Daniel Ricciardo equalled his best finish and points haul of his Renault career at Silverstone, even if it looked as though he would make it a hat-trick of consecutive eighth-place finishes this season for much of the race.
He spent far too long being unable to overtake the Haas of Romain Grosjean as he struggled with his tyres – an issue that cost him a place to Lando Norris during the restart after Daniil Kvyat’s huge crash.
He acted as a shadow to the two McLarens until with three laps to go he exploded into life.
His tyres finally kicked in at the right time and he ended as one of the fastest cars on track, going past both Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz to finish just 1.1secs off the podium.
If Renault can work out what happened during the early to middle part of the race, there is no reason why, in this season where the midfield is almost impossible to predict, we can’t see Ricciardo swigging champagne from his shoe once again.
RED BULL REPEATS MISTAKE
Red Bull made a drastic but necessary decision last season in replacing Pierre Gasly with Alexander Albon after the Frenchman struggled as Ricciardo’s replacement.
Albon came in and did a lot better, while Gasly actually improved when he was back in his more familiar Toro Rosso seat. He had clearly been promoted too early.
But have they repeated that mistake with Albon, who is only 18 months into his F1 career?
Perhaps they have. Albon’s best finish in a Red Bull is P4, but he has been so far off his teammate Max Verstappen this season, who has been in on the podium in every race he has completed since Mexico last year.
It will be a concern for Red Bull, especially as the two drivers at their junior team have already been promoted and subsequently demoted for not performing in the senior team.
That probably buys Albon, who took advantage of the punctures to steal a P8 finish, more time to get it right than Gasly had but Helmut Marko will certainly be keeping his eyes peeled for the chance to nab a more experienced driver.
There is of course the other vision, where Verstappen is just so good that he is outperforming the car, which in the hands of most other drivers would be around with Albon is.
HULK’S DREAM TURNS TO NIGHTMARE
What a weekend it was for Nico Hulkenberg.
He received a phone call on Thursday afternoon to replace the coronavirus-stricken Sergio Perez and was on a flight to London within the hour, only being given access to the paddock 15 minutes before Practice 1 began.
But the drama didn’t end there as Hulkenberg, who was cruelly left without a seat in F1 after being replaced at Renault, could only watch on as the engineers tried and failed to start his car for the beginning of the race.
That meant he was unable to start or compete at all for Racing Point in what would have been a crucial moment for his career to show all the other teams what he can still do in an F1 car.
It could be the only chance he has, with it yet to be confirmed whether Perez will be available for next week or not, given he is currently still isolating.
HAMILTON ON COURSE FOR VICTORY
Lewis Hamilton picked up his third win in four races at Silverstone and in doing so claimed his seventh British Grand Prix victory – a record in itself.
He also closed in to just four wins behind Michael Schumacher’s overall win record in a season where he looks set to equal the German’s greatest record of seven world championships.
Bottas’ late puncture saw him fall out of the points entirely, meaning Hamilton’s lead at the top of the standings is now 30 points, ahead of the Finn.
With a second race next week at Silverstone, it looks as though only a crash would stop the Brit from winning again, assuming someone is able to get within a car-length of him to do so.
With Ferrari struggling and the midfielders taking it in turns to beat each other, it seems like only Bottas and Verstappen are capable of stopping him now, but they may not even be able to do so for much longer at this rate.
Insanity as Merc tyres BLOW!
VERSTAPPEN’S UNLUCKY GAMBLE
Hindsight is a wonderful, if sometimes tormenting thing, as Verstappen found out when he cursed his luck at the end of the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton’s puncture on the final lap saw Verstappen eat away two seconds of his lead per corner as he hunted for the most unlikely of victories, given he started his last rotation 30 seconds off the lead.
But should Red Bull have been anticipating this? Bottas had already seen his tyre rip apart and the on-screen data showed Hamilton’s front left tyre was only working at 10 per cent of its capacity when Verstappen was called into the pits to have a go at getting the bonus point for the fastest lap.
He did get the extra point, but he could have had an extra six points instead, had Red Bull gambled and stayed out, given the Dutchman was only five second behind Hamilton after the chequered flag was raised.
Hamilton certainly got away with that victory and Verstappen and Red Bull will be left cursing what could have been, however unlikely it was at the time.
