Lewis Hamilton claimed his fifth British GP Victory in convincing fashion and cut the gap to Vettel in the driver standings from twenty points to one after some last lap disaster struck both Ferrari drivers. It was a Mercedes 1-2, with Bottas making some incredible progress from 9th to pick up 2nd place and keep his hat in the ring for the 2017 title fight.
— Mercedes-AMG F1 (@MercedesAMGF1) July 16, 2017
Verstappen and bottle were the big movers within the top ten at the start, with Verstappen overtaking Vettel for 3rd around the outside of turn four, and bottle jumping two positions to 7th. Hamilton was lucky that the run to turn one is quite short at Silverstone, as Raikkonen got a better start and was just alongside the brit by the time the corner arrived.
There was drama on lap two, with Daniil ‘the torpedo’ Kvyat hitting Carlos Sainz at Becketts, the Toro Rosso driver out of another Grand Prix and the mood at Toro Rosso will be a heated one after this. The safety car was deployed and Hamilton’s early two-second lead reduced. On the restart, Daniel Ricciardo got into a mess at the rear of the pack as he tried to line his Red Bull up to challenge Alonso and Stroll ahead by taking a very wide line at Luffield, but left the door open for Magnussen to run him onto the grass, undoing his early progress, the Aussie would have to come through the field again.
— Toro Rosso (@ToroRossoSpy) July 16, 2017
Raikkonen was matching Hamilton’s lap times at the front, both driver complaining about the ERS in their cars. Given the lack of drastic braking zones around the track and the fact that most energy recovery occurs in this type of braking zone, it was clear that the leading cars at least weren’t regaining as much energy as the power units needed to run at full power. The leading two drivers were still able to pull away from the battle between Verstappen and Vettel for 3rd.
On lap thirteen, Vettel was within half-a-second of Verstappen around the whole lap, it was ferocious in the third sector, with Vettel diving up the inside into Stowe corner and then pushing the Red Bull wide on the exit. But the Dutchman returned the favour in the following corner, pushing the Ferrari wide. Whilst this battle was going on, Bottas was catching at an impressive rate, and within a second of the Verstappen/Vettel fight by lap sixteen.
Further back, Ricciardo continued to make progress, clearing Grosjean’s Haas for 11th and looking like he would at least get some points on the board this weekend, his target the quick-starting Williams of Felipe Massa, who was trying to console what was looking like a weekend without points for the team.
Hulkenberg was doing well for Renault in 6th, matching the pace of the chasing Force Indias of Ocon and Perez, who were having to keep the pace up themselves as Stoffel Vandoorne was having his most impressive race of the season for McLaren and was in 9th on the merits of the car rather than circumstance. Alonso was a bit further back in 14th, but this looked like the turning point for McLaren, who looked to be genuinely matching the pace of the midfield.
Cars were making their first stop around the lap twenty mark, with Vettel coming in first to undercut Verstappen, which he did after Red Bull scuffed the pitstop with a rogue wheel nut. Further ahead, Bottas was putting in another solid performance for Mercedes, blitzing the life of his soft tyres and setting personal bests in 3rd place on his alternate tyre strategy. He’d need to get to lap 34-ish to have a safe supersoft stint at the end, and the lack of blistering on his tyres promised that he would be in the podium fight with Vettel and Verstappen.
At the halfway point, Hamilton led Bottas by three-seconds with the Finn yet to make his stop. Raikkonen was 3rd, with Vettel and Verstappen in tandem for 4th. Ricciardo was 6th but yet to stop, followed by Hulkenberg, Magnussen who hadn’t stopped, Ocon and Perez.
The threat of rain was keeping Bottas, Ricciardo and Magnussen to stretch their stints out for as long as possible, as they would get the biggest benefit from rain with most of the field having to stop, they would essentially gain a pit-stop over the rest of the field and keep the positions they had worked for.
But on lap thirty-two, Bottas and Ricciardo took to the pits for a needed change of rubber. Bottas emerged in 4th with the threat of Verstappen in 5th very real. Ricciardo emerged in 10th behind the Force Indias, as was piling pressure onto Perez immediately. He cleared Perez around the outside of Brooklands, and also powered past Ocon heading into Stowe. The Aussie was past the very degraded Haas car of Magnussen for 7th on the start/finish straight of the following lap, and would have to make his fresh tyres work to close up to Hulkenberg for 6th and reduce the ten-second gap.
On lap thirty-eight, Hamilton was complaining of blistering over team radio, but commanded a twelve-second gap over Raikkonen, so could afford to nurse his tyres if he needed to. Vettel was only four-seconds behind Raikkonen at this point and Bottas was slowly catching the German and was only two-seconds behind the Title leader by lap forty-one.
Vettel was locking up, and Bottas’ fresh rubber was really helping him close in on the German. He was in the slipstream heading into Stowe on lap forty-two, and they came very close to colliding as Vettel squeezed Bottas onto the grass. But Vettel locked up once again at the penultimate corner, it was starting to look like an impossible battle for the Ferrari driver. Overtaking the Ferrari wouldn’t only help Hamilton’s fight for the title, but Bottas’ too. The Finnish driver did it at Stowe on the following lap, and his recovery drive following the 5-place grid penalty was yielding a better result than Hamilton’s similar situation in Austria.
But the British driver was in a league of his own this weekend, the home crowd’s half-a-second-per-lap evident in his drive. He was having a tricky time navigating the traffic with six laps to go as they weren’t exactly back-markers. He had caught the Force Indias and lapped them, but with Ricciardo 22-seconds up the road, it looked like he could drive the final laps with less pressure.
Meanwhile, the other Silver Arrow was putting in a string of purple laps, Bottas was catching Raikkonen by seven-tenths a lap, and was only five-seconds between them. There was also a battle emerging between Hulkenberg and Ricciardo for 6th. The Renault driver was surely one of the drivers of the day. To keep the Renault half-a-minute ahead of the Force Indias was an achievement in itself. But it was becoming critical for the German, with the car losing electrical power as Ricciardo hunted him down.
Disaster struck for Kimi Raikkonen with two laps remaining, his left front-tyre obliterated. It was an absolute tyre failure and initially looked to cost Ferrari some serious points. It promoted Bottas to second and Vettel to third. Insanely, Verstappen and Vettel suffered their own tyre failures, allowing Raikkonen back past into 3rd. Verstappen had to pit too, and it meant that the result at the end saw Hamilton win, with Bottas second, Raikkonen third, Verstappen fourth, Ricciardo fifth, Hulkenberg sixth, Vettel seventh, Ocon eighth, Perez ninth and Massa rounding out the top ten.
— Channel 4 F1® (@C4F1) July 16, 2017
The result has transcribed the perfect picture concerning the tightness of the 2017 title fight in the driver standings, with Vettel’s advantage over Hamilton reduced to a solitary point, with Bottas keeping in touch and only twenty-three points adrift.
Elsewhere in the standings, Nico Hulkenberg’s excellent drive for Renault has put the French Manufacturer firmly back in the fight for 5th in the Constructors. They remain in 8th, but are only three and seven points behind Haas and Toro Rosso respectively, with Williams clinging onto 5th with 41-points. Force India once again pulled away from the midfield battle, and are in an optimistic no-mans land in 4th.
Momentum has to be back with Lewis Hamilton, who was at his best again this weekend after a difficult time in Baku and Spielberg. It looks like Ferrari have lost their early advantage over Mercedes, and it’s a neck-and-neck fight between Hamilton and Vettel, with Bottas as a gradually safer bet to be in the mix until the end too.