2015 British Grand Prix: Race Analysis

Hamilton wins thrilling British Grand Prix

Just what the doctor ordered. As negativity has permeated the sport in recent weeks and months, 2015 needed a blockbuster race to reinvigorate fans and quell the vociferous critics. On a day when 140,000 passionate supporters came out to back the sport they love, that very sport provided an incredible spectacle filled with unpredictability. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas launched themselves past a struggling Mercedes duo, to lead from the start. However, as the reigning champions began to flex their muscles, rain added another element of jeopardy and prompted Lewis Hamilton to make a bold, but ultimately race winning strategic call.

Crisis, what crisis?

Two Crucial Pit-Stops

Fundamentally, Hamilton’s third British Grand Prix victory hinged on two perfectly timed pit-stops. The first, saw him leap-frog the Williams duo and take the lead of the race, with a well executed under-cut. Williams have faced criticism since the race, based on what appeared to be another conservative strategy. The discussion regarding the blurred team orders is fairly irrelevant in the final assessment. It was with strategy that they opened the door to Mercedes.

Williams had to extend the first stint to ensure a comfortable second stint on the prime tyres, but this always left them vulnerable to the under-cut. As such, by allowing Hamilton to pit first, they effectively conceded the race to Mercedes, assuming the Briton recorded a rapid out-lap, which he duly delivered. By stopping before either of the pursuing Mercedes, they would have retained track position and therefore, taken the impetus to claim an unlikely victory.

Ultimately, the late rain put pay to any hopes of a Williams win on home soil. However, the feeling is that if Williams are to replicate the shock result managed by Ferrari in Malaysia this year, they will need to take the fight to the Silver Arrows and drive the strategy themselves. Their pace today would suggest that they can put pressure on Hamilton and Rosberg in the coming races. The Belgian Grand Prix is likely to be their next opportunity.

The second race-defining pit-stop came as the second wave of rain approached. In what he has described as the “best strategic call” of his career, Lewis Hamilton stopped to fit intermediate tyres moments before the rain started to fall heavily and leave Nico Rosberg and the Williams duo sailing on the slicks.

While at face value, this appeared to be a risk which paid off, I hold the view that it was in fact Nico Rosberg’s remarkable pace behind Hamilton which forced the Brit into the pits. He had no answer for the pace which saw Nico haul in his advantage by two seconds per lap and therefore, Hamilton had to try something different in order to hold off his rival. Luck can often have an influence in wet conditions and while it would be unfair to taint what was a superb decision to make the switch to intermediate tyres on lap 43, Hamilton had some luck on his side today.

Vettel’s Unlikely Podium

He may have become accustomed to the third step on the rostrum this season but an unpredictable race yielded an unlikely third place for Sebastian Vettel. Ferrari’s challenge to the Williams’ was scuppered by an electric launch from Nico Hulkenberg, who managed to jump to fifth off of the line. A perfectly timed stop from Ferrari saw Raikkonen and Vettel elevated to fifth and sixth, which brought them into contention for a podium appearance, in the event that incident intervened ahead.

In the wet, the pendulum of pace swung from Williams back to Ferrari and after Vettel dived into the pits to follow Hamilton’s lead on lap 43, he too was a beneficiary of the conditions. In truth, his podium was ultimately earned when he scythed past Kimi Raikkonen heading into Stowe. On a weekend when Vettel cut an unusually anonymous figure, to take 15 points was an excellent result, as highlighted by his reaction on the radio.

Williams only managed to cut Ferrari’s advantage in the constructors by 3 points, which, given where after the opening lap today, is a fairly positive damage limitation exercise from Ferrari. It should, however, have been much better, but for a poor strategic decision which robbed Kimi Raikkonen of sixth position. The Finn now falls behind compatriot Valtteri Bottas in the drivers standings and given the current state-of-play regarding Raikkonen’s seat for next season, this is a poignant headline.

Race of Attrition

A high attrition rate is often associated with rain-effected races but conversely, today’s race ending incidents occurred, for the most part, when the skies were clear. A chain reaction accident as a result of the inevitable bunching at Village facilitated a collision between the Lotus duo of Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean as well as the McLaren duo. Jenson Button joined the Lotus pairing on the sidelines as a result, while Fernando Alonso managed to continue and subsequently recorded his maiden points finish of 2015, albeit a rather anonymous tenth place.

Meanwhile, in what was another tough day for Renault, Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo were forced to retire from points scoring positions due to mechanical failures. The former, who parked his Toro Rosso on the exit of Club, caused the first fully executed Virtual Safety Car of the season. The concept, from today’s observations, appears to be a successful one and one which I imagine is here to stay.

Conclusions

Driver of the Day

Lewis Hamilton

Be it luck or judgement, Lewis Hamilton’s perfect strategic call proved the decisive factor today. Considering the additional pressure which naturally couples with the support of a home crowd, the Briton dealt with Mercedes’ early set-back remarkably well. Today was an example of how much Hamilton has matured over the years and his third win on home soil was courtesy of a well executed race.

Overtake of the Weekend

ROSBERG vs Bottas

The rainfall had made the conditions at Luffield and Copse treacherous, but that did not inhibit Nico Rosberg. On a mission, the German was unperturbed and as Valtteri Bottas endured a snap of oversteer on the exit of Copse, Rosberg pounced to move up to third – a confident and important overtake.

Team of the Weekend

Williams

They outqualified Ferrari, led the race and barring the intervention of the rain, were set to place at least one driver on the podium. Williams have proven that their upgrades are working this weekend and while they face criticism regarding their strategic decisions in the race, they still outscored Ferrari and created quite the spectacle along the way.

Race Result

01 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes
02 Nico Rosberg Mercedes
03 Sebastian Vettel Ferrari
04 Felipe Massa Williams
05 Valtteri Bottas Williams
06 Daniil Kvyat Red Bull
07 Nico Hulkenberg Force India
08 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari
09 Sergio Perez Force India
10 Fernando Alonso McLaren
11 Marcus Ericsson Sauber
12 Roberto Merhi Manor
13 Will Stevens Manor

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