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F1: Hamilton imperious as Vettel cracks

Bryan Edwards

If one could ever say that a circuit has a soul, one must, surely, say that about Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix for almost every running of that race since Formula One was born. And if a soul can be resurrected, to come alive and celebrate, Silverstone did just that. As the F1 circus rolled into town and set up shop, the biggest question was if this would be the last F1 at Silverstone and, even, if there would be a British Grand Prix after 2019. While the terms of the deal are secret, it is likely that the British Racing Drivers' Club, the owners of the former airfield and Liberty, the owners of F1, have done a deal under which the cost of running the race is reduced. The deal makes sure F1 comes home for at least the next five years. Then the grand old dame of F1 shed all her cares and woes and partied and what a party it was..

We could go on about how the practice sessions contributed to one of the most exciting qualifying sessions ever. EVER. Bottas beat Hamilton to pole. Hamilton wasn't best pleased that his lease on that position had been summarily terminated. The tussle between Red Bull and Ferrari surprised everyone - and the most surprising was Grassly. Right from P1, Grassly was the star. How someone who often looks like the chap best left in the transporter became an F1 driver of note in just one week after Austria will never be known. Williams, celebrating 50 years under the ownership of team principle Sir Frank, were joyous to have him in the pits - and so was everyone else. Lewis Hamilton took Sir Frank around the track in a road car ending by doing doughnuts, giving Sir Frank the biggest smile he's had in years and giving his support team in the pits kittens: he really is pretty frail and they had been a bit panicky about him doing a lap, much less rotations. Jenson Button and Ross Brawn had a moment: there were three Brawn cars built and only one remains. Ross has it and some of the original mechanics still maintain it. Jenson hadn't seen it, he says, since he stepped out of it at the last race of 2009 as World Champion. As he prepared to be strapped in, Brawn said "be careful with it: it's the only one we've got." Button stroked the throttle. Then didn't. As he pushed the car close to full speed, he kept saying, over and over, what a privilege it had been to drive the car and work with the team. He didn't ask the one question in everyone else's mind: why did we stop? The answer to that was, of course, that the money that is now ploughed into Mercedes and Ferrari is impossible for a privateer team to raise. They achieved, in a car that was designed for a Honda engine but had an Mercedes shoe-horned into the back causing a major redesign in only about six weeks, something that is remarkable. They might have continued racing but they would never again have achieved something so impossible.

And so, after the epic qualifying, the scene was set for the race itself. Would it rain? Would the wind that had blown so many cars into the gravel traps during practice die down? No, and yes.

Would SIlverstone produce another processional race, demonstrations of amazing driving but not a lot of racing?

The lights went out. The first corner was free of incident. Bottas beat Hamilton out of the first bend, then the second and Hamilton gave near-demonic chase until, after several laps, he settled into a calm rhythm just under a second behind Bottas, keeping himself, his tyres and his car cool. But the Mercedes had not had it all to themselves: despite setting fastest laps one after another, they were closely chased by both Ferraris and both Red Bulls who, two by two, fought hard. Vettel had to contend with Gasly who refused to be shaken off. Verstappen battled with Leclerc, wheel to wheel, both running off on one corner. The stewards sat back: no harm, no foul. Both were giving as good as they got and while they were rubbing the metaphorical door handles, they weren't being dangerous. Right behind them, a bit of wheel banging and no-quarter-given, paint-swapping racing drew attention to the resurgence of Daniel Ricciardo in a Renault that worked and of Lando Norris in a McLaren that worked better, with a Renault engine. Norris said before the race that his target was to get past Ricciardo - and he did that several times.

The two HAAS cars, KMag and Crashjean (if he had to pay for the damage, he'd leave F1: he even managed to total the front wing, cost somewhere far north of GBP100,000, before he got out of the pits on Friday morning) hit each other with both out as a consequence. What was it Rich Energy was reported as saying - something along the lines of "why are we paying these bozos?" (heavy edit of what the original tweet, later back-pedalled, said in the latest in the Rich Energy saga).


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