RED Bull’s Max Verstappen finally ended Mercedes dominance of Formula 1 with a decisive win at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone in another race that demanded special tyre strategies.
It was the first time this year that a Mercedes driver didn’t win and Dutchman was the only one among the top 10 qualifiers who started on hard compound tyres while his main rivals all opted for the medium.
After a series of tyre failures towards the end of last week’s race in similar hot conditions on the same fast circuit, Pirelli stipulated higher pressures for the second race.
It worked for Red Bull, but not for the two Mercedes, which had blistered tyres after only six of the 52 laps.
Verstappen had no such issues and managed to run for more than half distance before his first stop for fresh rubber.
However, the early dogfight between Merc’s Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas didn’t help their tyres either.
Bottas, starting from pole, led for the first dozen laps with Verstappen hounding him and Hamilton after breezing past Nico Hulkenberg, who had a sensational qualifying session to claim third spot on the grid in the Racing Point.
In the early stages, his pit crew told Verstappen to back off from the Mercedes to protect his tyres, but he Dutch driver came back with a classic response: ‘Mate – this is the only chance of being close to the Mercedes, I’m not just sitting behind like a grandma,’ he said.
It paid off and a thrilled Verstappen claimed the 9th win of his Formula 1 career.
‘What an amazing race,’ he said.
‘This is what you get when you keep pushing. What a great day. I think we did everything perfect today. We’re definitely going to celebrate this one.
‘Everything worked out well. I’m incredibly happy.
‘We hadn’t really had an opportunity in all the races so far to push them.
‘I put the pressure on, they had to pit, I did my own pace.”
Hamilton, who ran second, with teammate Bottas third, said the race was ‘a massive challenge.
‘’Congratulations to the Red Bull team and to Max. They definitely didn’t have the qualms we had today.
‘Definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hardcore as we experienced.
‘I’m sure the team will be working as hard as they can because we’ve not had that (tyre issues) before. I don’t know if anyone struggled with blistering like we did.’
A frustrated Bottas blamed his tyre issues on his ‘sleeping’ pit management.
Fourth came Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who put in a sterling drive, totally overshadowing teammate Sebastien Vettel, who somehow managed to spin his car on the opening lap and never quite recovered.
Red Bull’s Alexander Albon did well to rise from 9th on the grid to 5th, with the Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenberg 6th and 7th.
Hulkenberg ran 5th for most of the race, but made a late stop for fresh tyres and dropped two spots.
By contrast, Daniel Ricciardo who started from 5th, plummeted to 14th after tyre problems and a high speed spin on lap 32.
Teammate Esteban Ocon started 14th and did well to finish in the points in 8th.
Next came Lando Norris in the McLaren, with Daniil Kvyat taking the last point for Alpha Tauri.
‘Today was just one of those days where things got progressively worse,’ Ricciardo said.
‘It was going okay at the beginning, maintaining sixth and hanging on pace-wise to the cars ahead. We pitted for another Medium and I was struggling to hold onto them.
‘We had to pit for the Hard and then it got messy at Turn 3 and I lost the rear defending from Carlos [Sainz] and had the spin. The race was done then.
‘We have to accept it, take it on the chin and go again in Barcelona.’
Meanwhile, the protest that Renault filed against Racing Point seems far from over.
After Ferrari and McLaren also complained of the similarities the ‘Pink Mercedes’ hard to last year’s Mercedes cars, the FIA last week fined Racing Point €400,000 and docked 15 constructors’ championship points.
However, in a bizarre decision, Racing Point has been allowed to retain what other teams view as illegal parts for the rest of the season.
That resulted in Renault, Ferrari, McLaren and Williams all calling for tougher sanctions.
McLaren chief executive Zak Brown described the verdict as confusing, saying everything else about the Racing Point car now needed to be questioned.
“My initial reaction is Racing Point has been found guilty,” Brown said.
“I am concerned that they still have what was deemed illegal in Austria on the race car now. I think that is confusing for the fans. How is something that is not legal in Austria still on the car?
“You have to question everything else around that car. I think this is potentially the tip of the iceberg.”
Next race is the Spanish Grand Prix at Catalunya on August 16.
More protests are almost certain to follow.
|1||33||RED BULL RACING HONDA||52||1:19:41.993||25|
|5||23||RED BULL RACING HONDA||52||+39.146s||10|
|6||18||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||52||+42.538s||8|
|7||27||RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES||52||+55.951s||6|
|15||7||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||51||+1 lap||0|
|16||8||HAAS FERRARI||51||+1 lap||0|
|17||99||ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI||51||+1 lap||0|
|18||63||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||51||+1 lap||0|
|19||6||WILLIAMS MERCEDES||51||+1 lap||0|
Note – Hamilton scored an additional point for setting the fastest lap of the race. The classification is subject to appeals lodged with the ICA. Magnussen received a 5-second time penalty for leaving the track and rejoining unsafely.
CHECKOUT: Cars too quick for tyres — Pirelli
CHECKOUT: Tyreing . . . but Hamilton does it again