2020 British Grand Prix Blog
After watching Qualifying it seemed inconceivable that Mercedes could lose the race on Sunday. Lewis Hamilton took pole with a scintillating lap time of 1:24.303, whilst Valterri Bottas slotted neatly in behind him for a front row lockout. But lose it they nearly did, and it was all down to unexpected tyre wear.
The race was relatively uneventful up until the final laps. Yes, there were some heavy crashes early on – the first where Alex Albon clipped Kevin Magnussen and sent him spinning into the barriers and the second an unexplained puncture for Daniil Kvyat at Maggots – but the Grand Prix lacked bite and after the restarts the drivers fell into line with little change in order. Max Verstappen cut a lonely figure in third place. Too slow to challenge Mercedes but significantly faster than the rest of the field, he was racing in isolation for a long period. At one stage Verstappen even reminded his engineer over the radio: “Remember to drink, did you remember to drink?” such was the straightforwardness of his afternoon.
But everything changed in the final few laps. Tyre management was the cause of the problem and with 10 laps to go Bottas started to fall away from his teammate. The gap went from 2.7 seconds to 8.3 in seven laps before the Finn suffered a puncture. His position on track could not have been worse, having just passed the pit lane entrance, and he had to do a full lap before getting it replaced. Valterri re-joined in 11th place and with no time left finished outside the points. Afterwards he commented: “It just happened like this [the puncture], so sudden, I couldn’t really predict it happening. Not much more to say really.”
This statement was backed up when Hamilton suffered the same problem on his final lap. Cruising to victory he should have been able to easily manage his tyres, and yet his front left burst, leaving him to drag the car home on 3-wheels. Indeed, if Verstappen had not pitted for new tyres he would have won the race. Hamilton said afterwards: “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,”
Red Bull have subsequently come under fire for missing the opportunity to claim an unlikely race victory but Christian Horner defended their tactics, saying: “The tyre that’s come off Max’s car has actually got a deep groove and quite a lot of lacerations on it as well, so there’s no guarantee that he would’ve got to the end of the race, and then it would’ve been a completely different story again… Lewis rode his luck and they had a great car today and he managed to get it home. Second place is still a very good result for us.”
McLaren also deserve a mention, they looked strong and well organised all weekend. Carlos Sainz will be upset to have suffered a puncture on the final lap, meaning he missed out on a P4 finish, but there are perhaps extenuating circumstances and seeing what happened to Mercedes it is clear that the tyres did not perform as the teams were expecting. Sainz put a brave face on it, saying: “On the positive side, the car felt good on track and the boys did good pit stops for the team.” The team will no doubt be disappointed with the outcome but with Lando Norris taking fifth spot they did gain some valuable points and can expect even more next weekend.
Pirelli have launched a “360 degrees” investigation after the tyre failures which caused such a dramatic end to the British GP, however, that may not come in time for this Sunday when Formula 1 will be back at Silverstone for the 70th Anniversary GP. It leaves the teams facing a tactical dilemma and we could well see some different strategies employed next weekend. Don’t miss it!