Despite the lack of fans crowded into the stands around Silverstone, this year’s 2020 British Grand Prix ended up having a nail-biting finish with Lewis Hamilton crossing the finish line and taking his seventh and dramatic win at the British circuit with a flat left front tyre, having limped around half of the final lap with a puncture. It left Red Bull wondering whether Max Verstappen could have won had he not pitted late in the race for fresh tyres. Although had he not, he may have suffered a similar fate. Both Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz suffered punctures as well, also on the left front wheel.
However, it was Bottas who suffered the most, as his tyre let go on lap 50 of the 52 laps of the race having just passed the pit entrance, causing him to limp all the way round the circuit and losing a certain second place and valuable points, only to recover and finish just outside the points in eleventh. Very cruel luck, but that’s motor racing as they say.
The race drama gave Charles Leclerc the opportunity to take his second podium of the year in third place, with Carlos Sainz well positioned to take fourth, his best finish this year, that is until he also succumbed to the tyre gremlins, falling to 13th as he crossed the finish line, two places behind Bottas, who tried desperately to pass Sebastian Vettel for the final points scoring position on the last lap. That allowed Daniel Ricciardo to claim fourth for Renault, after a late pass on the second McLaren of Lando Norris.
Esteban Ocon finished sixth in the second Renault, having had a race-long battle with Lance Stroll in his Racing Point. Pierre Gasly claimed seventh with a strong performance for AlphaTauri. The second Red Bull of Alex Albon finished eighth after recovering from a coming together with the Haas of Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap, that saw Magnussen retiring from the race. Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel rounded out the top 10 finishers.
It proved to be a disappointing British Grand Prix for Nico Hulkenberg who had taken over from Sergio Perez on his return to Formula 1, as he was unable to take the start when a technical issue was discovered on his car.
Lewis Hamilton summed up his race win saying, “I have never experienced anything like that before. That last lap was one of the most challenging laps I have ever had. Up until that point, everything was going relatively smoothly, the tyres felt great and I was doing some management. When I heard Valtteri’s tyre had gone, I looked at mine and everything seemed fine, but I started to back off. Then, it just suddenly deflated down the straight. It was a heart-in-your-mouth feeling and then I was just trying to keep the speed up without damaging the car. Bono was giving me the gaps; I think it was 30 seconds at one stage, but it was coming down quite quickly and I was thinking ‘How far is it to the end of the lap?’. But we managed to get the car across the line. That last lap is definitely one to remember, I feel so grateful that I got it back and could secure the win. It was difficult standing up there on the podium without the crowd, but hopefully I did everyone proud who was supporting us from home.”
As for Valtteri Bottas, “It’s a really disappointing result for me. I got very unlucky with the puncture; everything was going OK until that point. I was trying to put the pressure on Lewis, but we knew it was going to be a long stint on the Hard tyre. Towards the end I was starting to get more and more vibrations on the front left. I didn’t see any debris or anything, so I reported the vibrations and started to manage the tyres, but then the tyre failed suddenly on the start/finish straight and I had to complete a full lap back to the pits which cost me a lot of time. I am sure there will be lots of learnings to take from this weekend, so we’ll take those and move onto the next weekend.”
Third place driver Charles Leclerc summed up his British Grand Prix by saying: “It was a difficult day, but a good one. I am very satisfied with this result. We know we were a bit lucky, but sometimes these things happen, and you need to be there to take the opportunity. I am satisfied with the way in which we have been working this weekend and I am very proud of the team. I am also pleased with my performance, especially with regards to tyre management. It was not easy.
“We had a very aggressive downforce level coming here, so we had quite a lot of speed in the straights but difficulties in the corners. I struggled quite a bit to get the tyres to the right temperature, especially after the safety car. Once they were in the right window, things became less tricky though. I think we did quite a good job with the setup and the balance of the car, and it was very nice to drive.
“We extracted absolutely everything from the package today. Of course, we don’t want to be fighting for fourth place for too much longer, but at the moment that’s what our car is capable of.”
So, the top ten finishers at this year’s British Grand Prix were Lewis Hamilton, Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc, Daniel Ricciardo, Lando Norris in fifth, Esteban Ocon sixth in the second Renault, Pierre Gasly, Alexander Albon came eighth in the second Red Bull, Lance Stroll and Sebastian Vettel taking the final point in tenth, while Valtteri Bottas scored just outside the points in 11th thanks to that puncture.
Lewis Hamilton now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 30 points on 88, with Valtteri Bottas second on 58 points, whilst Mercedes are out in the lead of the Constructors’ Championship with 146 points, with Red Bull behind them with 78 points.
The drivers now have to do it all again next weekend at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, which takes place at the Silverstone circuit where the championship started life 70 years ago. It was on 13th May 1950 that the very first race to count for the World Championship took place here.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Photographs courtesy of Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, Scuderia Ferrari Press Office, McLaren and Haas F1 Team