Mistakes at McLaren, execution from Max Verstappen and Red Bull, and a long-awaited win for Lewis Hamilton

In a moment of self-reflection, the seven-time Formula 1 Drivers’ Champion admitted that there were times over the past few years when he wondered if a day like this would be possible again.

Speaking at the FIA Press Conference following the British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton opened up about his journey through the better part of three F1 seasons. Given what both he and Mercedes experienced over these past three campaigns, it was understandable that the driver had experienced some self-doubt.

There was the painful end to the 2021 title fight with Max Verstappen that Hamilton still references to this day, the 2022 campaign that began with the failed “zero pod” experiment that saw Mercedes simply “get the physics” wrong with their car, and a 2023 season that ended with Hamilton held without a victory and making the decision ahead of this campaign to leave the team for Ferrari at the end of 2024.

Putting all of those pieces together, it was fair to wonder for both analyst and driver alike if a day like Sunday at Silverstone would happen again.

But the beauty of sports, and the emerging brilliance of this Formula 1 season, is that the unexpected can happen. That the stars can align for a moment like this, a British Grand Prix that ended with one of the nation’s favorite sons holding the Union Jack aloft, paying tribute to the thousands of fans calling his name, as a winner once again.

After nearly 1,000 days of pain, heartbreak, and doubt.

“I think with the kind of the adversity I would say that we’ve gone through as a team and that I personally felt, that I’ve experienced, those challenges, the constant challenge like we all have to get out of bed every day and give it our best shot,” said Hamilton in the FIA Press Conference Sunday following the race.

“And, you know, there’s so many times where you feel like your best shot is just not good enough, continued the driver. “And the disappointment sometimes that you can feel, you know, and we live in a time where mental health is such a serious issue. And I’m not going to lie, that I have experienced that. And there’s definitely been moments where you know, the thought that this was it, that that was never going to happen again.

“So to have this feeling come across the line, I think, honestly, I’ve never cried coming from a win. It just came out of me. And it’s a really, really great feeling. I’m very, very grateful for it.”

Lewis Hamilton had won again.

The way this F1 season is unfolding, there are many more twists to the tale that await us and yet more chapters to be written.

But given the emotion on Sunday at Silverstone, Hamilton’s victory might be the best chapter yet.

Here are more winners and losers from the 2024 Formula 1 British Grand Prix.

Winner: Max Verstappen

Photo by Rasid Necati Aslim/Anadolu via Getty Images

Max Verstappen and Red Bull did almost everything right on Sunday.

While a second-place finish for the three-time Drivers’ Championship is usually not noteworthy — more on that in a moment — Verstappen’s performance on Sunday at Silverstone was that rare exception. All week long both McLaren and Mercedes showed better pace than Red Bull’s RB20, and with Red Bull locked in what is becoming a true title fight with those teams and Ferrari for the Constructors’ Championship their hopes rested on Verstappen Sunday, given Sergio Pérez’s mistake in qualifying on Saturday.

So for Verstappen to somehow, some way, find his way to the second step of the podium is a credit to both the driver and the entire organization.

Perhaps starting with Hannah Schmitz, the team’s Principal Strategy Engineer.

Red Bull made several key, and correct, decisions with Verstappen on Sunday. Verstappen made a daring move at the start to get into P3, overtaking Lando Norris shortly after the lights went out. The team got the timing right on the switch to intermediates as the wet conditions unfolded, a decision Gianpiero “GP” Lambaise praised during the race. “Great call for the inter, we’re back in the race here,” hailed GP as Verstappen kept himself within striking distance.

Then Red Bull not only nailed the timing on the switch back to slicks, but they made the right call by bolting on a set of hards, while both Hamilton and Norris in front switched to softs. That saw Verstappen emerge in third, but charge up the field to overtake Norris for second, and cause every Mercedes fan and team member on the planet to wonder if he would catch Hamilton before the checkered flag.

