Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Verstappen and Red Bull Sure-footed Charge Wins 70th Anniversary Grand Prix

Photo Credit: 2020 Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

For 2020, Formula 1 is celebrating its 70th year of sanctioning a world tour containing some of the finest race cars and legendary drivers. Forced to carry out more discrete festivities due to restrictions caused by the current global health pandemic, the premium motorsport organization would improvise in commemorating seven decades of auto racing action. Occurring one week after the long-running British Grand Prix, the Silverstone Circuit would host an additional event in the 2020 season recognizing the 70th anniversary of Formula 1 by placing the sport back at the place the event started. 

Called the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix, the second Silverstone Circuit race on the 5.981-kilometer track welcomed a 20-car field for another 52-lap event. On Saturday, Valtteri Bottas bested his Mercedes AMG teammate Lewis Hamilton in qualifying taking pole for the fifth race of the 2020 season. 

Following a British Grand Prix that is remembered for Lewis Hamilton crossing the line on a failed left front tire, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix was poised not to be affected by tires in the same manner as Pirelli chose a softer array of tire compounds. While the second 52-lap race at Silverstone did not feature the same catastrophic tire failures as the previous race weekend, the strategy for matching the right rubber with the right car ultimately proved pivotal over the course of the Sunday afternoon where track temperatures exceeded 40 degrees Celsius. 

Photo Credit: Mercedes AMG/LAT Images

The start of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix saw the Mercedes AMG F1 Team race cars led by Valtteri Bottas surging to an early advantage over the field. Behind Bottas and Hamilton, Red Bull Racing RB16 car of Max Verstappen made some important moves. Leaving the starting grid in fourth place, Verstappen surged to third in the first lap passing the Racing Point piloted by weekend’s emotional favourite driver Nico Hulkenberg. The opening lap success for Max Verstappen was opportune based on the team’s choice to start the race on hard compound Pirelli tires. 

While the frontrunners were storming ahead in the early stage of the Silverstone event, there were some competitors that found trouble shortly after the start. Qualifying 12th, Scuderia Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel spun coming out of the first corner of the first lap dropping him to the last place. Finishing the event in 12th position, Vettel was frustrated during and after the event over the choice of strategy executed by his team further adding to what observers of the driver/team relationship perceives as a state of turmoil. In a post-race release from Ferrari, the German driver commented “After my first stop I was in traffic and for this reason we had to bring forward the second stop. In the end I had to drive on the Medium tyres for 20 laps, which I feel was not the best choice we could have made today. Of course the race was difficult overall and it’s a pity we couldn’t get back to where we wanted to be.”

Like much of the field, the Mercedes factory entrants wore medium compound tires in the opening run of the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. However, the lead vehicles of Bottas and Hamilton quickly experienced wear to the Pirelli tires that included blistering necessitating a pit stops at for both cars by the race’s 14th lap. It was after the Mercedes AMG F1 team’s pit service that Max Verstappen’s Honda-powered Red Bull would arrive in an enviable spot for the duration of the grand prix. It wouldn’t until lap 26 that Verstappen was called to the attention of his crew to switch off the initial set of hard compound tires. 

Photo Credit: 2020 Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

Lewis Hamilton took the lead after Max Verstappen pitted on lap 32 for his second and final time in the grand prix but the Red Bull Racing car rejoined the track ahead of Valtteri Bottas. Steadily gaining on the leader, Verstappen would regain the race’s top spot after Hamilton made a lap 41 pit stop. With the Mercedes AMG cars unable to maintain the long-run pace of the Red Bull-Honda, Max Verstappen took victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix finishing 11.3 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The first win of the 2020 Formula 1 season for a team other than the Mercedes AMG F1 Team, the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix provided a sense of redemption for the Dutch driver who came up short on victory during the previous Sunday at Silverstone. With his ninth career Formula 1 win, Max Verstappen has climbed to second place in the 2020 season’s drivers’ championship points. “It’s a great day and I’m very happy with the result as we did everything really well as a Team. The race showed we had the right strategy after our decision to qualify on the hard tyre and I’m pleased it paid off.” said Verstappen via the team’s post-race release.

Settling for second place, Lewis Hamilton commented on the persistent tire blistering over the course of the Grand Prix. Holding to his lead in the drivers’ championship by 30 points after five races, the British reigning champion was followed across the finish line at the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix by teammate Valtteri Bottas. Capturing pole on Saturday, Bottas questioned after the race his Mercedes AMG’s team strategy of pitting him nine laps earlier than Hamilton.   

Though the tire selection was one step softer compared to a week ago, three drivers would complete the grand prix on a single pit stop with two ending up scoring points after 52 laps. Among the single-stop runners was Charles Leclerc who finished fourth. A considerably better performance than Scuderia Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, Leclerc happily reacted to the result where he ran the final 34 laps on hard compound tires. Renault’s Esteban Ocon also had a successful single-stop race coming across the finish line as the 8th place car. Ocon’s teammate Daniel Ricciardo finished outside of the points despite a strong fifth place starting spot. Ricciardo’s lack of success occurred following a spin in Silverstone’s turn 3 on lap 32.  

Following an unpleasant British Grand Prix, Red Bull Racing driver Alexander Albon enjoyed a more positive outing at Silverstone. Rallying from a ninth place grid position to finish fifth, Albon’s recent effort came with his new race engineer Simon Rennie who paired up with the Thai driver arriving for the British Grand Prix last week. 

Crossing the line in sixth and seventh place spots, the two Racing Point drivers ran consistently considering the turbulent last several weeks for the team. Lance Stroll placed ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in what will likely be is final race for the 2020 season with the team. In addition to having Nico Hulkenberg as a substitute for Sergio Perez for the two Silverstone races, Racing Point was assessed a 15-point penalty and fined 400,000 Euros for a ruling on the rear brake ducts used on the RP20 race car (YouTube channel Chain Bear posted an excellently detailed explanation of how and why the sanctioning body made its ruling against Racing Point). 

Photo Credit: 2020 Pirelli & C. S.p.A.

The final two point-paying positions were secured by the McLaren-Renault driven by Lando Norris and Daniil Kvyat piloting an AlphaTauri car. Kvyat’s single point is recovered a week after walking away unhurt from a major crash on the Silverstone Circuit. 

The next scheduled race for the 2020 Formula 1 will be the Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

2020 Formula 1
70th Anniversary Grand Prix
Race Results

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