British GP 2017: Dramatic front-left puncture for both Ferrari drivers!

The halfway point of the season brought the F1 circus to the legendary Silverstone. The English weather didn’t fail to produce excitement during the GP weekend this time either, as qualifying got underway in damp conditions. The first session was red-flagged, as Ricciardo’s RB13 stopped on the track due to a suspected turbo failure. After the session was resumed, the track kept improving towards the end of the session. Unbelievable but true, a last-minute lap from Alonso after a switch to dry rubber saw McLaren top a thrilling Q1 phase! However, the crowd favourite Hamilton owned the two following sessions. In Q3 the Briton put on a staggering show for his home fans, taking the 67th pole position of his career, with the biggest margin of the season so far. Kimi drove an absolutely fantastic qualifying, making it in the front row. Half a second separated the front row runners. Sebastian qualified third, two tenths down on his teammate Kimi. Bottas in his Mercedes had a big lock-up on his final Q3 run, which made him end up in P4 - his lowest grid slot of the season so far. Already before qualifying, the Finn had been given a 5-place grid penalty for an unscheduled gearbox change, which meant dropping down to P9 on the grid. Red Bull’s Ricciardo had been handed a similar penalty, but, due to the technical failure, the Australian was about to start the race from the back of the grid anyway. Teammate Verstappen qualified fifth, but the Dutchman was already 1.5 seconds off pole-setter Hamilton’s pace.

As the lights went out at Silverstone, the sky was grey, but the conditions were dry. My heart definitely skipped a few beats when I heard Verstappen saying on the team radio that Sebastian’s brakes were on fire! There was smoke coming from the rear of his SF70-H, but, luckily, there was no problem with the start. Hamilton and Kimi in the front row both got an excellent start. Behind those two it was extremely tight between Sebastian and Red Bull’s Verstappen. The flying Dutchman got the upper hand at the end and managed to get past the German. Bottas had also taken an impressive start from P9, and the Finn had gained two positions right away. This time there was a first-lap incident between the Toro Rosso teammates. Fighting for positions, Kvyat hit the kerb and lost control of his car. The Russian ended up crashing into his teammate, wiping him out of the race. Safety car was deployed. Later in the race, Kvyat was given a drive-through penalty due to re-joining the track unsafely.

Safety car came in after a couple of laps, and the race was back on. Things got quite heated with Sebastian and Verstappen as Sebastian seemed to have more pace than the Red Bull pilot. Verstappen, however, is known as a driver that cannot be easily overtaken. Sebastian made a move on Max on the Hangar straight, but Max wasn’t going to give up on his third place. Determined, Sebastian made another move on the following lap, making his way ahead of the stubborn Dutchman. However, Max was ready to defend his position by any means necessary. He went wide, but re-joined the track ahead of Sebastian. What a breath-taking wheel-to-wheel battle between these two! I couldn’t do anything but hold my breath and hope that these heroes weren’t going to collide and push each other out of the race!

As there was no overtaking Verstappen, Ferrari called Sebastian in on lap 19. The pit stop was nearly perfect, and the championship leader re-joined the track in P6. Red Bull reacted right away and called Verstappen in on the following lap. Ferrari’s strategy was genius, and Sebastian benefitted from the undercut; Max re-joined the track behind Sebastian. Kimi was also doing a great job, as the Iceman was able to match race-leader Hamilton’s lap times quite well.

The only top driver on a different tyre strategy was Mercedes’ Bottas, who had started the race on the yellow-marked soft rubber. The Finn didn’t pit until lap 32, and his second stint on the fresh super-soft Pirellis looked extremely competitive. After the pit stops, Hamilton was still leading the race, with Kimi being second, Sebastian third and Bottas fourth.

However, with ten laps to go, storming Bottas had closed the gap to Sebastian and made it within DRS distance from the German. Valtteri made a move on the Hangar straight, getting alongside Sebastian. Sebastian had a massive lock-up going into the next turn; just barely did the German manage to keep the hungry Finn behind him. On the following lap, the inevitable happened – Bottas made it past Sebastian and jumped third.

What a dramatic and hair-raising turn the race took three laps before the chequered flag! Without any warning, Kimi suddenly suffered a front-left puncture, and the Iceman had to make an unscheduled pit stop, which dropped him down to P4. What a shame! Kimi had driven such a strong and impressive race! After this, Red Bull decided to do a pre-cautionary pit stop and they called Verstappen in. Unfortunately, this was only the beginning... As little as one lap later, Sebastian also suffered a front-left puncture! The German managed to limp into the pits, but an unscheduled pit stop made P3 turn into P7... I couldn’t believe my eyes. How was it even possible that both Ferraris were hit with the same problem?

Hamilton took his fourth consecutive victory on his home soil; currently, the Briton has won the British GP massive five times. Against all odds, Bottas made it the second 1-2 of the season for Mercedes, which meant maximum points for the Silver Arrows. Despite the unlucky puncture, Kimi finished the podium. After three retirements in a row, Verstappen managed to finish the race in P4, which was a great result. Teammate Ricciardo had started the race from the back of the grid, but the Australian managed to make it as high as P5, having offered a great overtaking show for the fans.

Sebastian’s puncture meant bad news for his championship lead; the 20-point lead has now shrunk to one point only! Bottas is now 22 points down on his teammate. Mercedes definitely has advantage in terms of the constructors’ title, as their lead is already massive 55 points. In Hungary, the red team must bounce back stronger than ever! Forza Ferrari! 

With passion for racing red, 

Iina Huhmarniemi

Jul 24, 2017