The British Grand Prix usually throws up a few surprises and in 2017, in a tantalizing title battle, the historic event delivered once more. It was a British Grand Prix to remember, whether you’re a fan of Lewis Hamilton or Sebastian Vettel.
Let’s start with the race winner — probably the least surprising thing about the Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton pulled off the fifth Grand Slam of his career to win his home race for the fifth time. He’s now tied with Jim Clark and Alain Prost as the most successful drivers at the British Grand Prix. Lewis beat his own record with his fourth consecutive victory at the famous race.
Lewis Hamilton, untouched and unfazed out front, dominated from the first lap to the last. His ridiculously quick pole lap from yesterday was married with a new lap record around the Silverstone circuit today. He came home to a raucous crowd, ecstatic their fellow countryman had taken the victory once again.
Things remained relatively calm in the race until lap 15. Sebastian Vettel had caught Max Verstappen after Verstappen beat Vettel off the line at lights out. No quarter was asked and none was given as the two mavericks went side by side at high speed through Stowe. Vettel dove down the inside of Verstappen, forcing Max off the track. Max rejoined the track and subsequently put his car on the inside for the Vale chicane, forcing Vettel to go off the track. The fans roared as the two drivers battled wheel-to-wheel.
On lap 19, Vettel decided he’d had enough and pitted onto the soft tires to try the undercut strategy. Red Bull responded by pitting Max on the next lap, also for soft tires. The Ferrari team performed a better pit stop than the Red Bull team, thus promoting Vettel ahead of Verstappen.
As is well documented, Verstappen’s team mate Daniel Ricciardo likes to perform a shoey on the podium. Today, he was a shoe-in for Driver of the Day. Starting 19th, the Australian ace made his way through the field to finish fifth.
Vettel was in the wars again on lap 43. This time it was the charging Valtteri Bottas who had made his way up from ninth on the grid to battle for the podium. It was another fight between a Mercedes and a Ferrari, except Bottas in place of Hamilton in the Silver Arrow. Bottas tried to pass Vettel around the outside of Stowe, a la Max Verstappen, but was forced off the track. He tried once again on the next lap and was successful.
In a few Silverstone seconds and with just two laps remaining, the race came alive. It was heartbreak for Kimi Raikkonen as he suddenly suffered a left-front puncture. This promoted Vettel back up into third place and back on the podium — critical for his title hopes. But the demons from the infamous 2013 race — where multiple drivers suffered tire blow outs — had returned.
On the very last lap of the race, Vettel’s left-front Pirelli also punctured, his tire ripping to shreds as he plummeted down the order. The British fans cheered as Hamilton’s title rival limped around the circuit. Vettel eventually crossed the line in seventh place after running in third. Now his team mate Raikkonen was somehow back on the podium. The race seemed fairly normal up until this point, but it just shows that anything can happen in Formula One.
In a spectacular turn of events, Hamilton now trails Vettel by just one point in the Driver’s Championship. Lady Luck seems to have a new companion for now as it was Vettel’s turn to experience the bitter taste of misfortune. Vettel has never lost the lead of a World Championship, but he’s coming dangerously close to doing so this year.
Both Ferraris suffering punctures is devastating in the Constructor’s Championship. The team trails Mercedes by a margin of 55 points. Nobody could’ve predicted today’s finishing order. It wasn’t clear until the final lap of the Grand Prix. A Mercedes one-two finish came out of nowhere, as did the Ferraris finishing third and seventh.
Another race, another incident involving Daniil “Torpedo” Kvyat. This time he took out his team mate Carlos Sainz in the sweeping Maggots/Becketts complex on lap one. This left the Spaniard stranded as Kvyat took a drive through penalty for his troubles. The Safety Car was promptly deployed.
Jolyon Palmer’s luck ran out once again, even before the lights went out. His Renault suffering a hydraulics failure on the formation lap meant his home Grand Prix was over prematurely.
This topsy-turvy title race moves to Hungary in a fortnight’s time. Lewis Hamilton has won the race more times than any other driver. While just one week ago things were looking ominous for Hamilton, the tables seem to have turned slightly. At least for now.