13 Aug 2020

VERSTAPPEN TAKES THE WIN AT 70TH ANNIVERSARY GRAND PRIX AS MERCEDES STRUGGLE WITH TYRES AGAIN

It was the 70th anniversary race we all hoped for, showing there is still some life in the title race and that strategy still possesses the potential to win over the superior car.

Any of Mercedes’ hopes for a perfect season were taken away, the defining factor being the decision by Pirelli to go one compound softer for the second part of the double-header at Silverstone.

This seemingly minor change inspired many different strategies to the last race, and it was Red Bull who put together the winning plan and coped much better than Mercedes with the high temperatures.

The first step the team took towards victory was running the hard tyres in Q2, anticipating that the mediums would quickly wear out in the race. This theory was proven right as both Mercedes drivers were having difficulties heading into the first pitstops.

After his success in the first part of the race, the weakness of Mercedes came through towards the end as both drivers struggled with blisters on their tyres. Red Bull had no such issues, giving Max Verstappen a very surprising win and one that shows this season is far from a foregone conclusion.

Nico Hulkenberg followed up his remarkable 3rd place in qualifying with a measured drive. After dropping the podium position at the race start, it was clear the Racing Point car did not have the pace to keep up with the Mercedes and Red Bull.

Hulkenberg was however, cruising to a top 5 finish before being brought in for a late pitstop that placed him in 7th and behind teammate Lance Stroll. This display as a stand-in for Sergio Perez was a great showing from the German, proving he still has the pace after his long absence from the sport. Gathering praise from the likes of Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo after his performance in qualifying, Hulkenberg would be a solid option for a plethora of teams if given the opportunity.

Over at the Ferrari camp, Charles Leclerc continues to outperform his teammate Sebastian Vettel by some margin. After a fairly dismal qualifying, there was little expectation for a top placing with Leclerc himself doubting they would finish any higher than 8th.

However, on the day he managed to pull off a risky one-stop strategy which included a 34-lap marathon on the hard compound which was more than any other driver. With another good performance under his belt, Leclerc sits fourth in the championship, an extremely surprising feat in a car that clearly lacks straight-line speed.

On the other hand, Vettel’s woes for his final year at Ferrari remain the norm. Going out in Q2 for the second time this season, he failed to improve during the race. Almost spinning on the first lap through his own fault, there was no silver lining to come later on.

Being pitted after 22 laps for the hard tyre so he would not get in the way of Leclerc left him even more unhappy. He challenged the plan, calling out the team over the radio for not sticking with the pre-race plan.

Ferrari Team Principal Mattia Binotto was not impressed and later in an interview said: ‘His race was compromised at the start. That was the key, not the strategy chosen.’ No sympathy there for the four-time World Champion, down in 13th in the championship it is no surprise he will not be retaining his seat next year.

There was about as much news off the track as on this week as the story of the Racing Point inquiry had more developments. They were handed a £360,000 fine and docked 15 championship points on Saturday as the FIA concluded that they illegally copied Mercedes’ 2019 brake ducts.

They have now appealed this decision and the case will go before the FIA’s international court of appeal with the date having not yet been decided. On Sunday, the team’s co-owner Lawrence Stroll firmly defended the team saying: ‘These accusations are completely unacceptable and not true.’

Furthermore, many other teams are now involved and are planning to also appeal the decision which seems to have sparked more anger rather than solve the issue. Mercedes are of course on the side of Racing Point as they are the other involved party. Other teams however, such as Ferrari and Renault are keen to see a more severe penalty given out.

We shall see how this develops.

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ccooper

Formula 1 Correspondent