2020 British GP Tips and Preview by James Punt

by | Jul 30, 2020

2020 British GP Tips and Preview by James Punt

After a week off the Formula 1 season restarts with the British GP. Will Lewis Hamilton cruise to victory on his home circuit? Will the total domination of Mercedes continue? You can find out the answer to those questions in James Punt’s comprehensive preview. Check out his 2020 British GP tips below…

British GP Preview

It’s time for more Mercedes domination with back to back Grand Prix at Silverstone. After just three races Mercedes have all but won the constructors championship. They have scored more than twice the number of points than the team in second place, Red Bull, 121 points to 55.  Quite simply, the expected opposition hasn’t turned up while Mercedes have gotten quicker, especially in qualifying. The loss of the three races in the USA, Mexico and Brazil moves the titles even closer to Mercedes. A clean sweep for Mercedes now looks a very real possibility.

Red Bull ended winter testing saying that they had never been better prepared for an upcoming season. One pandemic and three races later and they don’t understand their car. The fact that Verstappen could only qualify seventh in Hungary showed that they were struggling big time. Verstappen crashed on the warm up lap and had to have a new nose/front wing and suspension repairs carried out on the grid. The car was actually better after the crash. It was a novel way to find the right set up but highlights how far Red Bull are from understanding their car.

Verstappen and Red Bull Struggling

Max Verstappen is using all his skills to drag the car onto the podium but his is not a fair fight with Hamilton. Once again, the Silver/Black Arrows are in a different formula to the rest. Red Bull team boss Helmut Marko says that there is a fundamental flaw in the chassis which doesn’t sound like there is a quick fix in the short term.

It seems that the car, designed with gaining more slow corner performance as a key target, is very sensitive at the front end. A gust of wind for example, can throw it all out of whack. When it works, it is good, but it is on a knife edge. It is also obvious that the Honda power unit has once again fallen behind Mercedes, having closed the gap at the end of 2019.

With Silverstone being famously exposed to the wind, Red Bull could struggle. At least there aren’t too many slow corners, but there are enough, and it is a problem which will hurt them. Despite the track being a high speed one, it is slow corner performance which makes the biggest difference to your lap time.

There is speculation that it is the high rake design philosophy which is the root cause. Most teams have gone down the high rake design route, but there are two that have not. Mercedes, and the new Racing Point Mercedes. Racing Point traditionally had a high rake design, but as this year’s car is a copy of last year’s Mercedes, the team have copied Mercedes by going for a low rake concept. It sems to work much better. Currently the two quickest cars are the real Mercedes and the bootleg Mercedes.

New Engineer For Albon

Red Bull’s number 2, Alex Albon, will have a new but very experienced race engineer working on his side of the garage this weekend. Simon Rennie worked with Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo and it is hoped that Rennie’s experience will settle Albon down.

Red Bull are in second place, but they are now looking back over their shoulder, fending off the challenge of the Racing Point Mercedes rather than having any realistic hope of beating Mercedes on merit. If Red Bull where to be able to mount a serious challenge to Mercedes this season, they really had to win the first three races, which were on tracks which have not been Mercedes strongest. We are now heading to Silverstone which is a Hamilton/Mercedes fortress, as is the following race in Spain (which is beginning to look in doubt with a Covid cloud on the Barcelona horizon).

McLaren are third in the constructors table, one point ahead of the controversial Racing Point, who remain under protest for copying parts of last year’s Mercedes. McLaren where very strong over the Red Bull ring but underwhelmed in Hungary, picking up just two points. A bit like Red Bull, they haven’t quite worked out their car yet.

It looks well balanced but not strong in all departments. Sainz wasn’t happy in the fast corners in the opening race, and the car wasn’t competitive in the slower corners in Hungary. These are issues that will likely be sorted over time and the car is basically sound. There will be some new parts to test this weekend, so we might see an improvement.

Racing Point On The Rise

Racing Point Mercedes are in 4th place but surely not for long. They have arguably the second quickest car on the grid, unless Red Bull can hit their sweet spot. The FIA have admitted that they did not examine the brake ducts on the Racing Point before the start of the season, the rest of the car was passed as legal, but they are now looking at the brake ducts specifically.

