Verstappen and Leclerc show how good they are
With Red Bull and Ferrari unable to build a car and have the engine power to challenge Mercedes on ultimate pace once again, it could have deflated both drivers. However, they both drive superbly and grabbed their chances at both events held in Silverstone.
Max Verstappen has consistently been the only thorn in Mercedes’ side throughout the first five events and took full advantage of the opportunity that came his way yesterday. Ross Brawn compared him to Michael Schumacher in his post-race blog and you can see why. 2020 has shades of 1998 to it.
After finishing 2nd eight days ago thanks to Bottas’ tyre failure with just three laps to go, his victory yesterday was on merit.
Red Bull’s decision to progress through Q2 on the hard compound paid off a treat. With Mercedes blistering the medium tyre in the opening stint, Verstappen could stay close and then proceeded to pull away from the Mercedes drivers following their first stops.
He quickly cleared Bottas after his first stop and completely controlled the race from there to take a convincing win. It was a fine example of what Verstappen can do when he has the opportunity to fight Mercedes. As respected F1 commentator Martin Brundle said yesterday: ‘’thank god for Max Verstappen!’’
Verstappen has certainly got to be considered as the best driver in the sport right now, fighting for that title with Hamilton and Leclerc. If it wasn’t for his brilliance behind the wheel, Mercedes would have an even easier time of it and they would have probably gone unbeaten this season. A championship challenge is still extremely unlikely, however.
YESS BOYSS!! I’m incredibly happy with this win, I didn’t see this one coming! 💪 Thanks to @redbullracing and @HondaRacingF1 for their continued hard work 👏 Now let’s celebrate and hydrate🏆🍾👏 #KeepPushing # F170 🇬🇧 pic.twitter.com/hpymhkoq79— Max Verstappen (@Max33Verstappen) August 9, 2020
As for Charles Leclerc, he’s driving very much like Fernando Alonso did in 2014. Just like the Spaniard, he’s ringing the absolute maximum out of a Ferrari that is a long way off the pace of Mercedes. Nonetheless, three top 5 finishes in the opening five events proves how good Leclerc is.
Following a superb drive to 3rd at the first Silverstone event, a very difficult qualifying for Ferrari on Saturday left the Monegasque driver in a lowly 8th and a desperate fight for points seemed inevitable. It looked a certainty when he dropped to P10 at the end of the opening lap.
What transpired was a magnificent drive, though. Whilst the vast majority of the field struggled with blistering, Leclerc made a one-stop strategy work incredibly well and finished a brilliant P4. Tyre management was a weakness in Leclerc’s armoury last year, but it looks like he’s really taken big steps forward in this area in 2020.
His performance was so good that he even managed to have a late-race fight with a two-stopping Lewis Hamilton, before the Mercedes got by and went off into the distance.
To be 4th in the championship with the package he has is incredible. He’s incredibly special behind the wheel, just like his fierce Dutch rival.
Very very happy with today's race. I wish we could fight for higher positions but P4 was the absolute maximum we could do. pic.twitter.com/D4ZGXlKD9F— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) August 9, 2020
Bottas’ bad luck leaves his title hopes in tatters
Valtteri Bottas displayed strong pace at both races held at Silverstone. Despite that, a combination of bad luck and getting the raw deal on strategy has left him 34 points adrift of Lewis Hamilton in the standings.
His tyre failure at the first event cost him 2nd place and saw his teammate get lucky as he hobbled to the line on the last lap to win.
After showing strong pace at the first event and keeping Hamilton honest throughout that race, the Finn was on excellent form at the weekend. He pipped Hamilton to pole and did a better job of managing the blistering issues than his teammate before his early second stop. Bottas was over 6s ahead of Hamilton at that point.
With Mercedes covering Verstappen off with Bottas, Hamilton ran much longer in the second stint and it left him with 9-lap fresher tyres, which ultimately allowed him to catch and pass his Finnish teammate with three laps remaining.
Bottas didn’t seem too impressed with Mercedes’ strategy and he had every right to feel aggrieved. For him to lose 29 points vs his teammate after his strong drives at Silverstone will sting. Spain is a must-win race for the Finn.
3rd place in Silverstone 🏆— Valtteri Bottas (@ValtteriBottas) August 9, 2020
Disappointed with today. But always analyse, learn, improve and move on @mercedesamgf1. Short reset and come back stronger 👊https://t.co/fhf66NHZa1#VB77 #F1 #BritishGP
📸 Etherington pic.twitter.com/grQrNaxPpd
Hulkenberg’s impressive F1 return
Sergio Perez’s positive test for COVID-19 gave the German an unexpected opportunity to race, albeit a week later than expected due to a DNS at the first Silverstone race.
Feeling more comfortable in the car come the second race at the British venue, the German delivered an excellent showing, with an outstanding qualifying performance to be P3; he was over 0.3s quicker than Lance Stroll.
He ran 4th for a good chunk of the race and a couple of seconds ahead of Stroll, but he was forced to make a third stop from 5th in the closing stages due to vibrations on his hard tyre. Whilst that stop dropped him to P7, it was still good points for him and Racing Point.
His performance was mightily impressive considering the lack of F1 training and race fitness he lacked in comparison to everyone else on the grid. If a competitive seat becomes available on the grid for 2021, he’ll surely be in the frame to take it.
Max Verstappen praised the German highly and said that ‘’he definitely deserves to be in Formula 1.’’ The Dutchman added that ‘’there are a few drivers that are not as good as him at the moment, here in F1.’’
Williams need to improve their race pace
The Grove-based team deserve credit and praise for the step forward they’ve made from last year, but there’s still a glaring weakness as they attempt to fight in the midfield; it’s their pace on Sunday afternoons.
George Russell has bagged a Q2 place at the last four races, with Nicholas Latifi also making the middle segment of qualifying on one occasion.
Unfortunately for them, that doesn’t carry into a Sunday. Alfa Romeo, who are regularly slower in qualifying trim, have tended to be quicker during races and crucially bagged points in that chaotic opening race at the Red Bull Ring.
Russell and Latifi ended up the last of the finishers in yesterday’s race and finding a better pace will be very important for the remainder of the season. The car limitations need addressing, especially when they are in dirty air.
On a positive note for the team, Latifi is pushing his highly-rated teammate in races and showing good speed. He must improve his qualifying performances, however.
Is Raikkonen’s career going to end with a whimper?
During yesterday’s race, Kimi Raikkonen became the driver who has raced the most laps in F1 history. Sadly for the Finn and his many fans, it was another weekend to forget as he was fighting at the back of the field; that’s been the story of his and Alfa Romeo’s season so far.
Whilst he’s 1-4 down for Giovinazzi in qualifying, the Finn has generally had the upper hand on race day. However, it’s almost academic when he’s fighting for 15th place, just like he was yesterday.
Alfa have gone backwards big time from the first half of 2019 and are now the slowest, with Raikkonen scoring points on one occasion in his last fourteen starts. That’s a damning indictment of how bad things have got for the Swiss-based team.
Following a long and successful career which may well come to an end at the end of this year, it must be hugely disappointing for the 2007 World Champion to be in such an uncompetitive package; he could well end up scoring no points in a season for the time in his career, too.