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View from the Pit Lane: Britain

Lewis Hamilton was on top of the world after winning his fourth British Grand Prix in a row. 

By C4F1 technical analyst 
Karun Chandhok

It was another great weekend at Silverstone with plenty of on-track action and drama at the end of the race – it got fairly hectic in the last three or four laps!

It’s always a great weekend at the British Grand Prix. There is a fantastic atmosphere and the crowd are so knowledgeable and enthusiastic. 

As you’d expect from a partisan crowd they were completely behind Lewis Hamilton all weekend but they were also pretty fair.  There were lots of cheers for Sebastian Vettel, despite the fact that he’s Hamilton’s big rival in the championship.

There was also plenty of support for Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, two great characters of the sport, and who are locals in a way with the Red Bull factory close by. 

Mercedes pull clear in qualifying

There was a key point that Vettel over the race weekend and that was that Silverstone again underlined Mercedes’ performance in qualifying.

There is no question about it they’ve made a huge step when it comes to turning the engines up and unlocking extra performance. 

We saw it to some extent in Canada and then in Baku, Austria and here again in Britain. They’re finding a good half a second or so, which is a massive chunk, just in straight-line performance. 

It’s quite clear towards the end of the straight, once you get to sixth, seventh, eighth gear – and it could also be a bit of drag involved with the Ferrari – that the Merc is pulling a huge amount of lap time on the straight compared to the Ferrari. 

Once you qualify at the front you can then dictate the race. You make the start, dictate the strategy, decide when to pit and therefore when others pits, you run in free air and do less damage to the tyres. 

There’s a lot of elements which come into play and help you control the race and that’s certainly something Ferrari will be concerned about. Vettel was within half a tenth of pole in Austria but that’s still four weekends in a row where Mercedes have made a big gain in qualifying. 

Hamilton a home hero after all 

Hamilton was undoubtedly the star of the weekend. 

He arrived at Silverstone under huge pressure after missing the F1 Live event last Wednesday in London, which I still believe was a mistake. I think privately he perhaps realises that maybe he underestimated how big the event was going to be. 
There was definitely a cloud that overshadowed all of Thursday’s interviews and he faced lots of questions about why he didn’t feel the need to engage with the public.

But once it got to the actual track action he was tremendous. He’s a bit like Nigel Mansell in that the home crowd lifts him up and he gets this massive boost. 

Once he’s on track at a weekend when he’s feeling good and the car is working well, he’s unstoppable. This was one of those weekends – he was immense.

Battling Bottas stays in contention

It was a great recovery drive from Valtteri Bottas from ninth on the grid after a gearbox penalty. 

By his own admission, he didn’t do a great job in qualifying. He didn’t get the lap together and got hammered by Hamilton in terms of speed, but even compared to the Ferraris he just wasn’t there.  

He came through on Sunday, showing great tenacity and race pace, and he pushed all the way through even though those punctures benefited him at the end. 

Bottas is still an outside bet for the world championship. A couple of DNFs here and there for Hamilton and Vettel and suddenly he’s in contention. You can’t rule him out yet! 

Raikkonen returns to form

A lot of people seemed to be surprised that Kimi Raikkonen got ahead of Vettel in qualifying but I wasn’t because he’s always been good at Silverstone. It’s a fast and flowing circuit and like Spa it’s just one of the track he’s gone well at. 

Despite winning here with Red Bull in 2009, this is not one of Vettel’s favourite circuits. Mark Webber was often faster than him here when they were at Red Bull together. For whatever reason, Vettel has never been comfortable or happy around Silverstone.  

In the race Raikkonen was eight seconds up the road when all those punctures unfolded towards the end. In the first stint he also went away with Hamilton and the pair of them were 12 seconds ahead of the pack, even though Bottas did eventually come through. 

It was a convincing and strong weekend for Raikkonen and it is still surprising a lot of people that there’s life in the old dog yet!

Tyre trouble

The punctures for Raikkonen and Vettel, who had a lock up, were worrying for Pirelli and they said they still need to investigate what happened. 

The fact that Verstappen also made a precautionary late stop and Nico Hulkenberg stopped soon after the lines didn’t look good. 
There are some big questions that need to be answered. Having that number of issues isn’t good from a safety standpoint and I’m sure they are trying to make things better. 

Mixed fortunes for Red Bull 

It was nice for Red Bull to finally get two cars to the finish with Verstappen fourth ahead of Ricciardo. They’ve had the potential for results but it hasn’t worked out because of various reliability issues.  

The huge gap to Mercedes and Ferrari in front of them will be worrying and a big question mark for Red Bull especially on a track where their chassis performance should have shown them in a better light. 

Budapest and Singapore should be interesting to gauge their performance. In recent times they’ve been strong in the mid-section of Spa before, even though it’s got quite long straights. I’ll be keeping an eye on how they get on in the next few races. 

Best of the Rest

Hulkenberg was one of the stars of the weekend. It’s funny how after qualifying in sixth he said ‘yeah great qualifying but we’ve had those before and then we go backwards in the race’. 

Ultimately in the race he was nearly half a minute ahead of the Force Indias and maintained sixth to underline a really strong performance from Renault. 

In terms of genuine, dry-race pace that’s the best performance we’ve seen from Renault for a long while and a statement that they’ve improved the car and made clear steps forward. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. 

Williams had a really messy qualifying and ended up down in 15th and 16th but once again on by lap one they managed to drag themselves up and Massa finished in the points. 

Next stop Hungary 

Hungary is a Hamilton track. There are a few circuits around the world – like Silverstone, Singapore and Abu Dhabi – where he is just supreme and he is very good around the Hungaroring. 

Hamilton has put himself firmly as favourite for the title now that the Mercedes package is more competitive. 

If Ferrari can strike back in Budapest that will set everybody up for the rest of the world championship. It’s a really important race for Vettel and Ferrari to get themselves back in this battle.