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British GP Debrief: Hamilton comes through the chaos

Discussion in 'Formula 1' started by Ben Stevens, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. Ben Stevens

    Ben Stevens

    hamsilverstonepodium.jpg An unusual race gave way to a very usual result as Lewis Hamilton triumphed at Silverstone

    If there’s been a recurring theme to F1 headlines over the past six months, it’s that as things stand in 2015, the sport seems to have lost its way. Whether from the drivers, teams or fans, there seems to be a prevailing attitude of negativity towards the sport – perhaps there’ll be a respite after Sunday.

    Before Lewis Hamilton crossed the line to take his fifth win of the season, the 2015 British Grand Prix had seen F1 run the gamut of causes for excitement: Mercedes getting smoked off the line, an early safety car, Williams’ improbable lead, a host of strategical hotspots and some late showers combined to make the race the most difficult Mercedes 1-2 we’re likely to see this season. Especially considering the race did in fact finish in the ‘traditional’ HAM-ROS-VET podium, it’s hard to describe it with any word other than ‘crazy’.

    So, just how did we end up with one of the more entertaining races in recent memory? Let’s break down the talking points from the British Grand Prix.

    hamiltonsilverstone.jpg Hamilton endures Williams, Rosberg and Rain to win home race

    Considering he both started and finished first, it’s hard to foresee Lewis Hamilton forging a more difficult path from the former to the latter.

    Where Hamilton’s previous victories this season have been characterised by his dominance behind the wheel, Sunday’s edition is best framed as a work of simple survival, with a side of good fortune and a dash of prescience thrown in. Despite the Mercedes’ pace advantage, Hamilton spent more time responding-to rather than dictating proceedings – having to deal firstly with the rapid starts of the Williams’, then later a rampaging Rosberg and the decision when to pit for intermediates as rain intensified over the circuit – and it was the sum of those responses that secured him the victory.

    Initially forced into a battle with both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas (the latter through his own mistake at the restart), the pair got a taste of the treatment usually reserved for Nico Rosberg, as the Brit put in two superb laps either side of his pit-stop to pull off an undercut. Proceeding to build his lead, things looked comfortable until the appearance of rain on lap 35 flipped proceedings completely on its head, with Rosberg able to reel in both Williams and get within 3 seconds of Hamilton in the changeable conditions. Losing on average over two seconds a lap to his teammate, it’s possible to argue Hamilton was both forced to pit by Rosberg or willingly made the call due to the weather – in either case, the rain came, and the British fans would be going home happy.

    For a driver who is well known for his irritability during races, everything about this drive was emblematic of a Hamilton who was able to keep his cool amidst the torrent of drama swirling around him, even if he wasn’t at his very best. Forced off ‘Plan A’ almost immediately, Hamilton showed his adaptability as the race wore on, and in the end won it comfortably. Would things have gone differently without the curious strategy decisions from Williams (don’t worry, we’re about to get to that), or if Rosberg had one more dry lap? Maybe. All we know is Lewis did enough in the end to get his hands back on his favourite gold trophy.

    williamspit.JPG Williams strategy a comedy of errors

    From dreams of topping the podium to off it completely – Williams had cause for plenty of excitement and disappointment alike on Sunday.

    With both cars lining up ahead of the Ferraris after Saturday qualifying, it was apparent Williams were ready to stake their claim to the ‘best of the rest’ title, and the getaways of both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas only further boosted their credentials. Leading 1-2 after the early safety car, the pit wall had to be thinking of an unlikely victory.

    Oh, but what could have been.

    Showing the sort of tactical nous usually found in generals planning land invasions of Russia, the Williams pitwall managed to take their drivers not just out of contention, but all the way back to a 4-5 finish. So what went wrong?

    In essence, Williams’ misfortune boiled down to a single problem: it seemed the only people who didn’t realise they were punching above their weight in the early stages were Williams themselves. As such they were unwilling to take any risks whatsoever – whether it was letting the faster Bottas past and bruising Massa’s ego, responding to Hamilton’s first stop with either driver and gambling on the hard compound lasting, or taking a Hamilton-like risk with the inters as the rainclouds came overhead. Time and again they went the conservative route, and in the end it cost them.

    Strategy aside, it’s only fair to acknowledge that their hopes were impacted fairly significantly by the FW37’s poor performance in the wet. As the heavens opened and the team found itself in the sights of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari, Williams was always fighting an uphill battle to stay ahead. It’s probably what Rob Smedley and co. were telling themselves post-race, but it doesn’t hide the reality that they were doomed by their own conservatism, and F1 fans have every right to feel disappointed.

    williamssilverstone.JPG Rollercoaster ride highlights good and bad of F1 in 2015

    In the wake of so much doom-and-gloom in F1 circles, the British Grand Prix proved to be just what the doctor ordered.

    The race ended up being absolutely gripping from start-to-finish, packing more plot twists into its 1.5 hour duration than any soap opera. Sitting on my couch, I found myself getting roped into the excitement of each moment wondering just what the hell was going to happen next, and you probably were too.

