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Class of the Field
Adam Barton

A Formula One fan since he was six, back while Häkkinen and Schumacher were having many an epic battle, Adam has seen a great deal. From German domination (twice), to British determination (once) and a Spanish invasion. A near compulsive fan who one day hopes to write about the sport for a living, outside of F1 Adam also authors his own blog One Guy's Opinion.

Massa stars as Williams strategy puzzles // Same old boring F1 yields familiar result despite spectacular journey

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The British GP served up a cracker. The race was made as both Williams got great starts to pass the Mercedes, rattling Hamilton into a mistake on the restart. But Williams were hesitant on strategy, leaving Bottas angry and potentially welcoming attack from Mercedes. Ultimately I think they made the correct decision, if a little slowly. Once the battle for the lead was ‘resolved’ mid-way through the race, attention turned to the sky and the on-off rain was a nightmare for teams, unable to commit to slicks or intermediate tyres.

In the end, it was the second spurt of rain that came at the ideal time for Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. As Hamilton came down the pitlane, there was still debate over what tyres to put on among pundits and fans but it worked a treat for the Brit to claim the third home win of his career. However, after mistakes in practice and early in the race, others have secured Class of the Field acclaim.

Massa’s parade rained off

Felipe Massa, Williams Martini Racing: Started 3rd, Finished 4th

When the rain came, Massa had no hope

Finishing a place lower after 52 laps hardly tells the story of Felipe Massa’s race. The Brazilian was the star of the show over the first half of the race, infamously for some. Massa made a lightning start and darted between the two Mercedes to take the lead into Abbey. By the time he hit the brakes for the first time into Farm he had a lead of several car lengths ahead of the battle between Lewis Hamilton and teammate Valtteri Bottas. The Finn got through briefly but left the door open into the Loop. Massa was on his game on the restart, placing his car beautifully to hold off Hamilton into Vale, forcing the championship leader into a mistake that let Bottas back through.

Then came the great debate: what should Williams do? Massa held track position but Bottas appeared slightly quicker. With a rare opportunity to win a race, Williams needed to craft their strategy perfectly and not play into Mercedes hands. They couldn’t hold each other up by racing wheel-to-wheel but did Valtteri Bottas have the out-and-out pace to beat Mercedes over a race distance? My opinion is that Williams did the right thing, Massa had earnt the right to track position through qualifying ahead of the Finn and getting the better start. Clearly Bottas wasn’t that much faster than Massa, otherwise he would have driven past.

By the time he hit the brakes for the first time into Farm he had a lead of several car lengths

Massa held the lead until the pitstops when he was jumped by Lewis Hamilton through the undercut and just beat Nico Rosberg out of the pits by millimetres, racing side-by-side down the pitlane. Bottas came out between the pair a lap later and the frustrated Finn was still unable to get past. With the race victory now all but gone, Massa had to drive flat out to hold on to second place ahead of his teammate and Rosberg.

But when the rain came, Felipe had no hope. The Williams’ slippery design has always struggled in the wet with a lack of aerodynamic grip, leaving Massa unable to hold back Nico Rosberg. And by the time he pitted on lap 44, his poor pace, coupled with crawling around on slicks for an extra lap on a wet track meant that Sebastian Vettel was able to jump Massa and snatch the last place on the podium.

As good as locked into fourth, Massa was left to conserve the car to the finish, unable to match the pace of the Ferrari in the damp and far more comfortable (and possibly in less of a mood) than his teammate behind who was lapping several seconds slower. Massa did all that he could and with better strategy and a better stop, he had a great chance of winning his first race since the 2008 Brazilian GP. It was the team’s cautiousness that cost them but ultimately fourth and fifth should be recognised as a good result for the Grove squad who are still rebuilding back to their best.

Ultimately, once the rain came, all of the debate on strategy was irrelevant, Williams did not have the pace in the damp and will need to work on setup when rain is a possibility in the future.

Kvyat on the charge puts Ricciardo in the shade

Daniil Kvyat, Infiniti Red Bull Racing: Started 7th, Finished 6th

All of a sudden Daniil Kvyat looks quite comfortable in his Red Bull. And with the rumour mill suggesting that Daniel Ricciardo could follow Sebastian Vettel to Ferrari for 2016, he could complete an unprecedented rise through the Red Bull F1 network by becoming lead driver next year.

Kvyat looks quite comfortable in his Red Bull
Credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images

The Russian had the edge over his teammate all weekend, qualifying seventh and best of the rest behind Ferrari, Williams and Mercedes. Unfortunately for Kvyat, he lost out to Nico Hülkenberg at the start, who leapt off the line, but he did jump Vettel himself to stay seventh in a move that was crucial to the outcome of his race.

With Hülkenberg ahead for the first stint, the top four drove away from the field as those behind figured out a way to get past the Force India. The only option was strategy as everyone piled in to the pitlane , desperate to get the undercut over the German. Kvyat was one of the last to stop of the group, pitting on lap 18, critically jumping Hülkenberg but losing out to Sebastian Vettel. The Russian ran seventh through his second stint and looked very comfortable as the conditions started to change.

The Russian had the edge over his teammate all weekend, qualifying seventh and best of the rest

Kvyat was chasing down Sebastian Vettel for fifth when he spun on his in-lap, opening up an unattainable gap to Vettel and leaving an uphill battle to catch the struggling Williams’. But regardless Kvyat ploughed on and ended up closing in on Valtteri Bottas at an alarming rate in the closing laps, finishing seven tenths behind the highly touted Finn.

The Russian may have been promoted a year earlier than was ideal but he is certainly starting to make the most of his opportunity at Red Bull.

Rainmaster Vettel cashes in

Sebastian Vettel, Scuderia Ferrari: Started 6th, Finished 3rd

It was one of those weekends for Sebastian Vettel where it wouldn’t come together for him for the majority of the event and yet he still managed to come up with the result. Despite once again having the measure of teammate Kimi Räikkönen throughout qualifying, a slow lap in Q3 left him a disappointing sixth and faced with a battle to move up the field.

It got worse for Vettel as he lost out to Nico Hülkenberg and Daniil Kvyat, and then Sergio Pérez on the restart as well. Then the Prancing Horse awakened aided slightly by the slow pace of Hülkenberg in fifth. Vettel was one of many to pit early on lap 14 to exercise the undercut and once the stops had played out, he was up to sixth, behind Räikkönen but ahead of the Force Indias and Red Bull.

Vettel flourished in the damp, passing his teammate decisively
Credit: Ferrari Media

Vettel flourished in the damp, passing his teammate decisively and once Kimi had made the wrong strategy call, set off after the Williams pair, passing them by pitting on the magic lap 43 with Lewis Hamilton, though his mesmerising pace as soon as the rain started to fall would likely have seen him pass Massa and Bottas for a podium regardless. Third place cements his position in the championship and Vettel got the best he could out of a weekend where he could easily have ended up fighting for lower end points, as Räikkönen did.

It was a fantastic British GP, a terrific gift for the devoted fans who have put up with much over the years between weather and F1 politics. And while it does show that F1 isn’t in ‘crisis’, I truly hope that it doesn’t mean that nothing is done to improve the sport and bring close racing as those at the top sweep it all under the rug. Just as Arsenal do, F1 came up with a big performance just as everyone thought they were reaching rock bottom, but clearly it was worth it.