Formula 1

Mika Hakkinen: The duel between Bottas and Hamilton looks set to go the distance

July 16, 2019January 6th, 2022

VALTTERI Bottas could not have driven better at Silverstone, claiming pole position by six-thousandths of a second, taking the lead at the start and defending that lead despite coming under intense pressure from teammate Lewis Hamilton. 

Three things worked against the win, however.  The first was a two-stop race strategy, the second an unfortunately timed Safety Car period which gave Lewis a ‘free’ pit stop, and the third a very strong performance from the British driver in front of his home crowd.

This was Lewis’s 6th British Grand Prix victory, which is a record, and you only have to consider his fastest lap to realise how much he enjoys Silverstone.  On the last lap of the race, on hard compound tyres which had completed 31 laps already, he set the quickest lap of the race.

Valtteri has so much positive to take away from Silverstone.  He could not have qualified and raced better, but when you have a two-stop strategy and your team-mate is able to run a single-stop – and then make the stop during a Safety Car period which gifts you about 10 seconds of advantage – that makes the win very difficult.

When Lewis overtook Valtteri on Lap 4, I think many people expected this would be decisive.  When Valtteri came back and re-passed, it was a key moment.  Not only of the race but of the season, because it showed the extent of Valtteri’s skill and commitment.  He has grown so much in his role alongside Lewis at Mercedes.

The other aspect of the battle between the two Mercedes drivers early in the race was the amount of space and respect they gave each other.  This was a proper, hard battle, but the cars never touched, they pushed as hard as they could, and the team was happy to let them.  Flat out racing, which is what everyone wants to see but also managed with precision and professionalism.

On Sunday the world of tennis enjoyed Djokovic and Federer, while Formula 1 has Bottas and Hamilton.  Two guys at the top of their sport.

The young generation in Formula 1 also put on a fantastic display at Silverstone, with Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc battling over the 3rd position.  Again both of them raced hard, and again they gave each other space and respect to race.  

Following the controversy over Sebastian Vettel’s penalty in Canada, I sense that Formula 1’s Stewards are taking a more open approach to allow the drivers to race.  At one point Max went completely off the track while trying to battle Charles, but there were no penalties.  They were allowed to race, and Charles has learned from the incident in Austria when he was overtaken by Max. 

Charles’s ability to position his Ferrari in exactly the right place on the track, defending his position from Max, was really impressive to watch.  I enjoyed their battle, and it was nice to see Charles get his reward of a podium finish.

Max, however, was right to be upset when Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari hit the rear of his Red Bull after he had made a great overtake at the famous Stowe corner.  I was really surprised to see both cars continuing, and Max was even able to salvage 5th place behind teammate Pierre Gasly.

Red Bull has made a lot of progress recently, as demonstrated by Max’s win in Austria, but Pierre also had a very strong race in Silverstone after his car received the same set of upgrades.  As we enter the middle part of the European leg of the season I think we are going to see some further incredible battles between Red Bull and Ferrari next week in Germany, while on a track such as Hungary I expect they both teams be pushing Mercedes as hard as they did in Austria.

McLaren once again finished ahead of Renault, and Carlos Sainz’s strong drive into 6th place really confirms the team as being the 4th quickest package in Formula 1 at the moment.  I was in Silverstone at the weekend, and it is great to see the confidence within the team under new boss Andreas Seidl.  There is a sense of purpose and excitement in the team, and – just like at Mercedes – the drivers push each other and have a lot of respect.  It’s that kind of approach that really pushes Formula 1 teams to a new level.

After the processional race in France one month ago, Formula 1 has now enjoyed two classic races, with fantastic battles and wheel-to-wheel combat.  Although Mercedes continues to dominate, there is plenty to look forward to in Germany next week.  That Red Bull – Ferrari rivalry is intense, and we are certain to see more close battles between Valtteri and Lewis.  There are 39 points between them in the battle for the World Championship, but with 25 available for a win the margins are not impossible.  You can be sure Valtteri will push as hard as he did in Silverstone.