The smart money is on Racing Point having to make changes, but when is the question. The matter was supposed to be ruled on before the Silverstone races but there is no news at present. Even if they do get told to make changes, they may well have the right of appeal.

This is the home race for the Silverstone based Racing Point team and it is a track which is likely to see the car perform strongly. So far Racing Point haven’t quite maximised their performance but they have had three races to understand their package and on a track on which Mercedes have done so well at in recent years, their bootleg Mercedes should be right up there in second place, team wise.

Their car is so good that even Lance Stroll could qualify in 3rd place in Hungary. From 3rd and 4th on the grid, they should have done better than 4th and 7th at the end of the race. If Racing Point don’t get a podium this weekend, they will have failed.

2020 British GP Tips: Fifth Flatters Ferrari

Ferrari remain down in 5th place after three races. Mired in the midfield and flattered by being 5th. Leclerc’s 2nd place in the opening race was opportunistic and driver based. Upgrades to the car have been a very limited success and as is the usual response when Ferrari are in trouble, they have had a reshuffle of technical personnel.

Once Red Bull unlock the performance from their car, McLaren fine tune their set up and Renault get their act together, Ferrari may well struggle to stay in 5th place.  The very fast, power sensitive, Silverstone circuit is very likely to expose the car’s weaknesses and to have two races here is going to be a challenge for the team. The boss of Ferrari says things are so bad, he doesn’t expect the team to be challenging for races wins until 2022!

Renault are underperforming as usual. The car isn’t a no-hoper, but it isn’t much of an improvement over last year’s car. That means that Renault are falling behind Racing Point and McLaren in the midfield battle. They have got a car home in 8th place in every race so far which isn’t good enough. New parts will be coming for this race, a ‘reasonable update’.

Alpha Tauri at least have the advantage of not having a Ferrari power unit. That is enough for them to be able to beat Haas and Alfa Romeo in qualifying. That is if everything goes alright. The car has shown decent one lap pace, but they have struggled more over a race distance.  Reliability has been poor, and they are back on the ‘to keep an eye on’ list rather than backing them.

Gamble Paid Off For Haas In Hungary

Haas scored a point in Hungary thanks to them rolling the dice and starting the race on slick tyres while the rest of the field took to intermediates on a damp track. This allowed them both to run up in the top 4 at one point and despite a 10 second penalty for ‘driver coaching’, Magnussen was still classified 10th. Pace wise the car isn’t good and like all the Ferrari powered cars, they are very weak in qualifying. Silverstone isn’t expected to suit. The team has no upgrades planned and that point in Hungary might the highlight of their season.

Alfa Romeo are in real bother. Not only are they handicapped by the Ferrari power unit, but the chassis is poor as well. They are now slower than Williams, in qualifying at least. The car is more competitive over a race distance, but they have to be opposed in qualifying.

Williams have made progress, but they are being helped by Alfa Romeo and Haas getting worse. Certainly, both Williams drivers should not be occupying the back row of the grid come Sunday. Their race pace isn’t so good, and they are still some way from finishing in the points unless there is heavy attrition, but they are bringing a major upgrade for their home races, so we should expect further improvement.

The Track

The Silverstone circuit is a different challenge to Austria, a power sensitive go kart track, and Hungary, a slow, high downforce sensitive go kart track. Silverstone is no go kart track. It is a long, fast, flowing circuit which demands lots of power and good fast corner performance. There are enough slow corners to make finding the best set up tricky, but above anything else, you need lots of grunt.

It will suit the Mercedes powered cars and it will hurt the Ferrari powered cars. Where it leaves the Renault and Honda powered teams is less clear, but with Ferrari very likely to be struggling to qualify in the top 10, Red Bull, McLaren, Renault and perhaps Alpha Tauri, will all be looking for more points. Racing Point will be short odds for a podium.

The track is hard on tyres as they are put under massive lateral loading on the fast corners and Pirelli are bringing their three hardest compound tyres, the C1, C2 and C3. This may have some bearing on performance, especially if the weather turns cooler. Getting them ‘switched on’ for qualifying might be an issue for some teams. For next weekend’s 70th Anniversary GP, Pirelli will be a range of tyres 1 step softer, so the C2, C3 and C4. Traditionally, Mercedes have been strong on the harder tyres, another reason to expect them to dominate over these next two weekends.

