By Sean Kelly, C4F1 Statistician
Sunday marked 62 years to the day since Sir Stirling Moss became the first British driver ever to win the British Grand Prix. Back then, he led home his teammate Juan-Manuel Fangio as the Mercedes manufacturer team swept all before them.
It was therefore fitting that on the anniversary of that achievement, Mercedes drivers again led the field home, with Lewis Hamilton writing his name into British Grand Prix history by joining Jim Clark and Alain Prost as the only men to win the race five times. Only Clark had ever previously won four in a row, until Lewis matched him on Sunday.
In fact, Hamilton led from start-to-finish, scoring his fifth career “grand slam” win (victory from pole, leading from start-to-finish and setting the fastest lap). That ties Michael Schumacher and Alberto Ascari for second on the all-time list, behind Clark, who is still well out in front on eight grand slams.
When we say “well out in front”, it’s still possible that Hamilton could catch him this season. Remarkably, the British GP was the third time this season that Hamilton has achieved a grand slam, which also ties the single-season record, held by some names already familiar to this article (Ascari in 1952, Clark in 1963/65 and Nigel Mansell in 1992). In the midst of such a close title battle, it’s odd to think he had never previous scored more than a single grand slam in any other season.
Hamilton came into this race with his Silverstone legacy secure no matter what happened, but this year he became the new benchmark of laps led at this venue (243), surpassing the omnipresent Jim Clark’s previous record (210).
Hamilton’s victory also tied-in with another, more obscure statistical category on Sunday. This weekend was the 40th anniversary of the debut of the first-ever turbocharged F1 car at the 1977 British GP (the car itself – the Renault RS01 – was demonstrated by Rene Arnoux prior to Sunday’s race). By winning the Grand Prix, Hamilton claimed his 35th victory with a turbocharged engine, tying Alain Prost’s record number, set between 1981 and 1988.
All these stats, and we haven’t even mentioned qualifying, in which Hamilton tied Clark’s record 5 British GP poles with the first pole position average speed over 150mph since Mansell took pole in the final race on the “classic” Silverstone layout back in 1990. Oh, and the minor part about him being able to equal Michael Schumacher’s all-time record 68 poles at the next race….
As is becoming his habit, Valtteri Bottas salvaged what seemed an unlikely second place in this race, just as he did in Baku last month. The Finn had lined up ninth on the grid after a gearbox penalty and seemed set for third place at best until Kimi Raikkonen’s dramatic tyre failure with three laps to go.
It means Bottas has now twice finished on the podium at Silverstone from outside the top eight on the grid, having also finished second from 14th place in 2014. He is only the second man to achieve this in Silverstone history, after Jacques Laffite (who was on the podium from 14th in 1981, and 16th in 1985).
Kimi Raikkonen ended up salvaging third place from a rather calamitous final few laps for Ferrari. The Finn has been overshadowed by teammate Vettel this season, but he out-qualified the German and led him from start-to-finish to claim his sixth podium here, but a notable one: Raikkonen’s last podium finish at Silverstone had come exactly 10 years 8 days ago, in his championship season of 2007.
The decade stats didn’t end there. Raikkonen qualified second on Saturday behind the dominant Lewis Hamilton. This was the same front row – in the same order – as Silverstone 2007, the first time the front row for a Grand Prix was identical more than ten years apart.
While the Ferrari drivers suffered tyre failures, Red Bull elected to play safe and pitted Max Verstappen with two laps remaining. This possibly cost him a podium finish (he was only 16 seconds adrift of Raikkonen at the end), although conversely it was preferable to a last lap blowout, and given Verstappen’s run of three consecutive retirements entering the weekend, a clean afternoon was imperative.
The sister Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo came home fifth, as the Australian’s career-best five-race run of podium finishes came to an end. He could still be content with the result after a gearbox penalty, a breakdown in Q1 (ending his 37-race run of consecutive Q3 appearances) and an early off in the race at the exit of Luffield, which relegated him to last place.
RED FLAG— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 15, 2017
Nooo! Ricciardo, currently top of the timing screens, pulls over
Ben: "He has a 5-place penalty, that's back of the grid" pic.twitter.com/JVxGPBs3VX
Renault’s best achievements this season have come as an engine supplier in the back of a Red Bull (albeit with TAG Heuer branding), and the works team experienced sharply contrasting fortunes this weekend. Jolyon Palmer’s run of misfortune continued when his car’s hydraulics failed on the formation lap of his home Grand Prix.
Palmer had qualified eleventh, which would have been noteworthy had his teammate Nico Hulkenberg not put his Renault fifth on the grid, the best for the Renault team since Robert Kubica (a name Palmer doesn’t need to hear right now) lined up third at the 2010 Japanese GP.
In the race itself, Hulkenberg kept out of trouble to finish sixth, his best-ever British GP finish and his fourth top eight finish in a row at Silverstone, but he’s now 125 races into his career without a podium, only three away from Adrian Sutil’s unwanted record.
Sebastian Vettel never looked like doing better than third place – at least not without assistance from the Ferrari pitwall – but the wheels almost literally came off his wagon when he badly flat-spotted his left-front tyre, which may have contributed to its eventual failure. It meant that he was relegated from fourth to seventh.
This result was Vettel’s worst of the 2017 campaign, although it did extend his scoring run to 15 consecutive races, tied with Hamilton for the longest active streak.
Speaking of longest active streaks, Esteban Ocon continued his remarkable finishing record and the Frenchman has now finished all 19 Grand Prix starts in his career. The Force India driver beat teammate Sergio Perez in a race for only the second time this season when they’ve both finished, while Perez had the consolation of a third consecutive points finish at Silverstone, and he also outqualified a teammate for the first time in his career at this track.
The final point of Sunday’s bunfight went to Felipe Massa, who can no doubt relate to Jenson Button’s lament while conducting the podium interviews that he had never stood on the podium at Silverstone. It’s a distinction he shares with Massa, who scored his 11th top ten finish in a British GP this weekend, without any of them being in the top three.
Special mention to Stoffel Vandoorne for his 11th place finish, his best of 2017, although somewhat inevitably Fernando Alonso managed to find a way to attract everyone’s attention again this weekend, by gambling successfully on slick tyres to go fastest of all in Q1. In doing so, he put McLaren at the top of a timesheets for the first time in any session since Jenson Button also topped Q1 at the 2013 Indian Grand Prix!
Silverstone 2017 will be remembered for the utter dominance of Lewis Hamilton, and for its dramatic finale. Yet as the teams prepare for Hungary, the only statistic that truly mattered on Sunday was that Vettel now leads the championship by just a single point from Hamilton, with Bottas less than a Grand Prix victory away from passing both of them. This championship battle just got real.