Verstappen beats Mercedes to victory at Silverstone

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Verstappen beats Mercedes to victory at Silverstone

Max Verstappen took Red Bull’s first race victory of the 2020 Formula One season after beating both Mercedes drivers in a straight fight at F1’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix at Silverstone. One week on from Lewis Hamilton’s victory on three inflated tyres at the same circuit, Pirelli’s rubber once again dictated the outcome of the race. But while all 20 cars avoided a complete failure this weekend, it was tyre strategy and excessive blistering on the Mercedes cars that handed Verstappen his shot at victory. Red Bull took an alternative strategy that allowed Verstappen to start on hard tyres and take the lead when the two Mercedes drivers, who started first and second on the medium compound, pitted. Both teams opted for a two-stop strategy, but Verstappen’s ability to manage his rubber meant he came out on top over the course of the 52 laps once all the pit stops panned out. Behind the Red Bull, Hamilton overtook Bottas for second place with three laps remaining as the Finn, who had started on pole, got caught on a strategy that tried to attack Verstappen but ultimately left him vulnerable to Hamilton. Key to Verstappen’s strategy was remaining in touch with the Mercedes drivers early in the race while managing his tyres. At one stage his team radioed to tell him to back off and look after his front left tyre, but Verstappen responded saying “I’m not going to sit behind like a grandma”. Bottas pitted from the lead at the end of lap 13, with Hamilton following suit a lap later. Both drivers saw rows of blisters emerge on their first set of tyres as the surface of the rubber overheated, and as they switched to the hard compound they both managed their pace to avoid a repeat. That allowed Verstappen to push through towards the end of his stint and gain a big enough lead over the struggling Mercedes drivers to make his first pit stop at the end of lap 26 and emerge just behind Bottas. On softer medium compound tyres, he immediately had a pace advantage and passed the Mercedes for the lead at Brooklands on his outlap. From that point onwards Mercedes was in checkmate, but the team threw one last strategy gamble by pitting Bottas for another set of hard tyres on lap 33. Red Bull saw the counter punch coming and brought in Verstappen on the same lap, ensuring he retained position over Bottas as they both rejoined the track. Hamilton then took the lead and extended his stint to lap 44 in order to give himself fresher tyres at the end. He dropped to fourth at his stop, behind Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc who was on a one-stop strategy, but emerged on fresher tyres and passed both Leclerc and teammate Bottas before the finish. The move on Bottas came at Brooklands after a handful of corners of defence from the Finn, but was a foregone conclusion given the fresher rubber on Hamilton’s car. It was another crucial blow for Bottas, who is now 34 points behind Hamilton in the standings. Leclerc took fourth place for Ferrari on one of only two one-stop strategies in the field, which proved to be a good result given his starting position in eighth. Alex Albon recovered from ninth on the grid to fifth at the finish, beating Lance Stroll who finished where he started in sixth. Nico Hulkenberg, who started third, attempted a three-stop strategy, leaving him seventh after he slipped behind his teammate at his final pit stop. Esteban Ocon took eighth for Renault on the second of the two one-stop strategies ahead of Lando Norris in ninth and Daniil Kvyat in tenth for Alpha Tauri. The result means Hamilton retains a 30-point lead in the championship, although his closest competitor is now Verstappen who moved four points clear of Bottas with victory.