F1 takeaways: Sainz’s first career win caps memorable British GP

Silverstone doesn’t disappoint and Sunday’s British Grand Prix served up quite possibly the most thrilling race of the year so far.

Things took a shocking turn out of the gate with a scary multi-car crash on the opening lap that brought out the red flag, but the racing resumed nearly an hour later and fans were treated to an electric event capped with Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz capturing his first career GP victory in Formula One.

Red Bull’s Sergio Perez surged into second place followed by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton to the delight of his British home crowd as they duelled to the finish with Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who finished fourth. Even Alpine’s Fernando Alonso, who finished fifth, seemed like he wanted to get into the fun.

Here’s what you need to know from the British GP.

Sainz secures first victory

Suffice it to say, whether the race was entertaining or not, this would be one Sainz isn’t going to forget. After 150 starts and in his eighth season in Formula One, Sainz can now say he’s a race winner.

Nobody expected Sainz to win races during his years with Toro Rosso (now AlphaTauri) and Renault, but since joining Ferrari last season it seemed inevitable.

Sainz was overdue to finally win one but seemed particularly poised of late with two second-place finishes in the previous three races. Securing pole position Saturday put him another step closer.

It wasn’t a perfect drive from Sainz as Max Verstappen passed him after the initial start (before the accident red-flagged the race). Also, a hiccup on lap 10 caused Sainz’s car to veer off course and allow Verstappen to swoop in for the lead. That also could have been costly.

Ferrari continues to make some puzzling strategic decisions too, from telling Sainz and Leclerc they could fight it out on the track to flip-flopping and asking Sainz to stand pat and hold off Hamilton for Leclerc even though Sainz pitted for fresher tires while Leclerc was left on the track and out in the cold.

Crowd roars for Hamilton

You know the crowd is loud when you can hear them over the sound of the cars and the commentators. The fans erupted during lap 26 when Hamilton inherited the lead as Leclerc dove into the pits and the boisterous cheers continued through the final stages as the seven-time world champion continued to fight for a position on the podium in his home grand prix.

Hamilton finished third for the second consecutive race, and the Mercedes driver snagged the bonus fastest lap point in the process for an extra cherry on top of a successful homecoming. The seven-time world champion might not be competing for wins just yet but it’s nice to see him trending in the right direction.

Verstappen maintains tight grip on championship

It looked like a continuation of the Canadian Grand Prix to start with Verstappen challenging Sainz for the lead until the Red Bull driver sustained a punctured tire and was powerless to fend off the Ferraris and faded from the front. A new tire did little to mitigate the situation as there was also damage to the floor of Verstappen’s car. With downforce playing such an important part in the new rules and regulations, Verstappen couldn’t contend.

Despite saying his car was “100 per cent broken” on the radio, Red Bull encouraged Verstappen to continue, and he was able to limp to a P7 finish and salvage six points.

The championship leader now holds a 34-point advantage over teammate Perez, whose second-place finish was quite unexpected after tangling with Leclerc after the re-start. He required an early unscheduled pit stop to replace his front wing. Being off strategy and in a race-winning car allowed Perez to pick through the field and get into fourth before the last virtual safety car, which essentially gifted him a free pit stop as he was clear enough ahead not to lose track position. That led to the fight to the finish with Hamilton and Leclerc and Perez escaping with P2.

Verstappen also still holds a 43-point cushion over Leclerc, who sits third, while Sainz is now back 54 points in fourth. Fortunately, with six wins in the past eight races, Verstappen could afford an unlucky break.

Schumacher scores first points

It’s was a day of firsts with Mick Schumacher, who finished eighth to earn his first points in Formula One. (Also nice to see one of my pre-season bold predictions come true.)

Even with his first set of points in his pocket, the Haas driver continued to put pressure late on Verstappen for seventh, showing he was still willing to risk it for a bigger biscuit. Although Schumacher wasn’t able to pass the struggling Red Bull car, it was still entertaining to the finish nonetheless.

The four points vaulted Schumacher over Alex Albon and Lance Stroll into 17th in the championship. Nicholas Latifi is now the only full-time driver who has yet to score points this season. Latifi earned some praise for reaching the third session of qualifying this weekend, but the Williams driver from Toronto was unable to hold onto a position in the points and finished P12.

Sebastian Vettel, who finished ninth, has kept a watchful eye on the young Schumacher and it was sweet to see the German drivers hug it out after the race.

Zhou saved by halo

It was a scary start to the grand prix as the opening-lap accident saw Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo flip upside-down, sliding off the track and across the gravel then launching up and over the tire barrier and wedged in the gap on the other side by the catch fence. Thankfully, the car didn’t catch fire either with Zhou trapped in there.

Zhou was checked out in the medical centre where he was cleared, with the Chinese driver crediting the halo safety device for saving him.

The FIA should look into why Zhou’s roll hoop behind him failed but it’s also a testament to the innovation in safety measures the sport has made. It was also the second time in less than a year we’ve seen the halo play an integral role in preventing a tragic outcome after Verstappen’s car ended up on top of Hamilton’s vehicle during the Italian GP last season.

Russell’s remarkable streak ends

Racing at his home track, Mercedes driver George Russell’s streak of finishing within the top five in every race start of the season came to an early end Sunday after he was involved in the opening-lap accident.

Russell finished on the podium three times during his impressive nine-race streak, and the 24-year-old outperformed his teammate Hamilton seven times.

As one streak ends, the attention now shifts to another one Russell is aiming to break as he continues to look for his first career Grand Prix win. Russell has made 70 starts, or just under half of how long Sainz had to wait for his maiden victory.

Russell should be applauded for rushing to check on Zhou after the frightening crash. Since Russell got out of his car and the safety crew trucked it back to the pits, that led to his DNF even if his Mercedes was still in working condition.

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