British GP - Sunday - Race Report
Sooner or Later
It had to happen sooner or later. Nico Rosberg's streak of wins and second places and no retirements had to come to an end sometime.
It had to happen sooner or later. Lewis Hamilton's streak of wins and second places along with the bad luck of two retirements had to come to an end sometime.
And it did. Hamilton won a popular victory in his home grand prix in front of 120,000 cheering fans while his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg retired with a broken gearbox. The result is that Rosberg's lead in the drivers' championship was slashed from 29 points to just 4 with 10 races to go.
Valtteri Bottas rampaged from 14th to second in his Williams. Daniel Ricciardo drove his Red Bull from eighth to third. Jenson Button just missed out on celebrating on the podium in his home race as he finished fourth in his McLaren.
Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) and Fernando Alonso (Ferrari) had a fabulous duel and crossed the line fifth and sixth.
It was a dramatic victory because Hamilton had started sixth after making a mistake and aborting his last qualifying lap because he thought the track was too wet. Rosberg, who won the pole, looked like he had an easy win in hand.
"Winning in front of your home crowd is just the best feeling," said Hamilton who spun donuts in his car on the cool down lap. "We really do have the greatest fans here and thank you so much to everyone for your patience after yesterday. To see the support all around the track is just amazing. I said before that I'd never give up but it was a tough qualifying and I really needed to dig deep and come back positive this morning. A huge thank you to my family and all of the fans for pushing me on - I couldn't have done it without them."
It was a dramatic race, too, because Kimi Raikkonen had huge crash on the opening lap and wrecked his Ferrari by smashing it against the barriers on both sides of the Hanger Straight.
"I had managed to get away well, making up enough ground to be fighting for 11th place," said Raikkonen who only had a bruised ankle. "At Turn 5, I went off the track and while trying to get back on, I must have hit a curb. I then lost control of the car and ended in the barriers. It's a real shame because yesterday, the feeling I had on track had improved and I was determined to do my utmost to bring home some points."
The race was red flagged for one hour while workers replaced the damaged guardrails.
Rosberg took the lead again on the restart, and Hamilton moved to second by lap four. It was going to be another fight for the win between the two Mercedes lads. Yet Hamilton had the momentum.
After leading the first 16 laps, Rosberg pitted to switch from Pirelli's medium compound slicks to another set of tires of the same compound. Hamilton, also on the medium tires, led from laps 19 to 24 before making his stop. He, however, had a set of the hard compound tires mounted.
The strategy was fascinating because the two drivers would be on different compound tires in the final stint just as they were in their battle in Bahrain. But it was not to be. Rosberg was out in front laps 26 to 28, but Hamilton quickly hunted him down and passed him. Rosberg was in trouble. His car had been acting up ever since the start.
"I had a small issue in the installation lap but the car felt great in the beginning," he said. "By lap 20, though, the gearbox started to become a serious problem and from then it got worse. I tried to get it into some safety settings, let Lewis through and just keep going until the end of the race. But there was nothing we could do so I had to stop the car. All I can do is accept that these things happen and work with the team to find out what went wrong."
What had gone wrong?
"We decided to put the drivers on different tire strategies," Mercedes' tech boss Paddy Lowe said, "with Nico planning to run option/option/prime - and Lewis offset on the slower option/prime/option strategy, which could have given him a chance to challenge for the lead in the closing laps.
"It was shaping up that way until Nico's problems. It was a real blow to lose Nico's car: there was an early sign of a problem with a strange downshift, then it went away for 10 laps before recurring. We tried to change settings to remedy the situation but ultimately he lost drive and had to retire."
Hamilton took over the lead on lap 25 and stayed in front until the end of the race on lap 52. This was his second win at home. The other was in 2008. How did they compare?
"It doesn't compare to 2008," Hamilton said. "It's a different time, it's a different experience. It's still as special. Obviously 2008 was a much trickier race in a sense of being a completely wet track, everyone aquaplaning. Everyone being in the rain, everyone being soaking wet, it's a different kind of experience that one.
"Today, I felt I earned it. From the start some good maneuvers and I really felt that I had the pace on Nico; I really was hunting him down like never before. I really was happy with the balance that I managed to get, even though I didn't do the long run in P2. To say this is up there with all the greats‚Ä¶ it's my home grand prix, it's my second win here and I'm very privileged to have even just had one, so I feel very humble to be up here today."
