Vettel claims epic Silverstone win after British GP thriller – Race Report

British Grand Prix – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has taken victory at Silverstone, after an epic duel to the flag with the two Mercedes drivers.

Sebastian Vettel has taken the race win at Silverstone, having had to go out and take it back from Mercedes after a mid-race Safety Car changed the complexion of the race.

Vettel took the lead off the line after a slow start from Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes. Hamilton, lacking momentum through the opening complex came under attack from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari, with the pair making contact through Turn 3. Hamilton was spun off the track by the Ferrari’s left front, while Raikkonen was able to continue. This left Vettel leading Valtteri Bottas and the Red Bull of Max Verstappen, with Raikkonen & Ricciardo running P4 & P5.

Lewis Hamilton quickly set about recovering ground after falling to last, passing the Williams and Stoffel Vandoorne in the opening laps. By Lap 6, he was attacking Fernando Alonso’s McLaren, passing him and Haas’ Kevin Magnussen in a single lap to get back into the points. He then hunted down Force India’s Esteban Ocon, and Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. By Lap 10, he caught Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and was back up to P6.

By this point, Vettel had increased his lead over Bottas to around 5 seconds, with Verstappen around five seconds behind the Mercedes. Raikkonen, cooped up behind the Red Bull and complaining about an inability to get past the Dutch driver, had his day to from bad to worse. His Lap 1 collision with Hamilton was investigated, with the Finn given a ten second time penalty. He served this when he was the first of the frontrunners to pit and take on the Medium tyres. It appeared that the Ferrari driver committed to a two stop strategy as he immediately set about passing the cars that got ahead of him through the pitstop sequence, setting fastest lap after fastest lap as he caught back up on the leaders.

Verstappen was the first of the top three to pit, coming out again ahead of Raikkonen when he pitted by around 6.5 seconds – proving the Ferrari was the quicker car as Raikkonen would have cleared the Red Bull had the penalty not occurred. When Daniel Ricciardo pitted from P3, he came back out between Verstappen & Raikkonen, with Raikkonen getting trapped behind the Red Bulls again.

Up front, Vettel’s lead over Bottas had shrunk to around 3 seconds when the Ferrari pitted. Coming out ahead of the recovering Hamilton, Vettel resumed the lead when Bottas pitted a lap later. Vettel gained through this pitstop sequence, increasing his lead back up to around 5.5 seconds. Hamilton, still running on the tyres he started the race on, allowed Bottas through into P2 and pitted on Lap 25 for his fresh Medium tyres.

After all the front-runners had pitted, Vettel led by 5 seconds over Bottas, Verstappen, Ricciardo, Raikkonen & Hamilton, but the race essentially reset on Lap 33. Marcus Ericsson flew off the track at Turn 1 in his Sauber, impacting the tyre barrier and bringing out the Safety Car. Valtteri Bottas didn’t pit, nor did Lewis Hamilton, but the two Ferraris & Verstappen did. Daniel Ricciardo was a big loser of this Safety Car, having made his second stop just three laps before the Safety Car, resulting in him falling to P6. After the Safety Car, this left Bottas, on older Medium tyres, holding off Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on a fresh set of Soft tyres. Hamilton was P3, also on slightly used Mediums, with the Verstappen & Kimi Raikkonen also armed on fresh Soft tyres behind him.

Raikkonen immediately attacked Verstappen and passed the Red Bull, but a brilliant fightback from Verstappen saw the Dutch driver get back around the outside of the Ferrari through Woodcote to hold on to P4. Vettel was also immediately all over the back of Valtteri Bottas but racing was, again, neutralised within a lap. This was due to a collision between Renault’s Carlos Sainz & Haas’ Romain Grosjean. Side by side through Copse, Sainz had got ahead of the Haas but a slight twitch from Grosjean resulted in the two colliding and flying off the track. The Safety Car reset again, resuming for a ten lap sprint to the chequered flag.

On the restart, Vettel was all over Bottas to try wresting the lead from the Mercedes, while Kimi Raikkonen finally managed to get past Max Verstappen down the Hangar Straight to take P4 and take after the Mercedes drivers. Verstappen was clearly struggling, he spun off by himself into Club corner after being passed by Raikkonen and retired within sight of the flag with a mechanical issue. After a few attempts, Vettel finally managed to outbrake Bottas into Brooklands and take the lead with five laps to go. Bottas, clearly struggling with tyres, allowed Hamilton through but was powerless to hold off Kimi Raikkonen as the Ferrari powered past down the Wellington Straight. This left the order Vettel, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Bottas, Ricciardo to cross the finishing line.

Nico Hulkenberg, finished P6 for Renault, 28 seconds behind the race winner despite the race reset. He held off the late race attack from Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who had to settle for P7 ahead of McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Kevin Magnussen finished P9 for Haas, while Pierre Gasly took the final points position for Toro Rosso.

Sergio Perez finished P11 for Force India, Stoffel Vandoorne P12 for McLaren, and the two Williams drivers as the final classified drivers. Lance Stroll won the intra-Williams battle, finishing ten second clear of Sergey Sirotkin in P13 & P14 respectively.

After his late race retirement, Verstappen was classified P15. Carlos Sainz & Romain Grosjean, with their collision, joined Marcus Ericsson in being classified as DNFs, along with Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Sauber driver had been fighting for points again, but retired after his pitstop with an apparent mechanical issue. Brendon Hartley retired on the very first lap after a problem was spotted immediately prior to the race start. He completed a single lap.

Vettel’s win gives him an eight point lead in the Driver’s Championship, while Ferrari’s lead in the Constructor’s Championship increases to 20 points.

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Thomas Maher

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