I must say that I was very happy for Carlos Sainz when, on his 150th attempt, he finally achieved his first Grand Prix victory. In our line of business, that’s always a gratifying sight, when a young driver finally enjoys not only blasting his way to victory, but savoring that warm flood of insight that all his faith and self-confidence really was justified. .
But there was a degree of irony in that success, given that without Esteban Ocon’s Alpine failure on lap 38, the outcome could have been very different. Or even with that, there was another driver who could have been the victor.
Let’s tackle the latter first.
Despite losing five downforce points after being rubbed too tenderly by Sergio Perez in the run into the Wellington Straight just after the restart (damaging his own car and nearly being thrown off the script), Charles Leclerc was a star once more at Silverstone.
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Carlos lost the lead in the first start, but regained it in the second, which followed Zhou Guanyu’s heavy crash, as the rules required the original grid order to be maintained, as not all the cars had crossed the SC2 line.
But it soon became clear, after Max Verstappen ruled himself out by inadvertently running over a chunk of Pierre Gasly’s rear wing endplate on lap 12, that the Spaniard lacked the pace on that stage of either his teammate or Lewis Hamilton. , who was fast approaching in a Mercedes W13 who loved the smooth surface of Silverstone.
As early as lap 16, Charles had been asking Ferrari what to do, as he was held up behind his team-mate as Lewis closed ever closer, with Carlos missing his target lap time of 1m32.9s by several tenths. One lap later, Charles pleaded with his team to “do something please!” and make a decision on team order.
But it took them until lap 30, by which time Lewis was leading after both Ferraris made their first pit stops to switch from medium to hard Pirellis, Carlos on lap 20, Charles on lap 25. When Lewis didn’t stop at Lap 31, the order finally came out for the Ferraris to change places. Carlos, being a team player, complied immediately.
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So when Lewis finally switched to hard on lap 33 and immediately started closing in on the two red cars again, Charles was ahead. Then came the death of Esteban and the inevitable deployment of the Safety Car on lap 39. But instead of bringing Charles in for the softs, as Mercedes did with Lewis, as Red Bull did with a recovering Sergio Pérez, who was suddenly had thrown him an unexpected lifeline, and just like Alpine did with Fernando Alonso, Ferrari kept their leader out and brought in Carlos instead.
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That’s the decision that I just don’t understand, because in my opinion, it left Charles a sitting duck. If they had brought in Charles, Mercedes would have also faced Lewis on the soft, because keeping him out of the hard would have made no sense either.
“I can certainly understand his frustration,” team boss Mattia Binotto said of Charles on Monday. “When you comfortably lead a race with just a few laps to go and you don’t win, then it’s only natural to feel disappointed. But Charles’s disappointment is also our disappointment: we win together and we lose together.
“We are just as frustrated as he is about his result, because the way he drove yesterday was unbelievable and showed once again how strong a driver he is. Charles deserved to win the race, if it hadn’t been for the Safety Car.”
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The reason given by Mattia later was that at the time it was common sense to prioritize the lead car protecting track position, as Charles had fresher tires at the time, and that if he had pitted, rivals would have did the exact opposite and gained track position on nearly new hard tyres.
At the same time, they decided to put Carlos on the opposite strategy to cover all opportunities, and he argued that if they had not split the strategy, they would have risked losing the race and giving their opponents the victory.
Climb aboard to restart the Safety Car at the 2022 British Grand Prix
That’s the part I don’t get, as the Safety Car inevitably shut everything down, so there was no room for the plugs to reduce. Charles was immediately at a disadvantage running on rubber that was two compounds harder than his immediate competition, and everyone was breathing down his neck when the race restarted on lap 43. He never stood a chance.
And that other result? On race day, I had a sneaking suspicion that Lewis would win. And I strongly believe that, had it not been necessary for the race to restart, and if he had kept that early third place that I had taken from him on the first lap, he would have been a very strong contender. And, despite that delay when he dropped to sixth on the restart, I still think he could have won without the Alpine problem.
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Okay, if Martha were Arthur, your uncle would be your aunt, as the old expression goes. But early on he was consistently as fast, if not faster, than the Ferraris. At the time, a Mercedes victory still seemed possible, given that both Charles on his injured machine and Lewis were running in 1m31s while Carlos seemed stuck in 1m32s.
On lap 38 when Esteban stopped, Charles did 1m31.347s, Carlos 1m32.072s and Lewis 1m31.302s, and while Charles was 4.2s ahead of Carlos, Lewis was 1.8s behind the latter with 14 laps remaining. And once he had passed Carlos, he surely would have been faster than Charles on eight laps older tires and minus those five points of downforce…
Of course it didn’t work out that way because of the Safety Car, but after leading a race for the first time this year (from laps 26 to 33) and setting the fastest lap of 1m30.510s on the final course, Lewis indicated that maybe Maybe it’s not the time to hang up your helmet, as some people in the paddock have been suggesting all too often lately…
And Carlos? Well, he got a new lease on life on the softs, and regardless of the hits or misses of Ferrari’s pit stop strategy, he stuck his elbows out on the final restart and just retired, leaving Charles to have that huge fight with Sergio and Lewis. which was another feature of a great race.
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And while he might have lacked pace before, he now had it in spades and made the most of it, even setting the fastest lap of 1m30.886s on lap 43 before Lewis took it away from him. The Safety Car worked in both him and Sergio’s favor as it put Charles and Lewis at a disadvantage, but in life you play the hands you’re dealt, and Carlos got the Royal Flush in the end.
There were very few people in the paddock who envied him his success. He is a very popular man, as is his illustrious father, and after a rather difficult season littered with incidents that have not always been his fault and that brave near miss recently in Canada, he deserved a break.
But I can’t help but wonder if this race could affect the relationship between Charles and Mattia, after previous technical disappointments that have cost the duo at least two races. Charles was as nice as ever publicly, but he can’t be happy.
And he, more than anyone, will appreciate that with a different strategy, he could have secured 25 or 26 points on a day when Max only got six. And that their respective scores could have been 183 and 152 instead of 183 and 138.
Ferrari still won the race, of course, but losing the chance for your main driver to score 14 more points doesn’t seem like the best way to fight such fearsome opponents as Max and Red Bull.