2015 British Grand Prix Recap: Williams Puts Mercedes on the Spot
Just like all sports, Formula 1 is extremely results-driven—but sometimes, it’s about the journey and not the destination. Though the 2015 British Grand Prix concluded with a repeat of this season’s most common podium, the way the three drivers got there made for what was arguably the most entertaining race of the year.
Hamilton was on pole for his home crowd at a track where he’s always brought his best game, while Rosberg was just coming off of a win in Austria after slipping past the Brit at the first corner. All eyes were on the Mercedes drivers to see how the start would go down.
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Hamilton and Rosberg were focused on each other as well—perhaps too focused, because they seemed caught by surprise (as were the commentators) when the Williams of Massa and Bottas darted past both drivers as soon as the lights went out. Though Hamilton regained 2nd place almost as quickly, it was the first time we’d ever seen the two drivers get the rug swept out from under them so definitively in a race.
No sooner had that happened that a cacophony of events unraveled at the third corner to make it even more difficult to wrap our heads around the situation. Ricciardo and Grosjean made contact, flicking the latter into the path of his teammate Maldonado. Alonso tried to take evasive action but lost control in the process and speared Button, his own teammate.
This prompted the release of the safety car, which gave Alonso time to limp back to the pits and change his car’s front nose. When the race restarted, Hamilton eagerly attempted to reclaim the lead, but was too aggressive and instead allowed Bottas to slip right by him. What in the world was going on?
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Williams was leading 1-2 with Mercedes hot on their tail. Hulkenberg had snagged 5th place from Räikkönen and Vettel kept losing positions to cars that should have been slower. It was as though everything had been turned on its head. Then, slowly, things began to right themselves.
There was a bit of team drama between the two Williams drivers. Bottas felt he was faster than Massa and he may have been right, based on how closely he was able to follow his teammate. But he couldn’t quite get the speed to overtake him cleanly, and the team initially gave both drivers orders not to race each other to instead focus on building a gap to Mercedes.
The problem was, they weren’t quick enough to even create a gap. Bottas might have been able to run away with the lead had his teammate allowed him to pass, but no hyper-competitive driver racing at the highest level of motorsport wants to let anyone pass.
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Ultimately, Williams showed their inexperience at leading races. They were too reactive instead of proactive, letting Mercedes set the terms on strategy. Hamilton dove into the pits a lap before Massa to perform the undercut (with a blistering 2.4s stop) and by the time the latter had done the same, he had lost the lead. He nearly lost 2nd place right then and there.
Bottas’s stop went a bit better than his teammate’s, allowing him to just barely squeeze into 3rd place, but at that point it was evident that Williams had let a shot at victory slip away from them. Hamilton was already seconds ahead and nothing was going to stop him from winning his home Grand Prix. Or was there?
Ominous as ever at any British event, dark rain clouds loomed on the horizon. With about 15 laps to go, drops began to fall over certain parts of the track. And that’s when everything got shuffled around once again.
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Vettel demonstrated why he was a four-time champion by making a phenomenal run in these uncertain conditions, catching up to Räikkönen who had up until then settled into a comfortable 5th position. When he overtook the Finn, the latter made the mistake of diving into the pits for intermediate tires. The track was still too dry for them to perform adequately and he painfully dropped down to 8th place.
Rosberg showed his chops as well. Once the rain began to come down, he quickly dispatched with Bottas, then Massa, reclaiming 2nd place and taking the chase to Hamilton. He was downright impressive during that part of the Grand Prix, catching the Brit at a rate of about two seconds per lap despite being in the same car with the same tires. By lap 42, he was right behind him, which, as it happened, was also finally the perfect time to switch to intermediate tires. Hamilton went into the pits and Rosberg lost his chance at the win. With slicks no longer suited to the conditions, his next lap was 10 seconds slower than that of his teammate.
Vettel pit at just the right time as well, allowing him to snag 3rd place out of seemingly nowhere. Everything had gone so unusually from the start, and suddenly the results looked quite familiar: Hamilton, Rosberg, and Vettel on the podium.
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Though qualifying had been disastrous and Button had to retire on the first lap, there was a silver lining for McLaren. Alonso scored his first championship points of the year by finishing 10th! It’s still a shame to see such a talented driver in such a disappointing car, but it must have felt vindicating for him to finally get a taste of progress.
That’s it for this week. I can only hope future races are as exciting as this one! We need Williams and Ferrari to keep making Mercedes look vulnerable. See you in three weeks for the Budapest Grand Prix!
Kurt Verlin was born in France and lives in the United States. Throughout his life he was always told French was the language of romance, but it was English he fell in love with. He likes cats, music, cars, 30 Rock, Formula 1, and pretending to be a race car driver in simulators; but most of all, he just likes to write about it all. See more articles by Kurt.