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Seven things we learned at the 2024 British Grand Prix

The “classic British summer” jibes aside, the British Grand Prix weekend faced an atypical barrage of cold and inclement weather – it felt more like a February’s half-hearted release of the winter’s last remnants, rather than a sun-baked July. Although unwelcome for the fans who had failed to pack a coat, the inconsistent lashings of rain throughout the weekend at least soaked the Silverstone round in drama.

A chance of victory changed hands multiple times throughout the 52-lap run-time, as all three Brits on the grid held the lead through different phases of the race. In his final British Grand Prix for Mercedes, it was perhaps fitting that Lewis Hamilton – a prior winner of eight grands prix at Silverstone – secured his ninth to envelop his team in an emotional downpour.

There was lots to enjoy about this year’s visit to Northamptonshire and plenty to get stuck into beyond the thrilling spectacle as the driver market creaked wide open once again. The rumour mill continued to turn, perhaps aiming to match the upcoming F1 film for dramatic licence. Without further ado, here’s what we learned from this year’s British Grand Prix weekend.

1. Hamilton feared he’d never win in F1 again, but his 945-day lean streak is over

Hamilton had endured the longest drought of his racing career before triumphing on Sunday

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

After his victory in Jeddah in 2021, Hamilton likely did not expect that it would take over two-and-a-half years to stand on the top step again. Indeed, had the infamous Abu Dhabi finale gone slightly differently, he’d have sewn up his 104th grand prix victory a lot sooner – instead, it set off an unwanted dry spell that coincided with Mercedes’ alarming drop in competitiveness.

When Mercedes rocked up into 2024 with a clean-sheet W15, the early signs were slightly more encouraging. The problem was that, during the Silver Arrows’ decline with the reintroduction of ground-effect aerodynamics, it had been caught by Ferrari and McLaren as F1’s former powerhouse teams had moved up the pecking order.

Mercedes started the year with the fourth-best car and it needed time to suss out its new direction. North Star allegories notwithstanding, it seemed that the team again had taken the wrong direction.

The fightback is now on. Improvements to the car have imbued it with much greater balance through a range of corners, and the mid-corner instability appears to be getting better with each race.

Hamilton might have missed out on pole at his home race to team-mate George Russell but knew he had the ammunition to win if he nailed the tyre management in the opening stint.

He did so and timed his run towards Russell perfectly to get the lead before the rain started to fall. Superior tyre heat retention in the McLarens relegated the Mercedes duo out of the leading positions, but the call to bring Hamilton onto slicks after the intermediate phase was perfectly judged.

Hamilton did his bit by keeping enough life in his soft tyres at the end to ensure a chasing Max Verstappen did not have enough time to mount a victory challenge. Nett result: Pete Bonnington delivered the most effusive “get in there, Lewis” radio call of his career, as the two shared a tender moment of relief and celebration.

“I can’t stop crying”, Hamilton conceded after the race. But, after the journey in the wilderness over the past two years, he’s earned the right to shed a joyous tear or two. JBL

2. McLaren can’t seem to shed its strategic slip-ups

Pitting a lap later than Hamilton for slicks and then taking softs was the wrong call for Norris

Pitting a lap later than Hamilton for slicks and then taking softs was the wrong call for Norris

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

It’s fair to preface this entry by saying this: McLaren has been out of frequent victory contention for so long that it appears to have forgotten how to win. Lando Norris’ victory in Miami, the team hoped, would open the floodgates as it finally had a car worthy of challenging for honours on a regular basis – but instead, mistakes seem to be far too prevalent.

The errors at Silverstone underlined that, although it’s very well having one of the fastest cars in F1, it’s for nothing if that vein of performance cannot be tapped into effectively. Not bringing Norris in at the right time in Montreal handed victory to Verstappen on a silver platter, and the same languidness at Silverstone gave Hamilton the whip hand in the final phase of the grand prix. The team is too reactive; the great teams in times past often took the initiative with calls when conditions were difficult, but McLaren seems afraid to do so.

