The British Grand Prix was shaping up to be a little too predictable. It is Lewis Hamilton’s home Grand Prix and it is a track whose fast curves are particularly suited to his Mercedes team. Having won the British Grand Prix already 6 times, there was a FI record staring him in the eyes to be broken – for the most wins of one’s own Grand Prix. The best historically had been Alain Prost’s 6 victories at the French Grand Prix. And the two Mercedes did predictably end up one-two on the grid after qualifying, with Hamilton on pole (his 91st F1 pole) and Verstappen in third position at the start in a fast Red Bull machine.
Aren’t all the Formula 1 machines fast? The surprise this season is just how much Ferrari lags behind Mercedes and is slipping down the rankings relative to the other teams too. So much more credit to Charles LeClerc, the young Monégasque ace who keeps Ferrari in contention despite a slow car.
LEC: "It was a very tricky race – we got the best result that we possibly could have today. The car is not running to its potential but we are happy with this podium"#BritishGP 🇬🇧 #F1 pic.twitter.com/NuXsySE8dV
— Formula 1 (@F1) August 2, 2020
In qualifying, Leclerc was just a tenth of a second behind Max Verstappen in the red-hot Red Bull, and on this speedy track where Ferrari – who currently are lying only fifth in the team standings – were expected to face particular challenges.
A brilliant effort in Q3 had seen LeClerc seal fourth place on the grid. And LeClerc’s qualifying on medium tyres, handed him a slight strategic advantage in the race – an advantage that he badly needed, given the handicap of a slow car.
But in the race itself, from the off the Mercedes pair had opened up a comfortable lead and were unchallenged out front. Then with just two laps remaining a gremlin decided to play havoc with predictability and give us the drama spectators all crave. With Bottas lying second his left front tyre suddenly shredded and the Finn was forced into the pits – bad luck demoting him from second to 11th.
Lightning strikes twice is the famous saying and on his final lap Hamilton’s front left suffered the same fault. Hamilton didn’t panic and held his nerve. He had nine further corners, two thirds of that last lap to survive but kept control of the car as the tyre shredded completely – yet he skillfully kept his car on the track to drag it to the checkered flag. Hamilton is now only four behind Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 race wins.
As Hamilton crawled toward the line, Verstappen did manage to close on him but finished just five seconds short. Without that final tyre change the win would have surely been in the Dutchman’s hands.
The future of F1, after Hamilton, may indeed lie in the hands of the relative youngsters, LeClerc and Verstappen. Few would have bet on Charles LeClerc also joining Verstappen on the podium in Silverstone to seal his second podium finish of the year. He finished third, after being poised in fourth place until lap 50. It’s a test of a great driver surely to succeed against the odds. His potential with a faster car is a delight that yet awaits us.
P3 babyyyyyy !
Without luck, we wouldn't have been on the podium, but very happy with how we managed the week-end considering the tough times we are going through at the moment.
We keep pushing 👊 pic.twitter.com/pb8WLz3mED
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) August 2, 2020
After the British Grand Prix, Leclerc has 33 points and sits fifth in the championship, just as he was four races into last season.
It’s 70 years since the old airfield at Silverstone hosted the very first F1 world championship race in 1950. By the time the centenary anniversary comes around the history of LeClerc and Verstappen and Hamilton will already have been written.