With softer tyre compounds being used for next weekend’s 70th anniversary race back at Silverstone, there is a good chance we will see more punctures – and this decision could well still be sitting at the back of Christian Horner’s mind when we do.
“It kicked off with two or three laps to go – and it was just mayhem out there. I’ve never seen anything like that at the end of a grand prix for a winner.”
The verdict of 2009 world champion and Sky F1 pundit Jenson Button after an extraordinary climax to a British GP at Silverstone that saw Lewis Hamilton effectively take the win on three wheels and two other drivers – including the other Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas – drop out of the top four when their own tyres punctured.
So how did it all unfold and what exactly was going on?
The story of the race before the dramatic end
Had the 2020 British Grand Prix run three laps shorter, then while it wouldn’t have been fair to say that the showpiece afternoon had been completely devoid of incident – try telling that to Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat – it wouldn’t have been a race that features prominently in Silverstone’s illustrious annals.
Hamilton had led every lap from pole position from Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas and, while both pushing hard and rarely more than 2 seconds apart until the closing stages, the pair were out of reach for Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and a world away from the rest.
Yet the appearance of a second Safety Car inside the race’s opening 13 laps had at least thrown a strategic curveball into proceedings by bringing forward the leaders’ first stops. They all switched to Pirelli’s hardest tyres as a result in a bid to go to the end of the race without the need to stop again – some 39 laps later.
Racing around one of F1’s fastest and most demanding circuits, the strategy meant that tyre management inevitably came into the equation as the race wore on – even for the dominant Mercs.
First up: What happened to Bottas?
Having reported vibrations from his tyres several laps beforehand, Bottas had actually slipped 7s behind Hamilton entering the final four laps and was actually being caught by Verstappen – although the Red Bull driver had tyre concerns of his own and was still seven seconds adrift of the second Mercedes.
But then Bottas’ race unravelled as spectacularly and suddenly as his car’s front-left tyre.
SkyPad analysis with Karun Chandhok and Anthony Davidson in the video at the top of the page shows the Mercedes’ tyre started to deflate as it completed the final section of corners at the end of lap 49.
“The problem for Valtteri was that he was just passing the pits,” explains Karun. “So he had a full 5.98km to do [to get back].
“As he got up to the first corner the tyre started to completely go on him, as soon as you put a bit of load on it. He backed out of it and it had fully deformed by the first big right-hander.”
Running wide and overtaken by Verstappen at Turn Three as he grappled with his W11, Bottas was forced to limp back to the pits while trying to keep the tyre carcass on the rim and not damaging the car.
“I was trying to put the pressure on Lewis, but we knew it was going to be a long stint on the hard tyre,” said a disappointed Finn afterwards. “Towards the end I was starting to get more and more vibrations on the front left.
“I didn’t see any debris or anything, so I reported the vibrations and started to manage the tyres, but then the tyre failed suddenly on the start/finish straight and I had to complete a full lap back to the pits which cost me a lot of time.”
It dropped Bottas out of the points and there was insufficient time to recover. He finished 11th.
Sainz’s top-four hopes also punctured
The McLaren driver had run a strong race in the top five and should have been one of the chief beneficiaries of Bottas’ demise.
But fourth place turned into a pointless 13th for Sainz when his front-left tyre failed on the penultimate lap.
“Everything was working well, we were on for a very strong P4 and 12 points, but then the tyre failed and I had to box on the last lap,” rued the Spaniard.
“Very disappointing, frustrating and unfortunate. Nothing we could do about it though.”
What happened to Hamilton and how did he still win?
It was the six corners into the race’s final 18-turn lap when the dominant race leader suffered the same fate.
“It started to let go as he went into Luffield,” explained Davidson. “As he started to turn in, he started to lose the pressure and the front wing was dropping as well.”
Speaking to Sky Sports F1, Hamilton said he was fortunate that the tyre didn’t go in the middle of one of Silverstone’s many flat-out fast sections.
“I’m really so grateful it didn’t happen through a high-speed corner,” said Hamilton. “Imagine it was through Copse or something like that – it would have been a disaster.
‘I’m so f***ing sorry’
“But it happened there and for the moment I just told the team ‘deflation’. Then I nearly didn’t make it through the next two corners – particularly Turn Seven – and, rather than panicking, I was ‘okay, how do I get this thing home?’
“I only have half a lap or whatever it is to get back. How can to get back? Am I going to lose this race? All these questions starting going and you’re like ‘no, keep going, keep up the power and keep up the speed’.
