2021 British GP: The Sprint Toward A New Era?

The 2021 British GP weekend was the first time in a while that we’ve had a weekend structure change for F1 as a whole. Practice 1 was followed by Qualifying on Friday, Practice 2 and the Sprint Race were held on Saturday, and Sunday had the main race. Questions were raised over these changes to the weekend structure, as pole position was given to the sprint race winner instead of the driver who was fastest in qualifying, who instead got the Pirelli Speed King award. An additional race was a great addition to the weekend in my opinion, and here’s what happened in it.

Sprint Race

The first-ever Sprint Race, upon its announcement, was met with mixed response, although I think it is a good addition as a occasional event instead of being held every race weekend. Friday qualifying went to Lewis Hamilton, who was fastest by a very small margin over Max Verstappen. At the start however, Max made his way past Lewis for P1, and stayed there till the end. Every driver chose the medium tyre, apart from Bottas, Alonso, Ocon and Raikkonen, who instead opted for the soft tyre.

Fernando absolutely bossed the start, and this earned him the “Moment Of The Race” as well.

The 4 of them had varying fortunes, with both Alpines making amazing ground on the opening lap, with Alonso’s lightning start being awarded the “Moment of the race”. Raikkonen made up a few places, while Bottas held on to P3. Sergio Perez had a scary spin just before the Hangar Straight, and while rejoining almost had a crash with Yuki Tsunoda. He was eventually forced to retire the car, after struggling to make up ground. Carlos Sainz and George Russell made contact, which sent the Spaniard down the order, and had to work hard to make up lost ground. George was deemed to be responsible for causing the incident, and was given a grid drop for Sunday’s race. Eventually, Verstappen won, followed by Hamilton and Bottas. The top 3 got 3,2 and 1 point respectively.

Sergio had a tough afternoon on Saturday.

VERDICT: The Sprint Qualifying is a great addition to the weekend, as less practice time for the drivers paves the way for unpredictability and entertainment for us fans, and hence why I’d like to see it at select events across the year. However, I do wish they made one change to the format. Instead of awarding the Friday Qualifying winner a Speed King award, and the Sprint Qualifying winner Pole Position, it should be reversed. As per me, pole position should be decided on the basis of who was faster over one lap, as compared to who made the most of a 30-minute sprint session. In conclusion, the sprint race gets a seal of approval from me, but I’d like to see the qualifying winner get Pole Position, and the Sprint Qualifying winner get the Speed King award instead.

Grand Prix

The Grand Prix was a very interesting one, and had drama on the very first lap. Verstappen jumped Hamilton at the start, and all throughout the first sector, the two cars were neck and neck through the first sector. On the run up to Copse corner, both were almost side by side, Max being ever so slightly ahead. Inevitable contact between the two was bound to happen at some point this season, and it happened here. Max was hit by Lewis, and sent into the barrier, recording a hit over 50G. Thankfully, Max escaped unharmed.

Charles leading away after the safety car restart.

The race was temporarily red-flagged to repair the barrier and recover Max’s stricken Red Bull, and after a short wait the race resumed. Charles Leclerc made his way into P1 while Lewis and Max tangled, and he displayed immense pace. A 10-second time penalty was given to Lewis, and he had to serve it during his pitstop. Charles led 50 out of the 52 laps, but was eventually overtaken by the quicker Mercedes of Lewis. It was a great drive from the Monegasque driver, and showed how good the Ferrari car can be. Lewis won the race, an emotional day for the Briton, followed by Charles and Valtteri.

Max Vs Lewis: Gloves off?

Max and Lewis have had a fantastic tussle all throughout the season. The two have had some great battles over the years, and this weekend was the first major incident between the two in recent times. Both sides claim that it was the other’s fault, and there can be no clear verdict. What can be said for certain, though, is that this might just pave the way for an amazing battle for the rest of the season. Max’s car sustained approximately $1.8 million in damage, and Red Bull are looking at raising the issue with the FIA, and even hiring a lawyer to protest the events during the red-flag, as boss Christian Horner claimed that the fact that Mercedes boss Toto Wolff was able to contact race director Michael Masi during the red flag may have skewed the penalty decision, and said that the stewards must be devoid of any physical contact from any team member during the race, and make their decisions without any bias, Horner calling Lewis’ move “desperate”.

Both parties were quick to blame the other, with Toto informing Masi that he was coming to speak in person to him.
The gaps between both sides have been reduced to single-digits after Sunday.

Max lost 25 points to Lewis at this race, and his lead is now cut to just 8 points. Frustrated about this, the ante for aggression between the two might just have been upped. In a season where the competition is so fierce, every single point counts. The two will now surely be more determined to gain points on the other, and in turn might race harder. This is only good news for us fans, as it gives us the opportunity to see two titans of the sport compete for the ultimate prize, risking everything. Hungary will be a great indicator as to what the course of action will be for the two going forward, and I cannot wait to see what will happen!

UPDATE (26/7): Today, Red Bull formally lodged a “petition for review” with the FIA, regarding the harshness of the penalty Mercedes and Lewis got in Silverstone. The two teams are expected to meet with the FIA on the Thursday of the Hungarian GP weekend, and both sides will surely be arriving with ample evidence to support their individual cause. This is exciting, as both teams are fighting for everything, both on and also now off-track.

