The British Grand Prix sprang into life three laps from the end as Pirelli rubber began to feel the strain of the demanding Silverstone circuit and changed the course of this year’s championship.
Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton both suffered front left tyre failures, but crucially the latter was able to take the flag and score a vital 25 points while his team-mate wasn’t nearly as lucky.
Pirelli concluded that “the biggest forces ever seen on tyres” was the cause of the failures but says that it has no concerns heading into this weekend that there are any safety issues with the softer compounds that will be used.
Hotter temperatures and softer tyres could give us a race similar to the closing stages of last weekend’s dramatic ending and the teams will be considering a two-stop race to be safe.
The C2, C3 and C4 compounds will be in use and are the same as those used in Hungary and both of the Austria races. What will be different though is the raising of tyre pressure limits on advice of Pirelli itself.
Could the alteration provide a mix-up on strategy to bring Red Bull into the hunt, or is Mercedes on top of its car in the summer heat?
Here is the team-by-team preview ahead of this weekend’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
A lucky escape for the championship leader at home may have wrestled the last of any remaining momentum away from Bottas in just four races.
After a great start to the season with a victory in Austria, Hamilton has taken the following three in convincing fashion, and the tyre failure three laps from the end of last weekend’s race has seriously dented the Finn’s title aspirations.
Mercedes will no doubt have analysed its strategy and tyre usage in the days following the race. After both drivers were pushing the limits for much of the afternoon, Bottas may have been the architect of his own downfall.
Hamilton admitted after the race that he was having to push more than he might have liked, as his team-mate kept up the pace behind in his challenge for the win, and was sure Bottas was overusing his tyres.
In the end, both drivers suffered failures and there will be a mountain of data analysed to try and ensure there is no repeat. The higher temperatures of the coming weekend and softer tyres may push the team into a cautious strategy.
If rivals can handle the heat and manage tyres more efficiently, avoiding an extra stop in the process, it could change the complexion of the race and hamper the Mercedes march — if the team doesn’t enjoy the pace advantage it had a week ago.
What might have been for Verstappen and Red Bull. The team obviously wasn’t to know that Hamilton’s tyre would fail in the final lap, and the 33sec gap following his pitstop for fresh soft tyres was insurmountable, but the British Grand Prix still earned them 19 points when 15 looked to be the best-case scenario.
On the other side of the garage, Alex Albon finds himself in a serious hole and desperately needs to find his way out of it after another incident-filled race weekend.
After a heavy crash in practice, contact with Kevin Magnussen in the race was the last thing a driver looking bereft of confidence needed.
Albon’s need for a strong result continues to grow weekend to weekend and rumours over his future will continue, with Red Bull notorious for its ruthless treatment of its young drivers.
Team principal Christian Horner defended his driver ahead of the British Grand Prix.
“I think there has been criticism of Alex, which in some ways has been unwarranted and unfair,” he said.
“We know the car we have provided our drivers with this year isn’t optimised and it has had some difficult characteristics and for a driver that doesn’t have experience, he’s only just had over a year’s worth of Formula 1 experience, that’s a tough call.
With Pierre Gasly continuing to put in starring performances at AlphaTauri, could the Frenchman be in line for a recall at some point?
To describe Ferrari’s British Grand Prix as a contrast is something of an understatement. While Leclerc added another unlikely podium to his 2020 record, team-mate Vettel could not work out how his weekend went the way it did.
A hydraulic issue in practice cost the German the entirety of FP1 and when he finally made it out, troublesome pedals needed fixing twice and he had an ill-handling car to contend with.
He could hardly bring himself to respond to team principal Mattia Binotto’s words of encouragement over the team radio after the chequered flag, his engineer Riccardo Adami coaxing a response out of him after asking for a radio check on the cool-down lap.
Head of Ferrari’s newly-minted performance development department Enrico Cardile said the Italian team had a lot of work to do in order to maximise its potential.
“On the one hand we will be trying to repeat the positives we saw, such as qualifying in particular, on the other we must do all in our power so that both drivers, not just one, are able to get the most out of our current package, starting off by not losing valuable time through reliability problems,” he said.
“On the technical front, the SF1000 will be in the same configuration as last weekend. We will try to optimise every aspect, especially in terms of tyre management over a long run.
“The forecast is again for settled weather with hotter than usual conditions for this part of the world, so the picture becomes even more complex.”
Ferrari has conducted a filming day in between the races at Silverstone with Vettel at the wheel. Time will tell if the team has uncovered what went wrong for him last time out.
McLaren was another team to suffer contrasting fortunes at Silverstone, with Lando Norris scoring decent points as team-mate Sainz fell out of the top 10 after his tyre issue.
Norris admitted after the race that both had been forced to push harder than they had intended, in turn possibly running into the same issues as Mercedes as a consequence with tyre life expectancy.
It cost the team a great double-points finish that it would have been desperate for on home soil after such a positive start to the 2020 season.
