LONDON • Red Bull’s Max Verstappen ended Mercedes’ perfect start to this season’s campaign with victory at Formula One’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone.
He finished ahead of championship leader Lewis Hamilton and his Silver Arrows teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc fourth and Alexander Albon of Red Bull completing the top five yesterday.
This was Verstappen’s seventh podium finish in eight races in a run, which also includes victory in Brazil, starting from last year’s United States Grand Prix. It was also his ninth career GP win.
Mercedes had won the first four races of this Covid-19 disrupted season, but were left to rue a race and tyre strategy that allowed the Dutchman, who started fourth on the grid, the chance to snatch the chequered flag.
His victory was the result of a team decision to start the race on hard compound tyres, while their main rivals all launched from the grid on “mediums”, with the two Mercedes drivers struggling to manage tyre-wear throughout the race.
He said: “We had a lot of pace in the car. We kept pushing. We had a great day, we had the right strategy. I tried to put the pressure on (Mercedes) and they had to pit.”
“I didn’t see it coming, but after the first stint, we seemed really good on tyres and we didn’t have many tyre issues at all.
“It is a great result to win here and I am incredibly happy.
“We have not had an opportunity to push them so far this season. We need to use soft tyres that seems to suit our car.”
For Mercedes, there was a sense of collective disappointment even though Hamilton equalled Ferrari great Michael Schumacher’s record of 155 podium finishes.
Bottas said: “Very frustrating starting from pole and finishing third. My strategy was far, far from ideal.
70TH ANNIVERSARY GP
1 Max Verstappen (Ned) Red Bull
1hr 19min 41.993sec
2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes
+11.326sec *fastest lap
3 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Mercedes
4 Charles Leclerc (Mon) Ferrari
5 Alex Albon (Tha) Red Bull
6 Lance Stroll (Can) Racing Point
7 Nico Hulkenberg (Ger)
Racing Point +55.951
8 Esteban Ocon (Fra) Renault
9 Lando Norris (Gbr) McLaren
10 Daniil Kvyat (Rus) AlphaTauri
12 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari
1 Hamilton 107pts
2 Verstappen 77
3 Bottas 73
4 Leclerc 45
5 Norris 38
1 Mercedes 180pts
2 Red Bull 113
3 Ferrari 55
4 McLaren 53
5 Racing Point 41
“I was trying but as soon as I started to push at the end, the tyres fell apart.
“As a team we were sleeping at some points, Red Bull’s strategy was far better and we have to look at this.
“When you have those blisters, you lose cornering grip. It is a disappointing day but we will move on.”
Six-time world champion Hamilton was equally annoyed, saying: “Congratulations to Red Bull and to Max. They didn’t have the blistering problems on the tyres that we had today.
“It’s unexpected but I’m sure the team will work out what the issues have been. At the end, I was driving with half a tyre.
“The team will be working hard (to identify the tyre problems), Pirelli had tyre failures last week, the pressure on them goes up and up and up – they’re like balloons.
“I’m not sure anyone else struggled with blistering like we did but we’ll look into it.
“That middle stint – even the first one, I started to fall back towards Max, I was managing the tyres like you couldn’t believe.
“In the middle stint, one half was bald and the other half was OK. I was afraid it was going to explode.”
Separately, Racing Point owner Lawrence Stroll yesterday angrily accused his F1 rivals of “unsporting behaviour”, rejecting suggestions his team had cheated in designing a car based on last year’s title-winning Mercedes.
Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Williams plan to appeal against a stewards’ decision to fine the Canadian billionaire’s team €400,000 (S$647,000) and dock them 15 points in a row over copied parts.
However, Stroll insisted that Racing Point, whose RP20 car has been dubbed “the Pink Mercedes”, have not broken any rules and will also be appealing.
“I do not often speak publicly, however, I am extremely angry at any suggestion we have been underhand or have cheated – particularly those comments coming from our competitors,” he said.
“I have never cheated at anything in my life. These accusations are completely unacceptable and not true.
“My integrity – and that of my team – are beyond question.”
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS