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Graham Read
Formula 1 Correspondent
5:18 PM 7th July 2024
sports

Hamilton’s First Victory Since 2021 After Silverstone Thriller

 
Just days after the dramatic closing stages of last Sunday’s Austrian Grand Prix, which featured a clash for the lead between Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and McLaren’s Lando Norris, gifting the victory to George Russell for Mercedes, the Formula 1 community quickly reassembled at the UK’s Silverstone circuit, and at the conclusion of this afternoon’s weather-affected British Grand Prix, it was Mercedes’ Sir Lewis Hamilton who claimed his first win since 2021 and his ninth at this iconic track.

Lewis Hamilton was thrilled to at last get back to winning ways in front of his home fans
Lewis Hamilton was thrilled to at last get back to winning ways in front of his home fans
Sadly, despite now being into July and at the halfway point in this year’s F1 season, the British weather wasn’t set to remotely match the sunny 30C+ conditions of Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring last weekend, but nevertheless, the action around the fast, sweeping circuit, based originally on a former RAF base, was expected to be hot. Verstappen and Norris arrived in the paddock on Thursday, neither looking for an apology from the other following their Austrian incident, but both far more focused on retaining their close friendship. Norris indicated that, on reflection, he wasn’t even sure Verstappen deserved any penalty for what he now saw as a minor racing incident. So, those looking to make more out of last weekend’s coming-together than it deserved ended up suitably disappointed.

2024 Formula 1 British Grand Prix

1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr22m27.059s
2 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.465s
3 Lando Norris (McLaren) +7.547s
4 Oscar Piastri (McLaren) +12.429s
5 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) +47.318s
6 Nico Hülkenberg (Haas) +55.722s
7 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +56.569s
8 Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) +1m3.577s
9 Alex Albon (Williams) +1m8.387s
10 Yuki Tsunoda (RB) +1m19.303s
11 Logan Sargeant (Williams) +1m28.960s
12 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +1m30.153s
13 Daniel Ricciardo (RB) Lapped
14 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) Lapped
15 Valtteri Bottas (Sauber) Lapped
16 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) Lapped
17 Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) Lapped
18 Zhou Guanyu (Sauber) Lapped
19 George Russell (Mercedes) Retired
20 Pierre Gasly (Alpine) Retired
It may have been a significant General Election day in the UK last Thursday too, but the main news within the F1 world was the long-awaited official confirmation that 19-year-old Oliver “Ollie” Bearman will race for the Haas team next year in motorsport’s highest global category after stepping up from his current role as a Ferrari junior driver and F2 competitor with Prema. The teenage British pedaller shone back in March when he stood in at the last minute for Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who had become ill with appendicitis during the Saudi Arabian round, and is now relishing the thought of spending next year racing alongside many of his heroes. It’s true that Bearman, like Lando Norris, has very wealthy parents who have helped their respective careers, but their rapid rise through the motorsport ranks has been outstanding, due far more to pure racing ability than financial support. Bearman’s F1 number will be 87, the longtime preference of both himself and his father when he raced, based on Ollie having been born on the 8th May and his brother on the 7th August.

In other driver news, Sainz’s ongoing prevarication about whom he might want to drive for next year, given a hardly inspiring choice of Sauber/Audi, Williams, or Alpine, has left the former pair of teams starting to lose patience with the Spaniard, and he may come to regret this. However, Mercedes’ 17-year-old Italian prodigy, Andrea Kimi Antonelli, who has been widely mooted to replace Ferrari-bound Hamilton next season, has been having a difficult and far from impressive campaign to date in Formula 2, although he did take a maiden F2 win at Silverstone yesterday in a badly rain-affected race. This situation may just lead to an opportunity for Sainz at Mercedes, and there is no doubt why he is reluctant to commit to another, lesser team until he knows Mercedes isn’t a potential and far more attractive option. Toto Wolff, the principal and CEO of Mercedes, may not decide on Sainz's 2025 partner for Russell until the autumn, depending on his availability.