    F1 stands alone among major professional sports in that what happens at the start can have just as much impact as what happens at the finish. It’s why something like Williams’ early lead is so exciting, because a team like Mercedes, used to being in the driver’s seat can’t simply respond in turn, and so it goes on throughout the race, with each twist opening up new possibilities – as the rain did for Sebastian Vettel. It only takes a shred of uncertainty to keep you watching, and keep you guessing.

    However, there is a downside, and it is simply this: the inability of Hamilton to stick a move past either Williams isn’t exactly ideal, considering the Mercs still had the faster car. The fact that Hamilton could only attempt moves when all were on cold tyres, after which he had to bide his time to the pitstops (as DRS was no help) suggests that at least some of the negativity around cars not being able to go wheel-to-wheel is warranted.

    Of course, it’s impossible to make all races thrillers from start-to-finish, but a race like Sunday’s shows the ingredients are there. As we look to the F1 Strategy Group and the sport’s decision-makers to improve the quality in the 2017 regulations, let’s hope they remember races like this, and build on its foundations, instead of tearing it down.

    Was Hamilton more lucky than good? Did Williams shoot themselves in the foot? What needs improving to see more races like Sunday’s? Sound off below.
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  2. Andrew

    Out of my mind ! Back in five minutes. Staff Premium

    Thank you @Ben Stevens . It was a pleasure to read your article. Shared it right away on FB and Twitter. :)
    • Like Like x 2
  3. Bram Hengeveld

    Bram Hengeveld
    RaceDepartment Founder Staff Premium

    Thrilling GP. I really thought Williams would win the British GP and then the rain washed away all the ambitions :)
  4. Blkout


    One of, if not the most exciting race of this season so far. Once again, Vettel was the big surprise for me. I was happy to see Hamilton win, but Vettel continues to impress moving from mid pack to the podium again in a field where almost everyone placed worse that where they started except Hamilton.
  5. Burke Wells

    Burke Wells

    When those lights went out and both Williams' drove right up between those Mercedes, I literally came off of the couch with fists in the air. Such a thrilling moment. Then watching and hearing Bottas wanting to overtake Massa was good stuff. I found it interesting that we heard the Williams' engineer clearly tell both drivers "do not race your teammate", only to later give Bottas permission to overtake IF he could do it cleanly, yet not saying anything regarding that to Massa (as far as we heard).

    That was exciting to watch, but I was then disappointed to see both Williams' lose so much time to Hamilton in the pits. However, I did rather enjoy seeing Massa edge out Rosberg on pit exit.The weather kept things exciting throughout the 2nd half of the race. Vettel was impressive.

    On a personal opinion note, I'm excited to see Haas bring an American team to F1 next year and look forward to them announcing their drivers. I can't help but to hope they have a young American like Alexander Rossi and an experienced veteran like Raikkonen, but who knows... we'll see.
  6. Steve Bird

    Steve Bird
    Racing Since 1978 Premium

    Being a life long Williams fan I was overjoyed with the fact that both our drivers were 1 and 2 for the first stint. I felt sorry for Bottas who I felt had the better opportunity to pull away from the Mercs but it all fell to pieces at the end of the first stint and got worse due to our lovely British climate. Damn those Pesky Mercedes. The only good thing was a Brit won the race :)
  7. jasonnorin


    This year's F1 is indeed being dominated by Mercedes. Its drivers are turning each race tracks into their personal playgrounds. The recently concluded BGP is one hell of a tight race in my opinion. There has been a rough battle between Hamilton, Rosberg, Bottas and Massa but still, the Brit favorite won. One step closer to winning the Drivers' Championship.
  8. Andrew Harper

    Andrew Harper

    I was lucky enough to be there and the race weekend was superb and it was a great race to witness.

    Seeing the two Williams running 1-2 was amazing and was so refreshing to see another team show the way. They are so close now that hopefully a win is a possibility this year.

    The Mercedes Team still have a 1-2 second a lap advantage over everyone else. On Friday they were setting blistering sector times but then easing on the final corner to hide their true pace. They need to hit problems or make mistakes I think to give anyone else a shot this year.

    There are ferocious debates on Facebook about the Williams and Bottas radio traffic. I take a very simple view. Unless it's a championship deciding situation (helping the other driver win), there should be no team orders. Make it clear to the drivers that as long as you don't take each other off you can race as much as you want. Massa was unable to pull away because of the DRS, Bottas had a 20mph speed advantage on the straights with his wing open so the person at the front of the queue is always at risk. Once Massa got a one second advantage he started to pull away.

    The only screw up Williams did was the same as Austria last year, on Friday they were over heating their softer tyres. With the pace they had they should have brought one car (or both) in earlier. They seemed to be waiting for the "who blinks first" routine which didn't work. Lewis came in, pitted and then proceeded to go one second a lap faster in each sector, job done.

    Having said that though it was a great race and the atmosphere at Silverstone was electric. Well done Lewis you deserved it.
  9. snyperal


    Probably the best f1 race I've sat and watched for a very long time. The highlight for me was Hamilton's pit stop at the end, heart in the mouth stuff. Great to see!
    • Agree Agree x 1
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