Sainz Wins An Action Packed British Grand Prix
The Red Bull team was cautiously confident ahead of this weekend’s British Grand Prix after winning the previous six races in a row and with its team leader Max Verstappen having already achieved a sextet of victories this season, whereas its main rival, Ferrari, arrived from Italy very much needing a boost after technical and other woes meant it had last been victorious in Australia back in early April. After this afternoon’s gripping race in front of a sellout crowd at Silverstone it was to be Carlos Sainz who emerged victorious for Ferrari, achieving his first ever Formula 1 win.
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz took pole yesterday and his first ever F1 victory today
During the build-up to the British Grand Prix weekend, three-time world champion and racing legend Sir Jackie Stewart had suggested that after his at times lacklustre performances to date this season Sir Lewis Hamilton should retire and pursue his other interests in music and clothing, with former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone suggesting likewise. However, this was quickly overshadowed when attention was brought to the fact that fellow three-time champion Nelson Piquet appeared to have used a racially unacceptable description of Hamilton whilst speaking in Portuguese during a podcast in his home country last November when referring to the controversial high speed clash at Silverstone last July between the British driver and Max Verstappen. Piquet, who’s long had a reputation for harsh comments about others starting back when he was still competing and whose daughter Kelly is the partner of Verstappen, was understandably heavily criticised and he subsequently apologised, claiming that in his opinion the word he used did not have a racist overtone. The end result though was a paddock ban for Piquet for now at least, whilst Verstappen was unfortunately repeatedly booed by many of the massed Hamilton fans present at Silverstone. This rightly led to Mercedes’ George Russell calling for fan abuse of F1 drivers to be stamped out, with Hamilton to his credit leaping to the defence of Verstappen, saying “we are better than that.”
... Aston Martin’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was really looking forward to demonstrating on track this morning ahead of the start of today’s Grand Prix the iconic Williams FW14B F1 car which Nigel Mansell had used en route to his 1992 title and which the German had bought a couple of years ago.
In a similar vein to the Piquet controversy, last Tuesday Red Bull announced that it had terminated the contract of its test and reserve driver Juri Vips after the Estonian had apparently recently used racist language on the online gaming platform Twitch. The 21 year old, who will still continue to race for the British based Hitech Grand Prix team in Formula 2, apologised via his personal Instagram account, with Red Bull confirming that it does not condone any form of racism.
On another topical theme, last Thursday was the final day of the extended period of grace allowed by the FIA governing body before its delayed enforcement in F1 of the longstanding motor racing rule forbidding drivers from wearing jewellery whilst ontrack for safety reasons. This really only affected Hamilton, who in ongoing defiance of the new FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem had arrived at Silverstone with his nose stud still very much in place. He was still wearing it in the paddock on Friday morning before opening practice, but, sensing that the FIA was in no mood to back down or allow a further period of grace, the seven-time champion had removed it before climbing into his car to head out on track. There was a sense of relief all around Silverstone as a potential fine or even a race ban had loomed for the Mercedes driver.
Red Bull team principal Christian Horner (left) gives some advice to Sergio Pérez
Turning back to racing matters, Verstappen had reported for duty in Northamptonshire as the clear leader in this year’s Drivers’ Championship, 46 points ahead of his team-mate Sergio Pérez and with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc third. In contrast, 37 year old Hamilton was only sixth in the standings, 34 points behind his fourth placed team-mate Russell, who is 13 years his junior. The latter has often outperformed his more illustrious colleague this season and has made an impressive start to his career as a Mercedes driver, finishing fifth or better in all nine races to date this season. Of course both Hamilton and Russell, together with McLaren’s 22 year old rising star Lando Norris, were very keen to do well in front of a packed and mainly partisan British crowd.
