Verstappen is the big threat to Hamilton's title – THINGS WE LEARNED

Mercedes show they are NOT invincible, Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari divorce is painful to watch and Nico Hulkenberg proved he deserves to be back in Formula One – THINGS WE LEARNED from 70th Anniversary GP

  • Max Verstappen pulled off Red Bull’s strategy to win his first race of the season
  • Lewis Hamilton settled for second as Mercedes proved they are not invincible
  • Sebastian Vettel’s divorce from Ferrari feels long and increasingly painful 
  • Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault nightmare continued at the 70th anniversary GP
  • Sportsmail looks at seven things we learned from Sunday’s race at Silverstone 

What a difference a week makes.  

Mercedes were rightly praised for somehow getting Lewis Hamilton to victory on three wheels for the British Grand Prix after his front left tyre crumbled under the track temperature on the final lap last week. 

Fast forward to Sunday and tyre trouble this time caught up with them and ended hopes of an invincible season. Instead, it was Red Bull who were ready to pounce and pounce they did with Max Verstappen putting in a brilliant drive to claim victory in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.  

Max Verstappen toasted his first race win of the 2020 season at Silverstone on Sunday

Smoke billowed out of Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari early on and he had another miserable day

Verstappen deservedly took the headlines, as did Hamilton and Mercedes following a rare off day, but there was so much to unpack from the fifth race of the rearranged 2020 season. 

There was the latest episode of Ferrari’s increasingly fraught divorce with Sebastian Vettel, Renault’s misery with Daniel Ricciardo shows no sign of lifting any time soon and Nico Hulkenberg sure looked back at home on his return to the grid with Racing Point. 

Here, Sportsmail reflects on seven things we learned from the action at Silverstone. 

1. Mercedes are NOT untouchable

A season in which Mercedes would win every single race did not seem a ridiculous concept as Hamilton was doused in champagne following his seventh British Grand Prix win recently. 

Their pace is frightening on most days and both Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas appeared to have even more left in the tank with this year’s car. 

But warm weather has not been best friends with Mercedes and it has been striking that high temperatures have affected the team. At Silverstone on Sunday it was another glorious summer day, well glorious if you’re not driving a Mercedes. 

Lewis Hamilton was left to reflect on a rare off day for Mercedes as he lost out on race victory

Worn tyres impacted Mercedes in the heat as Hamilton inspected the wear and tear on them

Hamilton was magnanimous in defeat, explaining how he relishes the title battle with Verstappen and Red Bull. But eventually his mystification as to why they under-performed spilled out. 

‘[It was] definitely unexpected to have the blistering as hardcore as we experienced,’ Hamilton told Sky Sports F1 when quizzed on the poor state of his tyres. ‘I’m sure the team will be working as hard as they can because we’ve not had that [tyre issues] before. I don’t know if anyone struggled with blistering like we did.’

Mercedes won’t have too many off days but with Red Bull ready and waiting, Hamilton and the team know this problem cannot persist. For the first time this season, they have looked human.  

2. Verstappen is a bigger threat than Bottas

This may seem reactionary given it was Red Bull’s first win of the season but it is impossible to deny that Verstappen is a champion in waiting. 

He takes risks, not as reckless and ill-thought as when he arrived as a rookie, and he races fast, which while it sounds simple, is really not when you look at his team-mate Alex Albon. 

Verstappen’s season opening results read: Retired, 3rd, 2nd, 2nd, 1st. 

His win on Sunday was controlled and the strategy was sublime from those down on the Red Bull pit wall. The backing for Verstappen from the bosses at Red Bull evidenced just why they were OK to allow Ricciardo to depart for Renault. 

Verstappen excelled to win his first race of the season and he is Hamilton’s biggest title threat

His first win of the season, his ninth in his F1 career, promoted him to second in the drivers’ standings with 77 points, 30 behind leader Hamilton.

It felt significant too that Hamilton talked up a title battle with Verstappen. Very rarely does he indulge in talk of a fight for the championship with his team-mate Bottas.

‘I definitely will not overlook them,’ Hamilton said. ‘We will keep a close eye on them. It’s not going to be easy by any means. I don’t think my team has that mentality anyway.’

A title battle – a real one – is all F1 fans want to spice up the drama each weekend. If Verstappen can upset the Mercedes apple-cart again in Spain, expect fireworks.  

3. This is a painful divorce for Ferrari and Vettel

For race fans who have no love for Ferrari, seeing their implosion with Sebastian Vettel may be entertaining. 

But largely, this is becoming painful to watch. A four-time world champion at loggerheads with one of the sport’s finest ever teams and he’s not even earning a top-10 finish.

It’s a fraught divorce between Vettel and the Prancing Horse and the season is still in its infancy. 

He finished 12th on Sunday, a whopping 73 seconds behind race winner Verstappen. 

