70th Anniversary GP Preview and Tips by James Punt
70th Anniversary GP Preview and Tips
Last weekend’s British GP was a very dramatic event with last lap punctures and all sorts of shenanigans. The circus stays in the UK this weekend for the a race that remembers the first ever F1 Grand Prix back in 1950. Hopefully it is another exciting spectacle, check out James Punt’s 70th anniversary GP preview and tips below…
70th Anniversary GP Preview
We remain at Silverstone for this weekend’s 70th Anniversary GP. This is the first ever GP not named after a country, region or city. It commemorates the first Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1950.
Last weekends race was another disaster from a punting point of view. Mercedes denied Hamilton a chance to go for the fastest lap on his last lap of the race, as he did successfully last year, as Bottas’ Mercedes suffered a puncture on the penultimate lap. That in turn allowed Verstappen a free pit stop for new soft tyres and he set the fastest lap.
It was a good call by Mercedes as Hamilton’s car then suffered a puncture on his last lap, leaving him to limp over the line, effectively with three wheels on his wagon. That man does live a charmed life, Bottas a cursed one.
Pirelli To Introduce Softer Tyres
This weekend sees Pirelli bringing a softer range of tyres, the C2, C3 and C4. Last weekends medium compound is this weeks hard, the soft now the medium and the soft tyre this weekend is softer than last weeks. With the two Mercedes and Sainz’ McLaren all suffering very late punctures there is concern that these softer tyres will not be up to the job. But, that is less likely than it seems.
There was a number of factors at play last weekend. Firstly is that the second safety call of the race meant that the teams (Grosjean apart) all pitted for tyres that would have to get them to the end of the race, but that was a much longer stint than was planned for.
Many of the teams that didn’t suffer punctures were just lucky. They finished with next to no rubber on the tyres, right down to the canvas in some cases. When a tyre gets to that state, a small piece of debris or gravel, can just open up the tyre and cause a puncture.
This year’s cars are the fastest ever Formula 1 cars. They were racing on one of the fastest tracks with exceptionally long duration fast corners. It is a huge test for a tyre. Running them for longer than they were designed for means they where always going to be at the very end of their life.
Teams will tend to gamble and hope that the tyres will hold on, rather than pit for fresh ones and lose track position. It was a gamble which Bottas and Sainz lost and Hamilton just about got away with.
70th Anniversary GP Preview: Sharp Kerbs A Cause For Concern
There is also the matter of the kerbs. Sharp edges on the outside of the kerbs can cause punctures. A lot of the drivers were putting a wheel on the grass in places and then dragging the wheel back over those sharp edges. The fact that Raikkonen suffered a wing failure late in the race also left lots of sharp bits of carbon fibre on parts of the track. That may have ultimately caused the punctures, the straw that broke the camel’s back so to speak.
Silverstone have changed 23 yards of kerbs on the Becketts section of the track, a sign that the existing ones were part of the problem.
The weather forecast for this weekend is for a return to the very hot weather we had for last Fridays free practice, but this weekend it will remain hot for qualifying and while the temperature will drop a little on Sunday, it will be warmer than for last week’s race. This means that the tyres, softer tyres, will be operating in tougher conditions than for last week’s race. A recipe for disaster? It shouldn’t be, so long as the teams are sensible. Pirelli have changed the recommend tyre pressures to further reduce the chances of punctures.
The softer compounds are not more likely to suffer punctures per se, but they will wear more quickly. To be safe, the teams will have to run shorter stints and make the race a two-stopper. Perhaps one or two teams at the back might try to make just one stop. But, with safety cars always very likely at Silverstone, having a firm plan is often irrelevant. Teams like Haas can’t score points on merit so they can try and use a different strategy and just hope that things fall their way.
So long as the teams are aware that trying to do long stints will increase the risks of punctures, make two stops their strategy, then we shouldn’t have any problems. There is nothing weird about two stops but in the last few years have seen the teams just getting so used to one stop races that they throw their hands up in horror at the thought of having two.
We will take a look at each team and look at their prospects for this weekend’s race.
70th Anniversary GP Preview: The Teams
Mercedes controlled the whole weekend, until the penultimate lap when it all went Pete Tong. Outside of two catastrophic tyre failures at the death, they had everything under control. Hamilton was very comfortable in the lead, reacting to any attempt by Bottas to close the gap.
Bottas was kept honest by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen but he was never seriously threatened. It was very nearly a cake walk. A second ahead of the next best car in qualifying is all you need to know about their pace.
