Mercedes dominated Saturday in F1 British GP as Red Bull Racing concede their rival to be too strong, with FIA revealing how the pre-race formation will happen.
On Friday, it had seemed that there would be no dominant force in this weekend’s F1 British GP, but Saturday at the circuit wiped away any preconceptions about this occurring, as Mercedes were once again on top by a considerable margin.
In his W11, Lewis Hamilton out-qualified the closest non-Mercedes i.e Red Bull’s Max Verstappen by over one second. It looked a cakewalk for the Briton, but a spin was telling of some greater challenges behind the scenes with balance, only overcome Q3.
“This feeling never gets old, that’s for sure,” started Hamilton. “We made some changes to the car going into qualifying and it felt worse, so it was a real struggle out there in the first two sessions. At this track, there can be a headwind, tailwind and crosswind all at different parts of the circuit, so it’s like juggling balls whilst you are on a moving plate.
“Qualifying is a lot about building confidence and after that spin in Q2, I had to take some deep breaths, compose myself and mentally reset – especially knowing Valtteri was putting in fast lap after fast lap. Q3 started off well, the first lap was nice and clean, but the second one was even better.”
Hamilton felt the car was much better on Saturday than Friday owing to the weather difference as it was much cooler at Silverstone. In terms of strategy, he feels it will not be much of a difference with one-stop likely way but it will only be known on Sunday.
Meanwhile, his only competition, his teammate Valtteri Bottas was unable to find the same time in Q3 as his teammate did, as he struggled massively with rear-end grip in the slower corners. He graciously applauded the incredible effort of his teammate Hamilton.
“It’s disappointing to be second but the reality is that Lewis found more time in Q3, I just couldn’t quite catch him,” said Bottas. “It was a pretty smooth session and I had some clean laps in Q1 and Q2 – the car felt pretty good out there.
“I don’t know if the track temp was getting higher or what was it but on both runs in Q3 I really struggled to attack the slow speed corners as I did before – and the same in Turn 12 – Turn 13. I started to struggle with the rear end – just a bit snappy.”
In theory, Red Bull also would have posed a threat to Mercedes, but their disappointing pace thus far in F1 2020 saw their leading man Verstappen qualify only a distant third. Worse yet, Alexander Albon failed to make it out of the relegation zone in Q2, and finished the session in 12th. This, after failing to make Q3 last time out in Hungary.
“We were looking pretty strong this weekend and Friday was a lot better than Saturday but it’s not a weekend to forget yet and there is still a race,” said a somewhat optimistic Albon, who also believes their choice of tyre could play into their hands.
“We were on the back foot slightly heading into qualifying after missing the track time in FP3 and I just struggled getting up to speed. It was tricky out there, the wind is changing all the time and the balance changes with that so we needed a bit of fine tuning.
“The times in Q2 are also obviously very tight out there so a small amount of time was worth a lot of grid positions and we just lost out. It is what it is but tomorrow we have free tyre choice so hopefully we can do something special with that and get some good points.”
Verstappen, meanwhile, was happy with his lap, though it was still not sufficient to beat the Mercedes as he felt that even with the warmer conditions like Friday, they wouldn’t have beaten Mercedes and probably would have ended few tenths off. The Dutchman added Red Bull is doing all but conceded that the rivals is also pushing, so the gap is stagnant.
Looking at their likely competitors, Racing Point had a somewhat disappointing qualifying session, as Lance Stroll came home only sixth, and Nico Hulkenberg – with only a handful of hours behind the wheel of the RP20 under his belt – qualifying 13th.
The latter felt his result didn’t match his potential, though he acknowledged that the circumstances would have made a truly exceptional result difficult to achieve. “I feel there was more potential, and I didn’t get everything out of it,” said Hulkenberg.
“Given the circumstances, it is also very hard, you know, I don’t know if I can expect to get 100% out of the car. It was small margins, and in Q3 it was not far away. We played away with the different compounds, so it was a bit tricky with the rythm, but it is what it is.
