Sainz takes first career F1 victory at British GP

Glenn Dunbar/Motorsport Images

Sainz takes first career F1 victory at British GP

Formula 1

Sainz takes first career F1 victory at British GP

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Carlos Sainz won the first Formula 1 race of his career in a sensational British Grand Prix.

Sainz endured a roller-coaster afternoon to claim his maiden win. He started on pole and held the lead with a robust defense on Max Verstappen at the first turn, but he didn’t have the Dutchman’s pace early in the race, and a mistake on lap 10 at Becketts gifted Red Bull Racing first place.

He got the lead back just two laps later when Verstappen dropped deep into the midfield with a puncture and bodywork damage, but now his teammate, Charles Leclerc, was the one applying pressure, with the Monegasque desperate to get past before the charging Lewis Hamilton caught them.

Ferrari capitulated to Leclerc’s request for team orders and swapped them after their pit stops, condemning Sainz to a rearguard defense against the pursuing Mercedes, but the Spaniard’s race was given a new lease on life when Esteban Ocon’s Alpine ground to a halt at the entry of Copse on lap 39.

Ferrari left Leclerc in the lead with worn hard tires but pitted Sainz for fresh softs, and Hamilton in third and Perez in fourth did likewise.

Leclerc was easy meat when the race resumed on lap 43. The only question was who would take the lead.

Sainz didn’t need to be asked twice. He was assertive in putting the moves on his teammate and immediately built a gap, aided by Hamilton, Perez and Leclerc trapping each other into an enthralling battle for the podium places.

Perez jumped Hamilton early, but Hamilton passed both as they ran each other wide out of Club — only for them to get the Briton back through Village.

Hamilton hit back against Leclerc in Luffield, but the Monegasque took back the place a second time with an astonishing pass around the outside of Copse, although his defense crumbled shortly afterwards on a slipstream into Stowe.

Hamilton was through, but Perez had used the time to build a gap of his own, and the Mercedes couldn’t bridge it before the flag.

All this had been music to Sainz’s ears, who was untroubled once he took the lead to manage the gap and take the flag for the first time in his career.

Sainz experiences the unique joy of a first-time Grand Prix win. Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images)

“I don’t know what to say,” he said “It’s amazing. First race win 150 races later with Ferrari in Silverstone — I cannot ask for more.

“It’s a very special day, a day I will never forget.”

Perez’s second place was hard earned after damage at the start of the race forced him into an early unscheduled pit stop for repairs that dropped him to 17th. He’d slogged his way through the field to fourth when the safety car was called, which facilitated his switch to softs that delivered him second place.

“It was a great comeback,” he said. “We didn’t give up and we kept pushing. Then the opportunity came at the end and we just took it.

“It was epic, the final laps, but it was a good fight with the others.”

Hamilton was satisfied to have demonstrated strong pace through the race despite a potential win gone begging through circumstance and a chaotic final few laps.

“I gave it everything today,” he said. “I was trying to chase down those Ferraris, but they were just too quick today for us.”

Leclerc was left to finish a disconsolate fourth and again asking Ferrari’s management for an internal analysis of the result, having felt he lost a shot at victory through the team’s reluctance to switch him ahead of Sainz earlier in the race when he was clearly the faster driver.

Fernando Alonso struck another blow against McLaren by beating Lando Norris to fifth, jumping him after the safety car restart.

Verstappen finished seventh after a late duel with Mick Schumacher, who finished eighth to score his first ever points in Formula 1. The underwhelming finish reduced his title lead over Perez to 34 points, but Leclerc’s troubles kept the Monegasque 43 points adrift.

Sebastian Vettel finished ninth for Aston Martin ahead of Kevin Magnussen, who collected the final point of the afternoon.

The race featured six non-finishers, three of which were wiped on the first lap in a monster crash between George Russell, Pierre Gasly and Zhou Guanyu that sent the Chinese driver skidding upside down through the Turn 1 gravel and into the fence.

The crash started with Russell moving to his left form the middle of the road, apparently unaware he had a small amount of crossover with Gasly at his rear axle. They made contact that tipped Russell out of control and into Zhou, inverting the Alfa Romeo and sending it careening off the track, where it dug into the gravel and cartwheeled over the tire wall and into the catch fencing, landing between the fence and the barrier.

The rookie had to be extracted from his car by the medical team and was stretchered to the medical center, with the FIA reporting that he was conscious. After checks at the medical center, he was released and tweeted that he was OK.

The race was suspended, and Gasly was able to limp back to pit lane less his front wing. Russell, however, stopped on track and sprinted to the scene of Zhou’s crashed car to check on his rival, but in the process he was deemed a non-finisher and wasn’t able to take the restart.

In a related accident Sebastian Vettel rear-ended Alex Albon — who was slowing in response to the crash after of him — pitching the Williams driver into the concrete pit wall.

Albon rebounded spinning across the track and made contact with Esteban Ocon, giving the Frenchman a right-front puncture, and then heavier contact with Yuki Tsunoda, breaking his nosecone.

Albon stopped on track and had to visit the medical center due to the force of his crash, and he was helicoptered to hospital afterwards for precautionary checks. Ocon and Tsunoda were able to limp back to pit lane for repairs.

The series of crashes were deemed racing incidents by the stewards during the red-flag suspension.

In a potentially calamitous further turn of events, protesters broke into the circuit along the Wellington straight on the first lap shortly before the field arrived at racing speed. Fortunately the red flag slowed the cars before reaching the track invaders, who were subsequently detained by local police.

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