Sainz Wins Silverstone!

This year’s British Grand Prix did not disappoint. Thus far, it is easily the best race of the year. In his 150th race, Carlos Sainz started on pole and finished first for the first time in his career. However, there was quite a bit of drama at the beginning and the end of the race. As the grid raced down the main straight, Max Verstappen took advantage of Sainz’s slow start and jumped into first place down the main straight. Further back, Lewis Hamilton quickly moved from fifth to third, taking advantage of the slow starts of Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez. As the front four sped into the first series of turns, a massive wreck unfolds.

George Russell and Zhou Guanyu also had slow starts to the race and were racing parallel with each other down the main straight. There was just enough gap between them for Nicholas Latifi to punch thru and get passed them. Pierre Gasly, trailing behind Latifi, thought he could make it thru the same gap. However, as the group of cars were approaching the first turn, Russell subtly started shifting into a racing line to maximize the impending turn. As he moved to the left, Gasly clipped Russell’s left rear wheel pushing his car into Zhou’s car. The hit pushed Russell’s left front wheel front of Zhou’s right rear wheel. Zhou’s wheel rolled over Russell’s wheel at roughly 160 miles an hour, flipping Zhou’s car on top of its halo, skidding the car across the track, gravel and eventually flipping the car up into the air where it landed between the protective fence and the barrier. Zhou’s halo held firm, very likely saving his life. He was back in the racing paddock by the end of the race.

Alex Albon’s race ended seconds after Zhou’s did. Valterri Bottas was behind the aforementioned wreck as it was unfolding and slowed down to attempt to avoid the chaos. Alex Albon and Sebastian Vettel were in a train behind Bottas. Valterri’s slow down caused Albon to brake and Vettel knocked Albon’s car hard into the concrete wall. Albon was eventually taken to the hospital for observation.

George Russell’s race ended in the opening seconds as well. As his car skidded to a stop, Russell jumped out and raced over to Zhou’s wreck to see if he could help him. Seeing that the racing stewards had things well in hand, Russell walked back to his car and attempted to start it unsuccessfully. He ran back to the paddock for instructions. He did not make it back in time to fix the problem. Russell’s car was loaded onto a flatbed and his race was over. Had his car been able to limp back to pitlane, Mercedes might have been able to get the car back in the race. This is the first DNF for Russell this year, ending his streak of nine consecutive top five finishes.

The race restarted roughly an hour later. The restart was almost as eventful as the original start. Since the grid did not complete a full lap, the racing grid remained the same as qualification. Sainz executed a much better start this time, pushing Verstappen towards the wall, jumping out front quickly, and maintaining his lead as minor mayhem erupted behind him. As the grid snaked thru the first S turn, Sergio Perez had already passed Leclerc and was neck and neck with Verstappen. As they rounded the next bend, the cars were running four wide around the turn with Sainz slightly in the lead. Verstappen was on the outside, then Sainz, Perez and Leclerc. Perez pushed Leclerc into the apex of the turn and Sainz pulled ahead. The three remaining front runners were compressed tightly, three wide down going into the very next turn. Perez suffered severe damage to his front wing, causing him to box. He was 16th when he came out of pitlane. Leclerc’s Ferrari also suffered damage to his front wing, yet it did not seem to affect his race as he collected some great lap times and ran first for at least nine laps before the next yellow flag.

As the opening laps continued to unfold, Verstappen overtook Sainz and it began to look like yet another Red Bull victory was in the making. However, during Lap 10, Verstappen had to pit. Thinking he had a puncture; the team changed his tires. Yet as he started to turn in more laps, he and the team began to realize there was significant damage to his aero package. He failed to achieve the downforce needed to be competitive and finished the race in seventh place.

During lap 25, Lewis Hamilton took the lead when Leclerc boxed. However, Hamilton’s pit stop took 4.3 seconds putting him back in third place. Leclerc eventually switched spots with Sainz for first place during lap 31, and the race remained uneventful until the yellow flag waved. Esteban Ocon’s Alpine suffered a mechanical failure during lap 39 and could not make it to pit lane. As the yellow flag was waving, Ferrari had at least eleven seconds to decide on bringing Leclerc in for new tires. He was coming around the bend with the entry to pit lane was in sight. Inexplicably, Ferrari left him out on the track. However, they did bring Sainz in for a fresh set of soft tires.

The restart during lap 42 was also quite eventful. Leclerc, Sainz and Hamilton were running upfront, though Leclerc had his aged hard tires from his pit stop during lap 25. Since lap six, Sergio Perez had quietly worked his way thru the field from 16th to fourth place. Perez pushed Hamilton hard thru the first series of s turns. Carlos Sainz took the lead later during the lap, almost pushing his teammate off the track. Perez and Hamilton continued to battle for the next few laps as Leclerc’s Ferrari started to fall off due to his degrading tires. DRS was enabled during lap 45. During lap 46, Perez caught him at Stowes corner. They raced wheel to wheel down the next straight and as they went into the next corner Perez nearly pushed Leclerc off the track, opening a window for Hamilton to fly past both cars. Perez and Leclerc were able to get past Hamilton during the next series of s turns. During lap 48, at luffield turn, Hamilton finally pushed past Leclerc for third place. He briefly lost his spot but regained it on the next straight and held 3rd till the end of the race. Hamilton earned his 13th podium at Silverstone, breaking a racetrack record.

There are several notables to mention. First, Mick Schumacher earned his first top ten, finishing eight. In fact, both Haas cars finished in the top ten as Silverstone. Hopefully, Haas can build off of this success. All four drivers with Formula 1 Championships finished in the top ten (Fernando Alonso, Verstappen, Hamilton and Vettel). For the second week in a row, Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes finish in the top three. Mercedes is closing the gap to Ferrari quickly, while Red Bull continues to widen their gap against the field. Though Verstappen didn’t podium, he still added six points to his massive lead. Verstappen clearly has a bit of growing to do. That is understandable, he is only 24. He was very uncomfortable driving his aero damaged Red Bull around the track. At the end of the season, he will be thankful that Chris Horner left him out on the track. Finally, there are five drivers with at least 100 points (Verstappen, Perez, Leclerc, Sainz and Russell). Hamilton is in sixth place with 93 points. There isn’t much that separates the top six drivers when you consider first place earns you 25 points. Though Verstappen has a 34-point lead, it’s anyone’s championship at this point in the season.

To win consistently in Formula One, you need three elements. First you need a great car. Next you need a great driver. Lastly you need a consistently great strategy that allows you to adapt to race day challenges and opportunities. Ferrari made a critical mistake when the yellow flag occurred at lap 39. They should have boxed both of their cars. Had they done so, both cars would have podiumed maximizing their points for the day. Charles Leclerc is right to be frustrated with his team. Poor strategy by the team has cost him two podiums this year. Despite that, it is a day of celebration for Ferrari and Carlos Sainz. In his 150th race, he has achieved his first pole and his first win. Sainz is a methodical and analytical driver. He learns from his mistakes and rarely makes the same mistake twice. There is a strong argument that he is better than Leclerc. He has three DNF’s to the season. But for those, where might he be in the standings? Fielding two top notch drivers puts Ferrari in a great position. Their car is finally very competitive. Now they need to match their strategy with their drivers and car in order to achieve the championship.

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