Keeping with the trend of stories these past few days, Saturday was once again all about Lewis Hamilton.
Providing both a scintillating pole lap and our regularly scheduled dose of controversy, Hamilton has proved as dominant in the news cycle as he can be on track – and that’s saying a lot given how well he’s driving.
Case-in-point was his 0.547s advantage to the P2 Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, and further 0.229s lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas. A gap that large is filthy in the absolute best sense of the word, and especially after the week’s events, proves he’s as locked in as ever.
Of course, the reason Hamilton is on everyone’s lips is less his pace and more his questionable block of Romain Grosjean’s Haas during Q3. Having turned in front of the hot-lapping Grosjean down into turn 16, Hamilton was fortunate to escape the stewards ire, with the reasoning being that while the Frenchman “may have been affected”, he was not “impeded” by the Brit’s actions.
Unsurprisingly the stewards’ decision hasn’t sat well with Grosjean (not that much does, these days) nor many of the fans – especially given the obvious disparity in championship importance of the two drivers – but to be fair, they’ve at least been consistent with their rulings.
Sergio Perez could have easily been penalised for an earlier block on Sebastian Vettel but also got off scot free, suggesting that this is just a particularly lenient set of stewards. At another race with other stewards, both Hamilton and Perez could have found themselves on the naughty list, but hey, that’s F1 refereeing for you.
A banner day for McLaren
Fernando Alonso starting from Baku aside, Saturday went about as well as you could’ve hoped for McLaren-Honda.
A session-topping performance from Alonso (even if it was about as authentic as a Kimi Raikkonen endorsement video) a career-best P9 from Stoffel Vandoorne ensured it wasn’t all doom-and-gloom for the boys and girls from Woking, and was clearly something the thousands in attendance enjoyed too.
Particularly for Vandoorne, Saturday was the sort of pick-me-up he desperately needed in what has been an extremely trying season. Understandably, Alonso has garnered most of the attention this year, but the MCL32’s struggles seemed to have sucked even more life out of the young Belgian, so his Saturday performance was particularly nice to see. Starting P8 tomorrow (after others’ penalties) and with the possibility of mixed conditions, maybe he can even make some more noise.
Not only did he finish best of the non-big 3 drivers, but Nico Hulkenberg was even more competitive under the earlier, mixed conditions, and looks to be in exceptional form. For all the talk about Jolyon Palmer struggling, it makes you wonder if the gap would be quite so damning if his partner was still Kevin Magnussen.
A tough day at the office for Daniel Ricciardo, first with the gearbox penalty, then his subsequent engine implosion. Did he and Max switch cars?
Not that Silverstone needs more reasons to keep it on the calendar, but no track shows the speed of the cars as well as it does. Hamilton’s average speed on his pole lap was 152.168mph – the fastest at any race this season.