Tyre gamble pays off for Verstappen

09/08/2020
NEWS STORY

OK, we admit it, we are hoping that Nico Hulkenberg doesn't finish on the podium this afternoon.

Nothing personal, you understand, it's just that we are heartily sick to death at present of writing about Racing Point.

Be it 'duct-gate', the 99% certainty that Sergio Perez will drive in Spain or the countless other stories concerning Otmar Szafnauer, Lawrence Stroll or Aston Martin, we are sick of the bloody name.

Then there's Mercedes and Toto...

If nothing else, whilst we're getting things off our chest, might Valtteri Bottas be allowed to win this weekend, if only to give some faint hope that Lewis might actually have a fight on his hands as he cruises towards that seventh title.

Sadly, the timing of the Finn's new one-year deal is eerily reminiscent of the new deal agreed by Rubens Barrichello on the Friday of the infamous 2002 Austrian Grand Prix.

Other than 'The Hulk's' possible fairy-tale, the other big talking point going into today's race is whether Max Verstappen has gone the right way in qualifying on the hards.

It's a big gamble, as the Dutchman admits, and it's going to be fascinating to see if it pays off.

Thankfully, it's actually an interesting grid today, for other than Verstappen on those white-banded tyres, we have Hulkenberg starting third, Ricciardo fifth, Stroll sixth and Gasly seventh. Throw in Leclerc starting from eighth, just ahead of Albon and Norris, not to mention Sainz, Ocon and Kvyat all starting out of position and you have the makings of an epic opening lap.

You'll note that we don't mention Seb, be it "starting out of position" or even from eleventh, this is because the German isn't here today.

Yes, he's sitting in his car, but his heart isn't in it.

Something has gone badly wrong and it is clear that the 'marriage' has fallen apart. Whatever his involvement with 'that other team', we don't think the four-time champion is tired of the sport, merely out of love with Ferrari. It happens.

Sadly, his former teammate, Kimi, is going through an equally bad patch, as Alfa struggles to hold on to the shirt tails of the midfield.

In light of last week's dramas it is going to be interesting - an understatement - to see how the softer compounds bear up today. However, are we alone in thinking it somewhat na´ve of Pirelli to believe that the teams will use 'common sense' in terms of tyre strategy and go for a two-stop strategy as opposed to the "unadvisable" one-stopper?

As we say, Pirelli says a one-stop strategy is unadvisable, so a two-stopper is set to be the strategy. The quickest depends on track temperature and resulting wear on the medium tyre, but optimally it would be to do two stints on the mediums of 15 laps each and then a final stint on the hards of 22 laps.

Alternatively, 12 laps on the mediums, followed by two stints of 20 laps each on the hards.

The second-quickest strategy is to start on the hards with two stints of 23 laps each, then finish on the softs.

Close to that is a two-stopper with 19 laps on the mediums, 25 laps on the hards and eight laps on the soft, though the hard and the medium stints can be swapped.

Going into this afternoon, one weekend F1 is making the very most of this being the sport's 70th birthday - Mike Lawrence look away now - it's so sad that Liberty has once again opted to take every opportunity possible to make a bit of cash.

Up until Saturday evening, this weekend's race was officially named the 2020 FIA Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Then, on Saturday evening it quietly morphed into the Emirates Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix 2020.

We'd accuse Liberty of selling the sport's birthright, but when they can't even get the name of a two-time world champion, and arguably one of the sport's finest, right...

The pitlane opens and the drivers begin making their way to the grid. The good news is that among them is Hulkenberg, who has now covered more distance than he did seven days ago.

"Bring another helmet," asks Sainz, "this one has some painting on my visor and I cannot see." What will that rascal Lando think of next?

Air temperature is 23.8 degrees C, while the track temperature is 42.1. It is bright and sunny and considerably warmer than last weekend.

"Car felt a bit on the nose, what with the wind," reports Russell.

Of the top ten starters, all are on mediums bar Verstappen, also on the yellow-banded rubber are Sainz, Grosjean, Ocon, Russell, Magnussen, Latifi and Giovinazzi. Like Verstappen, Vettel, Sainz, Kvyat and Raikkonen start on hards.

Bottas leads the field away on the warm-up lap.

"I think my drink tube is blocked," reports Verstappen.

They're away. Bottas and Hamilton get away well, the Briton slotting in behind his teammate for Turn 1. Despite those hards, Verstappen gets the jump on Hulkenberg, while Ricciardo holds off Stroll and Norris gets ahead of Albon.