Red Bull’s management is also understandably becoming less than enamoured with Sergio Pérez’s recent poor performances and serious lack of points scored compared to his teammate Verstappen in the same car...
Similarly, contractual agreements with his current employer about the terms of his departure next March are likely to keep Red Bull's legendary designer, Adrian Newey, under wraps until at least September. Aston Martin may now be the favourite to attract his services, but he is also very much in demand elsewhere.

Red Bull’s management is also understandably becoming less than enamoured with Sergio Pérez’s recent poor performances and serious lack of points scored compared to his teammate Verstappen in the same car, despite the Mexican having surprisingly not long ago been granted a two-year contract extension to the end of 2026. So, we can wait for potential developments on this front, with their highly talented Kiwi reserve driver, Liam Lawson, set to test the current RB20 car at Silverstone on Thursday during a permitted 200km filming day. While Daniel Ricciardo continues to fight to retain his RB seat, this crucial test for Lawson may just give Red Bull the data they need to justify replacing Pérez with the likeable New Zealander.

Max Verstappen almost caught the victorious Hamilton, but not quite
Max Verstappen almost caught the victorious Hamilton, but not quite
The ontrack F1 action at Silverstone began at 12.30 on Friday, with the first of three one-hour free practice sessions. In the cool, but dry conditions, Japan’s Yuki Tsunoda caused a brief red flag stoppage at the 10-minute mark by spinning his RB into the gravel at Luffield, and ultimately, it was Norris who set the fastest time ahead of Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll and the McLaren of Oscar Piastri, with all three using the soft tyre compound, which provides the most grip. The fourth-quickest was Verstappen on mediums.

The under-pressure Pérez continued to do himself no favours after sliding off the track into the gravel at Copse Corner, triggering a red flag stoppage and eliminating him in the opening phase of the three-part qualifying process...
Forecasters predicted heavy rain to arrive late in Friday's second practice period, and that's exactly what happened. Before then, Norris and Piastri had already topped the timing screens, which made sense, but the order behind them was somewhat unusual, with Pérez and Haas’ Nico Hülkenberg third and fourth quickest, and with the Ferraris, the Mercedes duo, and Verstappen further down the order. It was expected, though, to become clearer as the weekend progressed.

Rain fell throughout yesterday morning, and the air temperature was just 11 °C (a mere 20 degrees less than the same time in Austria last weekend!). Yesterday's final practice session began at 11.30, with intermediate tyres being the order of the day. Red flags interrupted the session after Pierre Gasly slid off the track at Vale and beached his Alpine in the gravel, leading Russell and Hamilton to give Mercedes a 1-2 on the damp timesheets, ahead of Norris and Sainz. This preceded the all-important qualifying hour, which began at 3pm with the track conditions meaning that the teams could soon risk slick, dry-weather tyres to replace the initial intermediates.

The under-pressure Pérez continued to do himself no favours after sliding off the track into the gravel at Copse Corner, triggering a red flag stoppage and eliminating him in the opening phase of the three-part qualifying process. Copse is fortunately about as far away from the F1 paddock as you can get at Silverstone these days, and it would have given the Mexican plenty of time to prepare his explanations for the Red Bull management!

...this margin was too much to overcome, and the British seven-time champion reached the chequered flag first ahead of Verstappen and Norris, with the massed crowd showing their excitement about such a thrilling conclusion and a popular home victory.
The team then decided to take his low grid position as a useful opportunity to replace parts of his power unit, meaning he would start today from the pitlane rather than the back of the grid. There was also a further high-profile exit in Q2 when Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc simply couldn’t go fast enough to reach the top-ten shootout. The outcome of the latter subsequently drew vociferous cheers from the mainly British crowd as Russell claimed a first British Grand Prix pole position ahead of Hamilton and Norris, meaning a home 1-2-3 for the start of today’s race, the first time this has happened for over sixty years. Verstappen, with floor damage, was the best of the rest in fourth, with Piastri fifth and a mightily impressive Hülkenberg joining the McLaren on the third row of the grid.

