Sainz wins drama-packed British GP in thrilling finish

Race winner Carlos Sainz Jr (ESP) Ferrari F1-75 passes his team mate at the end of the race. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race
© XPB 

A British Grand Prix packed with all sorts of drama and excitement saw Ferrari's Carlos Sainz emerge victorious at Silverstone, with his maiden Formula 1 race win finally coming in his 150th race start.

Sainz started from pole but seemed set for second until a late safety car saw him jump team mate Charles Leclerc at the restart, while Leclerc was then unable to hold off Red Bull's Sergio Perez and Mercedes' Lewis Hamilton to stay on the podium.

Championship leader Max Verstappen struggled to seventh after incurring floor damage while in the lead of the race.

The initial start was red flagged after a terrifying accident which saw Zhou Guanyu's Alfa Romeo flip upside down, run into the gravel and pitch skywards over the tyre barriers in turn 1, with Mercedes' George Russell and Williams' Alex Albon also taken out.

The rain that had made qualifying such a thriller on Saturday had dried up in time for the start of the race, and there were dry and sunny conditions over Silverstone as the cars completed their formation laps, led by first-time pole sitter Carlos Sainz in the Ferrari followed by Max Verstappen, Charles Leclerc and Sergio Perez.

Guanyu Zhou (CHN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team C42 crashes at the start of the race. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race

Having opted to start on the soft compound while the others were on mediums, Verstappen wasted no time in leaping to the front when the lights went out leaving Sainz second from Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes had pulled off a flying start to vault ahead of Leclerc and Perez, with the stuttering Mexican also losing out to Fernando Alonso. But behind them there was mayhem at turn 1, with multiple cars involved in a major incident. Among them was George Russell, heavy damage to the left rear of his car bringing his unbroken run of top five finishes in 2022 to an abrupt and emphatic end.

A red flag was immediately shown as safety crews scrambled to react. The incident had been triggered by Pierre Gasly finding himself trapped in the middle of a rapidly closing pincer moment that left him clipping Russell on the right hand side, who was turned across the track into Zhou Guanyu on the left. The Alfa Romeo was flipped upside down and then skidded across the tarmac balanced on the Halo device and into the gravel, at which point it dug in at the worst moment and flipped high into the air and over the tyre barrier before ending up on its side in the gap before the fencing. It made it problematic for the medical response team to extract the driver from the cockpit and place him on a stretcher to rush him to the medical centre, which confirmed the Chinese driver had been conscious throughout. "He's talking, there are no fractures, and considering the circumstances he's pretty good," the team told Valtteri Bottas.

Behind this initial conflagration, cars desperately trying to slow up and dodge the accident unfolding ahead of them triggered more incidents. Alex Albon was inadvertently rear-ended by birthday boy Sebastian Vettel in the Aston Martin sending the Williams spinning him into the inside barrier, before rebounding across the track where he was hit by multiple cars who had no where to go. The impact was violent enough to require Albon to head to the medical centre as well. Meanwhile Yuki Tsunoda and Esteban Ocon limped home to pit lane where the AlphaTauri and Alpine crews got to work to see if their damaged cars could be repaired in time for the restart.

Guanyu Zhou (CHN) Alfa Romeo F1 Team C42 crashes at the start of the race. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race

Before that could happen, there was a long 53 minute delay until the resumption with the FIA also dealing with a reported track incursion by protestors who had been swiftly removed. There was also confusion about the restart order, before race control confirmed that as the whole field had not managed to reach the first timing line it would be reset to the original starting grid positions - with the obvious exceptions of the absent Russell, Zhou and Albon.

This was bad news for Verstappen and Hamilton whose earlier heroics were now invalidated. Red Bull adjusted their strategy, this time opting to start Verstappen on mediums. When the lights went out, Sainz battled to stop a repeat of the first start but initially seemed unable to stop Verstappen forcing his way down the inside of turn 1; Sainz fought back and finally managed to reassert his control leaving Verstappen clashing with Leclerc as Perez also sought to find any way past.

Having survived the initial onslaught, Sainz pulled out over a second at the front from Verstappen, Leclerc and Perez all of whom had incurred some bodywork damage of varying degrees in that initial scrap, Perez finally forced to make a pit stop on lap 6 for a new nose dropping him to 16th. That promoted Hamilton back to fourth place, the seven-time world champion having initially dropped behind Lando Norris at the start but having soon corrected that situation with the help of DRS to the cheers of the Silverstone crowd, before quickly pulling out a five second gap over the McLaren.

Max Verstappen (NLD) Red Bull Racing RB18 makes a pit stop. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race

Verstappen was now in the groove and in DRS range of Sainz, waiting for any opportunity to present itself. He didn't have long to wait: Sainz ran wide at Chapel on lap 11, opening the door wide open for Verstappen to fly past on the entry to the Hangar Straight and take the lead. It seemed like job done for Verstappen - until suddenly it wasn't. A puncture on the Red Bull at the end of lap 12 saw him slow up, allowing both Sainz and Leclerc past as he dived down pit lane for an emergency service.

