Sebastian Vettel won an action-packed British Grand Prix at Silverstone yesterday to increase his Formula 1 championship lead over Lewis Hamilton to eight points.
But the race was dominated by a third-corner collision between Hamilton and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen that sent the Brit to the back of the field and led to accusations of skulduggery after the chequered flag.
The incident also prompted a stunning charge from Hamilton, who roared back from last place to finish second and minimise the damage to his title prospects.
Hamilton began the day hoping for an unprecedented sixth Silverstone triumph, but soon found himself in dire straits. He started badly from pole position and had been passed by both Vettel and Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas before the coming together with Raikkonen.
But despite finding himself at the back of the field Hamilton roared back into contention, helped by a safety car and some bold tactics from Mercedes, and held on to finish second, although he was clearly still furious after the race.
Here’s what we learnt from the F1 British GP…
Gloves are off for Ferrari and Mercedes
The third-corner collision between Raikkonen and Hamilton was the key moment of the grand prix and afterwards the British driver, who refused to be interviewed immediately after the race, accused Ferrari of “interesting tactics” and noted it was the second time a Ferrari has “taken out” a Mercedes this season.
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff went even further, suggesting that the collision was either deliberate or down to “incompetence”. “I’m not comfortable at all,” he said. “It’s tiresome to be taken out on the first lap.”
Ferrari brushed off the complaints, but the gloves are now off between the two teams.
Oliver Brown of The Daily ` writes: “Whatever Ferrari’s true motive was, the ferocious fighting under turquoise Silverstone skies propelled Hamilton’s contest with Vettel into the next dimension. If their tussle has been largely civil so far this season, the ill will brewing between F1’s two most dominant teams suggests that battles in the 11 races to come could be anything but.”
Hamilton should be proud
The F1 world champion cut a forlorn figure after the race but he should be proud of his drive after coming from the back of the field to claim second.
“Hamilton’s recovery drive was as good a comeback as any he has managed but it was not the record-breaking sixth win he had been hoping for and with a Ferrari hitting a Mercedes for the second time in three races he was far from happy,” says Giles Richards in The Guardian.
Website PlanetF1 names him driver of the day and says: “Hamilton was clearly down in the dumps after the incident, but his recovery drive was an incredible one with ridiculously quick pace throughout the rest of the afternoon.
“While he will be incredibly frustrated not to get back to winning ways at his beloved Silverstone, he can take a lot of heart from his performance – the end result could have been a lot worse than P2. We have seen the very best of both title rivals this weekend.”
Mercedes tactics in the spotlight
Mercedes found their tactics under scrutiny yet again at Silverstone after leaving both drivers out on the track after Marcus Ericsson’s late crash led to the safety car being deployed.
Ferrari and Red Bull both took the chance to change their tyres but Mercedes opted to leave their drivers out on the track.
“The decision promoted Bottas, who had run second from the start, to the lead ahead of Vettel, while it gained Hamilton two places on the track, propelling him to third ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Raikkonen,” says Andrew Benson of the BBC.
“It was a gamble that paid off for the Briton – winning him crucial points in his title fight with Vettel and limiting the damage that could have been caused after the first lap – but failed with Bottas, who ran out of tyres and was passed by Vettel, Hamilton and Raikkonen before the end of the race.”
Top teams are in a different league
Hamilton’s charge up the field proved that he is a brilliant driver, but also highlighted the difference between the engines in F1.
Hamilton’s Mercedes was far too fast for the cars at the back of the field and the ease with which he passed them could be a cause for concern.
“Ferrari, Red Bull and Mercedes are in a different league to the other teams, their speed so superior that Formula 1 is a two-tier championship,” says Rebecca Clancy in The Times.
Safety still a priority
The incident that led to the first safety car was a shocking crash for Sauber’s Ericsson, who lost control at 180mph and ploughed into a tyre wall. There was a delay before the Swede emerged from his car, but the fact he did so apparently unharmed speaks volumes for the improvements in safety in F1.
“As speeds in F1 continue to rise, particularly in the corners, it’s imperative that safety remains at the forefront of the sport,” says The Independent.
“We’ve seen this with the ‘Halo’ device already this season, with the tethers that kept the wheels of Ericsson’s Sauber attached and countless technological advances that makes F1 such a safe place in the modern day, and Sunday was certainly a day to be thankful for how far the sport has come.”