Kurt Verlin
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Hamilton Wins 2020 British GP on Three Wheels

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Lewis Hamilton during FP2 at 2018 Japanese GP
Photo: Takayuki Suzuki via CC
2020 British GP Top 10

The 2020 British GP was not very exciting and, as I anticipated after the last race, Lewis Hamilton was crowned victor (bold prediction, I know). But as it often seems to be the case in Formula 1, a boring race can become a thriller in an instant, and that’s exactly what happened at Silverstone on Sunday.

Hamilton had led the race somewhat comfortably, with teammate Valtteri Bottas at his heels but never quite close enough to mount an attack. Then, only two laps from the end, Bottas’s front left tire suddenly decided it had had enough — and unfortunately for the Finn, he had just passed the pit lane.

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Bottas therefore had to go around the whole 3.66-mile circuit on a blown tire, and after the pit stop, there weren’t enough laps left in the race for him to get back into the points positions. This also left a few drivers, who had last changed tires on the same lap as Bottas, wondering whether their own rubber would get to the end.

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They were right to be concerned. Carlos Sainz, who had been running fifth before Bottas’s incident, saw his own front left tire disintegrate, and then, on the last lap, the same happened to Hamilton. He was leading the race by some margin, but it was still a long lap ahead of him to the checkered flag.

Crucially, Red Bull Racing had pit second-place Max Verstappen on the penultimate lap to help ensure he would not encounter a similar tire issue. With Bottas out of the picture, the stop was essentially free, and would help the young Dutchman claim the fastest lap of the race for an extra point. It was the safe call, one that operated on the assumption that Hamilton would not suffer a tire puncture on the last lap.

But Hamilton did, and that extra stop meant that Verstappen had a 34-second gap to overcome in less than a single lap to try to overtake Hamilton before the finish line. Ultimately, he managed to take 28 seconds out of his rival. Close, but not enough. Hamilton and his team breathed a sigh of relief as he crossed the line with three good tires and something merely resembling the memory of one.

It was an exciting finish, but probably not the one most fans would have wanted, as Hamilton now leads the championship so substantially that even a retirement in the next race wouldn’t budge him from the top. For those wishing for a closer title fight, it seems almost like a cruel tease for Hamilton to experience what would normally be a race-ending issue only when it could no longer affect the result. Meanwhile, his teammate and primary rival experienced the same issue, but arguably at the worst possible time.

These tire problems do raise some interesting questions about the next race, which will once more take place at Silverstone as the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Crucially, that race will be run with even softer (i.e. less durable) tires than the 2020 British GP. Tire preservation may, therefore, be an even bigger component of that race than it turned out to be on Sunday. I look forward to it.

2020 British GP Championship Standings