Ferrari: The Ability To Conjure Up Something Special?

The SF21 is a unique car. It has its downfalls, as shown in France where both cars finished outside the points. However, when the car reaches its sweet spot, it can be the best car out there, as shown at Monaco and this weekend at Silverstone. Monaco might well have been Ferrari’s best shot at victory since 2019, had Leclerc been able to start the race. Some consolation was the fact that Sainz finished in P2, finishing just under 9 seconds away from the race winner. Silverstone was yet another track where Ferrari were very strong, with Charles leading 50 laps of the race, coming tantalisingly close to a race win, while Carlos made good ground, finishing in P6.

Ferrari had a good race, taking away 26 points from the weekend as compared to their rivals McLaren, who got 22.

Team principal Mattia Binotto praised the progress made by the team, commenting on how they went from scoring no points at France to nearly winning at Britain. While inconsistent at times, Ferrari sure do have something special this year compared to the last. At points where the car and driver perform well, there are very few things better than that. Hence, it’s not out of the question that Ferrari could pull something amazing out the bag this year, and achieve their first win since 2019. Their focus may be on 2022, but their current car is not a bad one, and it seems like at some point during the season, the Tifosi might just see their team win a race!

Rest of the grid: What happened?

Max Verstappen was the first to retire, after a monstrous 51G crash. Shaken but thankfully unhurt, he and Red Bull will be keen to bounce back as soon as possible, after a horror weekend. Sebastian Vettel was the next to retire, retiring well into the race, on lap 40. A spin after the red flag restart halted his progress, and then failing to recover much ground in the race resulted in the team deciding to save the engine, and retire the car. Mick Schumacher was the last of the running cars, finishing down in 18th place, after a quiet race for the German. Nikita Mazepin finished 17th, also having a quiet race. Sergio Perez had a horrific weekend, finishing down in 16th after the team decided to pit him late into the race so as to steal the fastest lap point from Mercedes and Hamilton, without which he was running in the points.

Checo had a weekend to forget, and will surely be hoping to recover at Hungary.

Kimi Raikkonen had a spin late into the race, after contact with Perez, and finished down in 15th. Nicholas Latifi had his usual quiet race, finishing in 14th and staying out of trouble. Antonio Giovinazzi also had a quiet race, finishing in 13th. George Russell slowly slid down the order, finishing in 12th. Pierre Gasly finished in 11th, and was given multiple warnings about track limits during the race, being very close to getting a penalty as well. A puncture late in the race also ruined any hope he or his team had for points.

Pierre had a difficult end to the race.

Yuki Tsunoda drove well to finish 10th, a good drive from the Japanese driver, but will certainly be hoping to finish in the better points-paying positions more often. Esteban Ocon finally broke his recent run of bad form, finishing 9th and scoring a few points for himself and for Alpine. Lance Stroll drove a good race to finish in 8th, a great result for him and Aston. Fernando Alonso drove well to finish 7th, a great drive by the Spaniard. Carlos Sainz drove a good race, and might have finished P5, had it not been for a horrible pitstop, after which he could not recover to get past Ricciardo.

Carlos’ slow stop ruined his race.

Daniel Ricciardo had his best result of the season, finishing P5, showing some promise for the rest of the season in his bid to do well at McLaren. Lando Norris drove well to finish P4, a good result for him, though he was quite disappointed at the result, showing the progress he and McLaren have made since the start of their partnership in 2019. Valtteri Bottas finished P3, being unable to hunt down Charles Leclerc for most of the race, and eventually being ordered by the team to let Lewis pass, and have a shot at Charles. Charles finished in P2, but his efforts were worth a win and a half. Showing tremendous pace, getting over a mid-race engine issue, only to be overtaken 2 laps from the end, it was heartbreak for Charles and for Ferrari, coming this close to a race win, only for it to be taken away from them. Lewis Hamilton won the race, recovering from a 10-second penalty given to him for the incident with Max. Having now reduced the gap to just 8 points, this race gave Lewis a sort of boost in the championship, with both sides just waiting to capitalise on a bad result for the other, and gain valuable points in the process.

Charles was well and truly the star driver of the entire field on Sunday.

Who Shone, Who Sunk?

Who Shone: Charles Leclerc was my stand-out driver for the race, with no one else impressing like how he did. Driving somewhat inferior machinery and still leading 50 out of 52 laps, having immense pace, and getting his first podium of the season- which might nearly have been a win, Charles really shone in Silverstone. Lando Norris also kept up his run of consistent results, a great drive from the englishman.

Who Sunk: Sergio Perez struggled throughout the weekend, and had a scruffy weekend overall. A spin in the Sprint Qualifying and a possible strategic mis-step from the team seeing him finish down in 16th was not in any way an ideal result for the Mexican, who will be hoping to bounce back at Hungary.

After a very eventful race, Hungary will be an exciting event, as both Max and Lewis, as well as Red Bull and Mercedes will be unleashing everything in their arsenal to be able to move ahead of one another, and will certainly not hold back anything, and hopefully go as aggressive as they can, which can only mean more amazing and close racing for us fans!

(All picture rights belong to their respective owners.)

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