Stroll gets ahead of Ricciardo in Turn 5, while further back Vettel has spun, the German losing the rear of the Ferrari after running over the kerb while trying to avoid his (slow) teammate in T1. He drops to last.

The two Mercedes are side-by-side in Brooklands, but Bottas holds firm.

While Vettel is running last, teammate Leclerc is a sitting duck as drivers pass him with ease, dropping the Ferrari to tenth and under intense pressure from Sainz who is eleventh.

At the end of lap 1, it's: Bottas, Hamilton, Verstappen, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Ricciardo, Gasly, Norris, Albon and Leclerc.

Lap sees Bottas post fastest lap as he builds a 0.066s lead over Hamilton who is 2.2s clear of Verstappen.

The field settles down much like last week, the only difference being that the leading pair are reversed.

After just 5 laps, Bottas is being told that his front-left tyre temp is critical. And that's while running in clear air.

Albon pits at the end of lap 6, the Thai switching to hards. He rejoins in last position.

Verstappen already reporting fears over his front-left, though he is maintaining a good pace.

Gasly and Giovinazzi pit at the end of lap 7.

Russell pits at the end of lap 8, thereby freeing up Vettel who was running behind and seemingly unable to make a dent on the Williams.

"We are still Plan A," Hulkenberg is told, "we're on target."

Magnussen and Latifi pit at the end of lap 9.

"We're a little bit close for tyres," Verstappen is told, "pull back". "Mate," the Dutchman replies, "this is the only chance of being close to the Mercedes, I'm not just going to be sitting here like a Grandma."

Indeed, the Red Bull driver closes on Hamilton.

The rear tyres on Hamilton's Mercedes are clearly blistered.

Norris pits at the end of lap 12, the McLaren driver rejoining in 13th, behind Vettel.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Silverstone, here.

Verstappen is all over Hamilton, as Bottas builds a 2.169s lead.

At which point Bottas pits, rejoining in 6th on hards.

Next time around, at the end of lap 13, Hamilton pits. The Briton rejoins in 6thm behind Leclerc, as Ricciardo also pits.

Brave stuff from Albon as he battles Raikkonen, the Finn giving no quarter as the Thai driver passes around the outside in Stowe.

Hulkenberg pits at the end of lap 15, rejoining in 7th.

After 16 laps, Verstappen leads Stroll by 10.7s, with Bottas a further 2.2s behind and then Hamilton, 3.6s down on the Finn.

As Vettel battle Grosjean for 11th, Verstappen says he feels his tyres are OK and that he's managing them. The Frenchman subsequently pits.

Magnussen battling with Latifi as only the Dane knows how.

At the end of lap 18, Stroll and Leclerc both pit. The Canadian rejoins in 6th and the Monegasque 12th.

When Albon tries a 'Kimi-style' move on Gasly, the Frenchman is having absolutely none of it.

The incident involving Latifi and Magnussen has been noted.

Leclerc and Norris battle for 10th, the Ferrari driver out-brakes the McLaren, but Norris retakes the position only for the Monegasque to take it straight back.

Both Mercedes are already suffering tyre issues.

"Verstappen is the real threat here if he is one-stopping," Hamilton is warned.

Albon nails Gasly coming out of Woodcote on the run to Copse.

"My tyres feel good mate," reports Verstappen, "all good."

Sainz pits at the end of lap 22, as do Ocon and Vettel. It's a poor stop for the Spaniard who rejoins in 13th.

"Rears, fronts, I don't know what's going on," complains Norris. "You're still doing a great job," he is told, "nett P8 is on the table."

Lap 23 sees Gasly make his second stop of the afternoon.

Appears to have been a left-front wheelgun issue during Sainz' pit stop.

As Verstappen is told to "push", Hamilton, who is now a pit stop behind, reports a band down the middle of his front-left.

Sainz is assured that his wheels are "all tight", following that pit stop.

At the end of lap 26, Verstappen pits. He switches to mediums, rejoining in second behind Bottas. However, just a few corners later the Finn is unable to offer any resistance when the Red Bull attacks.

Meanwhile, Magnussen gets a 5s penalty for the incident involving Latifi.

After 27 laps, with everyone having stopped, Verstappen leads Bottas, Hamilton, Hulkenberg, Stroll, Leclerc, Norris, Albon, Ocon and Kvyat.

"He must have less pressure in his tyres or something," says Hamilton of Verstappen.

As Albon sweeps past Norris in Stowe, Vettel voices his frustration at his team's strategy.

"Pick up the pace," Bottas is told, "we have Leclerc in our window."

Norris stops again at the end of lap 29, as Leclerc posts a new fastest lap (30.668).