“For me, there are so many new inputs. Every situation I enter with the car is new. First time on low fuel, first time on high fuel, so I have to learn, soak everything in, and digest it fast, which hasn’t been easy but I’ve been enjoying it.”
Over at Ferrari, this Saturday – much like the day that preceded it – was one of mixed fortunes, as Charles Leclerc managed to drag his SF1000 into the top five, qualifying fourth, while Sebastian Vettel could only acquire 10th.
Leclerc would later say that the session went better than he anticipated. “A much better quali than we had hoped for,” he said. “I am very very happy with the job we have done and with my final lap, where I think I got everything together and the car was feeling pretty good in terms of balance.
“I don’t think there was anything more to extract from the car and I am very pleased with P4. Also, I had a great lap in Q2 on the medium tyres, which got us through to Q3. It was a really good decision. We have been struggling with race pace so realistically it’s going to be difficult, but we have changed the car a little bit overnight.
“It didn’t affect our quali pace apparently, and with a good strategy, I hope we’ll manage to get some advantage from our tyre choice. I’m really looking forward to tomorrow and hopefully we can score some good points.” With all the issues Vettel had all weekend, the German felt Q3 was the best he could get out of the car.
Among the other cars inside the Top 10, McLaren were thrilled to have had both within the Top 7 in what was a ‘strong’ session for the F1 team, in the eyes of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris – the latter spoke about not over-driving which actually helped him despite the scrappy session he had due to an off moment in Q1.
It was a recovery for Norris then after as he was playing catch up. The other F1 team to have both cars were Renault. While Esteban Ocon was happy to be inside the Top 10 but Daniel Ricciardo felt more was expected as even the best lap got him only eighth.
Looking at the F1 British GP on Sunday, the FIA Race Director Michael Masi has released information regarding the pre-grid formation, where the drivers will get time for their demonstrations and the sport will do their bit as well.
Here’s the release in whole:
“The FIA, Formula 1, Teams and Drivers stand united as a sport in the fight to end racism and fully support equality, inclusivity and equal opportunity for all. The FIA supports any form of individual expression in accordance with the fundamental principles of its Statutes, and as a mark of respect each driver, as an individual, may choose to mark this moment with their own gesture.
The procedure outlined for the pre-race activities are detailed below together with the associated timings:
13.52.30 – At sound of a beep on PA system each Driver wearing their black coloured ‘end racism’ t-shirts will walk to the carpet runner, with the ‘end racism’ banner placed across the width of the track, and stand by their name card. At this stage the VT of driver pledges will be playing on the International feed whilst Drivers get organised and into position.
13.53:00 – International Feed goes live to drivers organised in position on the carpet runner.
13.53:03 – Circuit audio: ‘Formula 1 and the FIA will take this moment, in recognition of the importance of equality and equal opportunity for all’.
At end of circuit audio driver can choose their gesture of support. As suggestions these gestures could include;
• taking the knee
• standing on carpet with arms crossed in front or behind them
• standing on carpet and bow head
• standing on carpet and pointing to the words ‘end racism’ on their t-shirts
• standing on carpet and place their hand on the heart
• anything else a driver may feel comfortable to do
13.53:30 – This moment will be concluded with the audio ‘Thank you for this statement of support to end racism in the world’, and drivers move to their name card position for National Anthem
13.54:00 – National Anthem of the United Kingdom will commence.
13.56:00 – ‘THANK YOU NHS’ Spitfire Flyover for 2 minutes.
13.57:00 – An audio announcement to indicate the start of clapping moment for NHS. (on the grid, in team garages, paddock, personnel and marshals around the circuit)
13.58:00 – An audio announcement to indicate the end of clapping moment for NHS.
“I hope the above is clear and provides some clarity and reassurance to the drivers. The FIA, F1 and F1 Teams Communication Directors will continue to manage the media expectations on how this gesture will be marked, and that each driver is united in the call to end racism and will choose their own gesture at the determined time to mark this.”
Here’s how F1 British GP qualifying panned out
The story was edited by Darshan Chokhani