► Carlos Sainz wins his first race
► Perez and Hamilton round out the podium
► Big first corner incident sees Zhou protected by the Halo
It had to happen eventually, though after the first few races this season it really looked like it might not. Carlos Sainz has won his first race at the 2022 British GP, but he certainly made it look difficult – and he had a couple of helping-hands too. Sergio Perez finished second in the Red Bull in a bad day for the Milton Keynes team, and the podium was rounded off by Lewis Hamilton – who may actually be disappointed with third.
Here are seven things we learnt at the 2022 British Grand Prix.
1. A new technical controversy looms
Porpoising is still a factor for most of the grid, but there’s already a new technical controversy on the horizon; flexing floors. Just hours after qualifying, chat in the paddock surfaced that both Ferrari and Red Bull had floors that flexed at certain points and within certain parameters. As you’d expect from F1, this isn’t by accident and instead works to increase the amount of downforce generated by the floors of the cars in question.
The question now is: does the FIA impose new tests or let things slide until the start of next year – and are they within the spirit of the rules in the first place? After all, movable aero devices are banned.
Whatever the FIA does will have an impact on the rest of the season for all teams, and especially for the likes of Mercedes who are still working out which philosophy to use next year: one similar to their zero sidpod-philosophy this year, or something higher and more similar to the Red Bull and Ferrari.
2. Carlos Sainz gets his first win
After a poor initial start, Sainz was able to be far more aggressive at the second start, being as elbows out with Verstappen as he dared. That gave him track position, though he lost it a few laps later after being pressured into a mistake. Soon Carlos was falling back into the clutches of Hamilton and his teammate Leclerc, and later had to cede the position to his teammate. At this point, a maiden win looked unlikely.
So what won it for Sainz? Aside from doing the job on Satuday and keeping himself there or thereabouts, a safety car caused by Ocon and a new set of softs gave Carlos the win. He still had to get past Leclerc on hards, and then bolt away from Hamilton and Perez – but that’s exactly what he did.
How this changes the complexion of the championship remains to be seen. Before today, Sainz was sinking into the underperforming second driver, but at least his role was defined. If he’s able to keep this momentum and challenge Leclerc consistently, Ferrari may have another problem on their hands.
3. Verstappen is still dodgy wheel-to-wheel
A puncture and possible bodywork damage put Verstappen out of win contention, but even with a wounded car his driving still caught the attention of the stewards. There were some pretty questionable moves in his battle with Mick Schumacher though somehow no further action was taken. Schumacher ended up getting points, but for a few corners it looked like neither driver would finish the race.
Hamilton also mentioned Verstappen’s driving from last year in the post-race press conference: ‘Charles did a great job,’ he said. ‘What a great battle, very sensible driver, clearly a lot different to what I experienced last year. Copse for example, the two of us went through no problem.’
4. And so is his teammate, Perez
Both Lewis Hamilton and Charles Leclerc pulled off some pretty robust defending and overtaking, but Sergio Perez seemed to cross the line. In addition to running off the track and keeping a position, Perez also forced Hamilton off the track. Although both of these incidents caught the attention of the stewards, again, no further action was taken.
While hard racing should and must be a part of F1, it’s hard to get excited about moves which are clearly asking the other driver to avoid an accident.
5. F1 gets lucky again
Just seconds after the first race start, a nasty accident saw several cars out of the race, including Albon and Russell. However Zhou’s Alfa-Romeo managed to get airborne, and then wedged in between the catch fence and the tyre wall. Unbelievably both he and the crowd behind were okay – despite the state of his Alfa afterwards. The Halo may not look great, but it’s saving lives.
6. Mercedes updates work
Lewis Hamilton finished the day in P3, though it’s a testament to Mercedes’ form this weekend that both he and his fans might be disappointed with that. For a good portion of the race, Hamilton seemed to have good pace and very good tyre degradation – and for a good portion of the race he was the fastest car on track: it was only when things were reset after the Ocon safety car that the win fell away.
It’s possible the car is still around a four to five tenths off in ultimate pace, but it has better tyre degradation than others. That’s why Lewis was able to come at the Ferraris towards the end of his first stint, and why he seemed flat-footed in the latter phase of the race.
So is Mercedes back? We’ve been through this before, but it’s clear Mercedes has pace on billiard-smooth tracks – at least with this update. However, it’s not clear if the new parts debuted this week will widen the envelope of the car on bumpier surfaces. Let’s hope so for the championships’ sake.
7. Leclerc vs Ferrari vs Red Bull
Sainz did a better job than Leclerc yesterday, but that’s rarely been the case this year. And in few phases of during this race, Leclerc looked to be faster – even with a damaged car. Team orders aren’t the greatest thing for spectacle, but here they looked to be the most sensible thing for Ferrari to do, given the drivers’ championship. Instead, Ferrari let both cars race for several laps, partly allowing Hamilton and his rapid Mercedes to cruise up to the back of them.
What’s more, the end of the race saw Leclerc stay out on hard compound tyres, while his team mate, Hamilton and Perez all opted for softs. There was time for Ferrari to double-stack, but they decided not.
In a championship that looks as though it’ll be decided on reliability and operational errors, it often feels Leclerc is battling his own pit wall, as well as Red Bull’s.