Was Ferrari's Silverstone win their finest stroke in extending the advantage to win the 2018 title? The story of a dramatic comeback.
Ferrari have come back much stronger at Silverstone than the 2017 fiasco
Given the massive competition it unfolds, season upon season, it's only normal to expect a thrilling contest at the Silverstone, the home of the British Grand Prix.
That in the past, heroes like Senna, Mansell, Piquet, Prost have dabbled in duels and demonstrated a close of tug of war, there's hardly an irony that Silvertone once happened to be a pivotal airfield used during the volatile events of the Second World War.
Long before it served hungry fans enticing competition, Silverstone was a vital base from which the Brits curtailed the German havoc.
And the duel between arguably the most famous British racing driver in the sport today and his popular German rival continues to unite fans wherever they are.
Consider for a tiny second F1 without Hamilton and Vettel- just what good would it be?
Against that fighting backdrop, it's only fitting that Mercedes and Ferrari have gone daggers drawn at a track that's not only amongst the fastest on the roster but also one of the toughest summits to scale, especially where the last two races are concerned.
But if you turned the clocks back to 2017, then it could be said, Ferrari endured a forgettable race at a track where they hadn't really experienced a lot of grins starting 2014.
Here's a quick perspective.
The winner of the 2014 Silverstone continued his form in 2015, 2016 as well as 2017. Little wonder to note why fans are moved to the edge of their seats for where past results stand, there's but one emperor: Lewis Hamilton.
So impressive has been Hamilton's record at the Silverstone that he not only has to his credit of winning 5 Grands Prix here but also the rare distinction of winning four-back-to-back wins at his home track, a feat unrivaled by any other driver on the grid.
In 2017, Hamilton made life miserable for the two Ferrari's of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen.
Having gone blisteringly fast, Hamilton vastly improved his pole position lap in 2017 when compared to his pole in 2016.
His 1:29:287 was dainty when compared to a brilliant 1:26:600. Hamilton was on fire and the Ferrari's had little answer to the Silver Arrows threat, Kimi, and Vettel, qualifying right behind the pole-sitter.
But there was more to it.
Having clinched the pole position, leading nearly every single lap and standing on the top of the podium- Hamilton stared down the Ferrari's, that had endured a tough run.
In fact, could it be called a tough run-in with luck?
We can dabble in adjectives. But it must be shared, had it not been for the rather dramatic final podium place grabbed by Raikkonen, Ferrari faced a modest weekend in 2017 at Great Britain.
The key to succeeding at Silverstone is to have strong front tyre stability through the high-speed esses at Maggots/Becketts, which usually gives a good exit onto the Hangar Straight for an overtake into Stowe corner. Lewis was searingly quick and hadn't had to contend with much competition.
Though, life was miserable for the 2017 title contender Sebastian Vettel.
Upon the restart of the race, thanks to the crash between Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. in the early stages, Vettel was stuck behind traffic and a dominant Max Verstappen.
At all this time, Hamilton quickly grabbed the pace he needed to win eventually and began to pull away, opening a huge gap.
Later, in a fledgling attempt to pass Verstappen, Vettel collided with the Red Bull driver and suddenly, it seemed it was mayhem at Silverstone.
Post Lap 19, Vettel somehow managed to get ahead of Verstappen and the pecking order saw Hamilton leading comfortably from a trailing Raikkonen with Vettel in third.
The most dramatic moment, however, came in Lap 44, a near heart-stopping moment for the German. Bottas, who'd pitted for the ultrasofts, making the overcut work wonderfully well made a brave move over the Ferrari and was in third. Vettel, meanwhile, dropped to fourth.
Where was the Ferrari speed, one wondered? If you needed a race to see Mercedes' better corner-speed over the Prancing Horse, then Silverstone provided evidence.
Finally, with merely 3 laps to go, both the Ferrari's suffered a massive puncture. While Vettel would gradually fade away in the context of the contest, Raikkonen, somehow, managed to surge ahead of his teammate, with both drivers struggling with unprecedented tyre-wear. Bottas, meanwhile, strolled past Kimi and the final scenario saw a brilliant 1-2 for Mercedes.
