Formula One British Grand Prix
Duncraig Dan, 2020 Chapter 4: Does the NHS cover damaged tyres?
In this the 70th anniversary of the Formula 1 World Championship, it was time to return to the former RAF Airfield where it all began for the series, and keeping the theme going, the trophies for this weekend, to go with the traditional gold winner’s trophy that Lewis Hamilton would inevtably collect, were modeled on those handed out in the 1950 race.
It still can’t beat that battleaxe they awarded one year at Austria.
For the first time since the restart, F1’s stringent COVID-19 protocols were put to the test, as a paddock member tested positive for the virus, but to everyone’s shock, it wasn’t some random no name mechanic or crew chief….
It was Racing Point’s Sergio Perez, who tested positive after travelling back to Mexico in the fortnight since Hungary.
Under the FIA and British Government’s guidelines, the Mexican would have to self-isolate for at least 10 days, ruling him out of this weekend, and the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix next weekend.
Into his place came Daniel Ricciardo’s former Renault teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who was only supposed to be covering the race for German TV, but instead had a mere 24 hours to prepare for his first weekend in an F1 car since December!
As Sky F1 were crying about the British fans not being able to be at the home of motorsport, Lando Norris also wore a special helmet for his home race, designed by 6-year-old fan Eva Muttram.
There’s just something so wonderfully simple about it.
Q1 was fairly uneventful, as George Russell once again reached Q2 in the crapbucket Williams, but undid all of his good work when he didn’t slow down under yellow flags, giving he stewards an excuse to drop him to last with a grid penalty.
The action picked up in Q2, especially when Lewis Hamilton caused a red flag when he spun at Luffield and dumped gravel everywhere on the racing line, but after the track was cleaned up, the Mercedes resumed the torching of the field, as Max Verstappen and the Ferraris both got through, and the midfield fight saw both McLarens and both Renaults into Q3, while Racing Point succeeded in getting Lance Stroll into Q3 on Medium tyres by a bee’s dick, as Pierre Gasly would set the exact same lap time as the Canadian (1.26.501), but Stroll would advance as he set the time first.
As for the stragglers, after two weeks of getting his named kicked mercilessly, and crashing in FP2, Alex Albon’s Red Bull would miss the Top 10 to start 12th, and Hulkenberg had shown Top 10 pace in practice, but he would have to start from 13th, missing out on the Top 10 by a mere 5-hundredths.
But same old shit, different weekend, it was Hamilton on pole with another track record, Valtteri Bottas started 2nd again, with a fair gap to Verstappen and LeClerc on the 2nd Row, Norris won the McLaren duel with Carlos Sainz, also out-qualifying Stroll, Duncraig Dan Ricciardo out-qualified Esteban Ocon again, and Sebastian Vettel was absolutely nowhere in 10th… in fact, he was four-tenths SLOWER than his 2018 Qualifying time.
Race (52 Laps)
In an absolute tease for Hulkenberg, he didn’t even get to see the grid for his comeback race, after the Racing Point’s Mercedes engine simply wouldn’t fire up, and he went down as the first Did Not Start for the 2020 season.
The official reason – A clutch bolt sheared off in the drivetrain, and the bolt was jammed so precisely that the engine was prevented from turning over.
At the start, Hamilton held his ground and led from Bottas, Verstappen and LeClerc squabbled over 3rd and 4th, and Sainz and Ricciardo rounded up Stroll and Norris to move into 5th and 6th place.
At the end of the 1st Lap, Kevin Magnussen in 12th clipped the inside kerb at Club, inviting Albon to make a move onto the pit straight, but the door closed, and the Red Bull thumped the Haas and sent it spearing into the tyre barrier, bringing out an early Safety Car, as Albon avoided front left suspension damage.
The early SC helped out the drivers on Softs, namely Ricciardo, Sainz and Norris, as they got an extra 3-4 laps into their opening stints, on a day where tyre wear was worse than expected.
Racing resumed on Lap 6, as Albon pitted very early due to a vibration on his front left tyre, stemming from the contact with Magnusssen, and he was the first driver to swap on to the Hard tyres, but he would eventually have to come back in to serve a 5-second penalty for causing Magnussen’s crash.
