Ferrari's Carlos Sainz won the British Grand Prix from pole position, but it was far from easy. An early heavy crash and a late safety car resulted in a tense race that saw Perez take his opportunity for second as Hamilton pleased the home crowd with a third-place result.
The British Grand Prix kicked off with a bang as soon after the lights went out several cars from the midfield veered off track, straight on from the pit straight rather than into the high speed Turn 1. While Verstappen took the lead thanks to starting on softs, pole sitter Sainz followed in second. Hamilton had a cannonball start and immediately passed Perez and Leclerc to go third, ahead of Leclerc. Alonso made a similarly strong start and moved up from 7th to 5th. Perez, Norris, Latifi, Bottas and Ricciardo completed the top ten.
The nature of the incident at Turn 1 forced a red flag by the time the leaders were in Turn 4. As Russell stepped out of his stranded Mercedes, Albon did the same. The Williams driver was bumped by Vettel who braked too late. Albon ended up hitted the pitwall and then got kicked back across the track, taking Tsunoda and Ocon with him. Ocon managed to return to the pits despite a torn front right tyre. Tsunoda did the same, carefully steering round the 5.8km track with the front wing partially stuck under his car.
The red flag was however necessary because of the impact that Gyuanyu Zhou made with the barriers. The Chinese was bumped off the track by Russell who himself got sandwiched. Zhou soon turned upside down and slid in his car through the gravel trap against the tyre barriers where his car flipped and jumped over the tyres, straight into the fence. Worryingly, the roll hoop of the Alfa Romeo ripped off the moment his car hit the ground upside down, meaning he scratched on the tarmac and through the gravel protected only by the halo.
57 minutes after the original start, the cars left the pitlane to get ready for the restart. This was taken in original starting order as the red flag was given before everybody had passed the S1 timing point.
17 cars were on the grid and when the lights went out, Sainz was very aggressive to defend his first place, pushing Verstappen to the extreme right ahead of Turn 1. Perez made a great start this time and went up to third, right behind Verstappen only to get beaten by Leclerc into Turn 4. Leclerc went on to attack Verstappen (this time starting on medium tyres) but had to settle for third after getting pushed wide on the exit of Turn 6.
The best starters of the first start were much worse off this time as Hamilton dropped down to 6th and Alonso down to 8th.
On lap 5, Perez pitted from fourth to replace his damaged front wing. At the same time, Alonso passed Gasly to move up to 6th while Hamilton got by Norris half a lap later to take 4th, 5s behind Leclerc.
On lap 9, having come under increasing pressure by Verstappen, Sainz had a brief moment of oversteer through Becketts and went wide, therefore easily handing first place to Verstappen. Sainz ended up 1.5s behind Verstappen but then managed to get back into first place 2 laps later when Verstappen suddenly lost some tenths through the same corners. The Dutchman reported a problem and dove into the pits to take on new medium tyres, rejoining in 6th.
As the two Ferraris happily took over, Verstappen reported the problem persisted after the pitstop, saying "the car is broken". The Dutchman's first sector time was however perfectly on the pace but indeed a full second slower than Hamilton's purple S2 at the same time. It appears some damage on Verstappen's car caused a loss of downforce but nothing problematic to keep going.
Hamilton meanwhile impressed with a string of fastest laps, slowly decreasing the gap to the Ferraris in front. The Mercedes driver excelled in the second sector in particular while also Leclerc indicated he could go faster, despite missing the right hand side front wing endplate.
Leclerc's complaints resulted in repeated requests from the team to Sainz to push harder. The Spaniard did, but Leclerc seemed quite able to follow while Hamilton continued to go faster still, reducing the gap to 2.8s by lap 20.
Ferrari then "sorted" the matter by pitting Sainz first. A quick stop saw him switch to hard tyres and back on track in third, 16s down on Hamilton and just ahead of Norris and Alonso.