“As I tried to accelerate, the tyre starts to deflate more and I think I’m going to lose the wing and maybe the wing will go under the car. You have all the different scenarios that face you – and the thing doesn’t want to turn right obviously because of the busted tyre!”
But Hamilton still displayed his in-car wherewithal, even while he wrestled with his W11 and was being informed about the progress of Max Verstappen’s fast-closing Red Bull behind him.
“This highlights how cool he is,” said Davidson.
“You’re leading your home Grand Prix, your tyre has just let go, you’ve got Max hunting you down, and he turns around Copse and midway through the corner he makes a steering wheel adjustment!”
Chandhok added: “It’s awareness for him. He knows if he does certain things to the diff and certain changes, he can just help to safeguard the car even more. That’s experience and a guy driving so far within himself with spare brain capacity.”
And Button was also impressed by his former teammate’s composure.
“I’m amazed you can actually drive that quick on a damaged tyre,” said the 2009 champion. “It looked like it was going to just disintegrate and take the front wing with it. Lucky the tyre belt stayed on the rest of the tyre.”
Hamilton crossed the line just 5.9 seconds clear of Verstappen – having started the final lap more than half a minute ahead after the Red Bull had stopped for fresh tyres in the wake of Bottas’ problems.
It would almost-certainly have been very different had the Dutchman not pitted, but the team insisted there were “no guarantees” that Verstappen wouldn’t have suffered the same fate as the Mercs had he kept on going with the same tyres for the final two laps.
So what caused the tyre problems?
That’s still to be determined.
What we do know is that Silverstone is one of the fastest and most aerodynamically loaded circuits in F1, with the left tyre taking particular strain owing to the number of quick right-handers.
“This is one of the toughest circuits,” explained Button. “It has lots of high-speed corners – we’ve all been saying how amazing this place is with the fast flow of the pace and changes of direction. But this still shouldn’t happen. It wasn’t just one car. The teams aren’t going to be happy with this.”
Pirelli say they will investigate all three incidents.
“We’ll of course be investigating exactly what happened to the tyres on the two Mercedes cars as well as that on the McLaren of Carlos Sainz in the final two laps of the race,” said the tyre supplier’s boss Mario Isola.
“What we already know for sure is that the tyres involved in these failures were extremely well-used, with nearly 40 laps of running; albeit some behind the safety car.”
Mercedes said track debris could not yet be ruled out after several accidents and incidents during the race – which included a broken front on Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo on lap 47.
“We haven’t got the conclusions yet because there was so much debris on track that it needs to be properly analysed by Pirelli before we really know what the reason is,” said Mercedes’ Toto Wolff.
But all drivers wore an ‘END RACISM’ T-shirt, apart from Hamilton whose top read ‘BLACK LIVES MATTER’.
Lewis Hamilton, who has fought to raise awareness of racism in F1, was joined by fellow Brit Lando Norris.
It is not mandatory to kneel and some F1 stars have cited political reasons for their decision to stay standing.
Hamilton, 35, insists he doesn’t want his rivals to “feel forced” to kneel.
After last month’s Austrian GP, when six drivers stayed standing, he said: “I don’t want it to be a case of people feeling forced. I want people to be excited to be a part of the change.
“I want people to think that while they are fortunate not to have experienced racism, they can try to understand what it feels like and that they don’t want people to feel that way and want to be part of change so in the future our kids can lead a better quality of life.”
Brit Norris, 20, said: “We are united in agreeing with what we support as a community of F1 drivers.
“Whether we do take the knee or we don’t take the knee, that is not the question. I don’t think that needs to be the reason why people judge some of us to be in support of it or not. We all support it.
Insanity as Merc tyres BLOW!
“Some people want to do different things, but we are all in agreement that we want to take a stand and show support of what we’re trying to do against racism.”
It follows the embarrassment at the Hungary GP when Italian driver Antonio Giovinazzi forgot to wear his ‘END RACISM’ T-shirt.
Hamilton has worn a Black Lives Matter T-shirt and has been highly vocal in wanting to highlight the problems of racism within F1 and wider society.
After his win in the Styrian Grand Prix, he raised his fist aloft on the podium in a Black Power salute.
Hamilton is the only black driver in F1.
This article was originally published by The Sun and reproduced with permission.