Motorsport is all about preparation awaiting opportunity, as Ross Brawn has always said.
But sometimes it is also about ‘inspiration’ and today was one of those days for Lewis Hamilton, who managed to find half a second over the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel in British Grand Prix qualifying.
Hamilton put a lot of that huge time margin down to the inspiration he derived from the Silverstone crowd and from guests like former F4 racer and double amputee Billy Monger, who has been with Hamilton’s group this weekend.
Tomorrow Hamilton goes for his fifth British GP win, however the job is not done yet. Ferrari are set to be more competitive in the race, as they often are, partly due to the fact that they have less margin between their qualifying and race modes on the engine.
In this case there is also the fact that Vettel didn’t put his A game on the table today; he was sent out by the team for his final run in Q3 into a gaggle of three cars on his outlap, including Verstappen and Hulkenberg and he had to slow to let them get ahead so he could have clear track. That meant that the tyres were not ready for the hot lap and he lost 2/10ths in the first sector alone as a result.
For the race, the main observation is that there are two Ferraris at the front and only one Mercedes. With Valtteri Bottas’ five place penalty for a gearbox replacement, Hamilton is vulnerable to a Ferrari attack if they have the pace to follow him.
We have seen it several times this season, for example Red Bull did it in Monaco on Valtteri Bottas, with Verstappen trying the undercut and Ricciardo the overcut, which yielded a podium. On that occasion Bottas was struggling a bit with his tyres. Hamilton has not shown any signs of that in practice, although the degradation was higher than Ferrari’s. Raikkonen had lower degradation than the other two front runners, so could be a candidate for the overcut.
Vettel is well clear of Raikkonen on drivers’ championship points now, so he will certainly get the strategy that Ferrari feels has the highest chance of netting a win, if they are P2 and P3 and close enough to try a pincer movement on Hamilton,
“It depends on the pace we have,” Vettel told JA on F1 tonight. “If we all start in the same order then we can put him under pressure. He can’t react to both of us, that is ideal.
“We will have to see how the pace is after the start and the first lap.”
In FP2 the Ferrari was around 3/10ths of a second slower on the suprsoft on long runs, but there wasn’t any data from Mercedes on the soft as they didn’t do any long runs with it. Ferrari was quick on that tyre.
In general Ferrari has had the edge over Mercedes on the supersoft lately, including Austria last weekend. If they do the first stint tomorrow like they did the second stint in Austria, we have a race on our hands. It is possible to do the race in one stop and Bottas may try it from 9th on the grid starting on the soft tyres, but at the front it is likely to be an opening stint on supersofts and then two stints on softs.
Mercedes has its tactics too; although Bottas starts ninth he is targeting the podium and is able to one stop (soft/medium) that could keep him in Ferrari’s pit window and put him ahead on tack after Ferrari’s second stop if their pace drops.
Vettel played down the idea that it’s always good to beat your rival on his home soil, saying that all the drivers appreciate this event and this circuit.
“This is a great race for all drivers, lots of fans and a lot of support for all of us,” he said. “The crowd is very fair. It’s a great track, really enjoyable,
“So for sure it’s a nice race to win with a lot of history; it means a lot.”
How do you read the situation going into this race? Leave your comments in the section below