Leclerc's claims of being faster soon proved wrong as he was unable to up the pace without Sainz in front. Instead he lost further ground to Hamilton. Home hero Hamilton ended up in DRS range on lap 24 moments after telling his engineer his "tyres are still strong". At the end of that lap, Leclerc pitted for hard tyres, returning to the track in third, 2 seconds behind his Spanish team mate.
Verstappen meanwhile pitted to switch to hard tyres. He returned to the track just ahead of Vettel, but the latter's warmed tyres saw him get the edge in Turn 4, dropping Verstappen to 8th. Of course that triggered further complaints as he noted "I have no front, I have no rear".
On lap 30 Leclerc finally got past Sainz after more complaints towards his team, saying he could go a lot quicker and claiming he was losing a big chunk of time. Leclerc did indeed go faster and as the gap to Hamilton started to decrease, Mercedes called Hamilton in for what turned out to be a sluggish pitstop of 4.3 seconds to switch to hard tyres.
Hamilton ended up 4.3 seconds behind Sainz but then started to claw back some disadvantage while Leclerc recorded a few consecutive fastest laps to get away from his team mate.
Verstappen meanwhile dropped down to ninth as Ocon got past the struggling Red Bull on lap 36. This passing immediately dropped Verstappen in DRS range of Mick Schumacher. The next passing on the Wellington straight, Verstappen re-passed Ocon as the Alpine driver reported an issue and gruntled to a halt on the old pit straight. As the car was impossible to clear properly, the safety car was brought out immediately.
Sainz, Hamilton, Perez, Alonso, Verstappen and several others pitted immediately to change to softs. Leclerc didn't and stayed out. Norris stayed out initially too but was then pitted the next lap, a move that was cheered by Alonso as he moved up to 5th.
Ocon's car got cleared fairly quickly, enabling to continue with the race on lap 42 of 52.
The restart was an amazing fight with Lerclec getting past by Sainz at Turn 5 after the Spaniard told his team to have confidence in him after another squabble where Ferrari appeared to want to keep Leclerc ahead.
Hamilton meanwhile lost a position in the same corner to Perez but that battle continued once Hamilton's tyres got up to temperature. The battle was made more interesting as Leclerc struggled to stay ahead on his much older hard tyres. 8 laps from the end, Perez got past Leclerc but as they both somewhat got off track, Hamilton took second place. It lasted just for a few corners though as Perez got back into second place soon.
As the fight continued, Alonso and Norris were also both in DRS range behind that battle. Perez though went off into the distance in the next few laps as Hamilton failed to make it past Leclerc quickly. He got past with 3 laps left and also quickly distanced the Ferrari driver, leaving him to worry about Alonso and Norris.
The soft tyre advantage though gradually fell away, enabling Leclerc to maintain 4th. Alonso finished right behind while Norris followed a few seconds further down in 6th.
Verstappen finished 7th, fiercely fighting Mick Schumacher who was looking very eager to take that position.
In the end, Sainz got what he came for, helped by an inexplicable strategy error by the Ferrari team for Charles Leclerc.
|2||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||52||+3.779s||18|
|5||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine Renault||52||+9.571s||10|
|6||4||Lando Norris||Mclaren Mercedes||52||+11.943s||8|
|7||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull Racing Rbpt||52||+18.777s||6|
|8||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas Ferrari||52||+18.995s||4|
|9||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||52||+22.356s||2|
|10||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas Ferrari||52||+24.590s||1|
|11||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin Aramco Mercedes||52||+26.147s||0|
|12||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams Mercedes||52||+32.511s||0|
|13||3||Daniel Ricciardo||Mclaren Mercedes||52||+32.817s||0|
|14||22||Yuki Tsunoda||Alphatauri Rbpt||52||+40.910s||0|
|NC||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine Renault||37||DNF||0|
|NC||10||Pierre Gasly||Alphatauri Rbpt||26||DNF||0|
|NC||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||20||DNF||0|
|NC||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo Ferrari||0||DNF||0|
|NC||23||Alexander Albon||Williams Mercedes||0||DNF||0|