2022 Formula 1 British Grand Prix
1 Carlos Sainz (Ferrari) 2hrs17m50.311s
2 Sergio Pérez (Red Bull) +3.779s
3 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +6.225s
4 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) +8.546s
5 Fernando Alonso (Alpine) +9.571s
6 Lando Norris (McLaren) +11.943s
7 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +18.777s
8 Mick Schumacher (Haas) +18.995s
9 Sebastian Vettel (Aston Martin) +22.356s
10 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) +24.590s
11 Lance Stroll (Aston Martin) +26.147s
12 Nicholas Latifi (Williams) +32.511s
13 Daniel Ricciardo (McLaren) +32.817s
14 Yuki Tsunoda (AlphaTauri) +40.910s
15 Esteban Ocon (Alpine) Retired
16 Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) Retired
17 Valtteri Bottas (Alfa Romeo) Retired
18 Alex Albon (Williams) Retired
19 Guanyu Zhou (Alfa Romeo) Retired
20 George Russell (Mercedes) Retired
On a different tack, Aston Martin’s four-time champion Sebastian Vettel was really looking forward to demonstrating on track this morning ahead of the start of today’s Grand Prix the iconic Williams FW14B F1 car which Nigel Mansell had used en route to his 1992 title and which the German had bought a couple of years ago. Vettel felt it highly appropriate to run the car 30 years later and at Silverstone where Mansell had won the British Grand Prix back in ‘92. That race will always have a special meaning for me as it was the first ever Grand Prix I attended in person. Perhaps significantly in the current environmental climate, the Williams car had been amended to run on carbon-neutral fuel, whilst still making a glorious sound.
From a strategic perspective, tyre degradation was expected to be high around the fast Silverstone sweeps, with the hard specification compound likely to feature significantly, and the chance of at least one Safety Car intervention was high, with it having been called upon in every British Grand Prix since 2014. Everything can and normally does happen in Formula 1 and a further curveball was thrown into the equation on Friday when the local Northamptonshire police force revealed that it was aware of a credible threat of Extinction Rebellion demonstrators planning to disrupt today’s Grand Prix and possibly invade the circuit. The police pleaded with anyone with such intentions not to do so and be fully aware of the safety of all, adding that an alternative peaceful demonstration at the venue could be held if necessary. All fans were also asked to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police and other on-site officials.
Lewis Hamilton claimed the final podium position in front of plenty of home support
Friday’s opening free practice session had proved to be very inconclusive as the tricky track conditions meant that only 10 of the 20 drivers managed to set even a single lap time and only two of those, Alfa Romeo’s Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton, did so on slick tyres, putting the pair at the top of the timesheets. Proceedings were brought to a slightly premature close after Aston Martin’s Lance Stroll had spun off into the gravel at Copse corner, bring out red flags Come Friday’s second practice period the dry conditions were far more conducive to quick running and Sainz went fastest ahead of Hamilton, Norris and Verstappen. Final practice began yesterday at noon and it proved to be a 1-2 for Red Bull, with Verstappen outpacing Pérez, Leclerc and Russell.
When those famous red lights went out Verstappen made great use of his soft specification tyres to immediately sprint past the medium shod Ferrari of Sainz into the lead, but chaos ensued to their rear as five cars were involved in multiple shunts.
Come the following qualifying hour, the rain had returned and intermediate rather than slick tyres were needed to cope with the wet conditions. The good news though was that the track started to dry during the first section of the three part process, but the bad news was that the rain then resumed, becoming much heavier and making grip levels far more challenging. Williams celebrated Nicky Latifi getting out of Q1 for the first time and even reaching Q3 and Ferrari was delighted when Sainz claimed his first ever F1 pole position for the start of his 150th Grand Prix today, lining up with Verstappen, Leclerc and Pérez just to his rear. British hopefuls Hamilton, Norris and Russell were fifth, sixth and eighth on the grid.
