The British Grand Prix result puts Sebastian Vettel level with Alain Prost on 51 wins, equal-third in the list headed by Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton.
Prost would surely have been impressed by the quality of Vettel’s drive, particularly that crucially incisive move that appeared to catch Valtteri Bottas by surprise as the Ferrari retook the lead with six laps to go.
But in light of Lewis Hamilton’s obvious distress when he didn’t win as expected on Sunday afternoon, it would be interesting to know if Prost was reminded of the same race 28 years ago when his 42nd win was eclipsed by the emotional behaviour of his Ferrari teammate.
In 1990's edition, Nigel Mansell had claimed pole position and been forced to snatch the lead twice before his Ferrari stopped with a broken gearbox, handing Prost his fourth win of the season (as opposed to none for Mansell).
45 minutes after abandoning the car and throwing his helmet and balaclava to the crowd, Mansell called the media to the Ferrari motor home – where he announced his intention to retire at the end of the season. You can imagine how reports of Prost’s win and new-found lead of the championship were buried beneath this unexpected drama from the British favourite.
Just 11 weeks later, the same publications were carrying news that Mansell had signed for Williams in 1991. It was a U-turn as predictable as it was welcome.
To his credit on Monday, Hamilton used Instagram to show he had got over his distress by referring to the first lap collision as a racing incident and indicating that he has learned from saying stuff in the heat of the moment. At the time of writing, we wait for Mercedes management to clarify ‘dumb shit’ – as Lewis would put it – referring to the Ferrari drivers’ behaviour in France and England as being either deliberate or incompetent. Team Principal Toto Wolff later told F1’s live Twitter broadcast that he expected an apology. It remains unclear who should be apologising to whom.
A more pertinent point for debate is whether or not Lewis would have beaten Seb had the Mercedes not been punted off the road. We do know that a bad start had already cost Hamilton two places and allowed Raikkonen to have a look at the narrow piece of road on the right going into Turn 3. Had this been any of the previous four seasons, an eventual return to the front would have been a foregone conclusion. But not this year, particularly with Ferrari having made serious advances on a track that has not been their favourite in recent years.
It’s true that Hamilton was on pole, but this was down to one of the truly great laps of the season – if not his F1 career – as he ragged that car through Maggotts and Becketts on the absolute edge. A resulting 0.044s margin had never been more deserved. But it was never an indication that he could walk off with his sixth win at Silverstone.
The trouble was that a majority of the capacity crowd expected nothing less. As for Hamilton, he had clearly bought into jingoism cranked up to a new high by England’s on-going success in the World Cup. It was a heady cocktail. The deleterious effect of it, kicked off by wheelspin at the start and plunged into despair by travelling backwards a few seconds later, was allowed to ferment for the remaining 51 laps on a stinking hot afternoon.
At the end of a crowd-pleasing and impressive drive, Hamilton claimed 18 valuable points. It could so easily have been none, his right-rear having received a hefty thump from the Ferrari’s left front. But that seemed to be lost in the realisation that crowd-surfing would not be repeated in the manner of the 2017 post-race celebration Hamilton admitted to watching while preparing for last weekend.
Now that the British hype, with its plusses and minuses, has finished for another year, Lewis can arrive in Germany with an uncluttered mind and put one over on Ferrari at Hockenheim, a mere 50 kms from Seb’s home town of Heppenheim.
That would definitely be worth talking about in parc fermé. And no apologies would be needed – unless, of course, Vettel and Ferrari take their turn and go off on lap one. Anything is possible in this riveting see-saw season, in which a wonderful weekend at Silverstone played a memorable part.