It’s arguable that everybody came in too late for slicks, but Norris’ eventual retreat to the pitlane was even later. Then there was the dithering over tyre choice; McLaren’s instinct was to take the mediums, but Norris wavered and only decided on mediums when it was a bit too late. Softs were already prepared to match Hamilton, and the younger Briton couldn’t keep the life in them and thus ceded second to Verstappen.

The team had also weakened its position when it tried to avoid double-stacking with Oscar Piastri and sent the Australian on another lap. Norris caught him in that lap after stopping, which rather compounded the mistake.

Lesson? Be decisive. Pounce on those opportunities; it’s better to have tried and failed rather than not try at all… JBL

3. Red Bull is the anti-McLaren in getting the big calls right

Verstappen salvaged second on a day that Red Bull never appeared to be in the fight

Verstappen salvaged second on a day that Red Bull never appeared to be in the fight

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Max Verstappen is rarely enthused by finishing second, so his relief at taking the podium’s second step rather underlined the difficulty of his race. “I was like, ‘I’ll just sit here and try to survive’,” he reflected on his opening laps. “That’s what I did. At one point, even Carlos [Sainz] rocked up at the party. So I was like, ‘geez, this is a really bad afternoon’.”

Although Verstappen had started well to clear Norris for third into The Loop on the opening lap, his Red Bull started to suffer on the tyres and his pace began to dwindle: Norris returned the favour and broke past, and Piastri followed through a couple of laps later, demoting him to fifth.

This left Verstappen fielding Sainz’s Ferrari in his mirrors and feared that he was on for nothing more than fifth or sixth. Slowly drifting out of contention, Red Bull pulled Verstappen in for intermediates at the right time, just as the rain was starting to intensify beyond the remit of slicks, which carried him above Russell and Piastri back into third when the two eventually called in.

His pace was still lacking on the green-walled Pirelli tyre and he was continuing to drift away from Norris and Hamilton but joined the Mercedes driver in stopping at the end of lap 38 as the downpour ended. The call for hard tyres seemed like a gamble but, as it emerged that the track surface was drying rapidly, it seemed like a masterstroke. He now had a performance offset over Norris’ wearing softs, and only the lap counter denied him the chance to battle Hamilton for the lead.

Even without the fastest car, Red Bull and Verstappen know how to pull results out of the bag when the odds are against them. It’s that consistency that wins championships; having the least worst result can be as valuable as a victory. As he summarised: “On a poor afternoon I would say in terms of performance to be second, I’ll take that.” JBL

4. Apple F1 film finally gets a name – and a teaser

Pitt was back in the paddock for the upcoming F1 movie which now has a name - F1

Pitt was back in the paddock for the upcoming F1 movie which now has a name – F1

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

Amid the writers’ strikes that afflicted multiple cinematographic productions over the past year, the long-awaited F1 film starring Brad Pitt has finally got a release date of 25 June 2025. How about the name?

This writer’s suggestion of “Pitt Lane” has gone woefully ignored as the Apple TV production has opted for the moniker of…F1. Short, sweet, to the point – perhaps lacking in imagination? Ben Hunt and Alex Kalinauckas have argued the toss on this, so we won’t tread on their toes here. 

The film is studded with star names throughout its directorial and cast listings: Top Gun Maverick director Joseph Kosinski has the chair and megaphone, Jerry Bruckheimer is producing (with Hamilton also involved as a producer on the film), and both Pitt and Damson Idris take on the roles as the fictional APXGP team’s drivers – the former starring as a veteran racer tempted back into F1 from the world of sportscars.

A teaser has also been revealed, although light on detail as the film is very much still in production. Dialogue between Pitt’s character Sonny Hayes and actress Kerry Condon (perhaps known to audiences as Stacey Ehrmantraut in Better Call Saul) precedes some of the action shots of the converted F2 cars dressed in their black-and-gold livery. Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men), Tobias Menzies (The Crown), and Sarah Niles (Ted Lasso) also star, along with the current F1 drivers in their roles as… well, themselves.

