Lewis Hamilton inspects his damaged front-left tyre

British GP - Stat Wrap

By Sean Kelly
C4F1's Virtual Statman

Has a driver ever crossed the line to a win a Grand Prix with a puncture?

That was the only question being banded around the F1 world in the aftermath of Lewis Hamilton’s dramatic victory in Sunday’s British Grand Prix, as a gentle cruise to the chequered flag was put in jeopardy by a deflation on the final lap of the ironically-titled Pirelli British Grand Prix.

It was a distraction from Hamilton simultaneously breaking long-standing F1 records held by both Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Normally you’d say this isn’t an everyday occurrence, but with we’re all getting used to it with Lewis these days….

Hamilton set a new record for most wins by a driver in their home event, eclipsing Alain Prost’s previous record of 6 wins in the French Grand Prix. Admittedly there is a caveat to that stat, as Michael Schumacher still holds the most wins by a driver on home soil with nine – but five of his victories in Germany came in events titled as the European Grand Prix.

Having come within one lap of doing so in Hungary, Hamilton finally surpassed Ayrton Senna’s record 19 races led from start-to-finish – albeit in 93 more starts than the Brazilian. He’s now within four victories of Michael Schumacher’s all-time F1 record of 91, and at Silverstone next weekend he can equal Schumacher’s 155 podium finishes. The only shame is that despite racing in F1 together for three seasons, Schumacher and Hamilton never stood on the podium together.

Conversely, Hamilton has spent a lot of time on the podium with Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas in recent times, and this looked set to be the third consecutive race in which those drivers filled the top three places until Bottas’ puncture sent him tumbling down the field. This promoted Verstappen to second, giving Red Bull their first Silverstone podium since 2016.

Having also set the fastest lap on the final lap – gaining a bonus point while the focus was on Hamilton’s stricken Mercedes – it moved Verstappen within six points of Bottas in the championship, a satisfying result given that Red Bull were over a second slower than the quickest Mercedes in qualifying.

On that subject, both Red Bull (0.049s) and Ferrari (0.255s) managed to be slower overall in qualifying this year than they were at the same race last year, no doubt contributing to the perception that Mercedes have taken a huge leap forward compared to normal development (the Mercs were 0.790s quicker than their 2019 pace).

Ferrari have been among the worst performers in straightline speed this year, but surprisingly that didn’t seem to affect them at Silverstone, where the succession of high speed corners appeared to play to the chassis’ strong points. Charles Leclerc ended the day in a surprise third place, taking yet another opportunistic podium to add the one he scored at the opening race in Austria.

Having only spent three laps in the top five positions all afternoon, Daniel Ricciardo ended up tying Renault’s best F1 result since their return as a constructor in 2016, with his fourth place matching the result he scored at the 2019 Italian GP. The team had not finished this high at Silverstone since Fernando Alonso won the 2006 race.

When adding in Esteban Ocon’s sixth place it means Renault scored more points in this race (20) than in the other three races this season combined (12).

The late drama meant that Lando Norris retained his remarkable distinction of having gained positions on the last lap of every race this season! On Saturday the Englishman put his car fifth on the grid, amazingly the first British Grand Prix qualifying session to feature two UK drivers in the top five since David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine way back in 1999 – four months before Norris was born!

Having dropped places on the opening lap, Norris never ran in the top five again until the final two laps, but the McLaren driver retains fourth in the world championship after four rounds, with only Verstappen, Norris and the ubiquitous Hamilton ahead.

As is becoming his habit this year, Pierre Gasly drove another impressive yet understated weekend. The AlphaTauri driver was tremendously unlucky not to reach Q3, having set an identical qualifying time to Lance Stroll – the Racing Point driver progressing because his laptime was set first – but Gasly outqualified Alex Albon’s Red Bull for the second straight race, as well as beating teammate Daniil Kvyat for the seventh consecutive qualifying session.

The French driver finished seventh in the race, matching his result from the opening race of the year and a giving a boost to a team that will have plenty of work this week after Kvyat’s car was demolished against the barriers at Maggots, the legacy of a high speed tyre failure.

Albon had a high speed accident of his own on Friday, and his race was compromised by a first-lap collision with Kevin Magnussen that earned him a penalty. He ended the afternoon in eighth place, 1.5 seconds behind Gasly, a man who understands the hidden difficulty in being the second Red Bull driver only too well….

Lance Stroll was quickest in a session for the first time in his F1 career during FP2 on Friday, so a ninth-place finish represented a disappointing result for Racing Point, whose factory is literally across Dadford Road from Silverstone’s main entrance.

The team’s race build up was disrupted by Sergio Perez’s positive COVID-19 test, necessitating a last minute call-up for the team’s former driver Nico Hulkenberg. In his first F1 drive since last year’s Abu Dhabi GP, he had little time to get up to speed but still qualified 13th, only for a sheared bolt in the clutch housing to leave him unable to leave the garage to go to the starting grid.

His non-start meant that Sebastian Vettel remained the only German in the race itself, although you’d have been hard pressed to notice him in one of the most mediocre weekends of the four-time champion’s career. Multiple technical problems left him 18th on Friday, and he was only tenth on the grid after his best qualifying time was deleted for exceeding track limits.

He finished in the same position on Sunday, and having never finished tenth in any Grand Prix in his career prior to 2020, Vettel has now done so twice in the first four races this year. He did take the minor victory of keeping a recovering Valtteri Bottas at bay in the final corners, denying the Mercedes driver a points finish in the process.

So, could anyone – this writer included – recall a driver physically crossing the finish line to claim an F1 victory with a flat tyre?

Several pointed out that Jim Clark survived a broken right-rear suspension to win the 1967 US Grand Prix, while Emerson Fittipaldi won at Brands Hatch in 1972 and Spain 1973 with a slow puncture. Stefan Johansson completed the final lap of the 1987 German GP with his tyre totally blown out, but he only finished second.

Yet when it comes to seeing a driver dragging his car over the line with a flailing tyre to win, it seems that Lewis Hamilton may have set yet another Formula 1 first.