Stunning P2 for Checo in dramatic British Grand Prix
When the lights went out, Max, starting from the front row on soft tyres, made a superb getaway and passed pole sitter Sainz as they headed towards turn one.
Behind the front pair Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc bogged down and he was passed by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton. Checo also made a slow getaway and he was passed for fifth by Alpine’s Fernando Alonso.
At the lower end of the top 10, however, Mercedes’ George Russell and Alfa Romeo’s Zhou Guanyu got away badly and they were engulfed by the medium-tyre starters around them. Williams’ Nicholas Latifi slipped between the pair to steal eighth place. Starting from 11th, AlphaTauri’s Pierre Gasly tried to make the same move, but as he did so Russell drifted to the left and there was contact.
That pitched the Mercedes into Zhou’s Alfa. The Chinese driver’s car was flipped over, and it slid through the gravel trap where it was launched over the tyre barriers into the catch fencing.
Unsighted, Aston Martin’s Sebastian Vettel hit the back of Albon’s car and the Thai driver was sent into the wall on the right side of the pit straight. He bounced back into the path of AlphaTauris’s Yuki Tsunoda and Alpine’s Esteban Ocon. The race was immediately red-flagged.
Thankfully, though his Alfa was in a difficult position for extrication, a still conscious Zhou was eventually helped from his car and taken by ambulance to the medical centre, as was Albon. Both were later cleared of any injury, once again proving the strength of the Formula One cars.
With the barriers requiring repair, there was a long delay but after a little over 50 minutes the field formed on the grid, in original order as not all cars had reached the SC2 line, for the restart, with Max and Carlos Sainz opting to switch to medium tyres.
When the lights went out for the second time, Max immediately put pressure on Sainz, but the Spaniard held the lead as they emerged from turn one. Behind them Leclerc made a move down the inside into turn four to try to pass Checo. There was contact and the Mexican’s front wing was damaged. Leclerc then attacked Max and as they went through turn six they banged wheels, but Max was able to hold on to P2.
With a portion of his front wing missing, Checo was struggling to hold on to fourth place and at the end of lap five he pitted for a replacement and for more medium tyres. He re-joined at the back of the field in P17 and his pit stop freed Hamilton into fourth place ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris.
On lap 10, Sainz found himself just eight-tenths of a second ahead of Max and was reporting that the Red Bull was quicker. And under pressure from the Dutchman Sainz made a mistake on the exit of Becketts and he drifted off track. Max pounced and as they went onto the Hangar Straight, he took the lead.
On lap 12, though, Max suddenly slowed on the Hangar straight. Sainz and Leclerc swept past as Max got on the radio to report that he had driven over some carbon when he went wide at Copse and he had possibly sustained a puncture. He pitted to take on more medium tyres and the champion resumed in sixth place, behind Alonso. Max was soon back on the radio, though, saying that his RB18 was “100% broken”, but race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase responded that he had sustained floor damage and that though he would suffer a loss of load and performance he was fit to continue.
Discussing his P7, driver Max Verstappen said: “Seventh place is a good result considering the damage I had on the car and with Checo on the podium, we’ve scored some good points for the Team.
“I of course had hoped for more but today was just unlucky. I had a look at the car during the red flag and the whole of the underneath on the left-hand side was ruptured. I hit a huge piece of debris; I think it was carbon. As I was driving it felt like a puncture as I had no balance and a lot of oversteer. The car was a handful to drive, I tried to find a good aero balance but it was difficult.
“I understand that Alex is having precautionary checks at the hospital, so I hope that he’s okay. It’s never nice to see these things and today proved once again that the halo is a massive improvement for safety, I think without it Zhou would have been in a different state."
At the front, the battle between race leader Sainz and Leclerc became tetchy as Leclerc demanded to be allowed to pass his teammate and that allowed Hamilton to close to within three seconds of the lead.
Ferrari’s solution was to pit Sainz at the end of lap 20 to cover Hamilton and to give Leclerc a chance to outpace Hamilton. Sainz took on hard tyres and re-joined in P3.
Further back, Checo was storming through the order as others pitted around him and by lap 22 the Red Bull driver had climbed to P8, 1.9s behind Ocon. Max then pitted again at the end of lap 23. He switched to hard tyres and re-joined in P8 behind Vettel.
