The toughest Grand Prix of the year ended with Sebastian Vettel in fourth place and Kimi Raikkonen in seventh. Given how things went on the opening lap, with both cars damaged and a front wing to change, a strategy to rejig, overtaking moves to make, it was a demonstration of courage and determination from drivers and team. Sebastian still leads the Drivers’ championship on 141 points, 13 more than Hamilton.
Gusty conditions, dust flying around the track and even a few black but harmless clouds all served to ramp up the tension before the start. Verstappen’s blistering start meant that Seb, who had got off the line well, had to lift off. He thus found himself back in fourth, but further back, a collision between Massa and Sainz immediately brought out the Safety Car. Max’s move had damaged the right front wing end plate on Sebastian’s car. Rather than risk further problems, he pitted for a new nose and a change to Supersofts. Unfortunately, the SF70H had additional damage to the floor. Meanwhile, Kimi lost ground in the duel with Ricciardo and found himself sixth and a trip across the grass also caused him some damage.
Verstappen’s race ended at the side of the track at Turn 3 and out came the safety car again, albeit this time a virtual one. The race resumed on lap 14 and that number also represented Seb’s position, but he soon dispensed with Grosjean. On lap 18, Kimi, who was having a tricky time of it, pitted and fitted the red-banded tyres and by this point Seb was already up to eleventh. He then passed Hulkenberg to move into the points before pulling off a passing move on Stroll at the chicane. Kimi got ahead of Alonso to go sixth, with Sebastian now just two places further back having come out on top of duels with Magnussen and Fernando.
An end at the podium’s feet
Life wasn’t easy with two damaged cars: on lap 42, Kimi pitted for fresh rubber, the super-quick Ultrasofts. Seb stayed out until lap 50, dealing with traffic ahead of him, but he would also have to rescue his race with the purple tyres, with which Kimi was now flying. Seb started to demolish the lap times, getting under the 1’15” mark with 10 laps to go. He passed Kimi who had a brake control issue. At the start of lap 66, Seb pulled off a miracle, risking everything to pass Ocon who was also using the DRS. Perez was now in his sights and he slipped by at the start of the penultimate lap, so that his race ended just off the podium. Kimi brought his wounded No 7 car home in seventh spot. “Thanks guys” was the immediate message from Maurizio. That said it all.
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