The 2020 Formula 1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix was held at the Silverstone racetrack which also hosted the last week's F1 2020 British Grand Prix. This was a special race to mark the 70th anniversary of the first-ever F1 race held at the Silverstone racetrack back in the middle of the 20th century (in 1950).
Verstappen Makes Stunning First Win for the Formula One 2020 Season
Red Bull outsmarted the Mercedes by qualifying on the hard tyres and went on to make a stunning first win of the season for the Aston Martin Red Bull Racing team. This was Red Bull's first win at the Silverstone since 2012 and first at Silverstone in the 1.6L V6 turbo hybrid engine era. Honda engine scored their first win at the famous track since 1989. The Mercedes pair finished 2nd and 3rd for the F1 70th Anniversary GP.
Thursday Pre-Race Prep: Pirelli brought softer tyres for more exciting racing
Just like in last week's British GP, weather outlook for the second week at the Silverstone was warm and bright sunshine throughout the three days of the race week. Mercedes announced that Valterri Bottas would continue to drive for the Mercedes F1 team until the end of the 2021 F1 season. Racing Point announced that Sergio Perez would race for the team this weekend if his COVID-19 test comes out negative on Friday. New kerbs and barriers were installed at the famous Maggots-Becketts sequence, after Kvyat’s crash and late tyre failures during last week’s British GP. Pirelli brought one step softer rubber compounds to the race to add excitement to the race.
Build Up to Friday Practice: Racing Point fined for using Mercedes parts
Typically, the Friday morning is very calm, but this time the morning was particularly harsh for one team - Racing Point. Renault lodged protests at the first three races of the season about Racing Point using Mercedes Rear brake ducts which became a listed part from 2020 season onward. Listed part means the team have to design and develop the part themselves rather than buying it from the other manufacturer. The FIA deemed Renault’s protest as legal and as a result, fined the team 400,000 Euros and 15 points deduction in the constructor’s championship.
The COVID-19 test of the Mexican Sergio Perez came negative again, so Nico Hulkenberg will be able to race for the Racing Point team.
Friday Practice: Red Bull showed up as strongest contender for Mercedes
All the teams tried to do most of the Friday running on the soft red-marked tyre and saved the medium and hard compound for the qualifying and the race. FP1 and FP2 were both held under dry conditions. Pirelli increased the front tyre pressures by 2 psi and rear by 1 psi to stop the tyre from generating more grip and prevent any tyre failures like those that happened during the British GP.
Mercedes was again the benchmark for the rest of the field. Red Bull was about 0.9 sec slower over the short run pace. Ferrari, Racing Point and McLaren completed the top 5 fastest teams over single-lap pace, but almost 1.3 sec/lap slower compared to the Mercedes.
Red Bull emerged as the only team to have any chance of beating Mercedes on the race pace, with the data analysis showing that the deficit between the two teams was 0.7 sec/lap in favour of Mercedes. Racing Point, Ferrari, McLaren and Renault all looked like contenders for the point finished on Sunday. Their paces were behind Mercedes by 1.3 to 1.6sec/lap.
Saturday Practice: It’s McLaren next to Mercedes
Mercedes completed the practice washout as quickest in all three practice sessions, two on Friday and one on Saturday. Lando Norris of McLaren appeared to be the closest challenger of the Mercedes at the end of the Saturday practice session. Nico Hulkenberg an impressive 4th and Lance Stroll (Racing Point) completed the top 5.
Qualifying: Bottas snatched pole from teammate, Hulkenberg on 3rd
George Russell once again proved that he is the man of the Saturday Q1 session. He made it out of Q1 for the fourth consecutive race while his teammate failed to qualify for Q2 in any session during 2020 F1 season. At the front of the field, Bottas took P1 ahead of his teammate. Alfa Romeo continued the trend of being the only team on the grid which has failed to qualify a single for Q2 session. Kvyat and Magnussen were the other two eliminations.
While Bottas continued his fine form, Nico Hulkenberg was the star of the second qualifying session. He set the second-fastest time of the session and four-tenths ahead of Lance Stroll. Every driver tried to qualify for Q3 with a set of Medium tyres, apart from Max Verstappen who qualified on Hard tyres. Carlos Sainz (McLaren), Ocon (Renault), Grosjean (Haas), Vettel (Ferrari) and George Russell were the eliminations.
Hamilton turned up the heat on his teammate and went quickest by 0.116 sec from his teammate. But going into the final runs of the day Bottas held his nerves and put together a decent lap to out-qualify Hamilton and snatch the P1 grid slot from his teammate by less than one-tenth of a second.
The incredible Hulk qualified a fantastic 3rd for Racing Point, Verstappen 4th, Ricciardo 5th, Stroll 6th, Gasly 7th, Leclerc 8th, Albon 9th and Norris 10th.
Sunday Race: The Dutchman sped ahead of the Silver Arrows to win the F1 70th Anniversary Grand Prix
The polesitter did an excellent standing start and led into the first corner. Hamilton tried to pass him while going through Brooklands corner, but Bottas held his line, and the pair settled into their respective positions. Behind, everybody got away cleanly and had navigated the first lap safely apart from Vettel who ruined his race by spinning on his own before entering the village corner. This mistake put him last, and he failed to take any advantage of starting on hard tyres.
By lap 11, it was visible that the Mercedes cars were going to struggle throughout the race with blisters on both cars' tyres. Lap 14 and race leader Bottas pitted for new hard tyres, and Hamilton followed a lap later. Verstappen just put the hammer down, and by lap 25 he was 19 sec ahead of Bottas, safe enough to head to a pitstop. He pitted on lap 27, but a slow changeover put him behind Bottas. However, he forced his way around Bottas while going through Luffield and straight back into the lead.
On the midfield battle, Albon was taking full advantage of his Red Bull’s superior tyre management and made his past the midfield cars very easily. Sainz who was on target for a top 6 finish had yet another slow pitstop, dropping him out of the points and into some very heavy traffic. The rest of the top 10 runners were all struggling with tyre degradation and blisters.
On lap 33 Verstappen and Bottas pitted for new medium tyres, and Hamilton stayed out, with the team hoping that he might be able to finish the race on a one-stop strategy. At the end of lap 41, it was evident that the tyres won’t make it to the end of the race. Hamilton pitted on lap 42 and emerged 4th behind Leclerc. He quickly dispatched the Monegasque and managed to pass his teammate on lap 50. With two laps to go, it was an easy drive to the flag for the Dutchman who grabbed a brilliant victory ahead of the all-conquering mighty Mercedes. At the end of the race, one thing was clear: Red Bull was the only team that got the car setup and downforce levels spot on. Hamilton and Bottas finished 2nd and 3rd.
Charles Leclerc took a surprise 4th for Ferrari after starting 8th, Albon 5th, Stroll 6th, Nico Hulkenberg 7th, Ocon 8th, Norris 9th and Kvyat finished 10th after being knocked out of the Q1 session on Saturday.
The 2020 Formula 1 will head back to the home of winter testing venue Circuit De Catalunya, Barcelona, Spain. It will mark the completion of the second triple-header of the COVID-19 impacted 2020 Formula One season.