It is the 70th year of racing for Formula 1. The Pinnacle of Motorsport has enthralled fans through the seven decades of its existence returning this weekend to the place where it all began, 70 years ago! Silverstone played host to this special event, the race christened as the 70th Anniversary GP.
There was a lot of buzz in the world of F1 leading up to this historic weekend.
Pirelli investigated the tyre delaminations of the previous weekend and stated that these were due to the "extremely long use" of the tyres after an early Safety Car in the race. The 70th-anniversary event would pose a new challenge with the tyres being a level softer. Higher track temperatures than the previous weekend meant that teams would need to conserve their harder sets for the race, limiting their simulation runs in Free Practice sessions.
On the Protests front, the FIA reviewed the documents and technical data submitted against Racing Point ( by Renault ) over the past four race weekends and upheld the protest. Racing Point had copied the front brake ducts ( of Mercedes ) for their 2019 car ( when it was allowed ) but copied the rear brake ducts for 2020 ( which wasn't allowed ). FIA ruled this as a breach of Sporting Regulations and docked 15 points off Racing Point's points tally along with a 400,000 Euros fine as a financial penalty.
Thankfully, the RP20 was considered legal and allowed to participate in the championship in its current avatar. The team is contemplating an appeal against this decision.
Renault however, isn't happy with the severity of the sentence and plans to appeal for higher sanctions against Racing Point. Ferrari already has, other teams might follow suit.
More Details about the FIA Ruling here :
Sergio Perez, who tested positive for Covid-19 last weekend hadn't recovered in time and would miss the 70th Anniversary GP as well. Racing Point retained Nico Hulkenberg as his replacement. The German would hope for a trouble-free Sunday after failing to start last weekend's race due to a faulty clutch-bolt.
So who reigned supreme in the countryside of Silverstone?
Was the 70th Anniversary of the sport a memorable day in its history?
Time for a quick recap!
Valtteri Bottas was the fastest in Free Practice 1 from Hamilton and Verstappen. Hulkenberg had an impressive start to the weekend in P4. Ferrari was in the mix with Leclerc in P5 ( with their low-downforce setup ) while Albon completed the top 6, a second adrift of the fastest time. Vettel had an off-track moment but managed to set the 7th fastest time. Stroll, Kvyat and Ocon completed the top 10. McLaren didn't feel bullish this weekend, their drivers spending the session learning about the soft tyres. Grosjean was the fastest Ferrari customer car, splitting the McLarens with the 13th fastest time. The Williams duo was 15th and 16th fastest, Latifi slowly getting up to pace with the FW43. Ricciardo struggled in FP1 and could set only the 17th fastest time. Raikkonen was 18th from Kubica, the Polish reserve driver getting a session instead of Giovinazzi. Raikkonen believed there was more speed in the car and hoped to finish in the points this weekend. However, he still suffered from balance issues and had a couple of off-track excursions. Kevin Magnussen was P20 in his Haas. Everyone set their representative lap times on the soft tyres.
The drivers chose to experiment with their tyres ( some mediums, some softs ) in Free Practice 2. Lewis Hamilton was the fastest in the session and had set his time with a set of medium tyres. Bottas was P2, less than two-tenths of a second slower than his team-mate. Ricciardo produced a stellar lap, bumping up his Renault into P3, just clear of Verstappen's best time in 4th. Stroll and Hulkenberg were P5 and P6 for Racing Point. Hulkenberg's race simulation program was a bit compromised after the team had to address his seating issues. Leclerc was the fastest Ferrari with the 7th fastest time. Norris and Sainz were back up into the top 10 with Ocon hot on their heels. Albon had another challenging FP2; the Thai driver suffering from balance issues on his Red Bull. Alpha Tauri had another strong showing in free practice with P12 and P13. Vettel could only manage P14 in the other works Ferrari car. The four-times World Champion suffered from an engine failure near the end of the session, grinding to a halt on the old pit straight. The Stewards initiated a Virtual Safety Car period due to excessive oil on the track. Grosjean was again the faster of the two Haas cars in P15 ahead of Russell and Raikkonen. Magnussen managed the 18th fastest time while Latifi was 19th in the other Williams. Giovinazzi, who sat out FP1 for Kubica also suffered a mechanical failure and had to ditch his Alfa Romeo at a run-off area at Becketts. The session was subsequently red-flagged and ended by the Stewards.
