As stylish as many of Lewis Hamilton’s British Grand Prix victories have been through his remarkable Formula 1 career, Sunday’s success at Silverstone is likely to be remembered more for its fortune than anything else.

A record-breaking sixth home win saw Hamilton surpass Alain Prost and Jim Clark’s victory tallies at the British Grand Prix, as well as extending his championship lead to 39 points over Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas at the halfway point in the season. It’s an ominous outlook.

And yet at one stage, it looked as though Bottas was about to strike back and make inroads on Hamilton in the title race. Pole on Saturday by six-thousandths of a second was followed by a good start for the Finn, who chopped across Hamilton to defend on the run to Turn 1.

It was a taste of things to come as Bottas got his elbows out with some bold defensive moves through the opening stint, most notably on Lap 4 when the two Mercedes drivers ran side-by-side through Brooklands, Luffield and on the run to Copse. Bottas ultimately edged clear, forcing Hamilton to back off before plotting another charge.

Bottas was able to keep Hamilton at an arm’s length for the remainder of the opening stint before pitting for a second set of Mediums at the end of Lap 16. The move committed him to a two-stop strategy, given he had also started the race on Mediums, with most anticipating there would be multiple stops – so nothing seemed out of the norm.

But Hamilton had a plan. Typically, he would have followed Bottas in one lap later and made the same strategy call, leaving him to try and make a pass on-track. As it turned out though, various strategy options had been discussed by the Mercedes drivers and engineers pre-race, with both Hamilton and Bottas expressing a wish to split strategies to avoid a procession at the front.

“The drivers brought up whether there was an offset strategy possible for the guy running second,” Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff said after the race.

“We decided that the second-placed driver would run an offset strategy with the Hard tyre in the middle. We weren’t quite sure whether one-stop would make it - probably rather thinking it would be a two, also because of a lack of data on the Hard, and this is exactly how it panned out.”

And so after Bottas pitted at the end of Lap 16, Hamilton did not react immediately. He looked to stretch his set of Medium tyres out through the first stint, putting in some quick laps. The Hard tyre held up much better than the field expected, but Hamilton always had confidence it would be the right compound to run on.

“It’s rare that I go up against the team, but I decided today that that was the best thing for me,” Hamilton said of committing to a one-stop. “We thought that a two-stop was the best thing and it just worked out today that I was able to save the tyres, meaning that we could do a one. My long run on Friday was one of the best long runs that I’ve done, and everyone else was running out of tyres except for me. I tried to utilise that today, and it worked.”

Had the race run without any incidents, Bottas would likely have retained his lead after Hamilton pitted and pulled out an advantage on the Mediums before coming in again, leaving him to recover P1 in the final stint as his teammate held on.

But the Safety Car then snuffed out any hopes the Finn had of spoiling Hamilton’s homecoming. Sparked by Antonio Giovinazzi’s spin into the gravel at Vale on Lap 19, Hamilton was able to pit for Hards while Bottas was running at a reduced speed, thus getting the jump for the lead. A 28-lap stint on Hards was all he had to manage in the end, making it a comfortable one-stop strategy, his fastest lap on the final lap acting as proof of how much life was still in the white-ringed Pirellis.

It was a sucker punch for Bottas after such an impressive display. He’d been superb in qualifying and defended valiantly from Hamilton in the opening stint - only to find himself sitting P2 with an extra stop to make through no fault of his own.

“It was maybe not my luckiest day, but that’s life,” Bottas said. “After my first stop I felt like it was under control. I was following the gap closely, the pit stop gap I had to Lewis, and I was just waiting for him to stop - and obviously the Safety Car got him ahead of me at that point.

“I was stuck into a two-stop at that stage, because we stopped for the medium again from medium tyres so it meant anyways I had to stop in the end, which was a mistake from our side. Two-stop we thought would be by far the fastest, but actually one-stop was possible as well.”

Mercedes’ pace advantage over the rest of the field was such that Bottas was able to run a long second stint on the Mediums before pitting for Softs late on and come out still ahead of Leclerc, giving the team a comfortable one-two. Considering Bottas had been snookered on strategy, it was a good recovery.

The Safety Car certainly played into Hamilton’s hands at Silverstone, but he always had an ace up his sleeve.

Seven wins in 11 races and now 39 points clear in the championship – and we’re only just over halfway through…



Loading Comments...