"Forget the tyre management, just go as fast as you can within the tyre limitations," Verstappen is told.

Hulkenberg and Albon both pit at the end of lap 30.

A spin for Ricciardo in Village which drops the Australian to 12th. Replay suggests Sainz might have been involved.

Stroll pits at the end of lap 31.

Verstappen pits at the end of lap 32, as does Bottas, both now on hards. They rejoin in second (Verstappen) and third (Bottas), around 11s down on Hamilton.

Hamilton unhappy with his car, particularly the left-rear. Slo-mo shows the tyres looking well beyond their 'sell by'.

Vettel pits at the end of lap 33, the German sticking with mediums. Giovinazzi also stops.

Hamilton asks about his previous set of tyres. "There is still some rubber remaining," he is told.

Sainz pits at the end of lap 34, the Spaniard rejoining in 13th.

As Ricciardo and Kvyat pit, Albon passes Ocon to take 7th.

"The tyre is not going to blow?" Hamilton asks. "We think it's safe," he is told

Think it's safe?

Albon is warned to stop exceeding the track limits at Turn 15. The Thai driver subsequently posts a new fastest lap (30.103).

After 39 laps, it's Hamilton, Verstappen (+ 10.3), Bottas (+ 2.7), Leclerc (+ 1.6), Hulkenberg (+ 14.7), Stroll (+ 1.7). All are on hard, with Hamilton and Leclerc having pitted only once.

Vettel has had two lap times deleted after running wide at Turn 15.

"Raving Points tyres are the same age as your," but you are eight-tenths quicker than them," Albon is told. He is currently 12.9s down on sixth-placed Stroll.

At the end of lap 41, Hamilton pits, the Briton leaving it very, very late before slowing in the pitlane. He rejoins in fourth, 6.8s down on Leclerc, who surely has to stop again.

Another fastest lap for Albon (29.899), as he closes to 10.6s of Stroll.

"We need more tyre saving," Leclerc is told.

"Everything OK?" asks Hamilton, the world champion concerned that he may be in trouble for that pit lane misdemeanour.

The Briton posts a new fastest lap (28.451), as he closes to within 03.8s of Leclerc.

A late stop for Hulkenberg, the German switching to softs, the first time they've made an appearance today. He rejoins in seventh, 11.3s down on Albon.

Hamilton makes his move on Leclerc on the Hangar Straight, the Ferrari driver's defence a little questionable. Nonetheless, the world champion is through to take third.

Magnussen becomes the first retirement of the afternoon.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Silverstone, here.

With 5 laps remaining, Hamilton is 3.1s down on Bottas, who is 6.1s down on Verstappen.

Latifi pits at the end of lap 47, the Canadian rejoining in last position.

"You're free to race," Bottas is told, "just give yourself space."

Elsewhere, Albon is gaining on Stroll at a rate of knots.

Hamilton closes right in on his teammate. The Finn's tyres are shot, and despite his best efforts he is passed on the Wellington Straight.

Albon makes short work of Stroll to take 5th, however the 14s gap to Leclerc is an impossible task.

"Scenario 7, let's go get 'em," Norris is told. "I can't," he replies, "I've got no grip."

Shades of last week as Verstappen tells his engineer to hydrate and sanitise.

The Dutchman starts the last lap to score a historic - literally - win.

The youngster takes the flag, Red Bull's first win here since 2012 (Webber).

Hamilton is second, ahead of Bottas, Leclerc, Albon, Stroll, Hulkenberg, Ocon, Norris and Kvyat.

Gasly is eleventh, ahead of Vettel, Sainz, Ricciardo, Raikkonen, Grosjean, Giovinazzi, Russell and Latifi.

As Verstappen is congratulated by his team, the word "amazing" is used quite a lot. The team took a massive gamble in starting on the hard, but it paid off.

In the Mercedes garage, Toto Wolff's face is an absolute picture.

Not a classic by any stretch of the imagination, but a well-deserved win from Verstappen and Red Bull.

Ironic - or perhaps fitting - that a race dedicated to the history of the sport - yet barely paid genuine tribute to it - it all came down to tyre management, and calls made on Saturday afternoon.

Recalling those heady days of the 50s, one wonders what those shirt-sleeved men leaning into the corners would have made of it, not to mention their contemporaries from the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s.

Well, at least it wasn't another walkover for Lewis, or a fairy-tale podium for Hulkenberg, but we understand a certain Lawrence Stroll has issued a statement.

Wonder what that could be about.

Check out our Sunday gallery from Silverstone, here.

Article from Pitpass (http://www.pitpass.com):

Published: 09/08/2020
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