The best car in Formula One is not enough to win the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Instead, it is the best strategy on the best tyres that allows the number-two team, Red Bull, to scoop top prize.
While the Mercedes-Benzes are frying their tyres, and their drivers are forced to play safe to prevent the blow-outs that destroyed their efforts a week earlier on the same circuit, Max Verstappen makes his Pirelli tyres work to perfection for an historic win as he jokingly reminds his race engineer to sanitise his hands while flying at the front.
“When you are able to overtake and pull away from a Mercedes it is really satisfying,” says Verstappen.
“I love that we never give up and do take risks.”
It’s the first success at Silverstone for Red Bull since Mark Webber lifted the big prize in 2012 and 2010, when he famously told the world “Not bad for a number two driver” over the team radio after being pushed aside in favour of youngster Sebastian Vettel.
This win is Verstappen’s first for the year and also the first of 2020 for Red Bull, as the normally polished Black Arrows team of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas are left looking ragged after struggling for the most part with tyre degradation despite another front row lock-out in qualifying, this time with Bottas on pole in a psychological success at Hamilton’s home track.
“There was nothing you could do. A real shock,” says Hamilton.
“It was such a difficult race. I love a challenge but it was just an unexpected challenge.
“Last week we had understeer and were struggling with more front tyres blistering and then this weekend it was the complete opposite.”
Hamilton went into the weekend with a 30-point championship buffer to Bottas and left leading by the same margin, except this time to Verstappen with 107 to Max’s 77 and Valtteri on 73.
“What an amazing race. This is what you get when you keep pushing. I think we did everything perfect today,” says Verstappen.
“Of course, I hope this will happen a lot more throughout the season and we’ll keep pushing them hard even though they have been the dominant team up until now.”
Red Bull’s race-winning gamble began a day ahead of the landmark GP when the team chose to run hard-compound Pirelli rubber for qualifying, and the race start.
So, as the Benzes pit to replace worn-out rubber, Verstappen explodes from fourth place with better speed and better tyre wear to dominate through his later stops.
When he is warned to slow and protect his tyres, the message back to the pits is simple.
“Mate, this is the only chance of being close to the Mercedes’, I’m not just sitting behind like a grandma,” he says.
It is a tough day for all the Mercedes-powered cars as the two Racing Points struggle despite Nico Hulkenberg’s impressive third qualifying position. While he had the one-lap pace, being out of a cockpit for nine months catches up and his neck fatigues from the high cornering G-forces mid-way through as the car also hurts his tyres.
“It wasn’t an easy race, and it was tough physically. Unfortunately, we had to pit again and move onto a three-stop strategy because there were some vibrations, and we needed to make sure I could make it to the finish,” says The Hulk.
Ferrari, once again, looks like a one-car team as Charles Leclerc battles through to fourth as his dispirited and departing team mate Sebastian Vettel spins at the first turn and soldiers home in 12th, the same spot he started.
“Today feels like a victory, which is not something we like to say when we finish fourth. If you would have told me this morning that I could finish the race in my starting position in 8th, I would have signed immediately,” says Leclerc.
Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo goes backwards after what seemed like a promising start to the weekend with a third row qualifying slot. His 14th place is the result of four pit stops and a spin.
“Today was just one of those days where things got progressively worse. It was going okay at the beginning, maintaining sixth and hanging on to the cars ahead. Things got messy at Turn 3 and I lost the rear defending from Carlos Sainz and spun meaning the race was effectively done,” says Ricciardo.
“We have to accept it, take it on the chin and go again in Barcelona. It’s a frustrating one today, but there are lots of positives from the two weeks at Silverstone and we can draw on that looking forward.”
The final GP of the second triple-header this season is in Spain next weekend, where COVID-hit Sergio Perez is hoping he will be declared fit to get back into his Racing Point at the expense of super-sub Hulkenberg to pick up the pieces of his shattered championship campaign.
70th ANNIVERSARY GRAND PRIX
|1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull|
|5||Alex Albon||Red Bull|
|6||Lance Stroll||Racing Point|
|7||Nico Hulkenberg||Racing Point|