This morning’s F2 feature race had been marred by a serious accident at Vale corner, with the Prema car of Norwegian Dennis Hauger being launched into the air after hitting a sausage kerb and landing on the DAMS machine of Israeli driver Roy Nissany. Without the halo cockpit safety device this could have well been fatal for Nissany, but fortunately both drivers escaped unscathed. Simply another reminder that motor racing is so exciting, but can bite too.
Strategic decisions by Ferrari left Charles Leclerc out of luck
It felt like the weather gods were really playing with us at the track today, including all those in the uncovered grandstands and trackside viewing areas, as plenty of sun and cloud had seemed the order of the day until a few drops of rain started falling again as the start of the Grand Prix got nearer and the wonderful Red Arrows did what they do best in the skies above this iconic racing venue. Come 3pm the weather had stabilised, albeit with a gusty wind blowing, and the sense of anticipation was truly palpable all around the circuit as the 20 F1 cars lined up on the grid for the start. When those famous red lights went out Verstappen made great use of his soft specification tyres to immediately sprint past the medium shod Ferrari of Sainz into the lead, but chaos ensued to their rear as five cars were involved in multiple shunts. The F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou, who had qualified an impressive ninth, suffered a horrendous accident at the first corner which saw him flipped over and flying upside down towards and over the tyre barrier before being halted by the catch fencing. The Chinese driver was carefully extracted from his Alfa Romeo before being taken to the circuit’s medical centre and fortunately was later released uninjured. Williams’ Alex Albon was also involved in several impacts and after assessment at the same medical centre was transferred to hospital for precautionary checks. Russell was also caught up in the melee and was unable to make the subsequent restart almost an hour later.
This time Sainz held off Verstappen, with Leclerc third as they all ran on medium rubber. On lap 10 an error from the Spaniard at Becketts allowed Verstappen through into the lead, but the Red Bull team leader was soon headed down the pitlane with a suspected puncture, dropping him to sixth. Rear bodywork damage also meant that the Dutch racer was no longer to feature in the fight at the front of the field. Soon second placed Leclerc was pressing his Ferrari team-mate for the lead, asking to be allowed past, but the situation was resolved when Sainz pitted on lap 20 to switch to hard tyres. This left Leclerc leading ahead of Hamilton before the Monégasque driver also pitted five tours later and emerged behind the yet to stop Hamilton and Sainz. Soon Leclerc was again closing on Sainz and this time the team ordered the positions to be switched. On lap 33 Hamilton made his own stop and rejoined the circuit in third place behind the Ferrari duo.
Further drama was to follow though as the Safety Car was called into action when the Alpine of Esteban Ocon had ground to a halt on the start/finish straight. This triggered a further sequence of pitstops, with Sainz, Hamilton and Verstappen amongst those taking the opportunity to change to soft rubber for the closing laps. Crucially Leclerc was left out on hard tyres and would become something of a sitting duck come the restart at the end of lap 42. Sainz quickly swept by to regain the lead and after some brilliant wheel-to-wheel racing to his rear during the remaining laps it was Pérez and Hamilton who claimed the remaining podium positions, with Leclerc fourth ahead of Alpine’s Fernando Alonso and Norris. Hamilton earned the extra point for the fastest lap and Haas’ Mick Schumacher deserves a special mention for taking his first ever F1 points after reaching the chequered flag in eighth position right behind Verstappen.
Seb Vettel prepares to demonstrate his 1992 ex-Nigel Mansell Williams FW14B championship winning car
In just a few days’ time the F1 paddock will reassemble at Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring, a great little circuit and the most scenically located one on the whole calendar. Very much a personal favourite of mine. Next Saturday it will host the second Sprint race of the year, followed a day later by the Austrian Grand Prix, as this wonderfully unpredictable season continues to develop.
2022 Formula 1 Drivers’ Championship
1 Max Verstappen 181
2 Sergio Pérez 147
3 Charles Leclerc 138
2022 Formula 1 Constructors’ Championship
1 Red Bull 328
2 Ferrari 265
3 Mercedes 204