2020 British GP Tips: Hamilton Loves Silverstone

Past form sees a very good record for Hamilton and Mercedes. In the six turbo hybrid era races here, Mercedes and Hamilton have won five, and Vettel and Ferrari one. Hamilton was second that year having lost ground after a coming together with Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari.

Other notable track records include three second places for Bottas, four top 10’s for Perez, five top 7’s for Ricciardo, both of Ocon’s races here have been top 8 and four top 10’s for Kvyat. Grosjean has managed four DNF’s, with three for Sainz.

The pole position driver has won three of the last six races, with only Hamilton’s win from 6th in 2014 being the only win from outside the front row.

The track is traditionally quite high in attrition. The last six years have seen at least three DNF’s and an average DNF rate of 4.67.

The Weather News

Rain has been a feature in the early races, so it’s bound to rain for the British GP? Not according to the forecasts. It will be very hot for Friday’s free practice. Hot weather is bad news for Mercedes, but there is more good news for them  as conditions will become cooler and partly cloudy for Saturday and Sunday but still pleasantly warm and dry. There will be the traditional Silverstone breeze which can make a few corners tricky, and could cause Red Bull in particular, more problems.

2020 British GP Tips: The Verdict

Barring accidents it will be a Mercedes 1-2 and very likely a procession for Hamilton. He owns the place and is too good for Bottas. There is a chance that his increasing political activity could distract him, as it did in the opening round. He already made one faux pax last week, posting an anti-vaccine video on his social media channels. He’ll get away with that at home and the lower number of journalists at the tracks also helps him avoid criticism, but it is something which could work against him at some stage.

Racing Point should be 3rd and 4th. They have not yet done as well as the car should allow them, but on this track, the podium is there for the taking. It now looks likely that Vettel will join the team next year so the two incumbents will want to stake their claim to the other seat and get that podium.

Red Bull are harder to call. I doubt they will have found a cure for the car’s ills in such a short time, especially if it is the high rake design which is at the root of it. The breezy nature of the track is another potential minefield for them. They don’t have a good record here and that looks set to continue.

McLaren Could Score Points

Best of the rest? Always a harder call. With Ferrari likely to have a mare, McLaren have a good chance to get more points. They are a bit hard to call after disappointing in Hungary, but they were very good on the faster Red Bull Ring which suggests that they will be decent here this weekend. Sainz was 6th last year and they should be hoping for something similar, especially if Red Bull can’t find their sweet spot.

Renault can take advantage of Ferrari’s weaknesses but better than 8th? Maybe that is their limit. Ocon has finished eighth and seventh in his two races here so he knows how to do it if the car is up to it and the same goes for Ricciardo.

2020 British GP Tips

Hamilton is the 1.50 favourite to win. His and his teams form here in the turbo hybrid era is very nearly perfect, just that fortunate win for Vettel in 2018 breaking his run of wins. With the opposition being weaker this year his only realistic threat is Bottas, a 4.00 shot. Bottas has been a three time runner up and if Hamilton where to have a problem, he is the obvious candidate to pick up a win. However, in a straight fight on this track? He is hard to fancy.

It is hard to argue with Hamilton’s odds. His only threats are Bottas, mechanical failure or an accident. Mechanical failure on a Mercedes are very rare. In the last three seasons Hamilton has suffered one DNF and that was at altitude in Austria in 2018 when both Mercs retired. In the entire turbo hybrid era he has suffered just 6 DNF’s from 124 races. The threats look very weak.

Fastest Lap Value

A bet with a little more risk but more reward is to back Mercedes to be the car to set the fastest lap. In the turbo Hybrid era, they have had scored five fastest laps from six at Silverstone, four of them for Hamilton, one for Rosberg.

This season McLaren have set two fastest laps, Mercedes just one. Obviously McLaren do not have the faster car but scenarios can arise where one of the lesser team teams can make a stop for fresh tyres on the penultimate lap and just go for it. The fact that there is a point on offer for setting the fastest lap, means that more and more drivers are giving it a go, so long as they are not going to lose track position by making a stop.

At the last race in Hungary, Hamilton had such an advantage that he was able to make a late stop, set fastest lap and still finish 8.5 seconds clear of second place. One day someone is going to try it and have a botched pit stop but the machine that is Mercedes rarely drop the ball.

