The British Grand Prix ended with a win for Scuderia Ferrari, which sees Sebastien Vettel increase his lead by 7 points to 8 in the Drivers’ championship and the team extend its advantage by 10 points to 20 in the Constructors’.
Despite some neck pain Vettel secured his fourth win of the season and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen made a good recovery following an incident with Lewis Hamilton shortly after the start to finish on the podium. The SF71H proved to be the car to beat, even if that had not seemed the case going into this event.
Making it sweeter for Maranello was the fact it was the first time Ferrari had won the British Grand Prix since Fernando Alonso delivered victory in 2011 and it brings the Scuderia’s total number of wins in this race up to sixteen, keeping it two clear at the top.
Would the boiling hot tyres give enough grip? Yes, would seem to be the answer given the way Vettel shot from second on the grid into the lead. Raikkonen fought with Hamilton and it did not go well, with the Mercedes spinning and the Ferrari continuing in fourth place, before retaking Ricciardo at the end of the opening lap.
In the early stages, Vettel’s SF71H was clearly the quickest car on track, while Raikkonen was right up Verstappen’s exhaust pipes. However, after seven laps, the Stewards hit the Finn with a 10 second penalty for the collision at Turn 3, while the driver was radioing the team asking about suspected front wing damage.
They decided to bring him in on lap 13 to change the tyres and take the penalty. He rejoined tenth, between Sainz and Magnussen. He immediately dealt with the Renault and set the fastest lap. The aim was to stay ahead of Hamilton when he too would have to pit.
At one third distance, Raikkonen had moved up to sixth and Red Bull called in its drivers to avoid finding themselves behind the Ferrari. At the end of lap 20, Vettel pitted switching from Soft to Medium tyres. He emerged ahead of Hamilton, as planned.
Obviously, at that point, Bottas was told to pit, but Vettel still found himself leading, by the same margin of 4”4, as before the stop. However, now it was time for tyre management.
Hamilton pitted on lap 26, but surprisingly, Ricciardo hung on for a further five laps before handing fourth place to Kimi. With 20 laps to go, Ericsson crashed into the barriers at the first corner and the safety car came out, which changed the shape of the race. Ferrari pulled off a double pit stop, switching back to Softs, but the Mercedes duo stayed out, so that behind the Safety Car, Bottas led the way, from Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen and Raikkonen.
At the end of lap 37, the race resumed with Vettel maintaining position and Raikkonen fighting with Verstappen. But almost immediately there was another crash, this time involving Sainz and Grosjean at Copse. So once again the Safety Car appeared, coming back in with ten laps remaining. The first three tore off and behind them, Raikkonen got the better of Verstappen and set his sights on Hamilton.
The next two laps were incredible with four cars fighting it out. Then, on lap 47, Vettel concealed his move to the very last moment and dived inside Bottas at turn 6. He was first! And for the second time in this race, those behind switched places.
Only three laps left, but there was plenty of excitement still to come. Raikkonen attacked Bottas and passed him decisively at Turn 6.
Maurizio Arrivabene: “This was a well-deserved win, mainly down to a great job from the team at the track and back in Maranello and I congratulate them. Winning here is not easy as England is home to the Mercedes, Red Bull, McLaren, Force India and Williams and others. That makes winning here all the more special. Sebastian drove a great race, fighting like a lion despite the pain in the neck he has suffered with since Saturday. Kimi also had a strong race proving once again what a fighter he is. The SF71H confirmed its strengths as it has done on other tracks already and the Pirelli tyres were a perfect match for our strategy. Tomorrow we will have our debrief and right from the afternoon we will start preparing for Sebastian’s home race, the German GP.”
Sebastian Vettel: “Every race is a team race, but today it was even more important for us to win here, because the last few years had been very difficult to us. This year we have proved to be strong every time on every track so far. The most important thing is that the car is strong and fast. The new updates that we brought here have worked very well through the whole weekend. In qualifying we were just a little bit slower, but during the race it was just great. Today during the first stint I probably pushed too much on the Soft tires, but during the second one I had everything under control. The Safety Car made everything more exciting, but even more tricky. However, the strategy with the tires was great and at the end we got a fantastic win as a team. I really enjoyed this race and I am happy for me and for the team. Also, the start was very important for us and it was great. Now it’s important to keep working. I say thanks to the whole team for this win!”
Kimi Raikkonen: “My start was not perfect; in Turn 3 I locked the inside wheel, lost a bit of grip and couldn’t slow down as much as I wanted. So I ended up touching Lewis’s rear wheel and unfortunately he span. I had to serve a ten seconds penalty and after that my race was a bit messy. Overtaking was difficult, and I fought against the Red Bulls for many laps. When I was on my own the speed was ok, but once I was behind them, their wake seemed to affect my car a lot more than the Mercedes did; I was losing a lot of downforce and that upset the balance of the car. We were quite a bit faster, but it was really tricky for us to follow them. It was a close fight for quite a lot of times, at the beginning and at the end of the race. Finally, we managed to pass them and then I overtook one of the Mercedes. It was not an easy day, but I gave my best and made a decent comeback."
Photos: Scuderia Ferrari - 2018 FIA F1 World Championship