All season long, Mercedes has been perfect. Four straight victories to start the season, with five straight poles, and even leading all but one lap in the previous four events. However, an absolutely beautiful strategy call by Red Bull Racing for Max Verstappen managed to best Mercedes and break their five race winning streak dating back to last season.
On Saturday, Red Bull made a gutsy call to have Verstappen qualify on hard tires as opposed to the mediums used by Mercedes and the softs for many of the others in Q3. Verstappen took the lead for good when Lewis Hamilton made his second stop on Lap 42. The qualifying strategy allowed Verstappen to jump the Mercedes cars with a one-stop strategy and hold on to score his ninth career F1 victory and first at Silverstone.
Mercedes has finally been beaten this season, not by attrition or by penalty, but by sheer pace and strategy.
Hamilton would come home second, scoring his 155th career podium and equaling F1 legend Michael Schumacher atop the leaderboard. Pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas would come home third after his pit strategy gamble would fall short.
Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc would rebound for a fantastic P4 finish, with Alexander Albon in the other Red Bull entry coming home P5. The Racing Points of Lance Stroll and Nico Hulkenburg would finish sixth and seventh, respectively. Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat would round out the points paying positions.
Like most trends in F1, the pole sitter got off to the early lead. Bottas would clear Hamilton going into turn one, while Verstappen moved into third.
Behind them however, Sebastian Vettel‘s abysmal season was about to get even worse. Vettel would simply lose control of his Ferrari and spin, showering the midfield in a cloud of smoke. Fortunately nobody else would be collected or receive damage. With Vettel relegated to the back after the spin, Leclerc would start to pick up the pace as the lead Ferrari.
A few laps later, Williams’ Nicholas Latifi and Kevin Magnussen would make contact after Magnussen went wide through a corner. Latifi received damage and Magnussen was dinged with a five-second time penalty. The penalty would be moot however, as Magnussen would retire from the race a few laps from the checkered flag.
As Bottas and Hamilton began pit stops, Verstappen would stay out and put an 18-second advantage on the Silver Arrows. Eventually extending the tires so much, he would gain one whole pit stop on them.
Laps clicked away and Hamilton would jump Verstappen and Bottas, attempting his own single-stop strategy. The Mercedes had been fighting blistering tire issues all weekend long and this would require Hamilton to pit handing the lead back to Verstappen.
Despite four fresh tires, Hamilton would be held up by Leclerc and Bottas and fail to catch Verstappen. The win would mark Verstappen’s first since Brazil in 2019 and Red Bull’s first at Silverstone since 2012 with Mark Webber.
- Red Bull Racing and Max Verstappen continue to show that they are the “little” team that could. In a season that has been dominated by big bad Mercedes, it came as a delight to see another team best the six-time defending world champions.The team has had an eventful season, with both drivers having abysmal races in Austria to Red Bull’s clutch repair job with Verstappen in Hungary. This win came as a culmination of all that team has endured in the shorten 2020 F1 season.
- Alexander Albon in the other Red Bull car has had a good but quiet season to say the least. After heartbreak in Austria, the Thai driver has started to gain his footing as Red Bull’s second driver. A fourth in the second Austrian race (Grand Prix of Styria), fifth in Hungary and eighth last weekend, Albon logged another fifth-place finish this time out in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Albon has been steadily showing why he is worthy of a seat next year in the Red Bull car. Despite being quiet, Albon has stayed out of trouble has hit his stride.
- Nico Hulkenburg has accomplished more in his two races at Racing Point the he may have accomplished in all of his prior races. Despite a heartbreak last week when his car failed, the German bounced back in the best way possible. Qualifying third, Hulkenburg ran a near perfect race to come home seventh, one spot behind his teammate. Although Perez is expected to be back next week in Spain, it cannot be forgotten that the Hulk is still here and still has immense talent.
- What does this defeat mean for Mercedes? Obviously it’s only one small defeat, but in a season where even some of the biggest F1 journalists were predicting a Mercedes sweep all the races, this one race could mean a lot. As Hamilton tried to complain post-race that Red Bull had cheated with their tire pressure, it could mean Mercedes has gotten to confidant in their car. What could it mean moving forward should they be beat again, would they be “sore-losers” or is this just a blip in the radar.
- Can things get any worse for Vettel? For any new Formula 1 fan, it might come as a surprise to find out that just a few short years ago Vettel was a World Champion. With 53 race wins in his past, Vettel’s 2020 came as a complete shock. With a best finish of sixth in Hungary, Vettel himself can’t even explain why his pace is so slow. There is still plenty of season left, can Vettel bounce back or will this season be his worst yet?
Formula 1 ventures to Barcelona, Spain on Aug. 16 for the Grand Prix of Spain. Mercedes’ Bottas is the defending champion at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona, who are favored to take the win this season as well.