Lando Norris had to settle for the third step on the podium
Lando Norris had to settle for the third step on the podium
Over the years, since my first British Grand Prix visit as a fan way back in 1992, when a packed Silverstone cheered Nigel Mansell to victory and invaded the circuit afterwards to share in his podium celebrations on the old start/finish straight, I’ve experienced virtually every kind of weather condition possible here, bar snow, from baking heat to finger-numbing cold. So, come this morning, you had to feel for the massed ranks of loyal fans camping around the circuit amidst the low temperatures and ongoing intermittent rain, with a threat of thundery showers throughout today too.

Before long, the rain eased, but heartache was to follow on lap 34 for poleman Russell when his team told him to pit and retire his car due to a suspected water system issue.
In recent years, the British Grand Prix has begun at 2pm local time to accommodate a 15.00 start for the vast European television audience, but this time round the formation lap began an hour later at precisely 3pm BST with an air temperature of 16 °C and the track dry, but with rain certainly due. Despite the expensive ticket prices, the attendance of 480,000 fans at Silverstone over the weekend demonstrates the appeal of live Formula 1 motor racing. Russell immediately took the lead ahead of Hamilton after the extinguishment of the famous five red lights, but Norris's slight off-track moment quickly dropped him to fourth position behind Verstappen. The McLaren driver, on the 15th lap, however, regained third position from the Dutch multiple champion on Hangar Straight.

Just one tour later, rain started to fall on parts of the circuit as fans in the grandstands rushed to put their coats on, and Piastri soon usurped Verstappen for fourth at Stowe. On lap 18, Hamilton claimed the lead from his teammate at the same corner, but then both Mercedes went off track, and this enabled Norris to snatch second place from the recovering Russell. With the action coming thick and fast and the McLarens revelling in the wet conditions, Norris took the lead from Hamilton, the latter then dropping to third behind a flying Piastri.

This was real edge-of-the-seat stuff, and Verstappen’s next target was the leading Hamilton, who was three seconds ahead at this stage.
By lap 25, more rain was falling, but the leading contenders still remained on slick rubber before a flurry of pitstops to change from medium rubber to wet weather intermediates resulted in the leading quartet being Norris, Hamilton, Verstappen, and Russell. Before long, the rain eased, but heartache was to follow on lap 34 for poleman Russell when his team told him to pit and retire his car due to a suspected water system issue. What highs and lows can F1 truly deliver for the drivers and fans?

As the sun later appeared and the track started to dry out, it was clear that second pitstops would be required to change back to slick tyres, and a slow stop for Norris resulted in Hamilton taking the lead, with Verstappen third. Mercedes and McLaren had put soft specification tyres on the cars of Hamilton and Norris, but Red Bull gambled on more durable hard ones for Verstappen, and these strategy calls gave us a truly grandstand finish to the Grand Prix.

Britain’s young Oliver “Ollie” Bearman will race for Haas next year
Britain’s young Oliver “Ollie” Bearman will race for Haas next year
Verstappen was suddenly flying and closing in on Hamilton and Norris ahead of him, and, with five laps remaining, the Red Bull driver swept around the outside of his close friend Norris at Stowe into second place. This was real edge-of-the-seat stuff, and Verstappen’s next target was the leading Hamilton, who was three seconds ahead at this stage. However, in the few laps remaining, this margin was too much to overcome, and the British seven-time champion reached the chequered flag first ahead of Verstappen and Norris, with the massed crowd showing their excitement about such a thrilling conclusion and a popular home victory. Piastri, Sainz, and Hülkenberg completed the top six finishers, with Ferrari’s Spaniard earning the extra point for the fastest lap of the gripping race.

The Hungarian Grand Prix, which will take place just outside of Budapest in a fortnight, will be the first leg of a back-to-back double header that also includes the Belgian round at Spa Francorchamps before the sport's summer break.

2024 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship

1 Max Verstappen 255
2 Lando Norris 171
3 Charles Leclerc 150


2024 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship

1 Red Bull 373
2 Ferrari 302
3 McLaren 295