The next major incident occurred on Lap 12, as Daniil Kvyat’s right rear tyre let go approaching Maggots, causing him to spear into the rail in a major accident, and back came Bernd Maylander in his beloved Safety Car.
This SC period gave all the drivers a free pit stop, and the teams took the chance to get straight on to the Hard tyres, which according to Pirelli had a 40-lap expiry, leaving the chance of getting home on a 1-stop strategy.
The only exception was Haas with Romain Grosjean, who stayed out on Medium tyres, apparently favouring track position on a track not noted for overtaking, helping him jump up to 5th, as Ocon lost out due to a slow stop by Renault, dropping him behind Vettel.
Several drivers, namely Hamilton and LeClerc, complained that Maylander wasn’t driving fast enough in the Mercedes AMG GT-R, which was quite ironic in Hamilton’s case, considering that slow speed probably helped his tyres cling on a few seconds longer at the end of the race.
The race restarted on Lap 19, and Ricciardo was immediately caught on a fight with the McLarens, and Norris was able to round up the Aussie with a daring move on the outside at Luffield, and almost got Sainz at Copse, but went wide and had to settle for 7th.
As he kept trucking along, Grosjean was soon up to his neck in orange, and the Frenchman’s defensive strategies (Moving under braking) into Stowe to hold off Sainz would earn him a black & white flag for dangerous driving, and eventually the Spaniard would pass him for 5th on Lap 21, with Norris joining in at the same corner on Lap 24.
With tyre strategies out the window, the race kind of descended into a lull, as Hamilton and Bottas traded fastest laps, Verstappen was a lonely 3rd, comfortably faster than LeClerc, while Grosjean (Who still hadn’t pitted) was using the DRS from his one-second gap to Norris to keep Ricciardo at bay, and Stroll and Ocon’s duel for 9th was like a slow-burning fire that occasionally had kerosene poured on it, especially when Ocon made a run into Stowe, only for Stroll to hol the inside line and keep him behind.
Albon would serve his penalty on Lap 31, and the team also changed him on to medium tyres, eliminating any tyre drama for the young Thai, although he was in last place.
Ricciardo finally got past Grosjean (Who once again moved dangerously under braking) into Brooklands on Lap 36, leaving him a sitting duck for the Racing Point under DRS, and after Stroll joined in the fun, Haas finally brought Grosjean in.
Summing up another Ferrari no show, as quickly as Vettel got back into a lonely points position, Gasly mugged him into Club, dumping the Ferrari back to 11th, and the sad reality was, that was exactly where Seb’s pace was.
Meanwhile, after Albon served his penalty, he was now setting lap times on a par with the Top 3, albeit down in 14th and fighting Kimi Raikkonen and the Williams drivers.
With 10 laps remaining, with another 1-2 seemingly in the bag, Hamilton and Bottas began to suffer from vibrations & blisters on their front tyres, possibly the result of debris, which may have seemed a minor inconvenience at first, but it would prove to have a major impact on the finish.
Concluding a midfield battle that had lasted the whole race, Ocon saw off Stroll on Lap 46 with the aid of DRS down the Wellington Straight, capping off the first race all season that the Renault (With fresh upgrades for Silvertone) was genuinely faster than the Racing Point, which was looking nothing like the Pink Mercedes we had mocked it for being in the opening 3 races.
Having managed his tyres better than his midfield rivals, Ricciardo was closing right up to Norris in 6th place (Who was getting audibly nervous), as the McLarens were also starting to suffer from tyre issues, and in another incident, Raikkonen lost part of his front wing at the Maggots-Becketts-Chapel complex, which punctured the front left tyre and left more debris on the track.
Meantime, Gasly in his Alpha Tauri was having a quietly good afternoon, and jumped to 9th ahead of Stroll, celebrating with a “YEAH BABY!”, and Albon had charged through the midfield and caught up to Vettel, and was a serious chance of scoring a point that at one stage looked impossible.
But, after what had been the most boring race since a fortnight ago, along came the most amazing ending you could hope to whip up.
