By Sean Kelly, C4F1 statistician
It’s coming home.
Or at least, it’s coming home to Sebastian Vettel’s trophy cabinet, after Germany spoiled the English sporting party on Sunday, as the four-time champion claimed a potentially crucial victory at Silverstone to go eight points clear in the title race near the season’s halfway mark.
Vettel’s victory was of major historical significance. In an era in which Lewis Hamilton appears to match/break records at every event, the German’s achievements are not to be underestimated.
Sunday was his 51st career victory, tying Alain Prost and putting them joint-third on the all-time list behind Michael Schumacher (91) and Hamilton (65). Prost’s total was the outright victory record from Germany 1993 until beaten by Schumacher at the 2001 Belgian GP.
It might not have been the result the fans would've been hoping for, but it was a classic British GP nonetheless— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 9, 2018
Catch up with all the action in 399 seconds with our race rewind #C4F1 #BritishGP https://t.co/ZFAA1Q4lF1
In taking the win, Vettel also inflicted the first defeat on Mercedes at Silverstone in either qualifying or the race since the 2012 season – not bad considering Ferrari had only a single victory at Silverstone in the previous decade (Fernando Alonso in 2011) and Vettel had just a single podium finish in Britain in the previous five years.
It was his first win at the circuit since it was reconfigured, as his dominant triumph in 2009 was the last on the old “perimeter” layout.
Vettel is the only driver to complete every lap and/or score in every race this season.
Taken at face value, second place for Lewis Hamilton was a disappointment, as he fell short of becoming the second man in history to win the same grand prix for five consecutive years (a feat only ever achieved by Ayrton Senna in Monaco).
Given that he ended the first lap in 17th place – the legacy of contact with Kimi Raikkonen – second could be considered a major save on a day where his biggest title rival took victory.
I enjoyed that race. There came a 5-6 lap segment after that final restart where I stopped logging laptimes and writing stats, and just sat and watched. Nobody needs my contributions when the on-track battle is that good #BritishGP— Sean Kelly (@virtualstatman) July 8, 2018
Coming into the race it seemed all the momentum was with Hamilton. On Saturday he had taken a last-gasp pole, snatching it from Vettel by his lucky number, 44 milliseconds.
It was his sixth British GP pole position, breaking the record he held jointly with Jim Clark. It also tied Senna’s six poles in Brazil as the most by any driver in their home event, while his 50th pole for Mercedes means he is now within eight of Michael Schumacher’s 58 with Ferrari, the most by any driver with a single team.
Ironically, Hamilton came home ahead of his opening-lap assailant Raikkonen, who was penalised 10 seconds for his indiscretion.
The Finn has been the model of consistency this year – a 27th podium finish since his last race win further extended his all-time F1 record on a weekend where he was out-qualified by Vettel for the ninth consecutive race (albeit by only 0.054s, with the top three on the grid separated by only 0.098s, the smallest gap since Monaco 2017).
Raikkonen is now the second-most experienced driver in Ferrari history. Sunday’s race was his 140th for the Scuderia, surpassing the total of Felipe Massa – who was his team-mate when he joined in 2007, winning the championship in his first season. Inevitably, Michael Schumacher holds the team record, with 179 starts between 1996-2006.
All three podium finishers were behind Valtteri Bottas with just six laps remaining at Silverstone, but even the intervention of two lengthy safety car periods was not enough to stop the Finn’s tyres wearing out, and he would eventually finish fourth. Luck is apparently in short supply on one side of the Mercedes garage this season.
Red Bull were never able to truly challenge the close battle between Mercedes and Ferrari – although Max Verstappen tried his best with an incredibly audacious outside pass on Raikkonen at Luffield, seconds after being passed himself.
They were set for a comfortable but uninspiring fifth and sixth places when the Dutchman’s brakes failed, causing his retirement and ending a three-race podium streak, the longest of his career.
Instead it was team-mate Daniel Ricciardo who came home fifth, the same result as last year.
Similarly, sixth-placed Nico Hulkenberg repeated his 2017 result, albeit in more interesting circumstances. The Renault team elected to run hard tyres in this grand prix, making them the only team to do so in a 2018 race to date (this was the first weekend they were selected by Pirelli).
Hulkenberg has been eighth or better in the last five British GPs, and has now retaken his position as leader in the “best of the rest” championship, moving up to seventh overall behind the Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull drivers.
Lewis Hamilton might not have managed to take victory on home soil, but he was certainly impressive with his recovery drive after dropping to last at Turn 3— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 8, 2018
Here's the reigning champ describing his topsy-turvy weekend to Lee #C4F1 #BritishGPhttps://t.co/LGtkAOAOfS
Behind him was Esteban Ocon, who out-qualified Force India team-mate Sergio Perez for the seventh consecutive event and has now moved ahead of the Mexican in the points table – but only just.
The final point of the race originally went to Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, but the Frenchman was penalised five seconds for a late collision with Sergio Perez.
The penalty dropped Gasly to 13th place and promoted Perez to 10th, meaning the Force India drivers are now separated by just a single point.
5sec penalty, ridiculous...— Pierre Gasly (@PierreGASLY) July 8, 2018
Every weekends there are contacts with no further action, that’s part of racing & what makes it exciting! Was close battle, I enjoyed it. Just let us race and stop all this bullshit with penalties! Will keep fighting. pic.twitter.com/l9RlU6XDyu
Fernando Alonso was eighth on Sunday, matching his result from the Austrian GP seven days previously. It was the 200th points finish of the Spaniard’s career, becoming only the second driver in history to do so. No prizes for guessing the first (Schumacher, who has 221).
Haas had never previously scored points at Silverstone, so ninth place was an excellent result for Kevin Magnussen, although the team may feel they threw away a better result in the process. The Dane and Romain Grosjean both reached Q3 for the third consecutive race (no single Haas driver had ever achieved this before, let alone both cars at once), only for the team-mates to collide at the first corner, delaying both.
Grosjean’s afternoon eventually ended in a second collision, this time with Carlos Sainz, who had a dismal weekend – a Q1 elimination ended his run of starting every race in the top 10 this year, and then he suffered a third retirement in four British GP starts.
Outside the points, the two Williams cars were the last to physically reach the chequered flag on Sunday, following on from a double elimination in Q1 for the sixth time this season. It was only three years ago that the team ran 1-2 for most of the opening 18 laps of the British Grand Prix.
As astonishing as it seems, that remains the last time any team outside of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull led a lap of a grand prix.
However, with Vettel only eight points clear in the championship at the end of the first triple-header of races in F1 history, the big three teams have at least been evenly matched in 2018 ahead of round 11 in Germany.