In The Driver's Seat

End-of-race punctures leave Ferrari drivers deflated

As Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes celebrated an extraordinarily dominant performance which produced his fifth British Grand Prix victory, equalling the deeds of Jim Clark and Alain Prost and bringing him to within a point of the world championship lead, Ferrari were left pondering just what went wrong.

The hard facts were that they were beaten even without the punctures that afflicted both Kimi Raikkonen (who was second at the time) and Sebastian Vettel (third at that juncture) at the end of a race that had already been shortened by a lap after Jolyon Palmer's Renault broke down on the original grid formation lap.

Raikkonen traded fastest laps for a while early on, but it was soon clear that he could offer no realistic challenge to Hamilton. And had Valtteri Bottas not received a five grid-place drop for a gearbox change, there would have been two silver cars up front at the start.

Ferrari are far too coy to identify which corners they struggled at around Silverstone's wide open sweeps, but the sector times told their own tale.

Take away Max Verstappen's fastest times which he set on fresh rubber right at the end, and the two Mercedes topped all three sectors.

The best Ferrari was 0.224sec slower than the best Mercedes in Sector 1, which ran from the start-finish line to just before Brooklands Corner; 0.451 slower in Sector 2 (till the exit of Chapel Curve); and only 0.016 slower (back to the start-finish).

So the Mercedes were better in the twisty stuff just after the start, and the very fast, flowing curves through Copse, but quicker on the Hangar Straight, through Stowe Corner, and through Vale and Club.

This was Ferrari's worst display of the year, and arguably the first race in which they have not been in contention for victory. The punctures made it a double whammy. Instead of 30 points, they scored only 21 and, of course, Vettel took only six instead of 12.

This was Ferrari's worst display of the year, and arguably the first race in which they have not been in contention for victory. The punctures made it a double whammy. Instead of 30 points, they scored only 21 and, of course, Vettel took only six instead of 12.

Both drivers said that they detected nothing untoward before their front left tyres lost their treads: Raikkonen's on the 49th of the 51 laps, Vettel's on the 50th.

Notably, Red Bull brought Verstappen in for a precautionary change, while Hamilton said he backed off to "60 per cent throttle" in the closing laps to avoid possible problems. All of them had encountered blistering at times during the race.

Raikkonen explained: "I don't think I hit anything, everything felt normal before, luckily I came back."

Pirelli's immediate post-race analysis suggests that the two Ferrari failures were caused by totally different factors: Raikkonen's tyre threw its tread, while Vettel's suffered complete failure because of a puncture.

"Hindsight is great. With hindsight, it is easy but, at the time, it felt okay," Vettel said of the decision to carry on. "Kimi's tyres were at least five or six laps fresher. So it caught us both by surprise."

Hamilton refused to gloat, saying: "This is a championship where the fight will go on and on, and there will be times when any of us scores sixth or seventh place.

"Those results may yet be as critical as the wins and podium places. You just never know which might make all the difference."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 18, 2017, with the headline 'End-of-race punctures leave Ferrari drivers deflated'. Print Edition | Subscribe