Round 10 of the 2022 F1 season had it all- enthralling racing, spectacular crashes (thank goodness for modern motorsport safety measures), first wins, championship points dropped, teammates crashing into each other (the Alpha Tauri debrief not a fun place to be I’d imagine), brilliant strategies, some really REALLY not-so-brilliant strategy (gee I wonder who this refers too *trots away*), and it has set things up perfectly for the second half of the season.
First off, I just want to say thank you to the marshals and safety crew. The lap 1 crash was horrific. And knowing that Zhou and Albon are safe and doing well is the best news of the weekend. Special mention to Mercedes’ George Russell too who immediately went over to check on Zhou after the big crash. One of those days where it really hits you how dangerous this sport is and reminds you why safety is always the number one priority.
Going into the race at Silverstone, Red Bull and defending champion Max had won the last 6 races. Their longest win streak since Vettel was on top of the world in a Red Bull. It was a strange weekend for Max’s side of the garage, and Red Bull in general. He looked to have tremendous pace and all set to take pole position, but a brief Leclerc spin brought a yellow flag and it was Ferrari man Carlos Sainz who took his first pole position instead. Cut to race day and Max had a blistering start from P2 and took the lead going into the first corner. In the safety car restart, he again showed great pace and hunted down Sainz to retake the lead. But some debris on track had cut through the floor of his car and his pace dropped off a cliff. And on lap 12, Sainz and Leclerc both overtook Max’s clearly damaged Red Bull, and Max would go on to finish the race in P7 after a thrilling battle to hold off Haas driver Mick Schumacher, who took home his first points as a Formula 1 driver!
Adding to Max’s car issues, in the safety car restart, Checo and Leclerc had a brief collision that damaged both their front wings and as a result Red Bull had Checo Perez come into the pits really early in order to replace the nose and front wing. He dropped to P16 from P4 and had it all to do. At the moment, everything going Ferrari’s way. But this is Ferrari so of course things are just not allowed to go smoothly. It’s in our DNA to look at a straightforward situation and go “hmmm this could do with some drama” (it is painful being Tifosi, trust me…). Carlos and Charles were leading the race 1-2 and going well. But everybody could see that Leclerc was clearly the faster of the two, and Lewis Hamilton was fast catching up to these two out front. Leclerc was clearly frustrated and was losing a LOT of race time. Ferrari brought in Carlos on lap 20 and put him on fresh hards. Leclerc had free air and did his best, despite the damaged front wing, to push the pace. Problem was, Lewis and the Silver Arrows were really getting their act together. It was Hammer Time and Hamilton was getting ever so closer lap after lap. Leclerc came in on lap 25 and Lewis was still out on track at a blistering pace on his worn mediums. These were the first time he’d led a race in 2022.
Chasing Lewis out front and with Leclerc increasingly frustrated at being behind Sainz despite having more pace, Ferrari gave Carlos a target time to hit but he couldn’t get there and team orders came into action and the cars were asked to swap positions. On lap 33 Mercedes brought Lewis in to pit for hards and he came out behind both Ferraris. By this time, Red Bull’s Sergio Perez had been ON it and was carrying out a quite incredible recovery drive in P6, effective P4 because Norris and Alonso ahead of him would pit again for softs.
It all looked good for Leclerc out front, but Carlos was in touching distance and both Hamilton and Perez were catching up. Lap 38. 38 of 52. Safety car *dramatic music plays*. Alpine’s Esteban Ocon had some sort of mechanical failure and had to pull aside the old pit straight. Ferrari had plenty of time to make a decision (something that just about everyone BUT Ferrari seem to agree with) to pit both their cars. Instead, they chose to keep out their championship contender Leclerc on used hards and bring in Carlos on fresh softs. Pretty much the entire grid (Kevin Magnusson and Charles Leclerc the only exceptions) made the call to go onto fresh softs for the final 10 or so laps. Softer, fresher tyres = faster pace (Scuderia Ferrari, hire me).
The safety car came in and the race got underway on lap 43. Just before the restart, Ferrari asked Carlos to help Leclerc out and create a gap that would allow Charles more room to get his tyres warm and more space up ahead. Carlos instead chose to attack Leclerc (both drivers were free to race) because he felt that he was under threat from the cars behind. And Carlos went on to take the lead immediately after the restart and would hold on to it to take his first ever F1 win! On his 150th Grand Prix start! An amazing moment for him and the team. But while Sainz flew out front, there was some brilliant racing going on behind him. Perez, Hamilton, and Leclerc all battling, wheel to wheel action, hard racing in what was some of the most incredible racing I have ever seen, all the way to the very end. In the end Perez had the pace for P2, Hamilton and Leclerc had a wonderful battle with the Brit taking P3 for Mercedes, and Leclerc brought his Ferrari across the line at P4. Alonso and Norris breathing down his neck in P5 and P6.
Mixed day for Red Bull and Ferrari. A very promising one for Mercedes. And I really think that we’ve got a 3 team battle to the end now. The next race is in Austria, at the Red Bull Ring, the home GP for Red Bull (who’d have guessed. Not like it’s called the “Red Bull Ring” or anything). Will the prancing, not in complete rhythm but still prancing, horses pull one over the Bulls up in the Styrian Alps? Will the Silver Arrows continue to push forward and shoot ahead? Or will Max and Red Bull assert home dominance to get back to winning ways? I CANNOT wait for next weekend.