Race simulation programs from FP2 suggested that almost all teams would need a 2-stop strategy for the race. Mercedes was still the quickest of the lot but less than half a second separated P6 from P15. Qualifying would be a close-run affair with tyre choice being paramount for the midfield runners.
Mercedes reigned supreme in Free Practice 3 as well. Hamilton was the fastest from Bottas and Norris. Norris was the only driver to set his fastest lap time on medium tyres. Racing Point was in the top 6 with Hulkenberg and Stroll. Ferrari chose to change Leclerc's Power Unit as a "precautionary measure". Leclerc was P6 from the Red Bull duo of Verstappen and Albon. Verstappen was held up by Stroll and had to back off on his first run. Ocon and Sainz completed the top 10. The Alpha Tauris remained quicker than Vettel, the German having a complete lack of pace over one lap. Ricciardo could only manage the 14th fastest time. Grosjean was P15, Latifi and Russell P16 and P17. Giovinazzi, Raikkonen and Magnussen brought up the rear of the field. An intriguing Qualifying session awaited the drivers.
Q1 got underway with everyone but Russell, Grosjean and Magnussen on soft tyres. Verstappen complained about gusty conditions which were putting the cars out of balance at Maggotts and Becketts. The Stewards decided to investigate an incident between Ocon and Russell, the former guilty of trudging slowly on the racing line. Leclerc, Verstappen and Hulkenberg did not opt for a second run as others drove out on another set of fresh tyres. Bottas set the fastest time in Q1 from Hamilton and Albon. Verstappen, Gasly, Stroll, Norris, Ocon, Hulkenberg and Leclerc completed the top 10. Vettel managed to scrape through to Q2 in P14 while Russell ensured William's representation with the 15th fastest time. Kvyat was safely in the top 15 after his final run but had his lap time deleted due to exceeding of track limits at turn 15. The Russian was immensely disappointed at the end of the session and the first casualty of qualifying. Magnussen, Latifi, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen were the other eliminations. Alfa Romeo had brought upgrades this weekend but still seem to lack outright pace. It is quite a frustrating period for the Swiss-based outfit.
Q2 was the most intriguing of the Qualifying sessions as teams had to debate on the choice of tyres for their drivers. Red Bull rolled the dice by sending Verstappen out on hard tyres. Russell chose the soft tyres while the rest of the field opted for the mediums. Hulkenberg got compromised on his banker lap after an off-track at Chapel. Bottas, Hamilton and Ricciardo were the top 3 after the first runs. Verstappen set the 5th fastest time. Ricciardo and Verstappen decided to stay in the pits with Hamilton, Bottas, Vettel, Leclerc and Sainz choosing the softs for their final run. The rest opted for the mediums hoping to qualify into Q3. Bottas, Hulkenberg, Hamilton, Gasly, Ricciardo, Albon, Stroll, Leclerc, Verstappen and Norris made it into Q3. Hamilton, Bottas and Leclerc had backed off on their final run and would start the race on medium tyres.
Ocon, Vettel, Sainz, Grosjean and Russell were the eliminations in Q2. Vettel was four-tenths of a second slower than his team-mate, another disappointing Saturday for the German. Data showed that both Ferrari cars were struggling in the high-speed corners. Sainz too had a challenging qualifying but had the luxury of a free tyre choice for the start of the race.
The final shoot-out in qualifying brought another mixed bag with tyre choices. Ricciardo, Albon and Verstappen put on the medium tyres for their banker laps of Q3. Hamilton laid down the gauntlet with the fastest time on his soft tyres. Bottas was hot on his heels. Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Verstappen and Albon constituted the best of the rest.
A change in track temperatures in the final minutes of Q3 brought about another discussion between teams and their drivers over the right tyre choice. Hamilton, Bottas and Ricciardo deduced that the medium tyres were the best fit in current conditions. The rest of the participants chose a more aggressive route with the soft tyres. The final minutes of Q3 would decide the fate of those who made the right call with their tyres. It was a close contest between the Mercedes duo. Bottas came out on top, six-hundredths of a second clear of his team-mate. Hulkenberg set a blistering lap, promoting himself to P3 on the grid! Verstappen could only manage P4. Ricciardo had a strong showing for Renault in P5 while Stroll ensured Racing Point had both cars in top 6. Alpha Tauri would be proud of another stellar lap by Gasly who would start in P7. The Frenchman was maturing well in Red Bull's B-Team. P8 was the best that Ferrari could manage with Leclerc. Albon had a mediocre outing in P9 while Norris qualified in P10 for McLaren.
