Formula 1
Formula 1
11 Jun
-
14 Jun
FP1 in
70 days
25 Jun
-
28 Jun
FP1 in
84 days
02 Jul
-
05 Jul
FP1 in
91 days
16 Jul
-
19 Jul
FP1 in
105 days
R
Hungarian GP
30 Jul
-
02 Aug
FP1 in
119 days
27 Aug
-
30 Aug
FP1 in
147 days
03 Sep
-
06 Sep
FP1 in
154 days
R
Singapore GP
17 Sep
-
20 Sep
FP1 in
168 days
24 Sep
-
27 Sep
FP1 in
175 days
R
United States GP
22 Oct
-
25 Oct
FP1 in
203 days
29 Oct
-
01 Nov
FP1 in
210 days
R
Brazilian GP
12 Nov
-
15 Nov
FP1 in
224 days
R
Abu Dhabi GP
26 Nov
-
29 Nov
FP1 in
238 days

Analysis: Why Hamilton was an unstoppable force at British GP

shares
comments
Analysis: Why Hamilton was an unstoppable force at British GP
By:
Jul 11, 2016, 10:39 AM

Lewis Hamilton was determined to own the British Grand Prix and, right from Friday, he showed he was in a class apart. Adam Cooper reviews the world champion's flawless weekend at home.

Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12 and Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid battle for position
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid leads behind the FIA Safety Car
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Valtteri Bottas, Williams FW38
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07 and Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 W07
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12
The podium (L to R): Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1, second; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, race winner; Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, third
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 on the podium
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 with Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing in parc ferme
Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull Racing with team mate Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing RB12 in parc ferme
The post race FIA Press Conference (L to R): Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1; Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing
The podium (L to R): Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1, second; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, race winner; Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, third
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with the fans
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates with the fans
The podium (L to R): Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1, second; Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1, race winner; Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, third
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 W07 Hybrid
Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 on the Silverstone Stage
Jolyon Palmer, Renault Sport F1 Team with Tony Jardine, on the Silverstone Stage
Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates his second position with the champagne on the podium
Race winner Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes AMG F1 celebrates on the podium with team mate Nico Rosberg, Mercedes AMG F1

It remains to be seen whether Lewis Hamilton has gained seven or 10 points on his teammate, but either way Silverstone was a spectacular win for the local hero, and as we approach the halfway point of the season, he clearly has the momentum.

The race also provided yet more proof of Max Verstappen's precocious talent.

Winning Spain and finishing runner-up in Austria as best of the rest was one thing, but this time he had the gall to pass a Mercedes, and the racing chops to keep it behind for many laps.

If Nico Rosberg's penalty stands, few outside the Brackley camp would begrudge the bonus it gave the Dutchman.

Usually, a downpour just before the start of a grand prix is like a spin of a roulette wheel, but anyone hoping that the rain might just trip up Mercedes and give others a chance was to be disappointed.

These days, a start behind the safety car is the default choice of race control, and that made Hamilton's life a lot easier.

His starts haven't always been great this year, and after qualifying Rosberg had cited getting off the grid better as his biggest chance of getting ahead. That was gone.

So too was the prospect of seeing the two Mercedes drivers contesting the lead through the first few corners in the light of their new "rules of engagement." That will have to wait for Hungary.

The safety car running stretched out for a tedious five laps, and that was a little too much both for drivers and frustrated spectators. Hamilton was keen to get going, even directing a radio message to that effect at Charlie Whiting.

That extended running pushed the track towards intermediates. Drivers are obliged to stay on extreme wets while the safety car is out, and it was obvious that some would follow it in and change straight away at the green flag.

Nevertheless it was quite an unusual sight to see as many as 10 drivers make that choice when the safety car stopped at the end of lap five, the contingent led by fifth-placed Kimi Raikkonen.

Six more came in on the following lap, leaving just six drivers still out on the full wets, namely the top three qualifiers, Sergio Perez and the two Saubers.

It was logical for the leaders to stay out a bit longer – they had more to lose with an early stop and thus a more prudent choice made sense – but they then lucked in when Pascal Wehrlein's spin triggered a brief Virtual Safety Car.