While Hamilton held off for the win, this was a truly impressive performance from both driver and team. Yes, Red Bull was able to make different decisions with Pérez given his place in the running order to perhaps guide their decisions with Verstappen — for example, Pérez switched to the intermediates ahead of Verstappen, which saw him slide back on the grid — but Red Bull needed to maximize their result with Verstappen Sunday.

And they did just that.

“Yeah, I mean, we just didn’t have the pace today. I was slowly dropping back when it mattered in the beginning,” explained Verstappen to Jenson Button trackside. “So it didn’t look great at some point. I was really thinking are we going to finish fifth, [or] sixth? But, yeah, we made the right calls. You know, going from the slicks to the Inters and then also from the Inters back to the slicks, I think it was every time the right lap.

“And, yeah, then also at the end the call from the team to be on the Hard tire instead of the Soft was definitely helping me out. That’s why I think we also finished second today. It could have been a lot worse but when making the right calls we still got onto the podium and I’m very happy with that because it looked extremely difficult.”

We will have more to say about what this second-place finish means in terms of the overall F1 season, but on this day, it was a tremendous result for Verstappen and Red Bull.

Losers: Alpine

To put Alpine’s week into video game terms, if this was you on a stint of “F1 24” you probably would have either simulated the rest of the race weekend at some point and moved on to the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Unfortunately for Esteban Ocon, Pierre Gasly, and company, they did not have that option.

Alpine faced an uphill fight at Silverstone this week before cars really took to the track, as the team changed several components on Gasly’s A524, resulting in a 50-place penalty for the driver. That meant he would be starting at the back of the grid regardless of how he qualified on Saturday.

Then Ocon missed out on Q2 due to some “operational” errors during Q1, according to the team, meaning both drivers were starting at the back of the field.

Then Gasly during the formation lap heard the words no driver ever wants to hear at that stage of a race: There is a problem with the car. A gearbox failure meant Gasly did not even start the race, and his weekend was over.

But if you thought the bad news ended there, you were wrong.

As the field battled with some early wet conditions, a few teams made the call to bring drivers in early for a set of intermediates. Alpine was one of them, bolting a set of green-walled tires onto his A524.

But with the evidence of hindsight that was a mistake, as Ocon — along with Charles Leclerc and Sergio Pérez — slid back through the field as the track was not wet enough for the intermediates to be effective. Even worse, when the track dried out quickly ahead of the second batch of rain, the intermediates quickly fell away, and those drivers were all shuffled to the back of the grid.

By the time the checkered flag flew Ocon was still at the back of the pack, coming across the line in P16.

“Clearly, this has been a difficult weekend for the team in Silverstone. It is one we must learn lessons from, and we must apply ourselves in an improved manner at future races in order to do better,” said Team Principal Bruno Famin. “We did not give our drivers a fighting chance. One positive to come from today is our work in the pit-stops where we have made significant strides forwards. It has been an intense triple header for the team. We will debrief collectively, work tirelessly to find improvements, and come back stronger in Budapest in two weeks’ time.”

Winner: Yuki Tsunoda

This looked like it was going to be a lost weekend for Visa Cash App RB F1 Team. The team was on the back foot from the start of practices on Friday, and both Yuki Tsunoda and Daniel Ricciardo were eliminated in Q2 on Saturday. Points looked to be a longshot for VCARB

But Tsunoda delivered a patient drive on Sunday at Silverstone, finding his way into the top ten and delivering a hard-fought point for the team with a tenth-place finish.

And given what Nico Hülkenberg was able to deliver for Haas — more on that performance in a second — it could be a critical point come fall.

“It was a good but tough race. Based on the pace we had in Free Practice we knew it would be difficult to score points in dry conditions, so I think the wet conditions helped us keep the gap to the cars in front small,” said Tsunoda in the team’s post-race report. “Normally, in previous races I haven’t appreciated the rain, but I think it helped us today. It’s one point and we take it.

“Now we look ahead and move forward, and I’m excited about using what we’ve learnt over the last couple of weekends for the coming races before the break. Hungary has a mix of high and low speed, so hopefully we can use our strengths and fight in the top ten.”

