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F1 British Grand Prix: Verstappen wins the Sprint; Hamilton the Grand Prix to close the points gap

Silverstone, England, July 18/21 (GRW): In recent races Max Verstappen seems to have had the upper hand but those who expected this run to continue here at the Lewis Hamilton’s home Grand Prix were disappointed. Despite Verstappen winning the Sprint on Saturday and thereby starting on the pole on Sunday, the Grand Prix was Hamilton’s day to shine in front of his home crowd after Verstappen crashed out of the race on the very first lap.

On that first lap, Hamilton made a number of attempts to get past Verstappen but it all came to a climax at Copse Corner (once the first corner at the end of the pit straight, now, with the pits having been moved, half-way around the lap.)

The previous day’s Sprint had shown that, once Verstappen could establish a lead over Hamilton, the Mercedes driver was unable to challenge for the lead. F1 is experimenting with a short ‘Sprint’ race run on the Saturday in hopes of spicing up fan interest. This 71-lap/100 mile Sprint was on a single set of tires – so there were no planned pit stops. Hamilton had bested Verstappen in the qualifying session run on Friday but Verstappen shot out in to the lead and he won the Sprint.

[For my take on this new idea, see my comments in the ‘commentary’ section.]

Now on race day, with Verstappen starting from the pole it looked like Hamilton’s only chance to beat the Dutchman was to get past on the first lap and then hold him off. When the lights went out, Hamilton was determined to do just that and the two of them battled together through the first few turns. Coming off the old pit straight, Hamilton was alongside Verstappen on the inside. Verstappen’s rear tire touched Hamilton’s front and his car spun out of control and it slammed into the barriers.

The race went red to allow Verstappen to be taken out of the car and the barrier rebuilt. He had taken a massive G-Force impact and he got out of the car shakily. Then he was taken a local hospital for assessment – there was some possibility of a concussion.

In all this, Charles Leclerc, who had started fourth got past Hamilton into the lead. During the break, representatives of both Mercedes and Red Bull lobbied the race officials -- one asking for no action, the other for a major penalty. In the end, the stewards settled on a ten-second penalty, to be served when Hamilton pitted to change over his tires. At the time it looked like this penalty would drop him so far back that he was unlikely to finish on the podium.

On the standing restart, Leclerc held onto his lead ahead of Hamilton. But before long he started complaining to his crew that his engine was shutting off momentarily. He was advised to keep going and, indeed, he was able to maintain his pace to the end of the race.

Aside for the red-flag stoppage, this was essentially a one-stop race for most of the drivers. After an initial flurry of pit stops starting on lap 18 of the 52 lap race, Hamilton waited until lap 27 to make his pit stop. Given his penalty, he was stopped for 14 seconds compared to the usual two second stops – and he came back out in fifth place behind Lando Norris.

Over the remaining laps, Hamilton reeled in those ahead of him, even setting a fastest lap. He passed his teammate Valtteri Bottas on lap 40 and now he was six seconds behind Leclerc and catching him. Hamilton got closer and closer and on lap 50 – two laps from the end – he powered his way past Leclerc to take the lead in front of a cheering crowd.

Two more laps and he took the checker 3.8-seconds ahead of Leclerc.

Bottas finished third, with the two McLarens of Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo in fourth and fifth. Late in the race, Sergio Perez made a fourth pit stop for soft tires and he set the final fastest laps of the race.; given that he finished 16th he did not get the point for fastest lap - -but he blocked Hamilton from getting that singleton point. With Verstappen scoring no points, Hamilton closed up behind him with 177 points to Verstappen’s 185 points.

Afterwards, Hamilton said, “I have been giving my all the past week, working in the factory, just giving it everything to uncover performance in this car with the guys and I am so proud of everyone for continuing to work, even though we had to recover a deficit. Today, as always, I tried to be measured in how I approached the race, particularly battling with Max - he's very aggressive but I was fully alongside him and he didn't leave me any space. Regardless of whether I agreed with the penalty, I took it on the chin and I just kept working. I was just like, ‘I'm not going to let anything get in the way of the crowd's enjoyment of the weekend, the national anthem and the British flag’"

The next F1 Grand Prix will be the Hungarian GP near Budapest on August 1st, the last GP before the now-traditional summer break.

• Click HERE for the Race Results and Points

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