An 8th F1 win for the King of Silverstone but did he deserve it?
On paper Lewis Hamilton gave the record number of British fans exactly what they wanted, but controversy reigns after a high-speed incident saw Hamilton put an end to Verstappen’s race.
So what’s the big story?
In one of the most intense on-track battles we’ve seen between the two title rivals, Hamilton and Verstappen came together on lap 1 in a high-speed touch that resulted in polesitter Max Verstappen skidding rearwards into the barriers on the outside of turn 9 / Copse corner. It was a massive crash from which Verstappen, thankfully, emerged on his own clearly winded and shocked by the impact.
It all started when the lights went out with Lewis getting a better start than Max and running into turn 1 almost side by side but Max eeked out a few metres ahead all the way through the first series of corners. Hamilton was right on his rear wing opting for wider corner entry for a better run out of the corners. From Aintree down the Wellington straight and into Brooklands, Hamilton was closing in, setting up the exits with an attacking aggression while Max was on full defence. Once again into Luffield Hamilton took a wider line for a stronger exit onto the old pit straight and closed in to within a few inches of Max under the slipstream, before faking to the outside and then darting right into the inside of Verstappen and turning into Copse where it all went wrong. Hamilton turned in with his car alongside Max and as it happened, his front left touched Max’s right rear, sending Max into a spin and careening into the barriers. It was a massive shunt that immediately brought out the safety car and soon after, red-flagged the race as Max was attended to and the barriers repaired.
It wasn’t an incident we wanted to see especially after the nailbiting racing that was taking place until then. But it did happen and as a result, Max was left out of the race. The stewards were inundated with calls from the Red Bull garage citing Hamilton was ‘desperate’ to try a 'dangerous' move like that and even word from Helmut Marko that Lewis should have been handed a full race suspension. In the end, the stewards gave Hamilton a 10-second penalty to be served during the race and the F1 show got underway again.
Where did Charles Leclerc come from?
Starting 4th on the grid, Leclerc’s blistering start despatched Bottas immediately putting him into the best seats in the house as Lewis chased down Max Verstappen. After the turn 9 incident, Lewis lost some ground and Leclerc took full advantage, overtaking Lewis into the lead of the race, which meant that Leclerc started on pole at the restart from where he remained for most of the race thereafter.
The Ferrari’s speed especially on the medium tyres was too good for Lewis Hamilton to attack and Leclerc controlled the race from there without any real pressure from Hamilton who was clearly struggling to keep his tyres cool and had no pace advantage over the Ferrari. Leclerc was in dominant form despite an engine software malfunction that seemed to cut the engine for very brief periods. After a few mode changes and direction from the Ferrari engineers, the issue was resolved and Leclerc didn’t lose too much ground.
Further behind the leading pair, Lando Norris had leapt into 3rd position and was doing a fine job of keeping Bottas behind until he pitted on lap 22 for a routine stop, that was anything but. His stop was 6.0-seconds long after an issue with the right rear tyre change which saw him lose one place to Bottas after Bottas pitted one lap later. It was where the McLaren driver finished, bagging another great haul of 12-points. He remains 3rd in the driver’s championship just 5-points ahead of Bottas.
Daniel Ricciardo came home in P5 a way behind his teammate but ahead of a charging Ferrari of Carlos Sainz. The battle between these two was intense all throughout the final stint, but Ricciardo defended with every inch of his McLaren while Sainz, who was clearly faster in pure race pace, just couldn’t find a way around.
Fernando Alonso enjoyed a strong Silverstone weekend constantly locked into enthralling battles to finally finish in P7 where he started the race. He has his amazing Sprint race results to thank for this, yet another points finish. He started the Sprint race in P11 and made up 6-places on the opening lap before eventually consolidating with a P7 position.
How did Hamilton win then?
In pure Hamilton fashion – Hamilton pitted on lap 27 to serve his 10-second penalty in his pit box before the team fitted a set of hard tyres onto the Mercedes. Hamilton emerged behind Norris and then set about chasing him down. 4 laps later, Hamilton passed Norris into Turn 9, the same corner where he had the collision with Verstappen. Hamilton was flying now, closing down the 8-second deficit to his teammate just 8 laps later. Bottas played the team game once again, giving Hamilton an easy pass into Stowe.
From there, with 11 laps to go, Hamilton hunted down Leclerc closing the gap by 1,1-seconds a lap for most of the time. Hamilton did it again. He set up Leclerc into Luffield getting a great drive towards Copse and passing Leclerc to take the lead with just two laps to go.
Hamilton won the British Grand Prix to the bellowing cheers from the record-breaking crowd.
That was not fair for Verstappen though, and Hamilton wasn’t penalised enough…
It wasn’t the win any of us wanted, that’s for sure. Nor was it the win Hamilton wanted either but in Hamilton’s mind, I gather, it was a racing incident and he still fought through the penalty and the loss of places to win the race. A win is a win.
Was his penalty fair? The real question to ask is this – was the idea of a move like that completely ludicrous or could it have worked? My take is this: Hamilton and Verstappen are the most hardcore, most competitive and most competent racing drivers on the F1 grid right now. Hamilton closed in on Max and HAD to make a move into that turn. Lewis WAS alongside Max for a short while, and Max COULD have given him more room as Leclerc did some 50 laps later. Some may say that Max had the racing line and Lewis should have backed out….really? Lewis Hamilton will never back out of anything if he has nosed his way alongside his arch rival. Christian Horner and Helmut Marko have cited that Hamilton was crazy to attempt that move but it worked on two separate occasions later in the race, and really speaking, this is F1 racing.
In this over-stewarded era of modern F1, Hamilton deserved a penalty for sure. Was it the right penalty, I don’t know. What I do know is that at 280 kph, you and I sitting and watching at home can’t completely appreciate the split second decisions these drivers have to take. It happens incredibly quickly and judging it afterwards is always going to result in passionate arguments for either side. Expect vehement fighting from Marko and Horner even beyond the race. Hamilton has certainly made some enemies today.
Hamilton could have been a little more empathetic no?
Max certainly thinks so. F1.com has reported that Max Verstappen has called Hamilton’s victory celebrations ‘unsportsmanlike and ‘disrespectful’. Hamilton won his 8th home race and was ecstatic in front of the heaving crowd who at some point, were cheering his name in unison: ‘Lewis, Lewis, Lewis…’. Had Lewis been a little more humble about his win, would that have been the better approach? Or was the excitement and experience of 150,000 fans just too much to dampen his energy…?
The win at Silverstone marks Hamilton's 99th F1 career victory and a record-equalling 8th win at a single event for a driver.
2021 British Formula 1 Grand Prix Results:
- Lewis Hamilton
- Charles Leclerc
- Valterri Bottas
- Lando Norris
- Daniel Ricciardo
- Carlos Sainz
- Fernando Alonso
- Lance Stroll
- Esteban Ocon
- Yuki Tsunoda
- Pierre Gasly
- George Russell
- Antonio Giovinazzi
- Nicholas Latifi
- Kimi Räikkönen
- Sergio Perez
- Nikita Mazepin
- Mick Schumacher
- Sebastian Vettel
- Max Verstappen
RECORD-BREAKING BRITISH CROWD:
The 2021 Silverstone Formula 1 Grand Prix will go down in history as one of the most memorable – and that is saying something. Silverstone had a record-breaking crowd, with some 356,000 people in attendance over the race weekend, 150,000 of which were in the grandstands on race day.
The next Formula 1 race for 2021 takes place in Hungary from 30 July – 01 August.
*Images courtesy of Formula 1.