From zero to hero for Lewis
On the Wednesday evening before last weekend’s Formula 1 British Grand Prix all teams and every current driver except Lewis Hamilton took part in a superb free promotional event in London’s Trafalgar Square and Whitehall, organised by F1’s new owners Liberty Media. Hamilton understandably incurred the wrath of fans present for refusing to attend and go on holiday instead, being booed when his name was mentioned.
However, just days later at Silverstone the British three time world champion still received a warm reception from many of his fans and went from zero to hero for them as he added another pole position and race victory to his CV.
Hamilton’s Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas had been quickest in both opening practice sessions before Lewis topped the timesheets in final practice. Come qualifying, he claimed pole position for the following day’s Grand Prix ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen and Sebastian Vettel. A turbo failure during the first part of qualifying meant Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo would have to start near the back of the field, close to McLaren’s Fernando Alonso who suffered a 30 place grid penalty due to further technical woes with his car. The popular Spaniard received a rapturous reception though from the appreciative fans after being quickest in the same first section of qualifying.
Silverstone may well have its issues regarding future retention of the British Grand Prix for financial reasons, but it again organised the annual F1 extravaganza superbly and as the clock ticked down towards the 1pm race start time there was a great atmosphere around the circuit and packed grandstands and general entry areas full of fans for all the leading drivers and teams oozed with anticipation and a palpable excitement.
Sadly for British fans there was unwelcome drama on the green flag lap as the drivers headed round the track to form up for the race start when Renault’s unlucky Jolyon Palmer ground to a halt with a hydraulics problem, which meant he never even got to compete in the Grand Prix. Recovery of his stricken car necessitated an aborted start and another formation lap before the red lights went out and the Grand Prix could begin.
The pace of the Mercedes cars had proved better than everyone else all weekend and polesitter Hamilton sprinted into an immediate lead which he was never to relinquish, ahead of Räikkönen, Red Bull’s fast starting Max Verstappen and Vettel. Bottas had qualified fourth fastest, but a five place grid penalty for a premature gearbox change meant he had to start ninth and fight his way through the field.
As the race progressed it soon became clear that Räikkönen was likely to be the only serious challenger to the frontrunning Hamiton and by lap 40 of the 51 lap race distance the order up front was Hamilton ahead of Räikkönen, Vettel and Bottas. Valtteri was closing of Seb though and three tours later his silver Mercedes swept past the red Ferrari to take third place.
With the Grand Prix heading towards its conclusion Kimi suffered a front left puncture which forced him to the pits for a replacement, promoting Valtteri to second position ahead of Seb. However, worse was to follow for Ferrari as soon after exactly the same tyre problem occurred for Vettel, dropping him down the order to finish seventh.
As the chequered flag flew Hamilton and Bottas claimed the top two steps on the podium ahead of Räikkönen, whilst Verstappen beat a recovering Ricciardo to fourth place ahead of Renault’s Nico Hülkenberg and Vettel. In the Force India intra-team battle Esteban Ocon beat Sergio Perez to eighth place, with Williams’ Felipe Massa completing the top ten.
This left Vettel leading Hamilton by a single point in the drivers’ title fight and Mercedes ahead of Ferrari and Red Bull in the constructors’ championship as they head to the Hungaroring outside Budapest in two weeks’ time. It’s a great city with a wonderful little race track in the nearby countryside and I hope you will join me there shortly.
2017 F1 British Grand Prix Results
1 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1hr21m27.430s
2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +14.063s
3 Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +36.570s
4 Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +52.125s
5 Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +1m05.955s
6 Nico Hülkenberg (Renault) +1m08.109s
7 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +1m33.989s
8 Esteban Ocon (Force India) Lapped
9 Sergio Perez (Force India) Lapped
10 Felipe Massa (Williams) Lapped
11 Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) Lapped
12 Kevin Magnussen (Haas) Lapped
13 Romain Grosjean (Haas) Lapped
14 Marcus Ericsson (Sauber) Lapped
15 Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) Lapped
16 Lance Stroll (Williams) Lapped
17 Pascal Wehrlein (Sauber) Lapped
18 Fernando Alonso (McLaren) Retired
19 Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) Retired
20 Jolyon Palmer (Renault) Did not start
2017 F1 Drivers’ Championship (after 10 rounds of 20)
1 Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) 177 points
2 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 176 points
3 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) 154 points
2017 F1 Constructors’ Championship (after 10 rounds of 20)
1 Mercedes 330 points
2 Ferrari 275 points
3 Red Bull 174 points
By Graham Read