With Formula 1 reaching the halfway stage of 2017 in Britain, the state of the championship has been spectacularly reset.
Lewis Hamilton claimed a fifth victory at Silverstone, equaling Jim Clark’s record, and his fourth straight win since 2014. Hamilton made a fifth career ‘grand slam’ of a pole, a win, leading every lap and fastest time – and third in 2017 – after China and Canada.
The Brit’s success cuts Sebastian Vettel’s lead to just one after he suffered a late puncture and only finished seventh. Valtteri Bottas joined him for a Mercedes 1-2 for the second time in four events, moving him to 23 markers behind the German with 25 on offer for a race win.
Here are some thoughts that stand out after 51 laps of the English circuit.
Ferrari Tire Trouble
Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen suffered tire issues near the end when trying to make a one-stop strategy work. Raikkonen recovered to third after falling from second, while Vettel went from fourth to seventh.
Silverstone has often been a tough circuit for them, resulting in the infamous 2013 event where many drivers suffered dramatic failures.
Vettel pitted on Lap 19 of 51 for soft tyres and had a front left puncture on 50, with the Finn getting a new set on Lap 25, developing an issue with two circuits to go.
“My race wasn’t going too bad until a few laps before the end,” Raikkonen said. “I suddenly had the problem, my front left tire let go with no warning; the air stayed in the tire but the rubber part came off. It’s disappointing because without that issue the second place was secured, and we deserved a better result.”
The Ferraris weren’t the only drivers concerned by this. Max Verstappen pitted on the penultimate lap to get fresh slicks, while Hamilton admitted in the pre-podium room that “I thought mine was going to blow up.”
The issues were a surprise considering the Pirelli rubber has been robust throughout the first half of the year, with the first memorable punctures for front-runners since Vettel suffered a race-ending problem in Austria in 2016. Until Hungary arrives, this looks just to be an anomaly.
Red Bull Recovery?
After many retirements, Red Bull finished this race with both cars for the third time in 2017.
Verstappen jumped from fourth to third at the beginning, continuing his superb run of making places up on the start. His run was aided by Vettel having a slow getaway due to an early brake fire, but he still had to pass the German around the outside of the left-handed Turn 4.
Daniel Ricciardo again showed that he is one of the best passers in the sport with his late braking maneuvers. The Australian went from 19th on the grid to 15th by Lap 4, 10th by Lap 18 and into sixth in the final stages.
Other than that, Red Bull scored the results of the third-fastest team, what it would be expected to do. It was its third race outscoring rivals Force India, moving 79 points clear in a dominant third in the constructors’ championship. The team will be looking for more stability in future rounds after Verstappen’s car breaking down in Canada and Azerbaijan.
The only concern is its current usage of power unit parts after 10 events. These racers have just one new internal combustion engine (ICE) and turbo charger remaining, using three of their permitted four. They have used all four motor generator units – heat (MGU-Hs).
For the second time in recent races, Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz were involved in an incident as they fight to get the attention of senior team Red Bull.
Kvyat made contact with the right sidepod of his teammate when going side-by-side, both spinning off track. The Russian rejoined and was given a drive through penalty by the stewards, but Sainz retired.
“He just turned into me,” Kvyat said over the team radio after the hit.
“You can tell Dany he did a very good job there,” Sainz added on the radio in the heat of the moment.
This incident follows their first lap drama in Azerbaijan when Sainz spun trying to avoid Kvyat. Both competitors are part of the silly season discussion over seats in their third year there. No drivers have ever spent four years with the team, but the sport is flowing with too much talent in faster cars.
They may be forced to stay and keep collecting points finishes. Sainz has taken 23 in his 50 starts, the most of any Toro Rosso driver, while Kvyat has had 10 in 46 starts.
At the same weekend, 2016 GP2 champion – and Red Bull test and reserve driver – Pierre Gasly made his Formula E debut in New York for Renault e.dams, scoring two points finishes, following a pair of similar results in a row in Super Formula in Japan. He is the major threat to one of these seats for 2018.
The two will need to score more as Toro Rosso could have an emerging problem standings-wise, with Haas just four and Renault just seven behind after Nico Hulkenberg’s sixth-place finish in the battle for sixth in the constructors’. As the year goes on, it would surely deepen their argument for another contract if they can keep the team away from eighth.
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