F1: Great Britain – Carlos Sainz Seals Maiden Victory In a Dramatic British Grand Prix
The Spaniard has finally broken the deadlock and converted his first pole into a first victory.
As most of us would say, great things take time, and the wait for Carlos Sainz is finally over as he took his first F1 victory in a thrilling Silverstone race. The Ferrari driver has come close several times in the past, including the two times this season in the Monaco and Canadian Grands Prix, where he chased down a leading Red Bull all the way to the end on both occasions, only to lose out by a small margin each time. This time he got luckier, and seized the opportunity to take the chequered flag by 3.779 seconds, beating Red Bull’s Sergio Perez and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who drove an impressive home grand prix.
The race began with a slow start for Sainz as Max Verstappen snatched the lead from 2nd, but chaos quickly erupted in the midfield as a tangle between Pierre Gasly and George Russell sent Zhou Guanyu flipping before even entering the first corner, and his car continued to slide to the gravel before violently rolling and hitting the catch fence, where his car came to rest between the fence and the tyre barrier. The chain reaction saw Alex Albon slowing down to avoid the stricken cars, but was hit from behind by Sebastian Vettel and crashed hardly on the sidewall, before suffering two more impacts by Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda who were also unable to avoid the Williams driver. Despite the lengthy time to extract Zhou from his car, he was eventually taken to the medical center where he was thankfully reported fit without any injuries, as well as Albon who was flown to a hospital for precautionary checks.
The race was eventually restarted based on the original grid positions, minus the drivers who retired from the race. Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda were able to drive back to the pits and get their cars repaired during the red flag period. George Russell, however, was not allowed to restart as his car was brought back to the pits with mechanical assistance. He was praised nonetheless, as he had stopped his car and ran straight towards Zhou to check on his condition and help him get removed from the wrecked car.
This time Sainz had a better start, successfully defending Verstappen from an attack in the first turn and maintaining the lead. Behind them, Sergio Perez was charging his way to the front. He attempted a move on the top two in Turn 4, and did so when Charles Leclerc was simultaneously making a move on him. The lunge resulted in contact, causing both Leclerc and Perez to lose a piece of their front wing endplates. This prompted Perez to pit early, replacing his front wing and switching to a fresh set of mediums.
On the 10th lap, Sainz was caught out by a gust of wind in Becketts, losing control and running off to the grass before rejoining on the next turn. Verstappen took the lead for the next two laps, before mysteriously slowing down and losing his place to both Ferraris. He apparently picked up debris scattered by the AlphaTauri pair of Tsunoda and Gasly, who collided in Turn 3. The debris was stuck under the floor of Verstappen’s car, which resulted in a lack of pace and grip as he described his car “undriveable”.
Back at the front, Sainz began losing pace against Leclerc, despite the latter’s wing damage. The Spaniard also gradually began lapping slower than the charging Hamilton in 3rd, eventually prompting Ferrari to switch positions for the race lead.
On Lap 39, Esteban Ocon’s Alpine began slowing down with a fuel pump failure, and was forced to pull over to the side of the Woodcotte straight. This brought out the Safety Car, allowing most drivers to pit again for new tyres. Leclerc stayed out however, as instructed by his team. He was passed by Sainz within a few corners after the restart and by Perez at the end of the same lap, and defended against Hamilton for a few more laps before eventually losing the podium spot. The Monegasque impressively held 4th, despite his old Hards and a damaged wing, successfully defending against late chargers Alonso and Norris, who had fresh Softs like the podium finishers.
While the Safety Car played against Leclerc’s luck, Sainz managed to seize the opportunity well and cruised to a maiden victory, edging himself closer to the title race after a poor start to the season. Perez sensationally fought back after a wing damage early in the race held him back, while Hamilton sealed an impressive home podium along with the fastest lap, following a brilliant drive which saw the 7-time world champion pace faster than Sainz’s undamaged Ferrari in the middle stint.
A luckless Leclerc still defended brilliantly on a significantly slower car on the final stint, holding off Alonso and Norris who respectively finished 5th and 6th. Far behind them, Max Verstappen did the most he could to bring some points home, battling hard against Haas’s Mick Schumacher for 7th. While Verstappen beat Schumacher to the line at the end, the German was nonetheless thrilled as he had finally scored his first career points, and enjoyed his battle with the reigning world champion.
Sebastian Vettel put his Aston Martin into 9th, a brilliant recovery after having qualified in the back. The German seems far more comfortable in the car compared to the last season, now bringing what is arguably the second-worst car into the points consistently. Kevin Magnussen took the final point, a sigh of relief following five luckless races without scoring any points.
Lance Stroll was just over a second shy from scoring a point, but made a good recovery drive nonetheless after qualifying last on the grid. Behind him was fellow Canadian Nicholas Latifi, who had driven one of the best weekends of his career. As Alex Albon was the only Williams driver with the new major upgrade, Latifi was the only driver left with the slowest car on the grid, but managed to pull a miracle in a soaked Qualifying, where he made it into Q3 for the first time in his career. In the dry race, he launched well off the line to pass Russell and Zhou for 8th, and restarted there after the latter two collided heavily in the original start. Latifi drove a very respectable race, holding the faster drivers off for most of the race, before slowly dropping to 12th. He later revealed that he sustained damage midway through the race, costing him a chance to score his first points of the season.
Daniel Ricciardo unfortunately struggled to match his teammate during the race, and was also not helped by a faulty DRS which forced an unscheduled pit stop for repairs, eventually finishing a disappointing 13th. Yuki Tsunoda was the final finisher, after having to pit for repairs following his contact with teammate Pierre Gasly, who retired shortly after the contact. Aside from the two Frenchmen, Valtteri Bottas was the only other retiree among the drivers who restarted, as gearbox issues ended his race prematurely.
Verstappen still remains in the title lead with 181 points, despite a disappointing finish in the race. Perez’s podium finish allowed him to cut his gap to his teammate by twelve points, now sitting 34 points behind the lead with 147 in his tally. Leclerc on the other hand continues to slowly fade away from the top, having last stood on the podium in Miami. He currently sits in 3rd, nine points behind Perez, and eleven ahead of his teammate Sainz, who edges closer to the championship battle with his consistent performances, albeit being typically off the pace. However, his close finish in Canada and his maiden victory at Silverstone has surely boosted his confidence, and it seems now that we could be seeing a 4-way fight for the title, rather than the two-horse race between Leclerc and Verstappen that was initially anticipated at the start of the season.
Featured Image – Mark Sutton, Motorsport Images