Ocon got a three-place grid drop for impeding Russell in Q1 and would start the race in P14.
Mercedes seemed unbeatable this weekend as well. Red Bull held a slight advantage over their rivals with Verstappen starting the race on hard tyres. Overcutting both the Mercedes was a different matter altogether. Hulkenberg was the talk of the town with a great qualifying. The entire F1 world hoped and prayed for a trouble-free and incident-free Sunday for the German. A podium finish beckoned; if all went well! Ricciardo was Renault's best chance at a podium while Leclerc hoped for some fortune like last weekend to finish higher up on Sunday. Albon has a better showing on Sunday and looked to undo the damage of Saturday. Vettel was in the same boat as Albon. McLaren aimed for points finish for both their cars. Alpha Tauri needed a clean race from both their drivers. Williams saw improvement with each passing weekend while Haas and Alfa Romeo fell backwards despite their upgrades.
Sunday would be a memorable day!
The 70th Anniversary GP saw all 20 starters line up on the grid for the formation lap. Verstappen was the only driver to start on hard tyres in the top 10. Vettel, Sainz, Kvyat and Raikkonen also followed suit. The rest of the field were on medium tyres. The "Alternate Strategy" wasn't ideal; as shown in the F2 Feature Race on Saturday. Those on the hard tyres had a chance to prove otherwise.
It was a clean getaway for the Mercedes duo as the lights went out. Verstappen was up into P3 with Hulkenberg having to fend off Stroll in P5. Vettel had a decent start off the line and was challenging Sainz into turn 1. However, the rear of his car got loose, sending him into a spin and relegating him to the back of the field. Leclerc held onto P10 while defending from Sainz. Giovinazzi and Magnussen were the biggest gainers ( 4 positions up ) on the opening lap. Raikkonen passed Latifi for P18 with Vettel following suit a few turns later ( lap 2 ). Vettel went past his ex-teammate on lap 4 to move up to 18th.
Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Ricciardo, Gasly, Norris, Albon and Leclerc were the top 10 at the end of lap 4.
Mercedes warned Bottas about the "critical" health of his left front medium tyre ( lap 6 ). It seemed like his race was getting compromised.
Albon was the first to pit for what seemed to be an early stop for a two-stop strategy ( lap 7 ). He rejoined last with a fresh set of hard tyres. Red Bull made the call to pit Albon early and save him from the midfield squabbles. Gasly and Giovinazzi pitted a lap later for a set of hard tyres as well. Vettel was now up to P15 and honing in on Russell in the Williams. Russell was the next driver to pit on lap 9 for a set of hard tyres. The battle at the front was hotting up with Verstappen setting similar lap times to the Mercedes in front. Gasly made a move on Raikkonen for P14 on lap 11 while Red Bull asked Verstappen to back off and preserve the life of his tyres. Verstappen refused to relent citing a rare chance of coming out on top with his alternate strategy. He was in DRS range and heckled Hamilton for the next few laps. Meanwhile, Norris pitted from P7 ( lap 13 ) and rejoined in 13th with a fresh set of hard tyres.
Albon made a daring overtake on Raikkonen for P15 while race-leader Bottas pitted for hard tyres ( lap 14 ). The Hamilton-Verstappen battled carried on with Hamilton getting increasingly critical of the health of his rear tyres. Bottas rejoined in 6th behind Ricciardo, the Finn needing to make a few overtakes to maintain track position over a charging Verstappen. Hamilton pitted on lap 15 for hard tyres and rejoined in P6 behind Bottas and Leclerc. Ricciardo switched to another medium set, rejoining in P10.
Hamilton was back up to pace quickly with an overtake on Leclerc for P4 while Bottas set the fastest lap of the race. Hulkenberg pitted from P2 on lap 16 and switched to a set of hard tyres rejoining in P7. Verstappen had track position and continued to extend his stint on the hard tyres. Grosjean lost P11 to Vettel ( lap 17 ) and P12 to Norris ( lap 18 ) before entering the pits for a switch to the hard tyres. He rejoined in 20th and last. Stroll and Leclerc pitted on lap 19, both switching over to hard tyres. Stroll rejoined in 6th while Leclerc was down to P12.
