In the context of the championship, Silverstone represented a reset button. There is effectively nothing between the Mercedes duo of Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton as we prepare for the second half of the season.
Hamilton took his 47th career win, having also taken his 55th pole on Saturday, and now has four wins in 2016 to Rosberg’s five. More importantly, his win allowed him to shrink Rosberg’s championship lead to just one point.
The race had pockets of interest, though it won’t go down as classic. A slow start – literally – took place, with the safety car leading the pack around for the first few laps, following a classically British downpour that soaked the circuit. Once released, Hamilton pulled out a gap of over three seconds on Rosberg by the end of the first racing lap, demonstrating his confidence in the damp conditions.
Early tyre stops (several drivers pitted for intermediate tyres as soon as the safety car came in) took place in droves, but the top four of Hamilton, Rosberg, Verstappen and Ricciardo held out a little longer, and this proved to their advantage (assisted by an early virtual safety car when the Manor of Wehrlein span out on lap six). Hamilton would continue to hold an advantage, whilst Rosberg once again displayed a lack of confidence in the wet, being out-done by a brilliant move by Verstappen on lap 16 – the young Dutchman sweeping by Rosberg on the outside of Becketts.
(a safety car start wasn’t exactly exciting)
As the track dried, the conditions began to favour the Mercedes cars. Once everyone had changed to slick tyres, Rosberg began to bore down upon Verstappen, but Verstappen drove a strong defensive drive to hold keep his Red Bull ahead of the Silver Arrow for several laps. It was always going to be a tough ask to keep Rosberg at bay (especially with DRS), and eventually the German found his way past, but Rosberg had no answer to Hamilton, who always looked in control.
Further back, there was another day of misery for Sebastian Vettel. For the second race in succession, Vettel was handed a five place grid penalty for an unauthorised gearbox change – Ferrari are normally sound when it comes to reliability, but this appears to have deserted them this season.
Back at the front, Hamilton would see out the win in a straight-forward fashion, but there would be late drama for Rosberg. A problem developed with his gearbox, and whilst he was able to get through it, it was only with assistance from the team via radio. Rules regarding radio messages have been tightened recently, and the consequence of this was for Rosberg to lose second place via a five-second time penalty after the race, which promoted Verstappen to second. Was this harsh on Rosberg? In some respects yes – the team blurted out instructions and this ultimately had a negative impact on Rosberg’s race. On the other hand, without those instructions, Rosberg may not have finished the race at all.
It’s my own personal view that, with F1 cars being complex machines these days, the drivers cannot be reasonably expected to race them and be computer programmers.
(Verstappen had a good race)
So with one point between Hamilton and Rosberg, it’s very much all to play for as we enter the second half of the season.