Here are our conclusions from a weekend at Silverstone that no F1 fan, whether lucky enough to attend it or not, is likely to forget any time soon.
Gloves not just off, but in the bin
For the second Sunday running, it came down to England v Italy. This time, England won on home soil despite penalties, not Italy because of them.
But the fact an English driver mastered an Italian car with a Monegasque at the wheel was only half the story. It was the two incidents at Copse which bookended the race that proved to be the defining moments – the first of them potentially for the season as a whole.
Mercedes and Hamilton had a near-perfect Sunday results-wise. All of a sudden, their ominously large World Championship deficits to Red Bull and Verstappen have been nearly wiped out. A one-two would have been even sweeter, but a one-three will do just fine.
That is because Red Bull, with Verstappen in the wall after his first-lap collision with Hamilton, and Sergio Perez down in 16th after a weekend to forget, made the short journey back to their Milton Keynes base without a point from the grand prix itself.
It’s how the boxing gloves have been well and truly discarded that is the most shocking aspect though, from all of the three big personalities at Red Bull – Verstappen, Christian Horner and Helmut Marko.
Each of them took a swipe at Hamilton. We have come to expect it of Marko, so his claim that the World Champion should be suspended for a race was not a surprise.
But Horner described his fellow Briton as having attempted a “desperate” move that resulted in a “hollow victory”, while Verstappen lashed out at the “disrespectful” celebrations that occurred while he had been in hospital undergoing precautionary checks.
All of this just a couple of days after another Horner dig at his old adversary Toto Wolff, whom he termed a “control freak” as their ongoing spat continued.
Everyone knows how eager Red Bull are to end Mercedes’ seven-year dominance. Many fans want to see it too. But is all this rancour necessary when things go against them?
Nobody likes a sore loser and even though the stewards decided Hamilton was worthy of a 10-second penalty – one he ultimately deemed irrelevant when he passed Charles Leclerc for the win – to many onlookers, it appeared nothing more than a racing incident.
Perhaps, looking back on a swelteringly hot day with a packed crowd back in the grandstands for their home race, Red Bull will realise their reaction was over the top.
Their F1 team promotes a well-known brand and public image is paramount to them – alienating the public consumers they are targeting would do them no good at all.
Still, a Hamilton-Verstappen clash has been inevitable since the opening race of the year in Bahrain and finally it happened.
It has lifted the intensity of the title battle to a whole new level both on and off the track – and that is hugely exciting for the remainder of the campaign.
Charles could be a king in waiting
Ahhhhhhhh, incredibly close. I gave absolutely everything to win this race but lost out in the last two laps. The biggest victory today though is to see Max safe after that big crash. Now on to Hungary, thank you for the support ❤️ pic.twitter.com/PmoGwkdc3R
— Charles Leclerc (@Charles_Leclerc) July 18, 2021
It’s happened a few times this year that the battle for victory has overshadowed the action further down the field, and that was the case again at Silverstone.
But really, who’s complaining? Isn’t that what racing is all about?
At least Charles Leclerc was firmly in the spotlight this time, and deservedly so. The main beneficiary of the Hamilton-Verstappen contact, he found himself in the lead when the race was red-flagged having kept pace nicely with the leaders during those first few hectic corners.
And the Ferrari’s pace on the medium tyres in the opening stint upon the resumption was most impressive, being able to keep the two Mercedes cars behind him.
Leclerc also appeared fairly comfortable on the hard tyres until Hamilton began to reel him in with an air of inevitability in those last 10 laps.
So much for the Scuderia fearing there would be a repeat of their horrendous front tyre wear at the French Grand Prix a month earlier when Leclerc and Carlos Sainz tumbled rapidly down the order.
It’s been an up-and-down first half of the season for both Leclerc and his team, with those two shock pole positions in Monaco and Azerbaijan also showing what the car is capable of when circumstances suit.
Voted Driver of the Day for the second time in three races, Leclerc gave another reminder that, for all the talk about Verstappen, Lando Norris and George Russell being the future of Formula 1, he should never be omitted from that conversation.
Sprint looks to have plenty of legs
After the dramatic events of Sunday, it was almost easy to forget it had been a very different grand prix weekend to usual with the first trial of sprint qualifying.
Did it work? Our conclusion: yes, it was a promising enough start. Certainly not one that makes you think it should be consigned to the scrapheap after just one attempt.
In fairness, credit should be paid to Formula 1 for choosing the British Grand Prix as the experiment for the format. It was perfect to have a sprint ‘race’ in front of a large crowd with a terrific atmosphere and they also got lucky with the hot, sunny weather.
And if anything, the way the grand prix itself turned out also helped to give credence to the sprint.
What would have been disappointing as a spectacle is if Verstappen had got a flyer from pole position, built a gap to Hamilton and won untroubled. That could have led to fingers being pointed at the sprint, that it had all been a bit pointless and unnecessary, and that a more entertaining grand prix would have ensued had the grid been set by normal qualifying.
But instead, with Hamilton clearly eager to make up for being denied victory from P1 in the sprint, it had got him clearly fired up – along with all the other factors involved – to come out all guns blazing, shooting from the hip.
Not that Verstappen is likely to agree with that assessment, of course.
Nevertheless, even if it may not have been universally acclaimed as a roaring success – nothing ever is, not 100% – then it is certainly worth looking forward to Sprint No 2 at Monza in September with some relish…and especially if they ditch that dingy truck for the ‘victory lap’.