Ferrari’s split with Sebastian Vettel cannot come soon enough with both side very agitated

Not only was he behind podium sitters Verstappen, Hamilton and Bottas, Vettel ranked behind Charles Leclerc, Albon, Lance Stroll, Hulkenberg, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris, Daniil Kyvat and Pierre Gasly.  

Vettel’s drives are riddled with mistakes, that is nothing new as he showed with a lock-up error into Turn 1 which saw smoke bellow out and a spin off, but he is not shy in speaking out against his team when he feels it is them, not him, who have questions to answer. 

He was brought in for an early pit-stop, a decision he felt was wrong, and as he rejoined traffic he let all of his engineers know just that. 

Vettel informed his team over the radio that ‘you know that you messed up.’ There is nothing fun about seeing the four-time world champion reach new lows with every race. 

4. Nico Hulkenberg deserves to still be in F1

Doesn’t he look pretty in pink? 

In all seriousness, there was nobody fans wanted more to make the podium this weekend than Hulkenberg. 

And he had a real shot in this lightning fast Racing Point after qualifying third for Sunday’s race. In the end, he missed out but he reminded everyone involved in the sport that he deserves to be brought back, he still has some unfinished business.  

Nico Hulkenberg wore a smile after his first race back in F1 since being dropped by Renault

He was brought in to replace Sergio Perez – after the Mexican tested positive for Covid-19 – but did not even make it out of the garage due to a fault with the car for the British Grand Prix.

Hulkenberg did get off the start line on Sunday and his seventh placed finish was respectable if not something of a disappointment when he and the team knew he could have finished higher. 

But nonetheless, there were lots of smiles, lots of thumbs up and should a seat become available, Hulkenberg should be top of the list. 

Even Verstappen agrees with me: ‘I really hope that this will help Nico find a seat for next year, because he definitely deserves to be in F1.

‘There are definitely a few drivers who are not as good as him at the moment, and they are in F1. It’s hopefully a great boost for him.’ 

5. Daniel Ricciardo’s Renault nightmare continues

‘The dream was getting this team back to winning,’ Ricciardo said during his unveiling by Renault in California last year. 

It was an ideal soundbite, exactly what you want your latest, high-profile recruit to say while standing in front of a shiny new black and yellow car. 

But Renault have not won since Ricciardo arrived; they have not managed a podium since he arrived. 

There have been moments of promise, near misses if you will. There was Monza last season where he came fourth or even the British GP last week, another fourth place finish. 

It was a lowly 14th this weekend and having been lapped, it must have hit home just how much this move to Renault has not gone as planned – at all. He moves to McLaren to replace Ferrari-bound Carlos Sainz next season and things have to improve. This sport won’t indulge drivers who can no longer deliver. 

Daniel Ricciardo (back) has failed to secure a spot on a single podium since joining last season

6. Racing Point to not go down without a fight

Racing Point and the brake duct row. 

It’s becoming a fascinating, if not wholly unexpected, sub-plot of the 2020 season. 

The FIA determined that the brake ducts being used had not been made by them and so the penalty was a 15-point deduction and £360,000 fine for running illegal brake ducts on their RP20 car. 

Ferrari, McLaren, Renault and Williams have all appealed the penalty handed down by the FIA, seeking a harsher sanction for the team.

And so with teams gunning for them, Racing Point’s billionaire owner Lawrence Stroll assumed position in front of a camera for an explosive response. 

The 61-year-old Canadian rarely speaks publicly but felt the need to defend his team after a number of rivals expressed their outrage at the FIA’s decision. 

Lawrence Stroll put out a damning statement as in-fighting between teams takes the headlines

‘I have never cheated at anything in my life,’ said Stroll. ‘These accusations are completely unacceptable and not true. 

‘My integrity – and that of my team – are beyond question. Everyone at Racing Point was shocked and disappointed by the FIA ruling and firmly maintain our innocence. I am appalled by the way Renault, McLaren, Ferrari and Williams have taken this opportunity to appeal, and in doing so attempted to detract from our performances. 

‘They are dragging our name through the mud and I will not stand by nor accept this.’

We have DEFINITELY not heard the last of this.  

7. Alexander Albon gives himself a lifeline at Red Bull

There are a couple of poisoned chalices in Formula One. 

One is to be Hamilton’s team-mate – he will simply out-perform you consistently and will likely get priority in a title fight. 

But the No 2 role at Red Bull is becoming less and less fun, just ask Gasly. 

Albon’s raw speed caught the eye of Red Bull chief Christian Horner while driving for Scuderia Toro Rosso and the decision was made to swap him in for a less-than-impressive Gasly. 

But every podium or race win for Verstappen only increases the scrutiny on Albon’s position given Red Bull’s history of not sitting on their hands when it comes to hiring and firing. 

A fifth-placed finish on Sunday was very timely indeed in easing pressure. 

There is a lot of eyes monitoring Alex Albon as comparisons to Verstappen prove inevitable

A fifth-placed finish in Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix was very much needed for Albon

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