Magnussen sparred with Latifi for P18 and ran wide at Stowe. They banged wheels with Magnussen dangerously rejoining the track. The Stewards investigated the incident and Magnussen copped a five-second time penalty for his misdemeanour. Albon went wheel to wheel with Gasly, for P13, but the Frenchman held his ground. Leclerc tried a manoeuvre on Norris ( for P10 ) and was past him out of Luffield ( lap 20 ). Kvyat pitted for a set of hard tyres from P8. Grosjean went past his team-mate Magnussen for P19, the latter pitting for a set of hard tyres.
Both Mercedes cars were now reporting blisters with Verstappen lapping quicker than them! The tables had turned! Red Bull Racing had the upper hand; a rare opportunity beckoned!
It was job done for Albon with an overtake on Gasly ( for P12 ) on the outside of turn 7 ( lap 22 ). Kvyat moved past Raikkonen for P14.
There was another flurry of pit stops on lap 23. Sainz, Ocon and Vettel dived into the pits. Sainz had a slow stop ( left rear ) and rejoined on a set of medium tyres. Vettel and Ocon had a set of hard tyres on rejoining the race. Gasly pitted a lap later, rejoining in P19 with a fresh set of hard tyres. The issue of tyre blistering worsened for the Mercedes cars, Verstappen now had time for a pit stop on Hamilton!
Vettel had another tussle with Raikkonen, moving up to P13 ( lap 25 ). The series of pit stops continued into the following laps. Russell pitted on lap 25 for a set of hard tyres while Ricciardo pitted for hard tyres from P6 ( lap 26 ). Verstappen was also into the pits and completed a switch to mediums on lap 26. It was a slightly slower stop for the Red Bull crew, Verstappen rejoining the track a few car lengths behind Bottas in P2. Verstappen was back in the lead on lap 27 with a move on the outside at Luffield! Raikkonen and Latifi also pitted for a set of mediums and hard tyres respectively. They rejoined in P17 ( Raikkonen ) and P19 ( Latifi ). Leclerc was the fastest driver on the track now.
Vettel wasn't happy with the strategy that Ferrari put him on and made his displeasure known on the radio. The German was stuck in traffic, down in 12th behind Sainz. Meanwhile, Albon passed Norris for P7 who decided to pit immediately after for a set of hard tyres. The McLaren protege rejoined in 13th. Bottas set the fastest lap of the race while Red Bull instructed Verstappen to go aggressive on his current stint and forget tyre management. Hulkenberg and Albon pitted on lap 31 for a set of hard tyres, rejoining in P6 and P12 respectively. Ricciardo suffered a spin on lap 31 and dropped out of the points. The Australian had closed in on the Ocon-Kvyat battle and looked to have banged wheels with Sainz which sent him into a spin. Verstappen heeded to his team's advice and set the fastest lap of the race on lap 31. He was into the pits a lap later, Bottas mirroring his strategy! Hamilton was into the lead and yet to make a second stop ( if needed ). For Verstappen and Bottas it was a race to the finish.
Vettel and Giovinazzi pitted on lap 34 for a set of medium tyres, rejoining in P14 and P19 respectively. Sainz switched to the hard tyres two laps later and rejoined the race behind Vettel. Meanwhile, at the front, Hamilton questioned his team's decision to prolong his run on the hard tyres. The team assured him that he still had some grip left on the current tyres. Albon overtook Ocon for P7 while Norris went past Ricciardo for P10. Kvyat pitted for the final time on lap 36 for medium tyres. Ricciardo had suffered flat-spots on his tyres due to his spin earlier and forced to pit for the third time. Albon, in clear air, set the fastest lap of the race. Leclerc, in P4 for Ferrari, was the only driver in the top 6 yet to make a second stop.
Mercedes contemplated on switching Hamilton to a one-stop strategy, the reigning World Champion having track position and an eleven seconds cushion to the charging Red Bull behind him. There was action further down the field - Ricciardo went past Raikkonen for P14 while Grosjean and Russell pitted for a set of hard and medium tyres respectively. Albon was closing in on the Racing Point cars in P5 and P6. Red Bull asked Verstappen to start pushing and close the gap to Hamilton ( lap 41 ) since they believed that he would not be pitting again. However, Mercedes chose the conservative approach and pitted Hamilton for a new set of hard tyres at the end of lap 41. He rejoined in P4, 12 seconds adrift of Leclerc. He could now push till the end and possibly, salvage a win.
