GRR

2024 British Grand Prix | 8 talking points

08th July 2024
Damien Smith

Three home heroes all pitching in for the win, typical British summertime weather, and the best circuit for wheel-to-wheel motor racing on the calendar made this a classic British Grand Prix. But it was a standout performance from an old favourite and a landmark result of significance on a number of fronts that triggered a huge emotional charge and turned Silverstone 2024 into something very special – a race that anyone who witnessed it will never forget. Brad Pitt take note: you can’t script this stuff.

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Hamilton’s redemption

It had been 945 days – that’s two years and more than seven months, since Lewis Hamilton last won a grand prix. So much water has passed under the bridge since Saudi Arabia in 2021, most of it unsettling for the seven-time champion. Even as he created a new major ripple by signing for Ferrari for 2025, there have been questions that at 39, Hamilton had lost his sheen? Surely the British GP kicked that one into the corner, as Formula 1’s most decorated driver returned to his awesome best.

Outqualified yet again by Mercedes team-mate George Russell, Hamilton had the speed when it counted, and in alliance with the team that has brought him so much success over the years, he made the right calls at the right time to see off a late Max Verstappen charge to score his 104th career win and his ninth at Silverstone – a record for one driver at a single circuit. The incredible wave of emotion that engulfed Hamilton afterwards was entirely understandable and justified, especially when you add in the factor of this being his last British Grand Prix for Mercedes before his defection to Italian red. In front of a packed and partisan house of 165,000, Hamilton’s redemption was one of the great British sporting moments, of any summer.

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Norris beats himself up

It’s a familiar part of his character: Lando Norris is his own worst critic. And after a British GP that slipped agonisingly through his fingers, once again the new darling of the Silverstone crowd came down hardest on himself.

Having qualified third, Norris lost a place to Verstappen on the opening lap, but showed how quickly the tide has turned by tracking the Red Bull and taking the place back, to chase the astonishing Mercedes duo, pole position winner George Russell leading Hamilton in a convincing train up front.

But when the first rain of the race arrived, Norris picked his way past both Mercedes as the leading cars stuck it out on slicks, then maintained his lead from Hamilton, Verstappen, and Russell once they’d switched to intermediate Pirellis after another harder flurry hit the circuit. It appeared to his race to lose – which is precisely what happened when the track dried out.

Both Hamilton and Verstappen timed the switch back to slicks perfectly, Lewis taking on softs, Max a set of hards, but Norris delayed a lap before taking his own softs (that compound another decision he was to regret). The one-lap offset cost him the lead, then Verstappen’s Red Bull came alive and he found himself powerless in the face of the world champion’s speed. A home win had suddenly become third, which gave him a close-up podium view of Hamilton’s euphoria, just to rub it in. No wonder it hurt.

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Verstappen plays a supporting role

Strange to see Verstappen starting only fourth and then finding himself outgunned by both Mercedes and McLaren in the race. But how the Dutchman came back into the reckoning in that final stint on a dry track showed once more the sky-high level he operates at right now. As the Red Bull finally came alive under him, Verstappen looked imperious in those closing laps, which only makes Hamilton’s cool, calm, and collected victory under the most intense pressure all the more impressive. Lewis had to be at his very best to beat the man who is the best right now.

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Piastri also could have won

While Norris has reason to grieve a missed win, so too did Oscar Piastri who, for much of the race, looked the most likely to flip a home victory and take the glory for himself. The Aussie was the fastest on track at key stages of the race, but was also undone by a McLaren strategic misfire. When inters were the thing to have Mercedes double-stacked Hamilton and Russell to get them in and out on the right lap. McLaren didn’t pull that trick, leaving Piastri out a lap longer on the wrong tyre – and that cost him dear, to the tune of around 10 seconds. He too was flying at the end, but fourth place, ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr’s Ferrari, which actually grabbed the fastest lap, was a poor return in contrast to what might have been.

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Russell sidelined after pole

Pity George Russell, too. His wish before the race was for a clean run in the dry, but he knew that was wishful thinking. Had the rain somehow blown around Silverstone instead of over it, Russell probably would have won this race given his early form. But when the track became slippery Hamilton, who had always stayed close, picked him off and Russell’s race began to unravel. Reduced to fourth place on the inters, he then pulled into the pits to retire his Mercedes with a suspected water system problem. How he then stoically joined in the celebrations and congratulated his team-mate for his victory was a mark of Russell’s character.

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Brilliant Hülkenberg sees off both Aston Martins

The battle up front understandably took most of the attention, but Nico Hülkenberg’s performance for Haas was perhaps the drive of the race. From a fantastic sixth on the grid, the German put in a fabulous showing to maintain that position in the race. That’s two races on the bounce where Hülkenberg has finished sixth, in a Haas revitalised by the team’s latest technical update. The drive also rubbed salt for Aston Martin at the well-funded green team’s home race, Lance Stroll and Fernando Alonso trailing in behind the Haas in a low-key seventh and eighth. Lawrence Stroll won’t have enjoyed that. As for Oliver Bearman, who endured another trying Formula 2 weekend, he’ll be rubbing his hands, having agreed a deal to join Haas for 2025 in the days leading up to the British GP. Could be great timing to join a team apparently on the rise.

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Albon versus Tsunoda

Another supporting storyline was the battle between Alex Albon and Yuki Tsunonda, the Williams getting the nod over the RB for the final points-scoring positions. Both had decent British GPs, Tsunoda getting back into the groove of outperforming his team-mate Daniel Ricciardo at Silverstone. But Haas is coming hard for RB in their fight for sixth in the constructors’ standings, the pair separated now by just four points.

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Fans are the real heroes

Last word from Silverstone for the British GP crowd. The dodgy weather in the UK is something of an international cliché, but it really does test the resolve on days like this. A large dump of rain on race day morning left the hardiest fans in the world cold and bedraggled. Yet their enthusiasm, on a day when three Brits were vying for the win, never wavered. Hamilton called them the best fans in the world. Hard to argue with that.

 

Images courtesy of Motorsport Images.

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