British Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton's 5th title, Ferrari's tyre woes even stakes in two-horse battle

He came, he raced and he crowd-surfed his way to the top step of the podium — that’s Lewis Hamilton’s British Grand Prix in a nutshell. The enfant terrible of Formula 1 was back in top form, streaking away from his competitors and effortlessly taking home top honours. Behind Hamilton, though, the order was as unpredictable as the notorious British weather. In what was a surprising blow, Mercedes’ rivals Ferrari suffered an unbelievable double-tyre blowout at the fag-end of the race.

The King of Silverstone

'Hammer Time' struck swiftly and strongly at Silverstone — long at last, after failing to reach the podium in Azerbaijan and Austria. He managed to blow his week of controversy with an outstanding show. All through the weekend, Hamilton was in top form, storming to pole and then securing a lights to flag victory. Hamilton won for the fourth consecutive time at the British Grand Prix (and fifth time overall), equalling the record of Jim Clarke and Alain Prost. So much so that Hamilton couldn’t help cheekily declare to the world media that he performs so well at Silverstone because “he owns the circuit”.

 British Grand Prix: Lewis Hamiltons 5th title, Ferraris tyre woes even stakes in two-horse battle

Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton celebrates his win on the podium with Valtteri Bottas and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen. Reuters

If the result was good news, the best news was that Hamilton closed the gap to Sebastian Vettel at the top of the table to one point. Game on, and how. Indeed, the gods of Formula 1 really are smiling on us this season. Maybe when we look back at the end of the season, this race will be a pivotal moment that evened the stakes and reset the battle.

Many were upset with Hamilton for blowing off the public at the London exhibition event earlier this week (the only driver to do so) in favour of a ‘holiday’ (basically a wild, raucous party) in Mykonos. I guess he will now be forgiven for his absence — and like we have seen before, Mercedes is happy to let their star driver party in outer space for all they care, provided he continues to bring home the goods on Sunday.

Ferrari: Double bad luck

Depending on whether you’re a Ferrari fan or not, the British Grand Prix at Silverstone was terrific, or terrible. In a race that seemed awfully predictable after the pit stops, the last two laps threw up some huge surprises with both Ferraris suffering shocking tyre blowouts. To my simple mind, it just seems like an outlandish coincidence, so what actually happened there? I can’t wait for investigations to tell us more. In other news, surely Ferrari isn’t too pleased with Pirelli after this race.

Vettel will be desperately disappointed to finish down in P7 — he was in P3 when disaster struck — while Kimi Raikkonen was inconsolable despite ending up in P3 as he could have had P2. That said, this was one of those rare weekends when we saw Raikkonen show up in top form and consistently beat Vettel on pace. Vettel’s early tussles with Max Verstappen made for inspired viewing and seeing these two drivers battle wheel-to-wheel was the highlight of the race for me. Kudos to Ferrari for getting their pit-stop strategies perfectly right — a well-timed undercut allowed Vettel to finally get rid of Verstappen.

Career-defining drive by Bottas

There’s been plenty of chatter in the context of momentum — and who better to exemplify that than Valterri Bottas. After a lukewarm start to the season, this Mercedes driver is increasingly shining. Despite starting down the order thanks to a gearbox penalty, he worked himself up the ranks. His stormy moves on Vettel were punchy, confident and full of spunk, as was his subsequent chase to Raikkonen. I’d say that these moves were far more career defining for Bottas than even the two victories he’s notched up this season.

Red Bull Racing, tables turn

Silverstone saw some reversals in fortune — between Vettel and Hamilton for sure, and similarly between Ricciardo and Verstappen. The streak of five-podium finishes finally ended for Ricciardo thanks to a back of the grid start. Even so, a plucky drive saw him rise up to P5 and win Driver of the Day. Verstappen dazzled us with his antics through the opening lap and duel with Vettel. However, his efforts were only good enough for a P4 finish.

Red Bull's driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during the British Grand Prix. AFP

Red Bull's driver Max Verstappen drives ahead of Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel during the British Grand Prix. AFP

Verstappen could have finished on the podium if Red Bull Racing had not decided to bring him in for a precautionary stop after the fate suffered by the Ferraris. After all the bad luck that Verstappen has suffered from this season, surely the team wanted to take no chances. Red Bull Racing will be pleased to have brought both the cars home in the points.

Meanwhile at Toro Rosso, trouble continued with Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat taking each other of the race. Kvyat was held responsible for the clash by the FIA, making it the second race in a row where he has unleashed his torpedo superpower on unwitting victims. Amid rumours of Sainz’s growing dissatisfaction with the team, this civil war is the last thing Toro Rosso needed.

Best of the rest

My vote for the ‘Best of the Rest’ driver goes to Nico Hulkenberg who drove to a fine P6. It will mean a lot to him and the team that they were able to beat both Force India cars on track, fair and square. It also means that Renault’s upgrades are probably working as planned, giving them something to look forward to in the second half of the season.

Force India finished P8 and P9 — not their best result, but a decent outing at their home race. Williams, despite another miserable qualifying session, managed to sneak into the points with Felipe Massa finishing in P10. Fernando Alonso suffered from yet another retirement — a suspected fuel pump issue — although he was fighting outside the Top 10 when it happened.

As the action shifts to Budapest for the Hungarian Grand Prix, teams will be eager to finish on a strong note for a psychological high as Formula 1 heads into the summer break.

Updated Date: Jul 17, 2017 17:57:54 IST