Are there any threats this weekend? The hot weather is one and the softer tyres another. The Mercedes does still struggle with cooling and they have to open the car up to keep things running well when the mercury really rises, as it will on Friday and Saturday, and very likely, Sunday as well.
That increases drag and the gap between them and Red Bull on Saturday should be smaller. However, they had a whole second in hand last weekend. Temperatures will peak around 30 degrees on Friday, 28 on Saturday and down to 26 for the race. Last weekend, conditions improved for Mercedes as the weekend progressed. This weekend looks like being testing for them all the way through.
70th Anniversary GP Preview: Two Stop Strategy?
The softer tyres are very likely to force Mercedes to make two stops and they may have more problems keeping them in good condition in the race. Their car produces the most downforce of any car on the grid, normally a good thing. However, that downforce and subsequent high speed in the fast corners, stresses the tyres. If they wanted to try for a one stop race, they would have to turn the power units right down and go so slow that they could lose the race.
They will just have to bite the bullet and run a two-stop race. That is only a problem if one or more of their rivals could do a one stopper and still run at a good pace. As they only have one other car which is anywhere near them on race pace, Red Bull, this is not a great threat.
There is nothing to suggest that Red Bull can set a competitive race pace whilst trying a one stopper on softer tyres. This not to say that the tyres are not a threat to Mercedes, but to be so, we will need to see little cloud cover on Sunday, and higher track temperatures.
Lewis Hamilton is once again the hot favourite to win at odds of 1.36. Bottas is the 4.50 second favourite. The sad thing is those odds for Hamilton are a touch generous. He has now won six of the seven GOP’s at Silverstone in the turbo hybrid era and he has won three of the four races in 2020.
It was indeed a lonely race for Verstappen last weekend. Well clear of the midfield pack, but not able to do more than loiter behind the Mercedes pair, hoping for a bit of luck, which ultimately, he got and finished an undeserved second. The car is improving handling wise, for Verstappen at least.
It is still ‘tricky’ but not as unpredictable as in earlier races. It remains a long way off the Mercedes in qualifying and while their race pace is closer, or appears closer, they are not yet ready to beat Mercedes fair and square.
Red Bull are very good at developing their cars and this season is no exception. The problem is that they are chasing a moving target as Mercedes never stand still, and this year the gap between the two is huge.
May Not Close The Gap
They are likely to have a few updates this weekend but not enough to close the gap to any great deal. They can only hope that the hot weather lasts for the whole weekend and Mercedes have to run with more cooling required on the Mercedes.
Verstappen is outperforming the car while Albon is underperforming. His big crash in FP2, failure to reach Q3 and his optimistic attempt to pass Magnussen in the race, resulting in a 5 second time penalty, all point to a driver who is struggling under pressure. He did recover to finish eighth thanks to the woes of Bottas and Sainz, but he still finished behind Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri, the man dropped by Red Bull in favour of Albon last year. The pressure is only getting greater.
Red Bull should be on the podium once again with Verstappen. Where Albon finishes is less clear. He needs a clean weekend but that rarely happens when the heat is on.
Quickly becoming a one-man team, Ferrari are massively flattered by being in fourth place in the constructors table. Charles Leclerc, much like Max Verstappen at Red Bull, is outperforming the car and has scored two podiums from four races.
Ferrari made changes to the car for last weeks race, taking downforce off the car to help with qualifying pace and it worked, allowing Leclerc to qualify an unlikely 4th. From there he stuck in and benefited from Bottas’ problem to pick up 3rd place. Had Red Bull’s Albon where the car should have allowed him to be and the two Racing Points competing for a podium, Leclerc should have been nowhere near 3rd place.
Vettel had a terrible weekend. No running in FP1, limited running in FP2 meant he was on the back foot in qualifying and the race. He was at a loss to explain his lack of pace. His point for finishing 10th was the only thing that went right for him all weekend. He is clearly demotivated at Ferrari and his head is being turned by his pending move to Racing Point/Aston Martin. He surely can’t have as bad a weekend again, but the fact remains that the cars performance is only good enough for minor points unless others struggle.
Racing Point are giving Ferrari a run for their money when it comes to the most disappointing team of the season. The Pink Mercedes were expected to be at least competing for a podium last weekend but in the end, they got two points for Lance Stroll’s ninth place.
