Anniversary GP - Stat Wrap
By Sean Kelly
C4F1's Virtual Statman
Mercedes took a ninth successive Silverstone pole on Saturday, with nobody else getting within 0.9s of the fastest Merc either last weekend or this one. They also went into Sunday’s race having won every Grand Prix in 2020, leading all-but-one lap along the way.
The team appeared invincible on paper, but as Sunday’s race served to remind us, races are not run on paper – asphalt being the historical surface of choice – and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen blindsided the dominant team of the era with a brilliant display of tactics to claim the team’s first Silverstone win since 2012.
It was always going to be a weekend of landmark numbers. After all, the event’s title was the “70th Anniversary Grand Prix”, the first race in world championship history to not be named for a geographic location. In the preceding seven decades 22,875 cars from 161 individual constructors have started a race, driven by 773 drivers on 73 circuits in 32 different nations, completing a total of 66,603 laps, a total race distance of nearly 205,000 miles.
Max Verstappen is one of the 15 Dutch drivers among that total, and Sunday was a record-setting event for him simply by starting. His 107th Grand Prix saw him surpass the career total of his father Jos Verstappen, setting a new Dutch record in the process (at just 22 years old!)
Last week’s dramatic last lap events – which brought Verstappen within 6 seconds of winning the British GP – showed that Red Bull were much closer to Mercedes in race trim than over a single lap, but the race-winning decision this week was arguably made during qualifying, when Verstappen reached Q3 on the hardest available tyre compound, an strategy unprecedented since Pirelli returned as a tyre supplier in 2011.
This set up Verstappen’s 9th career victory, and interestingly it was only the fifth time since the start of 2014 – when the turbo hybrid era began – that a driver won from fourth position on the grid. On every occasion, a Red Bull driver has been responsible.
It also snapped a seven-race streak of drivers winning from pole position, one short of F1’s all-time record run set in mid-1976. That sequence of eight in a row included the only F1 victory for a car with six wheels (Jody Scheckter in the Tyrrell P34 at Anderstorp) and concluded with James Hunt’s victory at the Nurburgring, the infamous race in which Niki Lauda suffered his near-fatal accident.
Meanwhile, Honda were able to celebrate a first Silverstone victory since Alain Prost won for McLaren in 1989. Remarkably, the Japanese manufacturer had not even led a lap at this venue for 30 years until Verstappen assumed the lead on lap 15 this weekend.
Sunday was the eighth consecutive Silverstone race in which Lewis Hamilton has finished either first or second, and in probably the most historically significant stat of the weekend, it moved Hamilton level with Michael Schumacher on 155 career podium finishes.
Schumacher claimed the last of those top-three finishes with Mercedes at the 2012 European GP, before he was ushered into retirement by the signing of Hamilton. The real shame is that despite having 310 combined podium finishes between them, Schumacher and Hamilton never stood on the F1 podium together.
Hamilton’s point-scoring streak is becoming ridiculous. He’s now scored in 71 of the last 72 races, including the last 38 in a row. No other driver in history has managed a run of more than 27 in a row, and no other driver has a current streak longer than four in a row! Not only is Hamilton completely redefining this record, but he’s also only three short of Nick Heidfeld’s record run of 41 classified finishes, set between 2007 and 2009.
Mercedes took a 67th front row lockout on Saturday, but this time it was Valtteri Bottas leading the charge. Having already won from pole in the season-opener in Austria, Sunday’s third place was a distinct disappointment – he lost second in the championship to Verstappen as a consequence.
Prior to Sunday’s race Pirelli were adamant that a one-stop strategy was practically impossible due to the decision to bring softer compounds than last week, a race in which several drivers suffered deflations in the final laps on worn out C1 compounds.
Yet somehow Charles Leclerc managed to navigate through the final 34 laps on a set of C2 tyres to reach the flag on a one-stopper, netting him a fourth place finish a result.
Leclerc is becoming the king of stealth results in 2020, as this race can be added to his two podium finishes this season despite only spending 12 laps in the top three positions all year. His careful industry has moved Ferrari up to third in the Constructors’ Championship, restoring some respect to Maranello at a time when Sebastian Vettel appears all at sea.
The four-time champion has now failed to reach Q3 more times this year (two) than in all of last year (once). He exacerbated that lack of qualifying pace by appearing to spin all on his own at the first corner of the race. He finished over 44 seconds behind Leclerc in twelfth place.
The gap between the Ferrari teammates at the flag was five seconds more than that which separated the two Red Bulls, and Alexander Albon has been hearing all about it throughout 2020. Whatever the reason for the institutional lack of pace from the second Red Bull in recent times, there’s no doubting Albon’s ability to bring the car home.
Sunday was Albon’s eighth top-five finish for Red Bull, and his only failures to score since joining the team have been when he was punted by Lewis Hamilton while in podium contention (Brazil 2019, Austria 2020).
On a weekend where the off-track events threatened to overshadow Racing Point’s performances, Lance Stroll finished sixth to surpass his entire 2019 points total after only five races this season.
For the second week in a row Nico Hulkenberg deputized for the coronavirus-affected Sergio Perez in the other Racing Point, and he did his long-term F1 employment chances no harm by putting his car third on the grid on Saturday, only the fourth top-three start of the German’s entire career – nearly 0.350s quicker than Stroll.
The race went away from the German, but seventh maintained his 100% Silverstone finishing record in F1 (since he never actually started last week’s race).
Among the minor points positions, the lead Renault has finished eighth at four of the first five races this season, with Esteban Ocon doing the honours this week. Ninth place for Lando Norris maintained McLaren’s run of points in every race this year (and Norris has now started in the top ten on the grid at the last 12 consecutive races).
The final point went to Daniil Kvyat despite the Russian’s Q1 elimination on Saturday. He certainly had a better Sunday than fellow Q1 casualty Kevin Magnussen, but the Haas driver is getting used to this experience at Silverstone.
While there has never been a retirement-free race in Silverstone’s history, we got within eight laps of having one on Sunday before Magnussen was forced to retire his car. Extraordinarily, it was the third successive F1 race in which the Dane was the first retirement, and just to really hammer it home this time, he was the only non-finisher this weekend.