On one of the greatest days of sport ever seen in England, Lewis Hamilton was the man to open the batting with a record-breaking win in Sunday’s British Grand Prix.
As you will have heard in Channel 4’s live coverage, Hamilton’s sixth win in his home event eclipsed the previous British GP record he jointly-held with Jim Clark and Alain Prost, to become the most successful driver in the race’s history.
From a non-British perspective, it also moved Hamilton level with Prost for most victories by any driver in their home Grand Prix, although as Prost’s French GP victories were split between three venues (Dijon, Paul Ricard and Magny-Cours), no driver has ever won at a single venue in their home nation as much as the reigning world champion.
It just continues what has been a remarkable scoring rate for Hamilton, who has only been out for a duck once in the last 56 Grands Prix (Austria 2018). Sunday saw him and his strike partner Valtteri Bottas claim a 51st 1-2 finish for Mercedes, having reached their half-century at Paul Ricard.
It was a race of what-might-have-been for the Finn, who upset the best laid plans of over 100,000 British fans by pinching pole position from Hamilton with a new outright track record at the end of Q3, at an average speed of 154.863mph.
Despite the introduction of several slow speed corners down the years, modern F1 cars are now within sight of Keke Rosberg’s legendary 160.924mph average lap in 1985, the fastest lap of the old Silverstone perimeter circuit.
Additionally, Bottas claimed pole by a margin of just 0.006s, making Silverstone 2019 the closest qualifying session in nearly a decade. Not since Sebastian Vettel beat Fernando Alonso by the minuscule margin of 0.002s at the 2010 German GP has a front row been decided by such a small difference.
Despite a sensational opening phase of the race, in which Bottas was passed by Hamilton, only for Bottas to audaciously snatch it back into the fearsomely quick Copse corner, a badly-timed Safety Car left Bottas needing to make an additional green flag pitstop.
Given that context, second place was a real save for Bottas, who is now 39 points behind his teammate in the championship. Not ideal, but also not insurmountable (Sebastian Vettel was 44 points behind Fernando Alonso with 10 races remaining in 2012, and came back to win).
Mercedes led the charge on Sunday, but Charles Leclerc underlined his rising standing within the Ferrari team with a fourth consecutive podium finish, the longest current streak in Formula 1. The Monegasque driver had already put down a marker in qualifying by beating teammate Vettel by a massive 0.615s, and while his teammate suffered a chaotic afternoon, Leclerc moved to within 3 points of Vettel in the championship.
Perhaps the most relieved driver on Sunday afternoon was Red Bull’s Pierre Gasly, who finally delivered the sort of drive of which his junior career had suggested he was capable. Fourth place at Silverstone tied his career-best finish for Toro Rosso at the 2018 Bahrain GP.
Up until Sunday, Gasly’s Red Bull career had been something of a disaster, having trailed teammate Max Verstappen for 98% of all laps raced in 2019. Silverstone saw Gasly begin to redress that balance.
For his part, Verstappen’s afternoon was significantly compromised by Vettel, who after a few wides, slogged the Dutchman almost to the boundary of Silverstone with a badly timed braking move on lap 38. Despite rear-end damage, Verstappen recovered to finish fifth, remarkably extending his run of consecutive top-five finishes to 19 in a row!
Recent weeks have seen McLaren begin to consolidate their position as the leader of the “best of the rest” pack, and Silverstone continued that trend, with Carlos Sainz – who had only finished once in his previous four British GP starts – giving the team their 4th top six finish in the last five Grands Prix.
With less than half the season complete, McLaren have now reached 60 points, whereas they’ve never surpassed 76 points in any of the previous four complete seasons. The renaissance continues at Woking, with the customer Renault team again eclipsing the works team, as was the case in the years in which Red Bull used the same power unit. Daniel Ricciardo did manage seventh place, but Renault have now been beaten by McLaren in three consecutive events.
Alfa Romeo finished 1-2-3 in the very first world championship Grand Prix at Silverstone in 1950, and while their ambitions may have been more modest on this occasion, Kimi Raikkonen was able to claim eighth place, to score for the 14th time in his 15 British GP starts.
Teammate Antonio Giovinazzi has now outqualified Raikkonen 3 times in the last 4 Grands Prix, but his afternoon ended in the Silverstone gravel, triggering the Safety Car that indirectly cost Bottas his chances of victory.
Daniil Kvyat rescued ninth place from a weekend that saw him knocked out in Q1 for a third successive race – his worst run since 2016 – while Nico Hulkenberg may have only been tenth on Sunday, but it extended his run of consecutive points finishes in the British GP to 7 in a row.
Among the tailenders, Williams were celebrating the 40th anniversary of their maiden Grand Prix win this weekend, and while the team is going through the worst season in their history, they do at least have the benefit of bulletproof reliability – both George Russell and Robert Kubica have finished every race this season so far.
The Haas team’s dismal run of recent race form also continued, with Romain Grosjean retiring for the fifth time this season – more than any other driver – but he inflicted further woe by colliding with teammate Kevin Magnussen on the opening lap, causing damage that would ultimately contribute to the retirement of both cars. Of the four retirements over the last three Grands Prix, three of them have been Haas cars.
With Hamilton extending his lead, the F1 circus now heads to Hockenheim, a circuit on which Hamilton has won the last two German Grands Prix. Will he give his rivals a chance a last…?
That’s just not cricket.