Sainz Shines in Spectacular Sunday at Silverstone, British GP Review

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Sainz Shines in Spectacular Sunday at Silverstone, British GP Review

Published:
July 4, 2022
Last Updated:
July 4, 2022

Carlos Sainz is a race winner in Formula One after the Spaniard somehow navigated a British Grand Prix with non-stop action that left viewers guessing who would be the victor until the very end. After a race where Max Verstappen and Charles Leclerc also led, and Lewis Hamilton and Sergio Perez challenged for the lead, all four had realistic chances of taking the chequered flag. Any of these five drivers would've made worthy winners in one of F1's best races this season, but Sainz ultimately won out.

While the finale was nail-bitingly entertaining, there were scary scenes at the race start after Alfa Romeo's Guanyu Zhou dramatically crashed out in an incident that had his car scraping upside-down along the tarmac, through a gravel trap, over a tyre barrier, and into a catch fence. The Chinese driver miraculously walked away from the scene of the accident, demonstrating the safety involved in modern-day F1. However, the race start had to be delayed by an hour to allow the marshalls to make repairs.

The Zhou incident also removed Mercedes' George Russell from his home Grand Prix and Alex Albon in his newly upgraded Williams. AlphaTauri's Pierre Gasly found himself pinched in between Russell and Zhou, clipping Russell with his front-right Pirelli tyre and having a snowball effect that then damaged several cars. The resulting red flag allowed Yuki Tsunoda and Edsteban Ocon to limp back for repairs and gave some drivers a second chance to restart the race on different tyre compounds.

Sainz Shines in Spectacular Sunday at Silverstone, British GP Review

Russel helps Zhou

One of the primary beneficiaries of the red flag restart was polesitter Carlos Sainz. The Spaniard began the race on Pirelli's medium tyres, and he lost ground on the soft tyre-equipped Verstappen into the first corner to allow the Red Bull driver into the lead. However, the red flag negated that early advancement, and on the second time of asking, with both drivers running the yellow-walled Pirelli medium tyres, Sainz fought hard to retain P1.

However, those following the Ferrari found themselves all squeezed together on the opening lap as Leclerc, Perez, and Verstappen went side-by-side into The Loop corner. Leclerc lightly hit Perez, who, in turn, collided with Verstappen. While Perez backed out of the close running, Leclerc tried to race around the outside of Verstappen at Brooklands, but his Red Bull rival ran the Ferrari driver out of road, forcing him to back off and settle for third place. With the race running with Verstappen as the meat in a Ferrari sandwich, his teammate behind struggled to keep up. Perez's contact with the sister Red Bull damaged his front wing, and he had to pit on Lap 5 for repairs, unleashing Lando Norris and Lewis Hamilton to chase down a potential podium. The upgrade package Mercedes brought to Silverstone has advanced them far ahead of McLaren, and Hamilton promptly overtook his compatriot to start hunting down Leclerc's P3.

A little distance ahead, an odd two moments at the Maggotts and Becketts corner sequence saw the lead change hands twice. First, Sainz suffered a snap of oversteer to see him run off the track exiting Becketts, handing Verstappen P1 – but only briefly. Next, with both Ferraris closing in on him, Verstappen slowed down into Maggotts. The championship leader complained over the radio that he had a puncture as Sainz regained the lead. Leclerc also passed by as Verstappen headed into the pit lane to swap his tyres. However, the stop to replace Verstappen's Pirellis didn't help, and the Dutchman still couldn't find any grip on a new set of mediums. The Red Bull pit wall confirmed that he was racing with rear bodywork damage sustained from his first lap (post-red flag) incidents, and he'd have to manage as well as possible.

Sainz Shines in Spectacular Sunday at Silverstone, British GP Review

Carlos Sainz

With Verstappen nullified, Hamilton was now the main Ferrari threat – something Charles Leclerc quickly realised. The Monegasque pleaded with his team to be allowed past Sainz for the lead, feeling he had more speed and could escape the advancing Mercedes driver. It was a valid point as Hamilton set fastest lap after fastest lap to close the gap. By the time he was approaching DRS range, Ferrari had pulled Sainz in for his first pit stop at Lap 20, and he exited the pits on Pirelli's hard tyre and looked good for a one-stop race.

Freed from the teammate he perceived as slower, Leclerc went deeper into the race on his rubber while maintaining a gap to Hamilton. Six laps later, Leclerc also pitted onto hard tyres but was two seconds behind Sainz when he returned to racing, either showing the overcut didn't work or Sainz wasn't as slow as the Monegasque thought. Faced with the same predicament as earlier, albeit with Hamilton now racing in the lead but still needing to stop, Leclerc asked to overtake Sainz. "You're free to race" was the message from the Ferrari pit wall.

Although unleashed from maintaining position, Leclerc didn't simply whizz past Sainz. Ferrari had to intervene and gave Sainz the choice of increasing his pace or moving aside. The Spaniard asked his team for one more lap to prove he could set a faster time but couldn't hit the necessary target and sportingly let Leclerc pass on the Wellington Straight – a move Leclerc would later regret.

Hamilton finally pitted and took a while to bed in his set of Pirelli hard tyres, leaving him a few seconds behind Sainz but on much fresher rubber. Out in front, Leclerc began setting fastest laps to create a gap to help defend from the home hero, but it would be futile as a Safety Car destroyed all his progress.

Sainz Shines in Spectacular Sunday at Silverstone, British GP Review

Lewis Hamilton

Esteban Ocon had stopped on track after a fuel pump issue, and the field would soon close up on Leclerc. With a sizeable gap behind, Hamilton could pit for fresh tyres without losing any places, and Ferrari reacted by bringing in Sainz too. Leclerc, meanwhile, stayed out on his older hard Pirellis and faced another problem – Perez was now back in the fight. The Mexican had raced 35 laps on the medium tyres Red Bull had equipped him with during his earlier pit stop to replace his front wing. As a result, he was the only runner to get a strategic pit stop from the Safety Car period and had leapfrogged the entire midfield. Leclerc was about to have his hands full.

Sure enough, as green flag racing resumed, Sainz overtook to reclaim the lead into Brooklands while Perez passed Hamilton out of The Loop to turn the race into a frantic sprint to the finish line. Some remarkable racing between Perez, Leclerc, and Hamilton followed at Club corner, where the Brit passed both drivers, but the straight-line speed advantage of Perez's Red Bull had him retake P2. 

A five-car fight with Fernando Alonso and Lando Norris joining the scrap created a spectacular podium showdown in the Brooklands/Luffield complex as Leclerc used every bit of grip from his old hard Pirellis. However, despite the fighting, the positions remained as they were, allowing Sainz to run off into the distance to take the win – the first of his career – with Perez and Hamilton rounding out the rostrum.

Verstappen fended off Mick Schumacher for P7 to take six points away and remain well clear at the top of the standings, but he'll be looking to bounce back to the top next weekend. Formula One heads to Red Bull's home circuit in Austria, where the Dutchman won twice in 2021. If Silverstone is anything to go by, it will be a thrilling month of motorsport.

Sainz Shines in Spectacular Sunday at Silverstone, British GP Review

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