Vettel Wins A Scorching Silverstone Thriller To Extend His Lead
Graham Read, Formula 1 Correspondent
The first ever Formula 1 World Championship Grand Prix was held at the UK’s very own Silverstone circuit back on 13 May 1950 and this year’s British F1 round took place at the iconic Northamptonshire track this weekend. The venue was also celebrating its 70th anniversary.
With a few key exceptions, the weather has generally tended to be kind to Silverstone for the Formula 1 Grand Prix weekend and this time round it was an absolute scorcher for the traditionally large crowd from Thursday right through to Sunday evening. Despite the heat the packed grandstands and general admission areas celebrated an absolute feast of quality racing and after a thrilling Grand Prix Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel took the victory spoils to extend his championship lead.
It had looked like business as usual for Mercedes in Friday’s opening free practice session as Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas circulated fastest, with Vettel the best of the rest.
Later the same day though it was Vettel who topped the timesheets ahead of his main championship rival Hamilton, Bottas and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. After winning in Austria last weekend young Dutch star Max Verstappen made a mistake early in the session exiting Luffield and put his Red Bull into the barriers, ending his day’s ontrack efforts prematurely before he had set a time.
Final practice before the crucial qualifying session took place on Saturday morning and Hamilton regained the upper hand, with Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen his closest challenger. Vettel was worried about having to perhaps miss qualifying after straining his neck and limited his time on track to just eight laps.
Toro Rosso’s New Zealander Brendon Hartley fortunately escaped unscathed from a dramatic high speed accident when his front left suspension failed, but his car was too badly damaged to appear in qualifying. The sport’s governing body, the FIA, also instructed the team to make amendments to the same suspension on Pierre Gasly’s sister car.
The once great British F1 team Williams is going through a really difficult period in its long history at the moment and the first part of the qualifying process was one they will wish to forget. Their Canadian driver Lance Stroll made a driving error at Brooklands and spun out into the gravel trap, forcing the session to be redflagged whilst his car was recovered.
Then matters went from bad to worse as his team-mate, the Russian Sergey Sirotkin, headed off into the gravel at Stowe corner, but managed to recover to the pits. Both Williams drivers were destined to start the following day’s Grand Prix from the pit lane.
Come the all-important third and final part of qualifying Hamilton initially went quickest before Vettel usurped him with a new track record. The British driver then went faster still and the German had to settle for second, just 0.044s adrift.
Hamilton’s pole position delighted many of the home fans and was his sixth British Grand Prix pole in his career and his fourth in a row at Silverstone. Räikkönen and Bottas completed the front four ahead of the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, the latter pair clearly suffering on a real power circuit.
So the scene was set for an exciting Grand Prix on a very hot and sunny Sunday afternoon in front of an ever bigger Silverstone crowd and when the red lights went out at the start of the race polesitter Hamilton didn’t make the best of getaways and soon found himself passed by both Vettel and Bottas.
Worse was to follow for the reigning champion as he was accidentally tapped into a spin on the opening lap by Räikkönen and dropped down to the back of the field. The Ferrari driver subsequently received a 10 second penalty for the incident, which he served at his first pit stop, whilst Hamilton set about a recovery drive. By lap 11 the pace of the Mercedes meant that Hamilton was already back up to sixth position as Vettel led from Bottas, Verstappen and Räikkönen.
By the 26th tour all the leading contenders had made their first pit stops to switch to the harder medium tyres from the softs and Hamilton was still sixth behind Vettel, Bottas, the Red Bull duo and the other Ferrari.
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Racing resumed on lap 38 and the crowd was treated to a brilliant fight between Verstappen and the pursuing Räikkönen before Haas driver Romain Grosjean clashed with Renault’s Carlos Sainz at the flat out Copse corner, putting both instantly out of the race and forcing a further Safety Car intervention.
The Safety Car returned to the pit lane at the end of lap 41 and the fight for the spoils was re-engaged. Vettel was soon pressing Bottas for the lead whilst his Ferrari team-mate passed Verstappen for fourth and set his sights on Hamilton ahead.
So, as the Grand Prix started to approach its conclusion we were all treated to a great four way scrap for the leading positions as Bottas led from Vettel, Hamilton and Räikkönen. On lap 47 Vettel swept past Bottas to reclaim the lead at Brooklands and started to pull clear.
Mercedes then moved Hamilton past Bottas to give the former a chance to attack Vettel, but he soon found himself starting to come under pressure from Räikkönen after the Finn claimed third position from Bottas.
The chequered flag flew at the end of lap 52 to signal the end of a breathless encounter and a delighted Vettel claimed the winner’s honours ahead of a disgruntled Hamilton, who sadly refused to give the required official post race on track interview with Sky’s Martin Brundle, simply walking away with his helmet still on. Räikkönen completed the podium trio and Bottas, Ricciardo and Nico Hülkenberg were the other top six finishers.
Vettel matched the famous French driver Alain Prost’s record of 51 victories and extended his Drivers’ Championship lead over Hamilton to eight points, with Ferrari extending their Constructors’ advantage over Mercedes.
Earlier young British driver George Russell had increased his Formula 2 Championship lead with a brace of runner’s-up finishes and his fellow British hopeful Lando Norris notched up 10th and third place results.
Having now concluded the first ever tripleheader of Formula 1 races on consecutive weekends in France, Austria and Britain the F1 world has a brief chance to regroup before the German Grand Prix makes a reappearance on the F1 calendar at Hockenheim in two weeks time.
2018 Formula 1 British Grand Prix
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 1hr27m29.784s
2 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +2.264s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +3.652s
4 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8.883s
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.500s
6 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) +28.220s
7 Esteban Ocon (Force India) +29.940s
8 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +31.115s
9 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +33.188s
10 Sergio Perez (Force India) +34.708s
11 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +35.774s
12 Lance Stroll (Williams) +38.106s
13 Pierre Gasly (Toro Rosso) +39.129s
14 Sergey Sirotkin (Williams) +48.113s
15 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) Retired
16 Carlos Sainz (Renault) Retired
17 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Retired
18 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Retired
19 Charles Leclerc (Sauber) Retired
20 Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso) Retired
2018 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship (after 10 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Sebastian Vettel 171
2 Lewis Hamilton 163
3 Kimi Räikkönen 116
2018 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship (after 10 of 21 Grand Prix)
1 Ferrari 287
2 Mercedes 267
3 Red Bull 199
Vettel Wins A Scorching Silverstone Thriller To Extend His Lead, 8th July 2018, 16:43 PM