The title race is back on and we have many factors to thank for it. Unpunished indiscretions, tyre punctures, home advantage, and some marvelous driving all combined to make sure that at the end of the British Grand Prix, we have the mother of all championship battles on our hands.
Despite the familiar sight of Lewis Hamilton running out winner for the fourth straight year, there was no shortage of drama at the Silverstone track which will stop hosting the British Grand Prix after 2019. One driver who will be sad to see this track drop off the tour is Hamilton, such is his dominance here that nobody has been able to hang on to his coattails at his home track in the last four years.
Only a fool would have bet against Hamilton in Sunday’s race and he duly obliged, leading from start to finish in a routine win at about the same time another specialist in winning British titles wrapped up an eighth Wimbledon title to effectively end the debate on who the greatest of all time is.
Lest we digress though, back to Formula 1.
Qualifying was pretty straightforward and it offered a sign of things to come. Lewis Hamilton clinched the 67th pole position of his career, lapping more than half a second faster than his closest challenger, which leaves him just one short of the all time pole record set by Michael Schumacher.
The two Ferraris came in second and third, Kimi Raikonnen finishing ahead of Vettel his German teammate, a rare sight this season. Valtteri Bottas could only bring the other Mercedes home in fourth place and even at that, dropped to ninth position due to a five place penalty for a gearbox change. This promoted Max Verstappen, Red Bull’s beleaguered driver to fourth position on the starting grid.
Fernando Alonso continued to languish in his McLaren, bringing up the rear due to a thirty place grid penalty and he was joined at the back by Daniel Ricciardo, a regular face on the podium this season who had also incurred multiple grid penalties.
The major talking point from qualifying though was Hamilton escaping punishment for impeding Sebastian Grosjean. Despite Grosjean’s Haas team claiming he had lost more than 0.3 seconds, race stewards cleared the Mercedes driver of any wrongdoing after an investigation which posited that he had not cost the Haas driver anything.
Considering that Hamilton had already admitted guilt by apologising to Grosjean before the result of the investigation, it felt like a let off for Hamilton perhaps as compensation for the slap on the wrist punishment Vettel received for his own indiscretion in Azerbaijan. The FIA has shown once again that it is committed to ensuring that the championship is decided on the track rather than in a boardroom.
At Silverstone, Hamilton is without equal and he demonstrated this again with a display of near perfect driving that ensured he finished a massive fourteen seconds ahead of teammate Valtteri Bottas who kept his head through the drama behind to clinch another one two for Mercedes.
Kimi Raikonnen completed the podium while Max Verstappen came fourth, managing to complete a race safely for the first time in what feels like a million years. His teammate Daniel Ricciardo’s fifth position was mighty impressive considering he started from the rest and the Red Bull driver showed some astonishing overtaking skills in cutting through the field.
A major tectonic shift occurred in the title race though as championship leader Sebastian Vettel on course for a podium finish, ripped his front left tyre on the penultimate lap and could only come in seventh, as a result obliterating the massive points gap he had built over his Mercedes rival, Lewis Hamilton.
While Hamilton soaked up the adulation of the obviously bipartisan home crowd that turned out to cheer him to victory, Vettel was left ruing the unfortunate turn of events that has now surely put him under immense pressure.
What goes around comes around afterall.
It says a lot that no matter how talented a driver is, he is still at the mercy of his machine. For all of Hamilton’s dexterity behind the wheels, it took a tyre blowout by Vettel’s Ferrari for the Briton to make up the points deficit. From all appearances, mechanical faults or the lack of them will have a huge say in who wins the drivers’ title this season.
With Sebastian Vettel now only leading Lewis Hamilton by a single point, the onus now lies on the mechanics of both teams to ensure the reliability of their cars so that the drivers can race as they were meant to do.
Races may be won on the track, but titles are won in the garage.
With the season just about reaching its halfway point, the race for the constructors title is as good as over.
Another one two finish for Mercedes helped extend its lead over second placed Ferrari to fifty-five points and the gap looks like it will only get bigger.
For all of Ferrari’s improvement this season, Mercedes still has the best car on the tour and in Valtteri Bottas, has found an able replacement for Nico Rosberg without the baggage of animosity between their drivers that sometimes held the team back last season.
Barring any unforseen developments, expect Mercedes to canter to the constructors title with many races to spare.
The Formula 1 season moves to Hungary in two weeks at a track where Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton has some history. No driver has won the Hungarian Grand Prix more than the five times Hamilton has won it, with Michael Schumacher the closest at four.
Hamilton won the race last season but Sebastian Vettel can take solace in the fact that he won at Hungaroring in 2015 despite Lewis Hamilton starting on pole.
With the title race now finely poised on a knife edge, you can expect fireworks when the cars take to the track in two weeks.
@thegabwire is here to keep you abreast of the happenings. Don’t miss out.