Vettel had to contend with seventh. Vettel said " Nobody to blame for Ferrari's British GP nightmare"
All Ferrari could manage from Silverstone in 2017 was Kimi's dramatic P3
That was then. Cut to 2018- and what do we see?
Just how many would've predicted Sebastian Vettel right on top in 2018? But in winning the 2018 British Grand Prix, Vettel ended Hamilton's magnificent reign at the Briton's home-track, denying the four-time world champion what could've been a 6th Grand Prix win at Silverstone.
Surprises happen all the time in Formula 1.
But 2018 at Silverstone provided a major upset for the home team and the crowd-favorite.
However, there was a bit of a statistical context to the 2018 race that some may have missed.
Prior to entering the 2017 British Grand Prix, Vettel had a 1 point lead over Hamilton.
Later on, he would be left devastated.
Interestingly, prior to entering the 2018 British Grand Prix, Vettel led Hamilton by the same margin as the previous year.
The only difference is that 2018 result would yield a magnificent win for the Prancing Horse, with Hamilton contending with a rather disconsolate second.
How did the Ferrari's come back strong at a track where they previously faced a heartbreak?
The 2018 race had all the makings of a stellar Hamilton show, who once again grabbed a pole and yet again bettered his pole-lap from the previous year.
Having produced a stunner of a lap in 1:26:600 in 2017, Hamilton soared even better in 2018, clinching pole with 1:25:892.
There was little doubting his imperious pace and past form.
Ferrari, obviously, prepared to embrace some "Hammertime".
Sadly, the race was all but over for 2018 British Grand Prix's pole-sitter in the opening lap itself as on a stiff right-hander on Turn Two, third-placed Raikkonen clipped the Mercedes driver, leaving Hamilton spinning around the track.
While Raikkonen somehow continued, Hamilton fell to the back of the field. Even though Lewis managed a valiant drive, fighting through the back of the pack to earn a brilliant second, he had no answer for Vettel.
Here's how Ferrari changed their fortunes
Needless to say that Ferrari were lucky in unfortunately being involved in a dramatic opening lap fiasco that hampered Lewis' race.
But that's not all.
Soon as the five red lights turned green, Vettel got off to a flier and caught a slightly napping Hamilton, on pole, to clinch the lead.
Within a fraction of a second, Bottas would climb ahead of Lewis, who came under the attack of Kimi Raikkonen. Next thing we know was the accident everyone dreaded, not least the man who caused it in the first place- the 'Iceman' Kimi Raikkonen.
In the latter, defining stages, as the role reversal of the grid was ensured by a safety car deployment, 2018's Silverstone once again producing an accident-fuelled race, the pecking order in the front read Bottas, followed by Vettel who was being pursued by Hamilton. Kimi would lay in fourth.
But throughout the race, Ferrari's race pace was right on par with Mercedes and their ability to pass the faster cars, much stronger than the Red Bulls.
The tipping point of the race was enthralling enough to give competition to the contests' turning point- the opening lap collision involving Raikkonen and Hamilton.
With 10 laps to go, Vettel was charging on Bottas, the race leader with the Mercedes somehow managing to keep the Ferrari at bay. 1 lap later, Vettel's teammate, the most dreaded driver all weekend, made a stellar move on the ultrasofts over Verstappen at Stowe, indicating just how fast Ferrari were all weekend.
Maybe, that was the key.
Ferrari's imperious race pace was the difference at Silverstone in 2018.
Then, with 5 laps to go, Vettel all but nearly passed Bottas in Turn 5, before finally making a late move, albeit a brilliant lunge ahead of the Finn to put himself into track position. If there was a colossal moment in the fortune of the race, then this was it.
With 2 laps to go, Raikkonen, with massive oversteer jumped ahead of Bottas, struggling for grips, on the main straight to take third-place.
However, Hamilton was out of reach of Kimi, having fought through brilliantly in what was a great second.
While Hamilton clearly suffered misfortune, Ferrari took the race away, aided by both- the opening lap fiasco of Mercedes and their own superior pace as evidenced through Vettel's grabbing the lead inside the first lap itself.
Could one have asked for a more dramatic race at Silverstone?
Purely on the form and their 1-3 finish, Ferrari will feel confident and Vettel will probe questions of Lewis at former's home race. Can Hamilton bounce back?