The notoriously unpredictable British weather was surprisingly docile right up until ten minutes before the race start.
As the rain came down on the Silverstone circuit race director Charlie Whiting declared that it would start behind the safety car. Although safety is of paramount importance the safety-car start deprived everyone of the battle, into turn one, between the front-row starting Mercedes teammates Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.
The safety-car pulled into the pitlane after five laps most of the field switched to intermediate tyres while Hamilton continued to build a gap to second-placed Rosberg. Hamilton, Rosberg and the two Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo had not swopped their wet tyres for intermediates. They would have been at a disadvantage to those behind was it not for Pascal Wehrlein aquaplaned his Manor into the gravel trap and out of the race on lap seven and brought out the virtual safety-car.
As the race settled after the first round of stops Hamilton comfortably led the way from his teammate. On occasion Rosberg threatened to close the gap to Hamilton but never follow through. He also had to deal with a spirited Max Verstappen snapping at his heels. After a few laps of hounding Rosberg’s gearbox the 18 year-old pulled off a stunningly brave move around the outside of Chapel to take second place. The season still has some way to go but this overtaking move will take some beating.
As the circuit continued to dry the next round of stops saw everyone switch to dry medium compound tyres. Behind Hamilton, Rosberg, and Verstappen Daniel Ricciardo was running a very distant fourth with Sergio Perez and Kimi Raikkonen even further behind. Despite no rain falling the circuit was slow to dry and several drivers including race leader Hamilton had several off track moments.
Though it would take some time Rosberg eventually found a way by Verstappen. He closed the gap to Hamilton from eight to six seconds but never truly looked likely to threaten the lead of the race.
Hamilton masterful in wet condition just as in 2008, which to date it arguably his best grand prix win. While Ricciardo drove an uninspiring race to fourth Ferrari’s newly re-signed Kimi Raikkonen was able to close down a substantial gap to Perez for fifth. Perez finished sixth ahead of Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg in seventh and Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz in eighth. Sebastian Vettel completed a miserable day for Ferrari in ninth. The German driver started the race in eleventh after suffering yet another five-place gearbox penalty. Though there was nothing deliberate about it he was slapped with a 5-second penalty for forcing Felipe Massa off the tack. The penalty didn’t affect his final position in the race. The second Toro Rosso of Daniil Kvyat scored the final point in tenth.
Controversy enveloped the Mercedes team as Rosberg ran into gearbox problems late in the race. The pitwall gave instruction on which setting to change and coached Rosberg to shift through seventh gear. By telling the driver to shift through the gear the team breached the driver communication rule, which prohibits the team from giving instructions to fix a performance issue. Nearly four hours after the race the stewards imposed a ten-second penalty on Rosberg, which dropped him to third in the race classification. Mercedes has stated their intent to appeal the decision.
A new precedent was set as it’s the first instance where a penalty had to be imposed for the breach of driver communication rules. However, a ten-second penalty isn’t much of a deterrent if the alternative is retirement.
Nico Rosberg started the season with four consecutive wins but has only claimed victory in one of the last six races. Add to this that a fourth win on home soil has put Hamilton only one point adrift of the championship lead and it appears as if the Brit is gaining an ominous momentum.
(All images courtesy of Pirelli Motorsport)