We’ll find out which of the current F1 field has the best acting chops and, crucially, if the film is any good next summer. But there’s still a lot more filming to get through before the post-production starts to stitch the story together. JBL

5. Bearman to make 2025 F1 debut with Haas

Bearman had his latest Friday outing for Haas as confirmation arrived that he will race for the team in 2025

Bearman had his latest Friday outing for Haas as confirmation arrived that he will race for the team in 2025

Photo by: Simon Galloway / Motorsport Images

As the Silverstone weekend got underway, Haas announced what had long been expected: that highly-rated Ferrari junior Ollie Bearman would be its first driver signing for 2025. The American squad has been impressed with the Briton ever since he took part in a rookie FP1 session in Mexico last year, with his instant impression on now-team boss Ayao Komatsu just as important in his F1 graduation as his cameo in place of Carlos Sainz in Jeddah.

Bearman feels without that appearance his F1 promotion was unlikely, given how hard anyone has found it to really shine in Formula 2 this year. But he also kept up his strong practice showing at Imola – just as interest in his F1 2025 potential was really growing, with all the pressure that brings.

Next year, he’ll use the #87 on his Haas, a special number he has had in his single-seater career that holds special significance for his family. It’s his father’s race number – picked for the combined birthdays of his two sons. AK

6. FIA admits it should’ve intervened in Verstappen’s Austria defence against Norris

The FIA belatedly revealed Verstappen should have had a black-and-white flag at the Red Bull Ring

The FIA belatedly revealed Verstappen should have had a black-and-white flag at the Red Bull Ring

Photo by: Andy Hone / Motorsport Images

While the Verstappen versus Norris saga fizzled in terms of the two drivers and their feelings towards each other after the latter publicly moved to diffuse any tension after arriving at Silverstone, a development from the FIA was nevertheless noteworthy on the matter of their Austria crash.

In the regular team managers’ meeting at Silverstone, FIA race director Niels Wittich explained that, on reflection, the officials now felt Verstappen should have been given a black-and-white warning flag during the battle – as the use of that signal has changed for 2024. This would’ve been regarding his moving under braking when Norris attacked at the Red Bull Ring’s Turn 3.

The new-for-this year Article f) of Appendix H of the FIA’s International Sporting reads: “This flag should be shown once only and is a warning to the driver concerned for unsportsmanlike behaviour or for an action which may result in a penalty if repeated.”

Had the warning been shown for the latter element of that wording, much of the concern over the whole affair would’ve been removed. How Verstappen would’ve responded, however, can now never be known… AK

7. Sergio Perez under massive pressure for 2025, with Lawson set to test RB20 this week

The latest disappointing showing for Perez heightens pressure he is under

The latest disappointing showing for Perez heightens pressure he is under

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

Red Bull’s attempt to improve Sergio Perez’s recent performances by giving him a new contract for post-2024 clearly hadn’t worked given his continued lack of impression in qualifying or races. At Silverstone, it became clear his position now really is in peril as a result.

Liam Lawson is now going to test the RB20 car in a 200km filming day run on Thursday, which mirrors the 2023 Silverstone Pirelli tyre test that convinced Red Bull to bring back Daniel Ricciardo in Nyck de Vries’s place at AlphaTauri/RB.

“We need there to be desperately two Red Bulls,” team boss Christian Horner said at Silverstone, further amping up the pressure on Perez.

With the understanding that Perez’s contract includes performance clauses that could allow Red Bull to replace him, even possibly this year, it seems the next few weeks are critical to deciding an F1 future that just as this triple header kicked off a few weeks/lifetimes ago was supposed to be settled. AK

Lawson will get his shot at driving an RB20 at Silverstone later this week

Lawson will get his shot at driving an RB20 at Silverstone later this week

Photo by: Red Bull Content Pool

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