Charles Leclerc keeps pulling off semi-miracles while Ferrari play catch up to Red Bull and Mercedes’ superior race car engineering this season. And he almost pulled off the 100% miracle at the British Grand Prix. You would expect P5 to be an excellent result, once you discount the four faster cars of Red Bull and Mercedes. That does not account though for Charles driving skill and the “anything can happen” realities of racing round bends at break-neck speeds. Unpredictability was the watchword at the British Grand once qualifying was out of the way.
New Race-Format for Qualifying
In an attempt to create a full weekend of excitement for the fans it was fitting that Silverstone, which hosted the very first World Championship Grand Prix in 1950, saw itself as one of the few pilots of a new two-stage approach to qualifying.
Now after a Friday pitted against the clock, on Saturday the fans get to see a mini-race of 17 laps (a third of the regular distance) with one GP point at stake to complete qualifying. And after a creditable P4 on Friday Leclerc came in fourth in Saturday’s mini-race to put himself fourth on the grid for the race proper on Sunday.
Life and Racing is Not Predictable
Lewis Hamilton on home ground had had enough of ceding wins to the new “upstart” Verstappen. The young gun had put together a string of wins giving him a 33-point lead in the championship. He had done it with unerring skill but also with a “winner take all” aggression that sometimes requires race veterans like Hamilton to use judgement and back-off in tight situations.
At Silverstone Hamilton decided to “go for it” himself and a tussle for the lead on the first lap led to Verstappen and Hamilton making contact as Hamilton went to overtake on the lightning fast Copse corner.
The result was Verstappen bruised in hospital undergoing a check-up, his car a write off for the race and Hamilton given a 10-second race penalty adjudged at fault by the stewards for the incident.
A sample of professional drivers opinions was more nuanced “it takes two to tango”. Both drivers were at a peak of aggressiveness. Neither Verstappen nor Hamilton were going to give way as Hamilton made his move to overtake.
Charles Leclerc Takes the Lead
Serendipity and Charles’ driving skill now had the Monegasque leading the race. He is giving it his all and his car is responding. All of a sudden, not only a podium place but also a win is on the cards. Except his engine rebels at maximum performance. Can Hamilton on good tyres eat into that ten-second penalty while Charles wrestles with his recalcitrant engine! Hamilton can gain a second each lap.
But in the end it wasn’t to be for Leclerc, as Hamilton charged through the order to catch the Monegasque with three laps to go. Despite his best efforts at trying to defend from the current World Champion, Leclerc went wide into Copse and lost the lead to Hamilton and settled for second place.
“Ahhhhhhhh, incredibly close. I gave absolutely everything to win this race but lost out in the last two laps. The biggest victory today though is to see Max safe after that big crash. Now on to Hungary, thank you for the support”, wrote Charles Leclerc on his Twitter.
Ahhhhhhhh, incredibly close. I gave absolutely everything to win this race but lost out in the last two laps. The biggest victory today though is to see Max safe after that big crash. Now on to Hungary, thank you for the support ❤️ pic.twitter.com/PmoGwkdc3R
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 18, 2021
The Leclerc/Hamilton tussle on Copse corner was in sharp contrast to the Verstappen/Hamilton tussle. Leclerc showed his class and avoided any accident, fighting hard to resist the overtake but giving Hamilton just enough space in a fair contest to squeeze by.
50% frustration, 50% happiness and a second place for Charles Leclerc. It marks Ferrari’s first podium since Carlos Sainz finished runner-up at Monaco and Leclerc’s first podium since last year’s British GP.
A day on and I'm still 50% happy and 50% disappointed but that’s a good thing. Great to be on the podium and it shows the progress we have made but also shows that we're not there yet. So proud of the whole @ScuderiaFerrari team. We'll keep pushing and we'll be back on top soon👊 pic.twitter.com/WRhLutjlYV
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 19, 2021
British GP Silverstone Results
1: Lewis Hamilton – Mercedes
2: Charles Leclerc – Ferrari
3: Valtteri Bottas – Mercedes