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Silverstone saves the best for last

NEWS STORY
02/08/2020

Reflecting on the euphoric scenes twelve months ago, as race-winner Lewis Hamilton enjoyed rock star adulation from his adoring fans, who, in their wildest dreams, would have predicted that twelve months on the actors would play out their parts in an empty theatre.

Along with Monza, Silverstone is the beating heart of Formula One and its fans, and here, more than anywhere else, their absence is felt hardest.

While the sport needed to be up and running again, despite the on-track heroics, there is something not quite right as races play out as if on a Scalextric track for which the owner never got around to buying grandstands, far less filling them with people.

Oh how we miss that sense of anticipation, that roar that greeted each heroic move, that gasp at every near miss. The banners, flags and air horns and, yes... even that oh so pervasive smell of fried onions.

That said, barring a major upset, wherever they are watching the race from this afternoon, Hamilton fans will only be able to laud their hero by shouting at their TV screens... or devices.

To put it simply, this is Mercedes race to lose.

Yes, Lewis had a nightmare Q2 - and Q1 wasn't exactly smooth going - but when it mattered, when it really, really mattered, the Briton performed a psychological reset and subsequently broke Valtteri Bottas' heart.

Yes, the Finn can still pull off a surprise this afternoon, but in all honesty he looked pretty broken after Lewis' two stunners yesterday, by which we mean the two record shattering laps as opposed to the sort of headline one used to see in The Sun.

The 420 metre (0.261 mile) run to the first corner is probably the Finn's best chance of winning today, and while he is known for his scintillating starts his poor getaway in Hungary cost him dearly.

Despite the obvious advantage enjoyed by Mercedes, Max Verstappen will give it 100%, even though his is a lost cause. While he is sure to claim the odd victory here and there, the RB16 is not the car to mount a sustained attack.

Poor Alex Albon has had a difficult weekend, and one can only hope that along with his face mask he finds some good ear plugs and thick skin in order to shut out the media pressure that is already ramping up.

At the best of times these guys are under enormous pressure - and many of them are still in their early twenties - without the need of a Helmut Marko breathing down their necks, backed-up by a media seeking a 'good story'.

The kid has talent, what he must do is shut out the crap surrounding him and focus.

And talking of crap...

While Charles Leclerc did well to claim fourth on the grid, Ferrari looks set to be in for another long afternoon.

Sebastian Vettel, starting from tenth, has had a torrid weekend and the signs are that it won't get any better this afternoon.

There are no wins on the horizon for the Maranello outfit, and in all honesty from here on in it is going to be about saving face, which means fending off the likes of Racing Point and McLaren.

And this is where it gets really interesting, for the midfield is once again likely to be where it's all happening.

Norris, inspired by his home crowd (!?!), starts fifth alongside the equally ambitious Stroll. Like the Mercedes duo, these two should be worth watching on the first lap.

Then there's Sainz, Ricciardo, Ocon, Gasly and Albon... you couldn't script this stuff better. Then again maybe you could, you could add in Vettel and Nico Hulkenberg.

Sadly, Russell looks to be set nipping at the heels of those previously mentioned, while watching the Haas and Alfa Romeo duos battling in his mirrors.

Over the years we have witnessed some thrilling battles at Silverstone, and though today appears to be a foregone conclusion the circuit can still spring a surprise.

Amidst talk of a second wave or the coronavirus - though in this writer's view we are merely still experiencing the first wave which wasn't dealt with correctly - though we miss the sights and sounds of the fans... even those bloody fried onions, there is no doubt that the circuit is changing.

First fans were banished from the infield in order to make more room for the hospitality crowd, now we lose more space to a hotel and luxury apartments.

Seeing as the Silverstone management seems so intent on driving out the real fans, perhaps it should take some time out this afternoon to witness the dystopian future of the sport should they get their apparent wish.

In terms of tyre strategy, theoretically the quickest is a one-stopper, assuming that temperatures remain similar to Saturday. The fastest way is to start on the softs for 18 to 22 laps and then move onto the hards until the end.

Second-fastest is a two-stopper, also starting on the softs. After 16 to 18 laps switch to the softs again for another 16 to 18 lap stint, before going onto the mediums until the end. Hards can be used as an alternative to the mediums: either for the middle or the final stint.

Third-quickest is a different one-stopper: starting on the mediums for 21 to 24 laps, then hards to the end. It's not advisable to do a soft-medium one-stopper, as tyre wear then becomes too marginal.

To add some spice, Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc and Stroll - the first five - are starting on mediums while the rest of the top ten are on softs.

The pitlane opens and one by one the drivers head out, no doubt, after last week's antics, Max will be keen to keep it on the black stuff.

Air temperature is 20.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 41.3 degrees.

There appears to be some sort of issue with Hulkenberg, mechanics working on the car in the Racing Point garage. With the pitlane closed the German is going to have to start from the pitlane. Not the fairy-tale start he will have been looking for.

Problems for Hamilton also it would appear... "my drink bottle is leaking," he reports, "out of the top."

The drivers gather for the anti-racism gesture which has been organised by the FIA and F1 following the shambles witnessed in Hungary.

Having attended the gesture, Hulkenberg heads back to his garage, however it is not looking good for the German. Indeed, the car is pushed to one side, the Hulk will not be starting.

"Gutted, absolutely gutted," tweets the team, while Red Bull tweets: "We can confirm that both drivers have arrived safely on the grid."

Other than Hamilton, Bottas, Verstappen, Leclerc and Stroll, Gasly, Albon, Magnussen, Giovinazzi, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Latifi, Kvyat and Russell start on the mediums. Just Norris, Sainz, Ricciardo, Ocon and Vettel start on the softs.

They head off on the warm-up lap, all getting away.

Track temperature is now 43 degrees and the air temperature 21 degrees.

Hamilton takes his place on the grid as his rivals slot into place behind him.

They're away!

Check out our Race Day gallery from Silverstone, here.

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READERS COMMENTS

 

1. Posted by Pavlo, 02/08/2020 23:57

"Yes, looks like a clear mistake from MB. They were lucky to get away with it.
One thing to notice - Mercedes eats tires more than all the others. With 2 cars it's not a coincidence."

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2. Posted by Jet Jockey, 02/08/2020 17:20

"Crazy ending!

Amazing control from Lewis finishing the last lap with a de-laminated front tire.

I'm left wondering why MB did not pit Lewis like Red Bull did for Max... It was going to be a "free" stop anyway (like Max's)... this was the safe thing to due considering Lewis was also reporting vibrations and he could have also had the fastest lap.

Feel terrible for Nico... He never seems to get a break in F1."

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