He was compromised by the second safety car in that he had started on the medium tyre but never got the strategic benefit of that when everyone pitted under the safety car. That said he lost out at the start and then laboured to pass slower cars. To finish ninth in what is regarded as the second or third fastest car is poor by any standards.
The team had been put on the back foot when number 1 driver, Sergio Perez, failed his Covid 19 test. He was replaced at the last minute by Nico Hulkenberg who was understandably a bit off the pace and failed to reach Q3. It was worse on race day when a sheared bolt in the clutch mechanism meant the car could not be started. Hulkenberg took no place in the race, missing much needed time in the cockpit.
Struggles Could Continue
Racing Point will be hoping for better this weekend, but they are not getting the most out of their car and are likely to struggle again, especially if Perez is still side-lined. They have made a very good copy of last year’s Mercedes, but they are still trying to understand the concept and how to make it work like Mercedes did. With Red Bull, McLaren and Renault all making progress, Racing Point are falling back into the midfield without ever getting a punch in.
At the time of writing on Thursday afternoon, the news on Perez is that he will take part this weekend, subject to passing a new Covid 19 test, but we won’t know for sure until late this afternoon or Friday morning. Nobody at the bookies is paying attention, as you can only back Hulkenberg, but the attraction to Racing Point as possible podium contenders has cooled. Indeed, it is worth asking the question, will the Pink Mercedes struggle in the heat just as much as the Kosher one does?
Fourth and sixth last weekend was a very good result for Renault who definitely are going the right way. They had a decent number of upgrades and they all worked as expected. That is very good news for the team and means they understand the car and how to improve it. Both cars into Q3 and their pace caught the eye of other teams. As a works team, we should expect Renault to be able to make more improvements fairly quickly and they are a team to keep on the right side of.
The two drivers sound very upbeat ahead of this second race at Silverstone. Ocon described his car as ‘awesome in the race’ but thinks there is room for improvement in qualifying. They finished the race strongly which suggests they there keeping the tyres in better condition than most, which bodes well for Sunday. Ricciardo ended up just 1.1 seconds of third place last weekend, helped by Bottas’ demise, but he beat the McLaren’s fair and square. Both drivers have very respectable records at Silverstone and I expect more of the same from Renault this weekend.
Alpha Tauri took advantage of me not backing them for a change, allowing Gasly to have a trouble-free weekend and finish seventh. The car is decent and will pop up in decent positions now and then. Gasly is very good on this circuit and while they are still very much on the cusp of qualifying in Q3, they may be better served by qualifying eleventh and twelfth so has to be able to choose the best tyre strategy.
Kvyat had a very big crash in the race, it may have been a puncture but Kvyat initially took the blame, distracted by the team telling him to change a setting on the steering wheel while he was cornering at 160 mph. They have a very good chance of a few more points this weekend but the midfield is very crowed and they can’t afford any mistakes.
Alfa Romeo looked like they took a bit of a step backwards last week. They struggled in qualifying as usual, but their race pace wasn’t quite what they had hoped for. Kimi Raikkonen was cursed once we had money on him and his race pace was very poor. His front wing broke near the end of the race and it may have been that he had damage earlier in the race as he was very slow from the early stages.
Their problem is compounded by the fact that Williams are moving in the right direction while Alfa Romeo do seem to be a bit lost and being dragged down by the underwhelming Ferrari power unit. Bottom of the pile? Very possibly.
Haas know they are in a bad place and have no money to do much about it. At least they are trying different things. In Hungry they started on slicks on a wet track and in the end, they got a point for that brave call. Last week, they didn’t pit Grosjean under the second safety car and gained track position, hoping that they might get another safety car for him to get new tyres and capitalise on it, but that never came.
At least they are thinking smart, if everyone else zigs, they will zag and hope for a bit of luck. They are making it up as they go along which makes them hard to call but, expect the unexpected and don’t write them off. Magnussen is looking the stronger of the two drivers at the moment and he was unlucky to get taken out of last weeks race early on, after he made a good start.
Williams are the only team to remain pointless, but they are improving. Their qualifying pace was already much improved in 2020 but their race pace wasn’t much better than last year. Their updates for last week worked well and they are now able to compete with and beat Alfa Romeo and Haas.
Points are still some way off unless we have a high attrition race, but just finishing 12th is a big step forward for a team that has been the basket case of Formula 1 for last two years. Nicolas Latifi doesn’t yet look good enough for F1, so any points should be scored by George Russell, if and when they come.