Under a VSC, in theory, you can't lose or gain more than a few fractions to rivals on track, but you can gain if you make a pit stop, simply because, while you are being serviced, your rivals are moving more slowly than usual out on track.

"We lucked in with the VSC," Paddy Lowe told Motorsport.com. "It was a no-brainer. We were coming in anyway, but it was a perfect VSC, because you gain time at a pitstop."

Mercedes was able to stack Hamilton and Rosberg and service both of them, and that choice was made easier by the fact that Lewis had put in a storming first two laps.

He was 3.7s clear of Rosberg after the first flying lap and had added to that on the second before they came in. That gap made it easy to service both men without compromising Rosberg.

Perfect strategy

"I think the strategy calls today were spot-on," said Toto Wolff. "We got it perfectly right with the Virtual Safety Car, we got the lap right, and the stacking functioned because the stacking gap you need to have is four seconds. and this is exactly what we had. It just happened just in the right way."

All those who stayed out gained time on the rest, none more that Perez, who had started 10th but was now a genuine fourth.

The Mercedes drivers had been given an extra cushion to most of the field, and Daniel Ricciardo lost a clear 10 seconds to teammate Verstappen. In other words, that VSC did nothing to help the show.

Hamilton had the benefit of a clear track, but over that stint on inters he initially didn't pull away from Rosberg, with the gap hovering around the 4.5-5.0s mark. As the track dried, graining became an issue, and Rosberg began to get a hard time from Verstappen, who was doing a great job.

"I think that the chassis becomes a more predominant factor in those conditions," said Christian Horner.

"Obviously the straights becomes shorter and the corners become longer. I think we've seen so many times, when it is wet or damp, that the car is very, very strong. And I think that we are just crying out for a wet race, really..."

Things became more interesting as the intermediates reached the end of their useful life.

"Our two had got a lot of graining by that point, so they'd more lost the tyre than track conditions," said Lowe. "Half the track was almost dry, that was the problem, and half was still full of a lot of standing water."

"Everybody was suffering with graining," said Wolff. "But it was about extending the stint on the inters to make sure not to put another inter on, obviously."

Now it was a question of who would be the first to roll the dice and go to slicks, and that man proved to be Sebastian Vettel.

He came in at the end of lap 15, leaving rivals to study his subsequent sector times. On the next lap Verstappen pulled off a spectacular passing move on Rosberg to claim second place. That gave Mercedes more food for thought on whether or not to come in, but still the team waited.

"It was simple, we just didn't think it was quick enough yet for inters," said Lowe. "We knew that a few people would take a gamble with it, but it wasn't quick enough."

Seven drivers made the call to pit on lap 16. Hamilton finally came in on lap 17, although Verstappen chose not to follow him. However, Rosberg and nine other drivers – everyone except Verstappen, basically – did pit. Once again, the gap allowed Mercedes to stack Hamilton and Rosberg without the German losing out.

Verstappen finally came in on lap 18. He retained second and hadn't really gained or lost to Lewis by staying out, so it was worth a punt, as Lowe noted: "Actually the crossover was reasonably gentle, because Verstappen made it work another lap."

"The reason we took the extra lap, and in hindsight we would have taken the lap earlier, was he was pushing on," said Horner. "And if Hamilton were to have an issue on his out-lap, then it was the safer tyre to be on in that in-lap. He wasn't going to get undercut by Rosberg. There was no real downside in it. And as you could see, Turn 1 was still pretty hairy for a lot of the cars."

However, over the pitstop sequence, Rosberg had lost around four seconds to both Hamilton and Verstappen, with a slower in-lap on his worn inters and out-lap and on his new mediums.

"I think he had more graining, earlier than Verstappen, you could see he lost a lot of time just on that one lap," said Lowe. "It was tyre condition rather than track condition that dominated."

Verstappen magic

Rosberg now had to work to regain that ground, and with Hamilton on his own out front, Rosberg's chase of Verstappen became the focus of the race. He gained some time when both Hamilton and Verstappen joined the list of drivers who had off track moments at Turn 1.

