Well, that was quite a race. A turbulent and dramatic first lap, and the most exciting finish at the sharp end for quite some time. One bet came off, one failed (I really should’ve suggesting hedging the Bottas bet, but never mind) so it was green overall.
The pit lane was busy with both Williams and Hartley starting from there.
Off the line, many things happened. Hamilton was unusually slow, allowing Vettel and then Bottas to pass him. Further back, the Haas cars left their handbrakes on and Hulkenberg smashed the first lap to climb half a dozen (nearly) places. Meanwhile, Raikkonen locked up as he was close to passing Hamilton, and caused a collision. The Finn lost a couple of places to the Red Bulls, Hamilton fell to practically last, voicing concerns over the radio that his car was damaged (if it were, it had little impact upon his speed).
Vettel and Bottas started to pull away from the field, and whilst Raikkonen passed Ricciardo fairly easily he was unable to do the same to Verstappen (the Ferrari was much faster on the straights but the Red Bull could keep it at bay through the twisty bits). The Finn then learnt he had a 10s time penalty for the first lap collision, and was getting quite ratty over the radio, demanding a more aggressive strategy.
He got his wish, with an early stop suggesting a two stop approach (forecast had been for a one stop as the optimal strategy). Would it pay off?
Also on the first lap, Hartley retired. I think he got a single lap in, but not certain. Maybe he didn’t even start.
The pit stops progressed roughly as you’d expect, Hamilton going a little longer, Hulkenberg pitting early for the hard tyre (Sainz opted for that compound too, not sure if anyone else did). Then, misfortune struck. Leclerc was in the points, yet again, when he peeled off-track shortly after his pit stop, with the team under investigation for an unsafe release. The Monegasque was very mature in his interview about it, but it’s points gone begging for the Sauber team.
A question was bubbling up. Would one stop or two be best? Most chaps had done one, when Ricciardo, late on, went for a second. Two laps later, Ericsson lost control and smashed into the barriers, bringing out the safety cars. Most drivers, with the notable exceptions of the two Mercedes, came in for fresh tyres. This put Bottas into the lead with Vettel behind him and Hamilton, despite his lap one woe, right behind the German. Verstappen was ahead of Raikkonen, with Ricciardo, I think, behind the Finn.
Once the stricken Sauber was rescued, the racing resumed. It was tight and exciting. Raikkonen and Verstappen tussled for position with fantastic driving. The Finn got past, then the Dutchman retook the place. It was great stuff. Less great was when Sainz was going around the outside of Grosjean when the Frenchman had a little wobble (entirely accidental, of course) and put the pair of them out. Over the radio, Grosjean blamed Sainz. It wasn’t at all malicious, but it was 100% down to Grosjean (still just a racing incident, mind). The safety car came out again.
When it went back in, with perhaps 11 laps left, Raikkonen managed to get past Verstappen and pulled away rapidly. The Red Bulls were close together with the top four (Bottas, Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen) all within less than a second of one another. Vettel was clearly faster but Bottas was defending very well on slightly older tyres. The German lunged, managed to stick the pass, and roared off into the sunset.
Not sure if Hamilton passed Bottas or ‘passed’ Bottas. It’d be interesting to see that, given Ferrari, unexpectedly, did not swap Raikkonen and Vettel at the previous race. Bottas’ tyres were shot, and he was soon passed by Raikkonen too.
Meanwhile, Verstappen had some sort of brake by wire problem and was out of the race.
Hamilton was unable to close the gap to Vettel. Raikkonen narrowed the gap to Hamilton rapidly on the final lap but ran out of time to try an overtaking manoeuvre. Bottas held off Ricciardo to retain 4th.
Meanwhile, Gasly managed a late pass on Perez for the final points position, bringing some joy to the Toro Rosso team at a weekend that’s been pretty tricky for them. Ahead of him was Magnussen, who recovered somewhat after his poor start. Alonso achieved 8th, with Ocon in an impressive and somewhat under-the-radar 7th. Hulkenberg resumed his position as best of the rest with a solid 6th (or top of the second division, if you like).
A really rather entertaining race. I tend not to watch the post-race stuff, but heard online about some stuff that I thought rather unseemly. British ‘fans’ booing Raikkonen on the podium is not a classy move. It’s juvenile delinquency.
From the official F1 Twitter feed:
RAIKKONEN: "Hitting Lewis in the rear - my bad... my mistake. I deserved the penalty, I took the 10 seconds. Without the mistake it would have been better. I tried. I did the best I could"
Interestingly, there was another tweet from same feed with the caption “Not hanging around” showing Hamilton walking away rather than having an interview. Which was then deleted.
From the BBC livefeed:
Lewis Hamilton, who finished second: "This is the greatest race of the year and the greatest crowd, I am sorry I could not brign it home for you today. I will not give up, believe me, I will not give up.
"My team did an amazing job this weekend, we got so much support. Interesting tactics I would say from their side, but we'll do what we can to fight them."
That’s idiotic. If Hamilton believes that (I suspect he doesn’t) it reflects poorly on him. Raikkonen made a mistake, and was entirely apologetic about it. My suspicion is Hamilton, whose application of psychological warfare is underestimated (and rather intelligent), is simply trying to discomfit his rivals and devalue their victory. Yes, he was unlucky. But look at this season. All the top six drivers have had rotten luck at a number of races. Last weekend Hamilton’s car failed. Maybe the Mercedes engine department is secretly working for Ferrari!
From turbulent start to dramatic finish, this was one of the most topsy-turvy races we’ve seen for a long old while. Here’s how the drivers stand now:
As with the teams, there’s a first and second division. Vettel’s stretched his lead a little, but that’s not worth a huge amount as we’ve seen unexpectedly big swings this year. In 2017, the changes were only ever small (DNFs aside), whereas in recent races we’ve seen 14 point leads vanish in a single event on more than one occasion.
Red Bull 199
Force India 48
Toro Rosso 20
The importance of the Leclerc DNF is that he would likely have scored points and may even have allowed Sauber to draw level with or pass Toro Rosso. Instead, Gasly’s point increased that lead just a smidge. Ahead of them, there’s an ultra-tight battle behind Renault, with Haas, Force India, and McLaren (all of whom scored today) covered by just three points. Renault are not 100% safe but likely to retain 4th, and Red Bull are all but nailed on for 3rd. To my surprise, Ferrari have increased their advantage over Mercedes, but 20 points is still pretty small and we’re not yet halfway through the season.
The British Grand Prix is the last of the triple header races. In a fortnight we’re off to Germany, followed by Hungary a week later, and then there’s a month off.