ON LAP 50, MERCEDES’ TYRE ISSUES CULTIMATED IN BOTTAS’ FRONT LEFT TYRE GIVING OUT ON THE PIT STRAIGHT!
And the painful part for Mercedes, there was still a full lap to go, and the Finn was now getting absolutely mugged by all and sundry, and by the time he re-emerged, he was behind Vettel in 12th!
That incident caused Red Bull to pit Verstappen as a precaution for his tyre condition, given he had enough of a gap to LeClerc to wrap up 2nd place and potentially go for a fastest lap bonus point, another moment that would have a major impact several minutes later.
At the same time that Bottas’ tyre grabbed everyone’s attention, in a move we never got to see on TV, Ricciardo licked the stamp and posted the letter, flying past his unsuspecting future teammate Norris with the DRS at Stowe to take 6th, which was soon to become 5th.
Lovely to see Dan finally have the confidence to use the Renault’s brake pedal like we know he can.
But, just when a 2nd placed Mercedes having a tyre blowout wasn’t enough…..
SAINZ’ FRONT LEFT TYRE FAILED AT MAGGOTS, DROPPING HIM OUT OF 4TH PLACE!
AND IF THAT WASN’T ENOUGH WITH A LAP TO GO….
LEWIS HAMILTON’S FRONT LEFT TYRE FAILED ON THE OLD PIT STRAIGHT, AND WITH A 33 SECOND LEAD WITH HALF THE LAP TO GO, IT WAS A RACE AGAINST TIME WITH VERSTAPPEN ABSOLUTELY ROCKETING HOME!
In one of the more surreal endings seen in Formula One, Hamilton on 3 wheels coasted over the line by only 5 seconds to the Flying Dutchman, LeClerc completed the podium in 3rd, as Ricciardo absolutely flew home to miss the podium by only 1.2 seconds.
Bloody hell, with the benefit of hindsight, if Verstappen hadn’t taken that pit stop, he’d have won, and if the race had gone on a lap longer, Dan would’ve been on the podium!
If you want to see how close that was, check out the state of Lewis’ tyre post-race.
Now that’s how we can make Formula 1 exciting again – Random dangerous tyre failures.
It may have been luck and it may have been some classic smooth driving, but that was a great result for Dan The Man & Renault, who also got Ocon home in P6, in what was a great present for the team’s sporting director Alan Permane, who had reached his 500th Grand Prix, in a tenure at Enstone that spanned back to their days as Benetton.
The reason why Dan got so close to LeClerc at the end of the race was because Charles was supposedly instructed by the Ferrari brains to back off and save his tyres, after what happened to Bottas.
So it was Hamilton’s 87th win, the 20th time he’s led every lap of a race, breaking a tie for the record with Ayrton Senna, his record 7th win at home, beating Alain Prost’s record of 6 in France, his 154th podium, one off Michael Schumacher’s record, and he’s possibly first driver to ever win a race while crossing the line with 3 wheels.
The Mercedes post-race audio reveals that everyone in black was shitting their pants as much as we thought they were.
Fair dinkum, it was like the 2013 British Grand Prix all over again, only that time it was the left rear Pirelli tyres that were failing at random – Ironically, Hamilton was one of the victims, and it cost him the win.
I’d also throw in the 2017 race, when Ferrari had tyre failures to both Vettel and Raikkonen in the final 3 laps.
Christian Horner stated Red Bull were justified in their decision to pit Verstappen, given he was also suffering vibrations, and his tyres had several cuts and deep grooves on them, and to be honest, I have to agree with the move.
It secured 2nd place and 19 points instead of potentially getting nothing with their own failure, and the team had no way of knowing Hamilton’s tyre was going to give out, especially when it did.
The funny part that I can think of – If Mercedes had pitted Hamilton to start the last lap after what happened to Valtteri, it would’ve been very anti-climatic.
But, my favourite part – Pirelli are bringing SOFTER tyres than the ones used this round for this weekend’s second leg at Silverstone, with temperatures set to be warmer than they were this weekend.
Either teams are going to have to 2 or 3 stop, or else there’s going to be more cases of dangerously unsafe imploding rubber.
And, as is now tradition….
IF THIS RACE WAS A PIXAR ANIMATED FILM SCENE