“I’ve lost some important points in these first four races, so I really look forward to this run of bad luck turning around,” Sainz said after his unfortunate end to the race.
“With a shorter championship, losing these points hurts more than normal, but we need to carry on.”
Almost a forgotten hero in the midst of the tyre meltdown last weekend, Daniel Ricciardo recorded one of the best races of his Renault career, narrowly missing out on a podium place in fourth.
He ended up just 1.2sec behind Leclerc at the line, a very respectable result for Renault even if the Monégasque driver had backed off to save tyres at that point.
With the higher temperatures and the team’s positive performance in the first Silverstone race, the Australian expects to be pushing for the top of the midfield once again.
“We’ll be hoping for a similar result, that’s for sure,” he said. “And, who knows, maybe we can! I think the weather looks to be hot again all weekend and that will bring some challenges,” he said ahead of this weekends race.
“It was also very windy at Silverstone and that makes things tricky in a Formula 1 car. We’re heading a step softer on tyres, which will certainly be interesting. We don’t see that many two-stop races and this one should be a two-stopper, so we’ll see what happens there.
“The aim will be to nail our qualifying and see if we can sneak a little further up for the start. Our race pace has been good, so let’s see what we can do.”
A whirlwind 72 hours for Nico Hülkenberg meant he didn’t even get to start on his surprise return, following a fire-up issue that was traced back to the drivetrain.
The sole pink car that did start the race didn’t fare too well either, as Lance Stroll lost out to the cars around him after opting for a higher downforce set-up versus rivals.
“With Lance, we were especially unlucky with the timing of the safety car, which also ruled out any strategic benefit of starting on the medium tyres,” team principal Otmar Szafnauer said following the race.
“After that, we were stuck in the train of cars and struggled with our race pace – certainly compared to the long runs we did on Friday.
“We need to understand where we lost out today so we can be stronger next week.”
Another name that needs recognition for an impressive drive one week ago is Pierre Gasly.
He was 11th in qualifying, bettering his team-mate Daniil Kvyat once again and rose to seventh during the race in a great effort that included a brilliant round-the-outside move on Vettel at Stowe and into Vale.
Kvyat’s frightening end to the British GP is believed to be down to a rear right tyre failure on the entry to Maggotts and Becketts, probably the absolute last place you’d want a failure to occur.
Luckily, the Russian’s impact into the concrete wall was not serious and both will be back ready to build upon last weekend’s strong showing.
“We came to Silverstone with a few new parts and we were quite optimistic,” team principal Franz Tost said following the race.
“From the very beginning of the weekend, we were able to show a good performance throughout all free practice sessions.
“For whatever reason, we couldn’t put everything together in qualifying, even if Pierre’s 11th position on the grid, with a free tyre choice, was actually quite fortunate.
“We are now looking forward to next week for the second race in Silverstone.”
It was a change for Haas to be contending for points on pace but the American team made the most of its package and opportunity when it presented itself to elevate Romain Grosjean up the order following the second safety car period.
It has given some confidence to the team going into this weekend’s event, with strategy even more likely to play a role with hotter temperatures and softer compounds to contend with.
“What we learned last weekend is that the car is not too bad on race pace – Romain was competitive in the midfield,” team boss Guenther Steiner said.
“What we need to do is try to get better in qualifying, which at this moment in time is difficult. But that’s what we learned – in racing at Silverstone, we can play in the midfield.
“We just need to get the best out of qualifying so we can start in a position so we can make moves. If you start at the back it’s very difficult to move forward with the air being so dirty, it’s very difficult to advance.”
Kimi Räikkönen was last of the classified runners on Sunday following his front wing failure part-way through the race. Team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi ended 14th, holding off Nicholas Latifi and Grosjean.
It was a difficult weekend for the team as it struggled to get to grips with tyres, but the follow-up race could provide the team with answers according to team principal Fréd Vasseur.
“We were looking on course for a good result until the stops, but in the end we weren’t able to make any more progress once we switched to hard tyres.
“With one more race here in Silverstone, we will need to comb through the data and find the best way to improve our performance for next week.”
Robert Kubica will make another appearance for the team during practice, taking over during FP1 on Friday.
A fairly anonymous weekend for Williams was capped off with a 12th and 15th-place finish for George Russell and Latifi respectively, but it was a positive weekend for the team.
According to head of vehicle performance at Williams, Dave Robson, the team gathered good data ahead of this weekend’s follow-up, where the team will be fine-tuning during tests ahead of the race on Sunday.
“We can be reasonably pleased with our pace and the result,” he said.
“We now have a good baseline to use for some further tests next week when we return to Silverstone for the fifth race of the season.”
George Russell recorded his third Q2 appearance of the season and feels the team is continuing to make positive steps forward with its 2020 car.
“We have put a lot of effort in to focus on our pace today, so we are going in the right direction,” he said after the race.
“If we can maintain a good qualifying position ahead of the Alfa Romeos and the Haas’ there’s no reason we can’t stay there on merit on a Sunday.”