A little Dutch magic may have helped in the damp conditions, but in the dry it was inevitable that the superiority of the Mercedes would allow Rosberg to close the gap to the Red Bull. Post the stops it took Nico around 12 laps to erode what was initially a 4.4s gap, and he was on Verstappen's tail on lap 30.

At around the lap-35 mark, Verstappen reported that he was struggling with the rear. "The tyres went through phases," said Horner. "I think his pace was pretty strong throughout the race. It's just as the track dried out, the Mercedes got stronger and stronger."

Nevertheless, having caught the Dutchman, Rosberg took some eight laps to get by as, once again, Verstappen showed his class.

"His racecraft is spectacular, the way he positions the car," said Wolff. "You can see that, when he has a good car underneath him, he is able to pull off a great fight. The Red Bull car in general is a car that functions very well in the wet, with a lot of drag."

"It was good entertainment!," said Lowe. "Unfortunately, and we saw this in Canada, Max is a very good defender. He picks that really terrible position down the straight where it doesn't work to go left or right.

"He did exactly the same in Canada, and I was very impressed. You saw it again today. There was a point when Nico complained, because he'd moved twice, but then nothing came of that. Then eventually Nico got past in a really great manoeuvre."

When Rosberg finally got past Verstappen on lap 38, he was 8.7s behind Hamilton, and we had some 14 laps to go.

The question at this point was whether or not the main contenders would get to the end on their original sets of mediums, which would mean running 35 laps in the case of the Mercedes drivers, or 34 for Verstappen.

The pre-race Pirelli recommendation had been 28, but those early laps on a still-damp track had in effect extended the life of everyone's tyres.

"There's very little to report for Lewis," Lowe noted. "He managed the margin, he put in laps when he needed to.

"There was a question mark throughout the race as to whether we needed to stop for another slick tyre, but even there it was clear we wouldn't have to jump first, we would cover whatever Red Bull did."

Hamilton himself said he had things under control: "I did, apart from that one little oversteer moment at Turn 1. I got the car in the right position this weekend balance-wise and set-up-wise, and it was a dream to drive.

"It's everything a racing driver could have wanted to have in a car, and to be able to dial in the car to feel comfortable, [with a] really beautiful balance… And I felt I had it all under control in those conditions, so pretty awesome."

Radio controversy

Things were far from straightforward for his teammate. It was at the end of lap 46 and the start of lap 47 that frantic radio messages alerted the world to Rosberg's gearbox issue. Suddenly, he lost around 5s and was under pressure from Max once more.

"He was stuck in seventh," said Lowe. "It happened very quickly. We think it was a hydraulic problem, so he had to drive the rest of the race not using seventh, just going through it as quickly as possible. It just means you lose some lap time, especially going up the box, you're missing out some of the optimum engine performance.

"It took him a couple of laps to find his rhythm doing that, during which Max gained and got as low as 1.3s on the gap, but then Nico managed to stabilise it around 1.5s, and we finished like that. It was a bit of a nerve-wracking final five laps."

In the end, he made it across the line safely clear of Verstappen. Inevitably, the radio chat had caught the attention of the FIA, and after a few hours of deliberation, the FIA stewards handed him a 10-second penalty, which dropped him to third.

The rights and wrongs of that decision are covered elsewhere, and the result remains in question as the team has lodged an intention to appeal.

Second and third places may be in doubt, but there was no question about the winner. This was another stunning performance from Hamilton, who has all but clawed back the massive point deficit he faced after Rosberg won the first four races.

There's still a long way to go, but Baku aside, everything has gone his way since that Barcelona collision.

"Today we saw a Lewis who was very confident, who was extremely focused and calm," said Wolff.

"And on a day like this, Lewis Hamilton is unstoppable. I think that is what we have seen today."

Next article
Pirelli announces US GP compound choices

Previous article

Pirelli announces US GP compound choices

Next article

Full line-up: Silverstone Formula 1 test

Full line-up: Silverstone Formula 1 test
Load comments