Wet qualifying, a chaotic first turn, protestors, overtaking, reliability issues, Ferrari’s continued questionable decision-making, wheel-to-wheel racing, a hint of Lewis Hamilton magic, and a first-time winner. A historic track, a memorable race, and drivers exploring the rule limits led to another amazing chapter in the history of autosport at the Silverstone circuit.
The British Grand Prix truly had something for everyone.
The 2022 British Grand Prix Podium
Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz was never the best driver of the weekend, in the best car. However, Sainz achieved two career firsts at Silverstone: his first pole position and win. Sainz winning the British Grand Prix in his 150th Formula 1 start was popular among the paddock and fans alike. He might not have been the best driver in any session, but Sainz’s first Formula 1 win was well-earned and well-received.
Red Bull’s Sergio Perez, completed an excellent recovery drive—aided by a late-race safety car–to finish second, after pitting early to repair damage to his front wing. Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes were close to making the British media’s propaganda campaign a reality. The race was coming to Hamilton and as the lap total fell, it felt like Hamilton was inevitably going to find his way to P1. The safety car that aided Perez stopped Hamilton’s pursuit of the win. Hamilton landed on the podium for a second straight race.
How the Race was Won
We needed two standing starts to get the British Grand Prix full underway. Abbey (turn 1) at Silverstone is a flat-out right-hand turn. The grid didn’t manage to make it the full 296 meters from the start/finish line before chaos struck. Six drivers were involved in the chaos, leaving three cars out of the race. Pierre Gasly moved into a closing gap, clipping George Russell’s rear tire, and sending Russell into Zhou Guanyu, whose car flipped, slid across the tarmac, the gravel traps, and flipped over one safety barrier, into a fence. Zhou’s Alfa Romero was wedged between the safety barrier and chain-link fence and left a groove in Silverstone’s tarmac. This crash was terrifying.
At the same time, Alex Albon – in a heavily updated Williams – slowed to avoid the chaos and not hit Valterri Bottas-, was hit from behind by Sebastian Vettel and hit a concrete barrier. Albon then spun back into the chaos bouncing off Esteban Ocon and Yuki Tsunoda. For a period of time, everyone waited in suspense to find out if the Alfa Romero driver was alive, let alone ok. Zhou was eventually extracted from the car and transported by ambulance to a hospital, later returning to the track. Albon was airlifted to a hospital for further evaluation and later released.
This caused a red flag and the gird to be reset, nullifying Max Verstappen’s move into first place through Abbey. After a long wait, the race restarted and Max Verstappen eventually and expectedly moved into first place. Debris from contact between the Alpha Tauris destroyed a part of the floor of Verstappen’s car. This damage had Verstappen falling down the order, finishing in seventh, holding off Haas’ Mick Schumacher in a fierce battle over the final laps.
Ferrari was being Ferrari and making bad decisions during the Race. Charles Leclerc could have won the British Grand Prix, and was actively campaigning to switch spots with race leader Sainz. Sainz followed team orders, letting Leclerc through. After a safety car period, Sainz took control of the race and the race strategy from Ferrari’s hands.
Ferrari pit Sainz and not Leclerc during the safety car period, opting for track position over fresh tires. As the restart approached, Ferrari instructed Sainz to give Leclerc room, backing up Hamilton and Perez, putting all the pressure during the restart on Sainz. Sainz stated “stop inventing” over the radio, noting the pressure he would be under and that there was more to lose with that strategy.
And he was right. If Sainz had followed team orders the second time, we might be talking about another Perez or Hamilton win. Sainz had fresher tires, passed Leclerc, and took off to win his first Grand Prix. Leclerc slid to fourth on old tires after an incredible battle with Perez and Hamilon simultaneously.
A History Lesson (from an actual Historian) on Race Protests in Britain
While there was chaos at Abbey, tragedy was prevented in more than one regard. The halo saved Zhou’s life and prevented another in-race fatality. The red flag, however, prevented another tragedy. Protestors from Just Stop Oil found their way onto the track and were sitting on the Wellington Straight. Formula 1 cars take Aintree (turn 5) around 130 mph. These protestors and the drivers were saved from potential tragedy from the red flag.
Regardless of your politics, environmental ethics, or ethical valuations in general, I support the right to protest and pursue a more equitable world and sustainable future for all. I can empathize and agree with many aspects of their environmental cause. However, this is a Formula 1 race track and not the Ironworkers Bridge in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.
Why specify the Ironworkers bridge in Vancouver? Because environmental protestors regularly sit cross-legged on the road, blocking a major throughway in Vancouver. It’s not advisable to ever sit on a roadway, let alone as 1400lb+ Formula 1 cars are closing in on speeds of 200 mph. Despite real merit behind the cause, this was unequivocally dumb. It also provides a moment for a historian to provide a lesson from history.
There have been a few notable protests and spectator invasions at Silverstone. Each of these incidents were covered during the broadcast. However, the history of protesting at British racing events has a much longer history than the broadcast presented. Essentially, you are getting a history lesson of protests during races you will not find in any other coverage of the British Grand Prix.
In 1913, suffragette Emily Davidson invaded a horse race at the Epsom racecourse. Davidson, much like the Just Stop Oil protestors, had an ethically motivated political stance and was choosing to act on that ethical stance. Davidson ran onto the track during a race featuring the King’s horse, attempting to bring further light to Women needing and deserving the right to vote. Davidson ran onto the track, attempting to attach a banner to the King’s horse while the horse was running in a race. Needless to say, Davidson became a casualty of the suffrage cause, dying from the injuries sustained during her on-track endeavors.
As a historian, I truly believe we can learn from our past for a better tomorrow. Regardless of the (at times) perceived justified ethics of a cause, it’s never been advisable for a person to enter a racetrack during a race and expect to leave safely and make any real change. It wasn’t during horse races in 1913, and definitely not on during a Formula 1 race in 2022. Zhou’s terrifying crash and the red flag-inducing chaos into Abbey, prevented the Just Stop Oil protestors, Formula 1 drivers, marshals, and spectators from almost guaranteed tragedy.
Protesting for equality, fairness, and environmental ethics is important. It truly can help bring forth change in the world. However, there are innumerable better places to launch a protest than on a roadway or racetrack.
The Legend of the Wiley Ol’ Campaigner Grows
If you have been reading my continued coverage of Formula 1, you know that Fernando Alonso is always up to something. Alonso, a.k.a. The Wiley Ol’ Campaigner, is THE best and Formula 1 is better with Fernando Alonso being, well, Fernando Alonso. Alonso finished 7th in qualifying and 5th in the race. He didn’t do anything spectacular or stretch interpretations of the rules on track.
So, why does he get his own subsection of this review? Respect. When Alonso headed down the Sir Lewis Hamilton start/finish straight to start lap 45, he became Formula 1’s marathon man! At the end of the British Grand Prix, Alonso has driven 57,565 miles (92,643 meters) in a Formula 1 Car, during Formula 1 British Grand Prix. Alonso has literally completed one lap around the circumference of the Earth and is one-quarter of the way to completing a second lap in a Formula 1 race car. Lewis Hamilton will likely eclipse this record but, for now, let’s give the Wiley Ol’ Campaigner his just dues.
Up Next: The Austrian Grand Prix
Next up is the power-sensitive, short-lap tack known as the Red Bull Ring, and the Austrian Grand Prix. The Austrian Grand Prix takes place from July 8th-10th. We’ll be back on Friday with our betting preview for the Austrian Grand Prix.
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