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Six things we learned from the British Grand Prix

Formula 1 visited its original home last weekend as the drivers did battle around Silverstone, the scene where it all began when the Formula 1 World Championship held its first race in 1950.

by Adriaan Slabbert
@AdriaanSlabbert

There were the usual scenes of gloomy skies, some rain and an enormous crowd, with Lewis Hamilton ultimately prevailing on home soil. It’s a result that draws him level with legends Jim Clark and Alain Prost on five British wins, but in addition to that, there were several other things to learn from F1’s visit to Silverstone…

A race Hamilton needed to win
At first glance, it may hardly seem that Lewis Hamilton really needed to win Sunday’s race. After all, there are still many laps to drive before the end of the season. However, for Hamilton’s own sake, it was imperative that his British weekend was a success. Supreme as his talents are, Hamilton has often shown himself to be what may be called, for lack of a better term, a “momentum driver”.

When things are going his way, he is nigh unbeatable, but tends to suffer when some aspect of his personal or professional life isn’t going as well as desired. After the disappointments he faced in Baku and Austria (neither of which were his fault) it was critical for Hamilton to deliver in front of his home fans, if only to restore the belief that his title bid is on course to succeed. His performance was exactly what the doctor ordered. He wasn’t quite at his lightning-fast best during practice, but in qualifying and on race day, he was immaculate and made it all look very easy. It’s a result that is sure to give him all the extra incentive required to fight for victory next time out in Hungary, before the sport goes on its annual summer break.



Your move, Ferrari
Ferrari worked hard to bring an engine update to Silverstone, but all their hopes of challenging Mercedes went up in smoke, and they were ultimately left with nothing but “might-have-been” moments. Hamilton had far too much for them on Saturday, and after Sebastian Vettel lost ground at the start, it was always going to be a long way back. Kimi Räikkönen fought bravely towards the front end of proceedings, but ultimately didn’t have the pace to really challenge Hamilton for victory.

Of course, all drivers and teams have a bad weekend at some point in the season, and it was unfortunate for the Scuderia that both their drivers suffered late punctures, turning an entirely acceptable double-podium finish into one podium and one P7. Regardless, the heat on Ferrari has just gone up a notch, and while the Italian outfit knows a thing or two about fighting for the title, they will be eager to respond sooner rather than later.

Bottas ticks an important box
When Valtteri Bottas initially joined Mercedes, many dismissed the Finn as a driver brought in to play second fiddle to the talents of Hamilton. With two fine victories and two pole positions to his name thus far in 2017, the new man at Mercedes is certainly pulling his own weight. A gearbox penalty and a scruffy qualifying effort left him starting Sunday’s race in P9, and with ample pressure on his shoulders to progress up the order. Bottas answered the challenge in supreme fashion, wasting no time in scything his way through the field, moving ever closer to the podium.


It was telling of his mood that after being congratulated by his race engineer for overtaking Vettel for P3, the Finn simply responded with the words “minimal talking” and proceeded to attack Raikkonen for P2. He was ultimately helped in his pursuit by an untimely puncture for the Red Finn, but given how he placed himself in the right position to take advantage of any misfortune, nobody can begrudge him a fine P2 finish. For those who had any lingering doubts that Bottas is a worthy replacement for 2016 world champion Nico Rosberg, several questions will have been answered.

Plaudits in adversity for Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo entered the British Grand Prix in the middle of an enviable run of form, with five consecutive trips to the podium, including a victory in Azerbaijan. It seemed that this run had come to an end, as a combination of a gearbox penalty and a turbocharger failure left the Australian starting in P19 on Sunday. However, he took the opportunity to reinforce yet again how impressive his skills are as he pulled off a string of fine overtaking manoeuvres to race his way to P5.

Especially impressive was the way he rapidly dispatched Perez, Ocon and Magnussen after his pit stop to race his way from P10 to P7. The Honey Badger showed all the tenacity that could be expected of him, and more, as he turned in a performance that duly earned him the Driver of the Day award. There was a mistake early on that dropped him from P12 back down to P18, but other than that, Ricciardo showed yet again why he is so highly prized by Red Bull as he put his head down and clawed his way back to the sharp end of the field.

Some reward for Verstappen at last
Max Verstappen’s horror run of five retirements in seven races must surely rank as the worst period of the Dutch youngster’s career, but fortunately, it was a run that ended at Silverstone. The Red Bull man lined up in a handy P4 on the grid and zoomed off the line to take P3 from the Ferrari of Vettel. From there, he made it his business to frustrate the championship leader, stubbornly refusing to give way to the German as they went wheel-to-wheel on several occasions.


For their part, the capacity crowd roared their appreciation as Verstappen smartly positioned his Red Bull perfectly lap after lap and fearlessly fought Vettel for the position. In the end, the Dutchman lost P3 when sharp work by the Ferrari pit crew ensured that Vettel pulled off an undercut, but at least he’s back fighting for the champagne, which is where he belongs. A P4 finish pales a little in comparison to the recent results enjoyed by Ricciardo in the sister car, but hopefully for Verstappen, Silverstone marked the beginning of a better spell. It really is a pity that Red Bull are still some way off the pace set by Mercedes and Ferrari, because it is becoming clearer by the weekend that both Verstappen and Ricciardo would be capable of the sublime, if only they had slightly better tools at their disposal.

Not bad for a laggard
Labelled with the above unflattering term by Ferrari Chairman Sergio Marchionne, there can be little doubt that Kimi Räikkönen is under some pressure. Around Silverstone, however, it was he, and not Sebastian Vettel, that led the Ferrari charge. Räikkönen pipped the German in qualifying, and Vettel never really looked as comfortable as the Finn on race day, either, as there was always a useful margin between the two red cars.

Towards the closing stages of the race, when the pair were running in P2 and P3, there was talk of potentially swapping their positions to the benefit of Vettel’s title bid, but frankly, the German was never close enough to the Finn to make such a move feasible. There is no doubt that Vettel still remains the main man at Ferrari. There is however, also no denying the talents of Räikkönen who, it must not be forgotten, is almost 38 years old. It is only the nuances of his talents, and his ability to blend the sensational with the lacklustre, that require better definition.

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