Seb first and Kimi third on rivals’ home turf. Overtaking and strategy make the day
The best race of the year so far, ended with a win for Scuderia Ferrari, which sees Seb Vettel increase his lead by 7 points to 8 in the Drivers’ championship and the team extend its advantage by 10 points to 20 in the Constructors’. Despite some neck pain Seb secured his fourth win of the season and team-mate Kimi Raikkonen made a good recovery following a collision shortly after the start. The SF71H proved to be the car to beat, even if that had not seemed the case going into this event.
Would the boiling hot tyres give enough grip? Yes would seem to be the answer given the way Seb shot from second on the grid into the lead. Kimi fought with Hamilton and it did not go well, with the Mercedes spinning and the Ferrari continuing in fourth place, before retaking Ricciardo at the end of the opening lap.
In the early stages, Seb’s SF71H was clearly the quickest car on track, while Kimi was right up Verstappen’s exhaust pipes. However, after seven laps, the Stewards hit the Finn with a 10 second penalty for the collision at Turn 3, while the driver was radioing the team asking about suspected front wing damage. They decided to bring him in on lap 13 to change the tyres and take the penalty. He rejoined tenth, between Sainz and Magnussen. He immediately dealt with the Renault and set the fastest lap. The aim was to stay ahead of Hamilton when he too would have to pit.
At one third distance, Kimi had moved up to sixth and Red Bull called in its drivers to avoid finding themselves behind the Ferrari. At the end of lap 20, Seb pitted switching from Soft to Medium tyres. He emerged ahead of Hamilton, as planned. Obviously, at that point, Bottas was told to pit, but Sebastian still found himself leading, by the same margin of 4”4, as before the stop. However, now it was time for tyre management.
Hamilton pitted on lap 26, but surprisingly, Ricciardo hung on for a further five laps before handing fourth place to Kimi. With 20 laps to go, Ericsson crashed into the barriers at the first corner and the safety car came out, which changed the shape of the race. Ferrari pulled off a double pit stop, switching back to Softs, but the Mercedes duo stayed out, so that behind the Safety Car, Bottas led the way, from Vettel, Hamilton, Verstappen and Raikkonen.
At the end of lap 37, the race resumed with Seb maintaining position and Kimi fighting with Verstappen. But almost immediately there was another crash, this time involving Sainz and Grosjean at Copse. So once again the Safety Car appeared, coming back in with ten laps remaining. The first three tore off and behind them, Kimi got the better of Verstappen and set his sights on Hamilton. The next two laps were incredible with four cars fighting it out. Then, on lap 47, Seb concealed his move to the very last moment and dived inside Bottas at turn 6. He was first! And for the second time in this race, those behind switched places. Only three laps left, but there was plenty of excitement still to come. Kimi attacked Bottas and passed him decisively at turn 6. First and third “here at their home” said Seb on the radio.