Even the fates, it seems, cannot conspire to defeat Lewis Hamilton at his home Grand Prix. It looked for all intents and purposes to be a Mercedes-AMG cakewalk until the final few laps when both cars were suffered debilitating tyre failures.
The warning signs that this was going to be a tyre-shredding race had come much earlier. Tyre supplier Pirelli – ironically, the event’s title sponsor – had forewarned the field that a one-stop race would push their rubber to the edge, but the majority of the field still gambled nonetheless.
Daniil Kvyat was an early casualty when a sudden right-rear sent his AlphaTauri Honda hard into the barriers at Becketts/Maggotts early in the race. Later on, Kimi Räikkönnen’s Alfa Romeo limped into the pits with a puncture and a damaged front wing. In the final laps, Carlos Sainz’s McLaren also suffered a front-left puncture.
Comfortably running 1-2, both Mercedes runners looked set to cruise to a dominant finish with a substantial gap to Max Verstappen’s Red Bull Racing Honda in third. Hamilton had converted pole position into the lead, fending off teammate Valtteri Bottas before steadily building a gap to the Finn.
With three laps to go, Bottas suddenly slid into the run-off at Abbey with a front-left tyre failure – a structural collapse caused by excessive wear – and the Finn was forced into the pits. He finished eleventh and out of the points, a potentially crucial blow to his championship aspirations.
Barring disaster, Hamilton was going to win his home Grand Prix for a record seventh time. The Mercedes pit wall instructed him to abandon any prospects of chasing the fastest lap of the race and the bonus point that came with it, knowing that the reigning champion’s tyres were on the edge.
Promoted into second place thanks to Bottas’ puncture, Verstappen was summoned into the pits for a fresh set of tyres to give him a shot at chasing fastest lap. Red Bull Racing was clearly feeling circumspect, recognising that it would – at worst – finish in a lucky second place, having lacked the pace to race Mercedes in a straight fight.
Lightning, it appears, does strike twice. Going into Brooklands on his final lap, Hamilton felt his left-front tyre suffer the same fate as his teammate. He had to limp to the finish line as quickly as he could, while Verstappen – urged on by his team – put the hammer down to try and snatch a most unlikely win.
His undertray and front wing dragging on the tarmac, Hamilton hauled his hobbled car across the finish line just five seconds clear of Verstappen. It was the Englishman’s 87th – and undoubtedly luckiest – Grand Prix win.
“It was definitely heart in the mouth,” Hamilton said after. “You could see the tyre was falling off the rim. I was just praying to get it round. I nearly didn’t do it, but thank God we did. I had never experienced anything like that on the last lap. My heart almost stopped.”
Hamilton could count himself doubly fortunate. With three race wins on the trot and teammate Bottas failing to score this time out, his lead in the Drivers’ Championship has shot up to 30 points – a potentially critical margin in a season likely to run to no more than 15 races.
The cards may have fallen Hamilton’s way, but Verstappen was magnanimous. Not stopping late in the race would have given the Dutchman victory, but he was also generous enough to acknowledge that it would have been a pyrrhic win in the circumstances.
“I don’t regret anything, we made the right decision,” he said. “You don’t often get punctures, they were deserved winners. I am not upset or disappointed and it is better to be second than third.”
Completing the podium was Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who once again hauled the SF1000 onto a rostrum finish it didn’t deserve on pace alone. The Monégasque driver again displayed a coolheadedness belying his youth with a clean and clinical – if not particularly quick – race to the flag.
Teammate Sebastian Vettel was once again put in the shade. Unable to qualify inside the top-ten, the German never looked like he had the pace to finish in the points and only inherited tenth thanks to the late punctures that befell Bottas and Sainz.
Daniel Ricciardo battled with Leclerc for much of the race, hustling his Renault to an eventual and excellent fourth place finish with teammate Esteban Ocon sixth behind McLaren’s Lando Norris. It equalled the Australian’s best finish for the Enstone squad, which has shown it does have the pace to be a potential podium contender when the cards fall its way.
Pierre Gasly piloted the sole remaining AlphaTauri to a superb seventh place finish, upstaging the man who replaced him midway through last season, Alexander Albon, who finished eighth.
Having looked like potential podium finishers based on their practice form, Racing Point’s Sunday was a disaster. Stand-in driver Nico Hülkenberg wasn’t even able to take the start thanks to a clutch failure, while teammate Lance Stroll struggled for race pace and fell back to a poor ninth.
|FORMULA 1 PIRELLI BRITISH GRAND PRIX 2020 – FINAL CLASSIFICATION (52 LAPS)|
|Driver||Team / Entry||Laps||Result||Pts|
|1.||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||52||1:28:01.283||25|
|2.||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing RB16||52||+ 5.856||19|
|3.||Charles Leclerc||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||52||+ 18.474||15|
|4.||Daniel Ricciardo||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||51||+ 19.650||12|
|5.||Lando Norris||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||52||+ 22.227||10|
|6.||Esteban Ocon||Renault F1 Team R.S.20||52||+ 26.937||8|
|7.||Pierre Gasly||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||52||+ 31.118||6|
|8.||Alexander Albon||Red Bull Racing RB16||52||+ 32.670||4|
|9.||Lance Stroll||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||52||+ 37.311||2|
|10.||Sebastian Vettel||Scuderia Ferrari SF1000||52||+ 41.857||1|
|11.||Valtteri Bottas||Mercedes-AMG F1 Team W11||52||+ 42.167|
|12.||George Russell||Williams Racing FW43||52||+ 52.004|
|13.||Carlos Sainz Jr.||McLaren F1 Team MCL35||52||+ 53.370|
|14.||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||52||+ 54.205|
|15.||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Racing FW43||52||+ 54.549|
|16.||Romain Grosjean||Haas F1 Team VF-20||52||+ 55.050|
|17.||Kimi Räikkönen||Alfa Romeo Racing C39||51||1 lap behind|
|Not Classified||Team / Entry||Laps||Reason|
|DNF.||Daniil Kvyat||Scuderia AlfaTauri AT01||11||Accident|
|DNF.||Kevin Magnussen||Haas F1 Team VF-20||1||Collision|
|DNS.||Nico Hülkenberg||Racing Point F1 Team RP20||Clutch||6|
Championship points are awarded on the results of the Final Classification of each Grand Prix to the race’s top-ten finishers on a 25-18-15-12-10-8-6-4-2-1 sliding scale.
A bonus point is awarded to the driver finishing in the top-ten (Max Verstappen) and their corresponding team (Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda) for posting the fastest lap of the race.
- Antonio Giovinazzi received a 5-second time penalty for not having slowed down sufficiently under Safety Car conditions.
- The classification of Lance Stroll and Nico Hülkenberg is provisional, subject to the outcome of any decision concerning a protest over their legality from Renault.
Image via Mercedes-AMG Petronas
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