By Neil Leverett
- Lewis Hamilton wins the 2021 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, as Max Verstappen crashes out on opening lap
- Hamilton and Mercedes close gap on Red Bull despite 10-second penalty, leaving rivals seething
- Ferrari and McLaren enjoy fruitful trips to Northamptonshire, as Daniel Ricciardo records best result of season
SILVERSTONE, UK – After Lewis Hamilton claimed a hugely controversial win at Silverstone this past weekend, what did we learn from the British Grand Prix?
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Hamilton rules the waves
It was a race Lewis Hamilton had to win and he got it done. By hook, or, by crook.
The British Grand Prix continued to be a happy hunting ground for the seven-time world champion, but though Hamilton picked up his eighth win at Silverstone this past weekend, the Briton did in the midst of a huge wave of controversy.
After a cat-and-mouse, opening-lap duel with pole-sitter Max Verstappen, an altercation then saw Hamilton clip the Dutchman’s right-rear wheel going into Copse, sending Verstappen careering in to the barriers and out of the race.
As the red flag came out, the drivers returned to the pits, Red Bull raged in the paddock, whilst Verstappen himself was sent to the nearest hospital in Coventry.
Following lengthy deliberation in the steward’s room, a 10-second penalty was handed down to Hamilton, but with the superior pace, was able to hunt down race leader Charles Leclerc over the final laps, to the delirium of the 140,000 fans that bedecked the stands around the track.
This has been Hamilton’s toughest spell in F1 since disposing of the antagonistic Sebastian Vettel and after going five races without a win, it was difficult to see where the Briton’s next win was coming from.
But the British GP rode to the Stevenage driver’s aid again and having closed the gap on Verstappen to just eight points, a return to home soil has been just what the doctor ordered, to revive his flagging chances of F1 title number eight come December.
Silverstone could revitalise Silver Arrows
If Mercedes were looking for a weekend to reignite their hopes in both the Drivers’ and Constructors’ Championships, the British GP delivered in a big way.
Having already seen Sergio Perez crash out during Sprint qualifying – resulting in the Mexican starting at the back of the grid after being forced to retire – Verstappen then slamming out of proceedings on Sunday would see Red Bull leave Silverstone without a single point for the first time since Imola last season.
The Silver Arrows meanwhile, after securing both top and bottom place on the podium have all but wiped out their rival’s points advantage in one fell swoop.
Now just four points from the top, Toto Wolff will be a relieved man after the seeing his rival Milton Keynes outfit romp to five rounds of dominance.
With Hungary to follow in 10 days’ time, Mercedes can look to history, perhaps, to now return them to the top as August arrives.
Red Bull-Mercedes rivalry goes to new level
Whether you side with Hamilton or Verstappen over who the blame should fall on from their on-track fracas, in the paddock, the incident is set to further fan the flames between both Mercedes and Red Bull.
Two teams who have been trading playful blows all season, the British GP has now however, likely taken their growing rivalry to a new level.
With Verstappen having now been released from overnight care after his heavy 51g crash, attentions will swiftly turn to next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, but passions will unlikely to have dissipated.
Not least between Team principals Christian Horner and Wolff, who, as the fall-out from front-row politics spilled into the pit lane, both barked their defences to race director Michael Masi.
Though it was perhaps Red Bull’s protestations that seemed rather desperate in appealing for Hamilton’s expulsion from the race, both teams could see the importance of the steward’s call.
Tensions between the two teams now appear to be at an all-time high, but it only serves to add another elusive element that has lacked in seasons prior to this.
And things could get spicier still as the season moves into its second half.
McLaren, Ferrari show pedigree
As the battle for the pretenders’ throne to both Mercedes and Red Bull in third place hots up, McLaren and Ferrari enjoyed strong weekends at Silverstone.
Though Leclerc was forced to settle for runners-up spot, it was however the Monagasque’s first podium finish of the season, whilst teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. made it a top-six Prancing Horse double for just the second time this season.
But Scuderia were eclipsed by McLaren who recorded a P4-P5 finish, as Daniel Ricciardo laid down his best result yet since switching from Renault at the end of last season – holding off Sainz for the higher finish.
And it’s worth pondering the position of the ever-impressive Lando Norris also, who was unable to challenge for a fourth podium, but following a difficult week after being assaulted at Wembley during the Euro 2020 final, looked to have shaken off the incident – at least on the track.
In terms of the head-to-head battle between Ferrari and McLaren though, still just 15 points separate the duo, a margin which looks unlikely to alter too much.
This particular duel could go the distance to Abu Dhabi.
Sprint jeopardy must stay
The other big lesson to take from Silverstone was the overwhelming success that Saturday’s first Sprint qualifying appears to have been.
As classic Friday quali returned to the British GP for the first time in a generation, this time however, the one-off race would mean any error could see the weekend end is disaster, as Sergio Perez will attest.
With no chance to ‘go again’ without the usual time trial format as per usual, sprint was an added fillip for the packed house at Silverstone, even if the drivers competing may yet have other sentiments.
The latest pilot test in F1 has seen early success, but with two more sprints to come later this campaign, whether it becomes a regular stop-gap or not, remains to be seen.
The 2021 Hungarian Grand Prix takes place at the Hungaroring, between July 30 and August 2.
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