“From our side, it’s clear that the fast nature of this circuit has not suited our car particularly well and we are not where we want to be, namely dominating the mid-field as we did earlier in the season,” outlined Team Principal Laurent Mekies. “However, we are coming home from this triple header with another well-deserved point for Yuki and the team, executing strongly in difficult changing conditions.”

Incomplete: McLaren

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain

Photo by Peter Fox – Formula 1/Formula 1 via Getty Images

On one hand, it would be easy to call McLaren one of the winners of the British Grand Prix.

A P3 result for Norris, combined with a fourth-place finish from teammate Oscar Piastri, saw the Woking-based team bank 27 points on Sunday, the most of any team on the grid. That was more than the 18 points Red Bull added to their account, as only Verstappen was able to bring home a result for the current leaders. That was more than the 11 points Ferrari added, as Charles Leclerc finished outside the points. And while it was Hamilton who secured the Royal Automobile Club Trophy — and the 25 points that came with the win — George Russell’s retirement meant those 25 points were the only Mercedes banked on Sunday.

All told, McLaren pulled two points further ahead of Mercedes and inched closer to their two rivals in front of them.

That should make this a win for McLaren.

But it was a bittersweet one at best.

At one point on Sunday McLaren had a one-two finish on the table, with Norris running just ahead of Piastri on the track at the front of the field. But the team faced a critical decision regarding when to pit both drivers for intermediates, and how. The layout of Silverstone means each team has just one pit stall, and McLaren had to decide whether to pit the two on successive laps or to try a double-stack.

They chose the former, bringing in Norris first. That saw him emerge with the lead intact, but it also meant Piastri had to wind his way around Silverstone for one more lap in wet conditions on a set of slicks.

When he finally emerged from his pit stop a lap later, he was down in sixth, due to the time he lost on that final lap on a set of mediums.

Piastri knew “instantly” that any shot of a win on his part was gone.

“As soon as I went past pit entry, the last couple of corners were very, very tough I could see on my dash that Lando was like five seconds behind me when I pitted, so I knew I was in a lot of trouble with him. I knew it was the wrong call basically instantly,” said Piastri to the media at Silverstone.

“I think we just need to review if we put enough weight on that decision. Obviously when the two cars are close like that you lose a lot of time doing a double-stack. The conditions were getting trickier but it was very, very hard to judge,” added the McLaren driver. “It was only really half of the track that was really difficult until the lap that I stayed out and then the whole track became difficult. So very difficult for everybody involved, but, in hindsight, double-stacking would have given a very good chance of winning.”

That was just the first mistake. The second came later in the race when Norris was in the lead. Once more the teams faced a decision. With the surface drying out, when was it time to switch from the intermediates — which were starting to suffer from degradation — back to a set of slicks? And when that decision was made, which set of tires was the right choice?

Hamilton and Verstappen pitted ahead of Norris, who came in one lap later. McLaren needed to get the pit stop exactly right to give Norris a chance at coming out ahead of Hamilton, but the pit stop went awry almost immediately, as Norris stopped about a foot too long in the box. That slowed the stop, and as he roared out of the stall on a set of softs (the same choice made by Mercedes with Hamilton) you could see Hamilton approaching on the track.

Norris could only watch as Hamilton rocketed by him and into the lead.

Compounding matters was the fact that almost immediately, it looked as if the softs were not the right choice. As Hamilton and Norris wound their way around the track there was a rocket ship coming their way, in the form of Verstappen’s RB20, with a fresh set of hards. Verstappen continued to cut into Norris’ lead as the laps ticked down, eventually overtaking his friend for P2.

While Norris was able to come home with another podium, his seventh Grand Prix podium of the season, he was left to wonder if McLaren had given away another win.

“I’ve heard that a lot lately, so I hate saying it again. But yeah, I mean, so many things were going well. We threw it away in the final stop. So one lap, but also I don’t think it was a lap,” said Norris in the post-race press conference. “I think even if I boxed on the perfect lap, our decision to go on to the Softs was the wrong one. I think Lewis still would have won no matter what. So two calls from our side cost us everything today. So, especially here, pretty disappointing.”

So, when you look at things from that perspective, a P3 and a P4 might feel like a loss.