This weekend looks like a repeat of that scenario is very possible and may be both Mercedes will be so far clear of third place that both Hamilton and Bottas could have a go at fastest lap without risking losing a place on track.

Every Point Counts For Hamilton

In the past, when there wasn’t a point for fastest lap, Hamilton wasn’t that fussed about fastest laps. It was better to look after the power unit’s life span. He would still pick up six or seven fastest laps over the season, but he did target fastest lap on home soil, and he has had four of the last six fastest laps at Silverstone. He is only 5 points clear of Bottas at the moment and he has said that every point counts, so he will go for it if able to do so. If Bottas was close enough behind him that making a late stop would hand Bottas the race win, then he won’t.

The two most likely scenarios look like either total dominance for Mercedes in which both drivers could have a go. The other is that while they are running a clear 1-2, the two Mercedes drivers are more interested in making sure of their race points and not risking a late stop. That would allow one of the chasing pack, who had enough time advantage over the car behind, to roll the dice and have a go, hoping that fresh rubber would be enough to nick the point. It might not be of course. Even on old tyres, the Mercedes will be capable of very fast times.

The second scenario is the harder to call, how a race pans out, giving one or two cars the window of opportunity, is impossible to call. A safety car can bunch the filed for example, in which case no one has that window. That said, the second fastest car on Sunday is likely to be a Racing Point so we could see one of them have a go.

Mercedes Masterclass On The Cards

The fact is that Mercedes are going to give us a masterclass this weekend and next. There is a very good chance that they will set fastest lap simply because they are so much faster than anyone else. Their pace in Hungary was unreal. Everyone up to 5th place was lapped by Mercedes. Both their drivers will be keen to score the fastest lap as points are precious with so few between the two at this point.

It is not impossible that some random scenario crops up that allows a McLaren, Racing Point or Red Bull to get a fastest lap, but it seems a long shot. Past form shows five Mercedes fastest laps in the last six years at Silverstone and four for Hamilton. This year, their main opposition have lost performance relative to Mercedes.

2020 British GP Tips: 6 points Mercedes to set the fastest lap @ 1.73 with Ladbrokes
2020 British GP Tips: 2 points Lewis Hamilton to set the fastest lap @ 2.75 with William Hill and Betfred

Outside of race for the win Racing Point will be looking for their first podium of the season at what is their home race. Sergio Perez is their best driver even if he was second best to Stroll in Hungary. Perez was not feeling the best that weekend and under-performed. Returned to full health he should be leading the charge for the Pink Mercedes once again. With tyre wear always an issue at Silverstone, Perez is an asset to have in the car.

If Red Bull continue to struggle on the set up of their car, on a track which isn’t a good venue for them, then Racing Point should be lining up on the second row and in a great position to get a podium. A possible late ruling against them by the FIA is a cloud on the horizon, but it’s reasonable to assume that the team have a contingency plan in place.

2020 British GP Tips: 2 points Sergio Perez to finish on the podium @ 3.50 with William Hill and Betfred

**UPDATE – SERGIO PEREZ HAS TESTED POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 AND WILL NOT RACE

The points places are harder to call. With the two Mercedes teams likely to fill the top 4, Verstappen likely to drag his Red Bull into the top 6, Albon should be around top 6 as well, there are only 4 more slots available. Of course, any DNF’s from amongst the top teams opens things up but with reliability so strong with the top teams, it’s not very likely. McLaren have a good car and should be top 10 with at least one driver, probably two, and that is reflected in their odds of 1.44 to finish in the points.

The bookmakers have both Ferrari drivers as odds on to finish in the points, but this is going to be a very tough track for them and one, or both may fail to do so. If they do struggle as much as I expect, then Renault are next in line to pick up points. Ricciardo is 1.44 to do so which is about right, but Ocon is 2.50 in the other Renault. He has had three races to get back into the groove after his year out and this is a track he likes and has done well on before. Back to back finishes of eight and seventh in 2017 and 2018 along with a win and two podiums in F3 and a podium in GP3.

2020 British GP Tips: 1 point Ocon to finish in the points @ 2.50 with William Hill, Betfred and Sportingbet

Updates for Qualifying and the race will be available on the TXODDS app around 30 minutes before the start of those sessions.

-JamesPunt

 

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