Max Verstappen won the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone in a virtuoso performance for Red Bull. Pulling off a real shock, he banished the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton into second and Valtteri Bottas into third. Where Mercedes had looked so dominant last week at the British Grand Prix, this time it was Red Bull that enjoyed a distinct pace advantage, and managed their race with bravery and aplomb. Charles Leclerc was in fourth for Ferrari with Alex Albon in fifth for Red Bull.
In a race where Red Bull’s gamble on their tyre choice paid off, Verstappen grabbed his chance with glee and proceeded to prove why he is such an exciting talent. Given a sniff of a chance against the Mercedes that has thus far won every race this season, Verstappen displayed aggression and control to put in a mighty performance. With tyre use at its heart Red Bull finally had the better of their rivals.
Verstappen now has nine career wins but this is his first at Silverstone and his first this season. That it came very much against the odds on a circuit where Mercedes have been completely dominant will have made the success all the sweeter. Despite the long lay-off because of the coronavirus outbreak he has clearly lost none of his edge. This season he now has a win, two seconds and a third place from five races.
He has been bullish about his desire to join a genuine fight with Hamilton and Bottas for the title, and has signalled his intent to at least try to deny them a walkover. Red Bull’s bold decision to use the hard tyres for Verstappen in qualifying – which meant he started from fourth on the gird – paid off. They must be applauded for their willingness to take a chance.
After four rounds of a season likely to run to 15 races, Hamilton leads the championship with 107 points, in front of Verstappen on 77 points, with Bottas on 73 in third.
Bottas held his lead into turn one but Verstappen made a cracking getaway to pinch third from Nico Hülkenberg. It was exactly what the Dutchman required given he had started on the hard tyre. Yet Bottas and Hamilton soon opened a gap, the pair within a second of one another but four clear of Verstappen by lap five.
Hamilton was staying with this teammate out front but as the tyres worked in it was Verstappen who found the better grip over both Mercedes drivers, who were on the medium rubber. He was able to close the gap to three seconds while Bottas was already taking warnings on the wear to his rubber.
So quick was Verstappen that he was advised to ease back to preserve his tyres. Verstappen, having got within DRS range of Hamilton, was having none of it. “This is the only chance to get close to Mercedes, I am not sitting behind like a grandma,” he replied boisterously.
Hamilton warned his rears were gone as Verstappen challenged the world champion on lap 13, when Mercedes brought Bottas to take the hards while Hamilton had to stay out until the next to pit. He did so also taking the hard rubber and Verstappen took the lead.
As the pit stops played out Bottas and Hamilton returned to second and third, 13 seconds off Verstappen, who had yet to stop. Crucially at this point Verstappen was able to maintain his lead despite being on the older rubber. His chances hinged on how long he could go on the better tyre and on the gap he could extend. He pitted on lap 26, exactly halfway into the race, with a 20-second advantage on Bottas. Emerging just behind Bottas he immediately attacked on fresher rubber and went round the outside of Luffield to retake the lead.
The Mercedes is quick through the fast corners but in doing so it was working its rubber terrifically hard, the blistering it caused costly in overall pace. Neither Bottas nor Hamilton could match the Red Bull.
Told to push by his team, Verstappen responded: “So we are just going to fully send it.” Clearly they adopted a two-stop strategy. He pitted on lap 32, as did Bottas, and both now had fresh hard tyres in a straight fight to the finish. Hamilton stayed out but was convinced his car had a problem with tyre blistering.
Hamilton clearly was considering switching to a one-stop with an 11-second lead on Verstappen, asking his team for confirmation they did not think the tyre would blow, but it was clearly untenable. He pitted again on lap 42 and emerged in fourth behind Leclerc.
Verstappen and Red Bull however had the lead and the fastest car. They made it count as he took the flag. Hamilton chased Leclerc and passed him for third on lap 45. Catching Bottas by lap 49 the pair were allowed to race one another and they went for it, Hamilton taking second into Brooklands on lap 50.
Lance Stroll and Hülkenberg were in sixth and seventh for Racing Point. Esteban Ocon was eight for Renault, with Lando Norris in ninth for McLaren and Daniil Kvyat in 10th for AlphaTauri.