Bottas was also thrilled to be up there. Second is his best finish yet.
"We knew that this race could be good fun," said the Williams driver. "We knew that we had a quick car. Maybe it was a bit surprisingly quick today, but since the first stint the pace was good, since the first lap. I was able to go through the field quite well.
"Of course, sometimes it needed a bit of risk, because it's really important to get through quickly and not get stuck behind people, but I really managed to get well in position, where the pace of the car was. I'm just really, really happy with what we've been doing as a team. Again, the race pace shows we are really doing the right things and I'm very happy to be part of this."
Red Bull put Ricciardo and Vettel on the hard tires for the restart. Then Ricciardo switched to the mediums on lap 15 and did the race on just one pit stop. The strategy put him into third place.
"This is the best third place I've ever got," he said. "I'm not normally ecstatic with a third but I really am today, obviously to redeem myself from yesterday and also the fact that I don't think we had an awesome race car today, but we made it work.
"We used the cards that we had and played the game well, so I was really happy to make a one stop work. For the last two laps, I saw Jenson (Button) coming and thought I was probably going to be a bit vulnerable but we held on. The one stop wasn't planned. We pitted quite early on the Prime because we were quite slow and it wasn't working, so we came in for the Option and, at one point, my engineer pretty much said alright four laps to go on this tire then let's box.
"I said the pace seems OK, the tires aren't getting any worse and let's try and stay out or at least think about keeping me out there and he said OK we'll look at our options. Then, a few laps later he said do you think you can go to the end, there's 15 or 20 laps to go, and I said, at the moment I think we can give it a crack. And so, yeah, we did and it paid off!
Button crossed the finish line just 0.895 of a second behind Ricciardo. The latter's tires were so worn out that he could not have kept Button behind for even one more lap.
"Circuits with high-speed changes of direction aren't really our car's forte," Button said, "so I think we can go away from Silverstone feeling encouraged by what we achieved this weekend. Specifically, it was great to have such a good fight with Fernando (Alonso), and it was encouraging to be able to pull away from him and Sebastian (Vettel) in the last stint.
"At the end, I crossed the line only 0.9s behind Daniel (Ricciardo); if there'd been just one more lap, I think I could have made it past. I got so close to a podium finish - and I think it would've been so great for the fans to see Lewis and me up there together."
One of the highlights of the race was the intense fight between Alonso and Vettel. Both drivers raced hard, and both complained over the radio that the other guy was going off the track. In the end, Vettel, just inches away from Alonso, got by and pulled away to finish fifth.
"It felt very close with Fernando - maybe a bit too close!" said Vettel. "It got a bit silly when we both started to complain about the other going off track; I don't think the people care too much if the car is a little bit to the left or the right.
"I got the message that I should respect the limits and that he was complaining, so I was doing the same thing. I'm not sure who won the list keeping. I think twice it was maybe a bit too harsh into Turn 6, but it was good to get the move at the end.
"I expected to get third today, the pace was there but the (two stop) strategy wasn't right. I'm looking forward to my home race in Germany; it's always special to race there."
Alonso said his car was only fast enough to finish sixth.
"Today's race was very spectacular," the Ferrari driver said, "certainly for us it was extremely hectic, first with Kimi's retirement and then with the penalty for being out of position at the start. Then there were also my duels with Button and Vettel. When Sebastian came up behind me I was saving fuel and battery power and had a problem with the rear wing so I knew that sooner or later he would have overtaken me. I think both Red Bulls deserved to finish ahead of us, because they were quicker."
McLaren's Kevin Magnussen watched the Alonso/Vettel battle on his way to seventh place.
"We struggled a little on the Option (tire), and we had much better pace on the Prime," Magnussen said. "It's always frustrating when you slip back through the order a bit - but I made a really good start to be third initially, and after that I struggled to keep the Ferrari and Red Bull behind.
"So, as I say, I think we should be reasonably satisfied with seventh place. But I'm really pleased for Jenson, who was able to score a great fourth place for the team. Last but not least, I want to pay tribute to the Silverstone fans. It's been fantastic racing in front of them all today, especially as so many of them are McLaren fans. I'd love to have finished a bit higher for you, guys, but I don't think we had the pace today."
The Silverstone fans indeed saw a great race with lots of action.