Ultimately, the best way to describe this day for McLaren is as an “incomplete.” Why? Because what might matter more for this team is how they approach things going forward, in what is shaping up to be a title fight with Red Bull, Ferrari, and Mercedes.

Over the past calendar year, a lot of learning has taken place at McLaren, with the team learning over the second half of 2023 how to compete for — and secure — podium finishes. But now, and in particular, over the past two weeks, they are learning something different.

On a micro level, Norris is learning what it takes to drive at the front, and in particular against Verstappen, when a win is on the line. As for the team, they are learning just how fine the margins are when you are trying to secure wins and not just podiums, and how to get the best possible results throughout a title fight.

If they learn the right lessons from Sunday, this incomplete can become a win over the second half of the season.

But if not …

Winners: Haas

F1 Grand Prix of Great Britain

Photo by Jayce Illman/Getty Images

“Overall, P6 at two races in a row, what more can I ask for.”

Those were the words of Haas Team Principal Ayao Komatsu, hailing the result from Nico Hülkenberg. The German driver started up in sixth place after a strong qualifying performance on Saturday — their “sketchy” decision in Q1 having paid off — and while he lost a few places after a tricky start Sunday Hülkenberg rebounded to finish where he started, banking eight critical points for the team.

“I’m very happy for the team, eight more points on the board – super valuable. More importantly, the performance is there with this update and that makes me optimistic for the remainder of the season. We’re definitely in the fight now for the fifth-fastest team, which is obviously positive and nobody expected that a few weeks ago,” added Hülkenberg in the team’s post-race media report. “It’s very encouraging and very positive. It was a tricky race with the rain at the beginning which wasn’t enough for inters. Around here with high-speed corners and the grip like this, it was very risky, but we managed to keep it clean and got back what we lost at the start.”

While Kevin Magnussen missed out on a points finish of his own, ending the day in P12 after starting down in 17th, this was a critical day for Haas. They sit seventh in the Constructors’ Championship standings at the moment, but the eight points Hülkenberg banked on Sunday — compared with the single point Tsunoda brought home for sixth-place VCARB — saw Haas close to within just four points in the standings.

While the fight at the sharp end of the grid will certainly draw the majority of attention, this emerging fight between VCARB and Haas might be just as fascinating over the second half of the season.

Making Sunday a huge day for F1’s lone American team.

Winners: You, dear reader

Red Bull and Max Verstappen did everything right on Sunday. They nailed the timing on their switch to intermediates early in the race. The decision to bolt on a set of softs during the Grand Prix’s final act was a brilliant move as Verstappen was the fastest of the front runners down the stretch.

And yet, Verstappen finished second.

A year ago, a day like that probably translated into a ten-second win for Verstappen, if not more. And to extend the point a bit further, had Verstappen endured a day like this — only to get every strategy call wrong — in 2023 it was probably still going to end up with him on the top step of the podium, as that was how strong he and the RB19 were working together a season ago.

This year is different.

Much different.

Consider how the standings looked at the midway point of the 2023 season for the top-five teams, and how they look right now, the midpoint of the 2024 campaign:

Standings at the halfway point (11 races) last year:

Red Bull: 452
Mercedes: 223
Aston Martin: 184
Ferrari: 167
McLaren: 87

Standings at the halfway point (12 races) this year:

Red Bull: 373
Ferrari: 302
McLaren: 295
Mercedes: 221
Aston Martin: 68

At this point a season ago the gap from McLaren in fifth place to Mercedes in second place (136 points) was smaller than the gap from Mercedes to Red Bull in first place (229 points). At this point a season ago Red Bull’s staggering 452 points were more than what Mercedes and third-place Aston Martin had … combined.

Now? The gap from Red Bull in P1 to Ferrari in P2 is just 71 points, with third-place McLaren just 78 points off Red Bull’s pace.

That – combined with Hamilton becoming the fifth Grand Prix winner this season – is perhaps the best evidence yet that this is shaping up to be a special season.

Buckle up friends, as this looks to be a special second half of the season ahead.

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