70th anniversary GP Preview: Ante Post Selections
It is impossible to oppose the Mercedes as race winners or for pole position. It’s just a matter of which driver. Hamilton’s record here is exceptional, whilst Bottas’ is OK. He was faster than Hamilton in FP2, FP3 and Q1 and Q2…but still came up short in Q3. The Finn, with a new Mercedes contract in his pocket for next year, will be feeling a little better about life after his bad luck last week, so he might just be able to pip Hamilton to pole on Saturday, as he did in 2019.
70th anniversary GP Preview: 1 point Valtteri Bottas to qualify on pole position @ 3.75 with Betfred, Skybet, Sportingbet
We have Mercedes and Red Bull who are very likely to fill the podium once again. Mercedes may have to work much harder this weekend as the hot weather will last for the whole three days. Verstappen could be closer if Mercedes are marginal on cooling and having to open up the body work. Whether that would be enough to allow Verstappen to have a serious chance remains to be seen.
I feel that he would need to get ahead of the Mercs at the start of the race to have any realistic chance of a meritorious victory, but if he can stay close enough to push them hard in a hot race, you never know. Verstappen is a 9.00 shot, almost enough for a small e/w interest but its maybe better to see how things pan out in free practice.
We have seen a few surprises on the podium already this year. Lando Norris in the crazy seasonal opener and despite driving for Ferrari, Leclerc has two podiums in what is a midfield car. To get another surprise we will need some attrition or tyre problems for the big three, but it wouldn’t be a total surprise if something unusual did happen.
Podium Odds Look Wrong
The odds for a podium strike me as a bit skewed. Hamilton, Bottas and Verstappen are all very short odds on shots obviously. Lance Stroll is a ridiculous 5.25 shot for a podium. He finished 9th last week, on the same track, in arguably better conditions than he will have this Sunday. He was lucky to finish in the points to be honest.
Charles Leclerc is 5.50. He is outperforming a very average car but has scored two podiums, yet he is a bigger price than Stroll. Alex Albon is a 6.00 shot and in a Red Bull he should be a tempting proposition.
However, it just isn’t happening for him. He was cruelly denied not once but twice, of scoring his first podium by Hamilton, in Brazil late last year, and in Austria this year. His confidence is taking a kicking and as a young driver under pressure, he might well hit more trouble this weekend.
Norris Has High Hopes
Lando Norris is a 9.00 shot which is fair. He got a podium in the chaotic opening race of the season and the McLaren performed well last week. He finished 5th and he is not without a hope, as is Carlos Sainz also a 9.00 shot in the other McLaren. That puncture for Sainz is a slight concern however.
Sebastian Vettel is 15.00 and that looks more realistic for a Ferrari at the moment. They will have to get the timing right for two stops for each driver this weekend, and that might just over tax the abilities of the Ferrari strategy people.
Hulkenberg is a 19.00 shot, not a bad price if he where to actually race. It looks more likely that it will be Perez, and he will be a 4.50 ish shot when confirmed. Very short given how underwhelming the Racing Point was last weekend.
Ricciardo A Massive Price
Then is when a huge jump to Daniel Ricciardo at 51.00. He finished 4th in the impressive Renault last weekend, only just behind the Ferrari of Leclerc. Leclerc is just a 5.50 shot, Ricciardo 51.00. Based on last weekends performance, that is just nuts.
The race pace of the Renault was very good. Ricciardo started in eighth place and finished just 1.1 seconds behind the Ferrari which started fourth. If Renault can get a bit more pace for qualifying, then Ricciardo will be very well placed to pick up big points if any of the big boys have a problem. It will probably be a good value loser, but the odds are out of whack.
70th anniversary GP Preview: 1 point Daniel Ricciardo to finish in the top 3 @ 51.00 generally available
With very hot weather greeting the teams for FP1 tomorrow morning, just like last week, its not beyond reason to expect a similar result. Max Verstappen was quickest in FP1 last week. Mercedes had to keep the car cool and ran conservatively and if the same happens, then Verstappen should arguably be favourite for the opening practice session.
His FP1 form is 3/2/8/1. The 8th in Hungary was a result of being blocked by Latifi on his quick lap but last week he was 0.4 up on Hamilton to be fastest.
70th anniversary GP Preview: 2 points Max Verstappen to be the fastest driver in FP1 @ 4.00 generally available
As usual, there will be updates for qualifying and the Race, posted on the TXODDS app, around 30 minutes before the start of each session.