditions and there have been occasions (Monaco this year) in which he doesn’t seem to be quite the rain-meister his teammate is or other drivers on the grid. IF there’s a chink in the armor, it could be wet-weather racing. He needed a win but finished second and the points gap is down to four. As for his investigation…

At the time of writing this, Rosberg is under investigation for this radio call in the waning laps of the race:

Rosberg: “Gearbox problem.”

Engineer: “Driver default 1-0-1, chassis default 0-1, chassis default 0-1.”

Engineer: “Avoid seventh gear, Nico, avoid seventh gear.”

Rosberg: “What does that mean, I have to shift through it?”

Engineer: “Affirm Nico, you need to shift through it. Affirm, you need to shift through it.”

Here we go with the silly radio ban debacle that’s been on everyone’s mind since Baku. The teams are allowed to tell the driver to execute any alterations in the event of a critical car failure and the race stewards are deliberating and have been for quite some time.

Here’s the “Fail” for the FIA in this situation. You have a regulation and it seems that the narrative (according to Sky Sports F1) the officials are giving is that a precedent is being set with this decision as it’s the first time a driver could face this penalty. I understand that each situation is unique and must be reviewed to ensure that a regulation has been breached but if it has, the penalty surely is already decided by the FIA or at least a clear directive of what punitive actions are available to the steward in these circumstances? Why should it take this long to discover if Nico is panelized?

If you have a regulation, surely you have considered what the consequences for breaking each regulation might be? Or at least a range of punitive actions you would take in each circumstance?

On the other side of this coin, the FIA will be setting a precedent if they find the team did breach the radio band regulation and if it is a 5-second penalty, then all the teams will weigh that outcome in the remaining races. So this is a situation where it gets sticky and it should have been prepared ahead of time. If it’s a 5 or 10-second penalty, then Mercedes may just ignore the ban and take the penalties as they are usually leading the competition by more than 10 seconds while other teams may not be able to take the penalty due to their lack of a competitive advantage.

So this means that the stewards are now in a situation of possibly making the penalty too draconian for fear they may be setting a precedent. It’s a lot to weigh but it’s been three hours since the end of the race and still no decision. FAIL!

Regardless, here is how they finished the race but it’s not finalized yet as the decision could take quite some time apparently.

Provisional Results:

Pos Driver Car Gap
1 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1h34m55.831s
2 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 6.911s
3 Max Verstappen Red Bull/Renault 8.250s
4 Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull/Renault 26.211s
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari 1m09.743s
6 Sergio Perez Force India/Mercedes 1m16.941s
7 Nico Hulkenberg Force India/Mercedes 1m17.712s
8 Carlos Sainz Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m25.858s
9 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1m31.654s
10 Daniil Kvyat Toro Rosso/Ferrari 1m32.600s
11 Felipe Massa Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
12 Jenson Button McLaren/Honda 1 Lap
13 Fernando Alonso McLaren/Honda 1 Lap
14 Valtteri Bottas Williams/Mercedes 1 Lap
15 Felipe Nasr Sauber/Ferrari 1 Lap
16 Esteban Gutierrez Haas/Ferrari 1 Lap
17 Kevin Magnussen Renault 3 Laps
Jolyon Palmer Renault Retirement
Rio Haryanto Manor/Mercedes Spun off
Romain Grosjean Haas/Ferrari Retirement
Marcus Ericsson Sauber/Ferrari Retirement
Pascal Wehrlein Manor/Mercedes Spun off

Drivers’ Championship Points

Pos Driver Points
1 Nico Rosberg 171
2 Lewis Hamilton 167
3 Kimi Raikkonen 106
4 Daniel Ricciardo 100
5 Sebastian Vettel 98
6 Max Verstappen 87
7 Valtteri Bottas 54
8 Sergio Perez 47
9 Felipe Massa 38
10 Romain Grosjean 28
11 Nico Hulkenberg 26
12 Carlos Sainz 26
13 Daniil Kvyat 23
14 Fernando Alonso 18
15 Jenson Button 13
16 Kevin Magnussen 6
17 Pascal Wehrlein 1
18 Stoffel Vandoorne 1
19 Esteban Gutierrez 0
20 Jolyon Palmer 0
21 Marcus Ericsson 0
22 Felipe Nasr 0
23 Rio Haryanto 0

Constructors’ Championship Points

Pos Constructor Points
1 Mercedes 338
2 Ferrari 204
3 Red Bull/Renault 195
4 Williams/Mercedes 92
5 Force India/Mercedes 73
6 Toro Rosso/Ferrari 41
7 McLaren/Honda 32
8 Haas/Ferrari 28
9 Renault 6
10 Manor/Mercedes 1
11 Sauber/Ferrari 0