Initially it looked like he might just have got away with it, dropping to sixth but with time to fight back. But Verstappen was soon on the radio reporting problems with the floor of the car when he got underway: "The car is 100 per cent broken," he declared, adding: "I have no rear and front now. I don't know what happened to the front wing." The Red Bull pit wall said the performance loss was down to bodywork damage that they could do nothing to fix, but that he was still okay to continue to the finish.

Meanwhile Leclerc was hunting down Sainz despite front wing damage of his own. Now the main threat to the Ferraris was from Hamilton, just four seconds behind Leclerc and closing all the time. Further back, Norris in fourth was holding up Alonso, and a potential blockage for Verstappen if and when he was able to catch them. The rest of the top ten was taken up by Ocon, Nicholas Latifi, Valtteri Bottas and Daniel Ricciardo. The two AlphaTauris had dropped out of contention after Tsunoda lost the back end of the AT03 while duelling with his team mate and spun, knocking Gasly off track at turn 3 on lap 11, and duly earning the Japanese driver a five second penalty from the race stewards.

Sergio Perez (MEX) Red Bull Racing RB18 and Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 battle for position. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race

With Hamilton closing and Leclerc growing impatient, Sainz was under orders to push. He was called in to the pits on lap 21 for a set of hard tyres, handing Leclerc the lead but with Hamilton eating into the gap by almost half a second per lap. The leaders stayed out and instead it was Verstappen who was in again on lap 25 for hard tyres to try and counter the problems he was experiencing, dropping him to eighth. Next time by Leclerc pulled the pin and came in, handing the lead to Hamilton to a thunderous roar of approval from the grandstands.

With no time to fit a replacement front wing, Leclerc rejoined in third behind Sainz - but neither Ferrari was able to match the pace of Hamilton, who continued to pull away on his original set of mediums. Even so, the Ferrari pit wall waited until lap 32 before ordering Sainz to let the clearly faster Leclerc go past, but Hamilton's 18.4s advantage was still not enough to allow him to make his mandatory pit stop and retain the lead. "I can't maintain this pace forever," Hamilton warned the Mercedes pit wall as Leclerc started trimming the gap.

Seeing the window of opportunity closing, the team called him on on lap 34 but a less than ideal pit stop meant he fell back behind both Leclerc and Sainz, and then he had to wait impatiently for his new set of hard tyres to come up to temperature. The enthusiasm of the Silverstone crowd ebbed as victory seemed to slip out of Hamilton's hands. The cheers were soon ringing again when Verstappen found himself powerless to fend off Ocon down the inside of turn 15 and dropped another place to ninth and in danger of being caught by Haas pair Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen. But the balance immediately tipped again with Ocon losing power due to a fuel pump issue, forcing him to pull over on lap 39 at the entry to Copse.

Lewis Hamilton (GBR) Mercedes AMG F1 W13 and Charles Leclerc (MON) Ferrari F1-75 battle for position. 03.07.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 10, British Grand Prix, Silverstone, England, Race

It wasn't a safe place to stop and race control was forced to scramble the safety car. Leclerc stayed out on the hard tyres but Sainz and Hamilton pitted for softs for the restart, lining up ahead of Perez who had managed to pull off a dramatic recovery from his early damage. The timing of the stops had put him ahead of Norris, Alonso, Vettel, Magnussen, Lance Stroll - and the ailing Verstappen, now down in tenth after stopping again for softs, putting him at risk of being picked off by Schumacher and even Latifi at the restart.

Sainz refused Ferrari's request to back off from Leclerc at the restart, and instead jumped the Monegasque at turn 6 to snatch the lead. Hamilton's hopes of inserting himself into the battle took a blow when Perez pounced and forced his way through at turn 5. When DRS was reenabled on lap 46, Perez went wheel-to-wheel with Leclerc - but while they were scrapping, Hamilton took the opportunity of Perez going briefly off track to dive down the inside of the pair of them to take second. However the pace of the Red Bull was too much and Perez soon reasserted himself, dispensing first with Hamilton and then Leclerc in quick succession. A few minutes later Hamilton also succeeded in sweeping around the outside of turn 15 to knock Leclerc off the podium by the chequered flag.

It had been a breathless finish to an exhilarating Grand Prix, with Alonso claiming fifth ahead of Norris, and Verstappen's switch to soft tyres rewarded with a partial recovery to seventh ahead of Schumacher, Vettel and Magnussen, leaving Lance Stroll missing out on points in 11th from Latifi, Ricciardo and Tsunoda, as Gasly and Bottas had joined the lengthy list of retirements at the end of hugely eventful British Grand Prix.

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