Leclerc made his first stop at the end of lap 25 and in a 2.8s halt he made the switch to hard tyres, resuming behind Sainz. That handed the lead to Hamilton and gave him an opportunity to stretch his legs before his own pit stop.
Leclerc, though, began to bring his new hard tyres up to temperature and he was soon reeling off fastest laps. On lap 30 Hamilton had 19 seconds in hand over Leclerc and the pit window was open. The danger eventually became apparent to Ferrari and after Sainz failed to match the target times set, the Italian squad swapped the positions and Leclerc took over in the lead. At the end of lap 33 Hamilton finally made his way to pit lane. But the Mercedes driver’s stop was a slow four seconds and he emerged behind Sainz in third place.
Further back, on lap 35, Norris made a pit stop for hard tyres and that handed fourth place to Checo, though the Mexican would need another stop. Max, meanwhile, was in eighth place but coming under heavy pressure from Ocon and at the end of lap 36 the Frenchman powered past the struggling Dutch driver under DRS on the Hangar Straight.
Ocon’s hold on P8 was short, however. On Lap the Alpine driver slowed and he was forced to stop on the old pit straight. Max swept past and moments later the Safety Car was deployed.
Sainz and Hamilton pitted for soft tyres but Leclerc missed the moment and he was forced to stay out on 14-lap-old hard tyres. The Safety Car also played into Checo’s hands as he got a free stop, took on soft tyres and kept hold of fourth place. Max also pitted for the red-banded rubber.
The Safety Car left the track at the end of lap 42 and Sainz clung to the back of Leclerc and Checo honed in on Hamilton. And in turn four Checo made a brave move past Hamilton on the inside through the corner. Ahead Leclerc briefly went off track and Sainz pounced to once again take the lead.
And what followed was a titanic battle for second place. While Sainz opened a four-second lead, Leclerc, Checo and Hamilton tussled furiously for position and on lap 46 it was Checo who emerged in second ahead of the Ferrari and the Mercedes.
Discussing his P2, driver Sergio Perez said: “It is a good day for us and the Team after such a messy weekend for us. Physically I wasn’t one hundred percent this week and after lap one I was last, so to come away with second place is a great result.
“I was so unlucky on the first lap making contact with Charles, I broke my front wing and had to drop to the back. So we had to fight for it and it feels good to have a result like this.
“I am also very happy for Carlos and to share his first win with him is a nice moment for him and his family. I enjoyed the racing today a lot, we were fighting hard and fair and it felt like my karting days. Everyone was pushing really hard and going wheel to wheel, my heartrate was pretty high on those last laps. It was a race where it was important not to give up.”
Hamilton then passed Leclerc and the finishing positions at the front were set. And after 52 exhilarating laps Sainz crossed the line to take his first win ahead of Checo and Hamilton, while Leclerc was forced to settle for fourth place ahead of Alonso and Norris.
In the closing stages Max came under heavy pressure from Haas’ Mick Schumacher but the Dutchman still had too much pace for the German driver and he claimed a battling seventh place ahead of the Haas. Ninth place went to Vettel and Haas’s Kevin Magnussen claimed the final point.
Commenting on the team’s Silverstone outing, Team Principal and CEO Christian Horner said: “It was a phenomenal performance today from Checo after the damage he sustained to the front wing end-plate on the first lap, we had to change the nose and his drive back through the field was just sensational. He benefitted from the safety car which enabled us to put on a fresh set of tyres, but his pace and race-craft was just exceptional.
“For Max, he’d taken the lead and was in a commanding position but unfortunately some debris did a lot of damage to the floor of the car which lead to a massive loss of downforce. It was unfortunate because I think it would have been a fantastic race for him today, but every point counts and he fought as hard for P7 as he would for the win.
“The biggest result today is that all drivers are in reasonable shape considering the scale of the crashes we saw today and we hope to see Alex and Zhou fighting fit in Austria next week.”
As part of ExxonMobil’s technical partnership with Oracle Red Bull Racing, Mobil 1 went behind the scenes to see the garage as it’s never been seen before. Introducing ReDubbed presented by Mobil 1:
There is a short turnaround between races as Oracle Red Bull Racing now heads to its home track; the Red Bull Ring, Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix this weekend. With the track’s long straights conducive to the RB18’s straight line speed, the team will be looking to cement their place at the top of both championships with a good points haul.