After the dust finally settled from Baku, it was the unlikely figure of Valtteri Bottas who sneaked back into the title picture with a tense victory in Austria. It’s a quick turnaround as the drivers find themselves at Silverstone this weekend with Lewis Hamilton looking for a fourth consecutive win in front of his home fans.
As we approach the halfway stage of this incredible season, Betsafe have joined forces with Planet F1 to give you the lowdown ahead of the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.
Deja vu for Ro-Bottas
0.2 seconds. That is how long it took for pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas to react to the lights going out. Sebastian Vettel said it was “not human”; but the FIA declared it legal. The lightning-quick start would turn out to be crucial in the Finn’s second race win of the season.
As Bottas took off down the next long straight, there were chaotic scenes unfolding behind as Daniil Kvyat slammed straight into the back of Fernando Alonso and Max Verstappen at Turn 1, forcing the two-time World Champion and the young Dutchman – backed by a 10,000-strong army of fans – to retire from the race in a matter of seconds.
Back out in front, Bottas was dominant. But the lingering threat of rain and the ongoing stewards’ investigation into his start meant the Finn was never able to get comfortable, even more so after the pit-stops had taken place.
Vettel, still in second, roared into life on the supersoft tyres from lap 47 onwards and was closing down Bottas with every lap that passed, reminiscent of their epic battle in Russia earlier in the season.
Bottas’ tyres continued to fade, but he kept ice-cool under pressure once again to cling onto victory by a mere 0.6 seconds.
There was also a nail-biting duel between Daniel Ricciardo and Lewis Hamilton for third, with the Brit desperately trying to limit the damage after starting P8 due to a five-place grid penalty for a gearbox change that was kept under wraps.
On the penultimate lap, Hamilton almost found a way past the Aussie, but the Red Bull driver held his ground and clinched a fifth consecutive podium finish. It was a case of too little, too late for Hamilton, who struggled keeping the tyres in check and with his set-up, which led to him losing more ground in the title race.
Kimi Raikkonen was a distant fifth place, with the super-impressive Romain Grosjean finishing in the lofty heights of P6 for Haas.
Force India team-mates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon stayed out of trouble this round to come home in P7 and P8 respectively, while Williams pair Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll recovered well from a disastrous qualifying to sweep up the rest of the points.
Jolyon Palmer experienced the rare joy of finishing ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in P11, as Stoffel Vandoorne, penalised for ignoring blue flags, finished 12th.
‘The Hulk’ crossed the line in P13, with Pascal Wehrlein, Marcus Ericsson and Daniil Kvyat the last of the finishers.
Kvyat’s team-mate Sainz was the only other retirement after his Toro Rosso experienced mechanical problems.
Heading into round 10 at Silverstone, Vettel now has a 20-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the World Championship fight, But, just 15 points behind the Brit is team-mate Bottas, who has all of a sudden become a title contender.
What to expect at Silverstone
There will be yet another fascinating battle between Mercedes and Ferrari, who are both coming to Silverstone armed with upgrades as they continue to eek out those precious tenths of a second.
A lot was made of Vettel’s frame of mind following his actions in Baku, but Hamilton was notably downcast in his interviews after the race in Austria and now has to fire himself back into life on home soil.
If he doesn’t, then it could be Bottas who gets even closer to emerging as Vettel’s main rival for the title.
Red Bull’s increasing competitiveness means they will have another big say at Silverstone and Verstappen is seriously due a good race after five retirements in his last seven outings.
The midfield scrap in behind is as close as it has ever been this season, with the sudden resurgence of Haas bound to keep the likes of Force India and Williams on their toes throughout the weekend.
The British Grand Prix is the oldest race to feature on the F1 calendar, hosting the first-ever World Championship race all the way back in 1950. After first alternating with Brands Hatch, Silverstone has been the sole host since 1987 and is firmly established as one of the more iconic venues that the drivers will tackle over the season.
The layout of Silverstone has changed a lot over the years, but one constant characteristic is the flow of the track. The corners come in sequences, meaning good exits are absolutely vital to be able to really carry the speed through the more open parts of the circuit.
The first corner to greet the drivers is the extremely fast right-handed Abbey corner which then swerves back to the left through Farm (Turn 2) and then onto the relatively new section which features a tight squeeze at Village (Turn 3) and ‘The Loop’ (Turn 4) that acts as a feeder onto the first DRS zone down the Wellington Straight.
A long, long corner at Brooklands follows before another passing opportunity opens up at Luffield at the start of Sector 2. Then it is flat out through Woodcote and onto the old start/finish straight.
That is when the heart really starts to pump as the drivers begin to negotiate the signature corners of this wonderful 5.9km circuit.
Copse (Turn 9) provides a taste of things to come as the left-right, left-right high-speed kinks at Maggots and Becketts lead onto the second DRS zone down the Hangar Straight.
After threading the car through Stow at Turn 15, it is time to go down through the Vale and onto a really tricky Club section to end the lap, braking very hard at Turn 16 before another couple of tight corners spiral back onto the start/finish straight.
Previous winners and track suitability
There is no place like home and that is certainly the case for Hamilton, who is a four-time winner at Silverstone and comes into this year’s race on the back of a sensational hat-trick of British Grand Prix victories.
A fifth win in 2017 would see the Brit join all-time greats Jim Clark and Alain Prost at the very top of the winners’ list in the UK. The only other current drivers to win at Silverstone are Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.
And it is Ferrari who sit pretty at the top of the constructors list with a whopping 15 victories in Britain, their last coming in 2011 when Alonso was still decked out in red colours.
McLaren and Williams also enjoy a rich history with the British Grand Prix with 14 and 10 respective successes.
Mercedes have shot up the leaderboard with five wins in total – emerging victorious in the last four editions of the race – and their engine power could just pip the Scuderia once again this year.
About Mark Scott
Mark Scott is a contributor for PlanetF1, the definitive site for Formula One news, features, galleries and live coverage