Sunday’s British Grand Prix saw a remarkable but yet unsurprising seventh home win for Lewis Hamilton, but while the race proved pretty stagnate throughout it will be remembered for the tyre failures in the closing laps which could be the moment where Hamilton won his seventh world title.
Mercedes were always going to be the favourites for the race and indeed this weekend 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the circuit is one where they proved utterly dominate fastest throughout the weekend. However, this is not the first time we have seen tyre failures with Pirelli at Silverstone and it poses questions about the decisions to go a step softer for this weekend.
It wasn’t as dramatic or as many as we saw in 2013 when we had multiple tyre failures across all the teams. While Hamilton’s decision to carry on did surprise me giving the regulations, that’s another argument for another day, why didn’t Mercedes choose to do ‘safety stop’ when Valtteri Bottas’s tyre failed?
For Hamilton I think it proved that he is one of the greatest drivers in the history of F1, we have seen before drivers crash out or retire but you had the feeling throughout the weekend that nothing was going to stop him. Red Bull was trying and closing down the thirty-second advantage that Hamilton had.
You will always wonder, firstly if that was another driver would they have managed to do the same thing?
There will be some who could have taken the advantage, you heard on team radio that Mercedes were telling Hamilton to back off during the final phase of the race. I think if the tyre failure had happened earlier in the closing stages Verstappen may have had the chance
I base that on what happened to teammate Valtteri Bottas, he was running in second when his tyre failed on lap 49, Mercedes priority then needed to be on sorting his tyre.
Data from Pirelli shows throughout the weekend that higher wear as a result of faster speeds was a factor. The wear levels on some of the other cars showed next to no rubber left on the carcass of the tyre. With so little rubber on the tyre, it becomes susceptible to punctures and the leading theory at the moment is that debris ultimately led to a puncture.
Their investigation concluded the unusually long stints run after drivers made early pitstops under the safety car led to the failures. If they hadn’t had the safety car the drivers would probably have pitted say between lap 15-18, which could have been safe to get to the end on a one-stop. It was always going.
The other thing which backs up the deflating tyres was that there were cuts on the tyres of Carlos Sainz’s car and Nicholas Latifi suffered a puncher. Pirelli says that the Canadian’s failure was as a result of debris, probably from the Kvyat incident.
At the point in the race when Mercedes had the failure, Hamilton and Bottas were in a position where they had a huge advantage over the other teams. If that had been the other way round, you have to wonder not to say Bottas isn’t a good driver, if he would he have been able to manage the same thing as Hamilton.
The failures for Mercedes could have been an opportunity for Red Bull and Max Verstappen, however, Red Bull says that there was on guarantee that Verstappen would have made it to the end. Unlike Hamilton, Verstappen did do a safety stop on the same lap as Bottas suffered the tyre failure, that gave him second.
Verstappen had been fifteen seconds behind Hamilton when he stopped at the end of lap 50 and re-joined the track thirty-four behind the Mercedes. There was a sizeable gap for Hamilton to stay ahead, but Verstappen managed to close to the gap, analysis from F1.com’s journalists say based on three scenarios there looked to be no way with Hamilton carrying on that Verstappen could have passed.
Red Bull’s team principal Christian Horner explained to Sky Sports, “Right at the end there, Max was really getting worried about the [tyre] vibration. We saw Bottas’ puncture, we could see we had a big groove on our tyre, and so we elected to pit and put the soft on and try and bag the point for the [fastest] lap as well.”
“The tyre that has come off Max’s car has got a deep groove and a lot of lacerations on it as well. So there’s no guarantee he would have got to the end of the race, then it would have been a completely different story again.”
Looking ahead to this weekend you have to say that a one-stop race is not going to be an option looking at Pirelli’s data as the tyre wear was higher on the soft tyres last weekend. This means that this poses a risk between teams playing it safe and two stops, or doing a one-stop. That is the dilemma facing the teams this weekend.
Perez test positive
The other story which began on Thursday was Sergio Perez testing positive for Coronavirus. While not directly linked to the weekend, this poses serious questions for F1 as despite the strict protocols around drivers travelling home between races.
Perez being in self-isolation provided the opportunity for Nico Hulkenberg to return to the sport, he still could compete in this weekends race as uncertainty remains about whether he will be allowed to compete this weekend.
You have to feel for Hulkenberg, I think he did well given he had no time to prepare for the weekend and then the technical problems from starting what could be his last Grand Prix.
I think Perez has proven that the F1 isn’t guaranteed 100% pass rate, and drivers may face restrictions. Reporting Charles Leclerc and Valtteri Bottas travelling in between Austria and Styria it was going to happen at some point.
We know Perez went home to Mexico for family reasons as his mother, is recovering in hospital following “a big accident”. I think we shouldn’t criticise that.
There have also been suggestions that Perez was in search of more money as reports suggest he could lose his seat to Sebastian Vettel. Also, that he went out socialising, this hasn’t been proven, with friends. There will be questions he will need to answer when he returns to the paddock from journalists.