Hamilton was on a charge, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 43. Hulkenberg, in P5, reported vibrations and pitted for a fresh set of soft tyres on lap 45. He rejoined in P7, having lost positions to Stroll and Albon. Hamilton caught up to Leclerc and completed the overtake at Stowe on lap 46. Leclerc put him a good fight and probably slowed Hamilton enough to guarantee Verstappen a win. Magnussen's dismal day came to an end on lap 45, the Haas driver retiring from the race in P20.
Verstappen had a five-second lead over Bottas who himself was three seconds clear of Hamilton. The gap between the Mercedes team-mates was reducing rapidly. Mercedes informed both their drivers that they were free to race but had to "keep it clean". Hamilton was within striking distance of Bottas and P2 on lap 50. He had a look on the outside of Vale chicane but relented. They were side by side through Aintree and Brooklands with Hamilton finally getting past his team-mate on the Wellington straight. Albon brought more joy to Red Bull with an outstanding overtake at Corpse corner on Stroll for P5.
Verstappen was on the final lap and had a chuckle with his race engineer! It had been a challenging race for the team and driver. He took the chequered flag and his first win of 2020, comfortably clear of Hamilton and Bottas! It was a victory well deserved!
Leclerc produced another stellar drive to come home in P4. He was one of the two drivers in the top 10 that had pitted only once during the race! Albon had another strong Sunday in P5 while Stroll and Hulkenberg could only manage P6 and P7 for Racing Point. Ocon was the other single-stopper to finish in the points. The Frenchman had to do a considerable amount of fuel-saving besides fending off a late attack by Norris. Kvyat completed the top 10. Gasly narrowly missed out on another points scoring weekend while Vettel was left wondering about Ferrari's strategy choice for him. Sainz and Ricciardo had a long afternoon in P13 and P14. Raikkonen was P15 for Alfa Romeo from Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi.
Racing Point got reprimanded for using the same brake ducts that conflicted with the sporting regulations. Renault had protested against Racing Point again but withdrew after the latter got a reprimand.
Higher track temperatures combined with softer tyres caused the undoing of the Mighty Mercedes! Red Bull showed that they never back out of a duel and are more than a handful on their day. Verstappen didn't slip up when the opportunity arose. Ferrari was kinder on its tyres and would be encouraged by Leclerc's showing. There is still light at the end of the tunnel. Albon repaid Red Bull's faith in him with a strong performance on Sunday. He needs to address his qualifying issues to be right up there with Verstappen. Racing Point had a strong weekend with another double-points finish, the podium still elusive for Hulkenberg. An uncharacteristic error by Ricciardo robbed him of a finish in the points. Ocon had to hold the position due to fuel saving at the end. It was another "what could have been" day for Renault. McLaren would like to put this challenging weekend behind them as quickly as possible. Alpha Tauri would be ruing the missed opportunity of a double-points finish. Ferrari's race strategy miffed Vettel, the spin at the start of the race adding more woes to his never-ending struggles. The German is possibly suffering neglect in his final year there. Alfa Romeo's travails continue with a lack of outright pace despite the upgrades this weekend. Raikkonen, however, did a great job with tyre management on his one-stop strategy. Haas F1 had another forgettable weekend. Williams went backwards again on a Sunday.
It was one of the most memorable Sundays for Red Bull Motorsport. They came out victorious both on two wheels and four!
Yuki Tsunoda, the Honda Program driver, was victorious in the F2 Sprint Race at Silverstone. Brad Binder, the rookie in Moto GP, helped Red Bull KTM Racing ( the factory team ) bag their first win in Moto GP history at the Czech GP in Brno. He sported number 33 on his bike.
Two hours after Binder's win, Max Verstappen won the 70th Anniversary GP for Red Bull Racing F1 Team in F1! He too raced with number 33 on his car!
An iconic win on a historical day in F1!
Red Bull Racing is the only challenger to a rampaging Mercedes in 2020 and Max Verstappen is its warrior elect.
Catalunya is next on the F1 calendar with similar weather forecasted for the race. We could see yet another Red Bull victory next weekend.
Bring on the Spanish GP!