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2022 F1 Race of the Year: The British Grand Prix

Written by Danny Jones, Edited by Sameena Khan

Zhou Guanyu’s horrifying Lap 1 crash. Credit: Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images

With the 2022 Formula One season at a close, some of the DIVEBOMB team will select their favourite races of 2022 in the coming weeks as we reflect on another thrilling Formula One season. In this feature, the Head of Breaking News and Journalism at DIVEBOMB, Dan Jones, details his favourite race of the year.

I need to start this off with a revelation. I never rated the British Grand Prix very highly. Yes, the fans would always come out in high numbers to support their home heroes, and the proximity of many team bases to Silverstone posted extra significance to it. But, I still thought it was overhyped, potentially due to the sport's British origin, nature and media coverage. However, the 2022 British Grand Prix changed all of this for me.

I've always been a huge fan of old-school, hard wheel-to-wheel racing; it's why I picked the French Grand Prix as my favourite last year. However, as much as I enjoy a 'bonkers' race, think Germany 2019 or Hungary 2021; close and hard-fought racing always hits me like nothing else. My personal favourite in recent times was Verstappen and Leclerc, duelling in Silverstone in 2019. Still, the last safety car restart was undoubtedly of the same calibre, if not better. Five drivers from five different teams, wheel-to-wheel, pulled off incredible overtakes corner after corner, so let's delve into why the British Grand Prix was my 2022 Race of the Year.

If the race would not prove eventful enough, qualifying would also be thrilling in a wet-dry session. Carlos Sainz claimed his first-ever pole position in Formula One, with reigning World Champion and Championship Leader Max Verstappen on the front row. And it would be Verstappen who would get the jump on the start, with the home hero, Lewis Hamilton, jumping from 5th to 3rd.

But this would be short-lived, as the picture through Farm Curve would be the Alfa Romeo of Zhou Guanyu firing into the barrier, upside down in what looked like a frightening accident, as he became sandwiched inside the barrier. Fortunately, he escaped unharmed but could not continue, along with Mercedes' George Russell and Williams' Alexander Albon. Albon was airlifted to hospital after a separate crash at the start involving Sebastian Vettel but was released unharmed.

The FIA elected to restart the race using the original qualifying order instead of the order that the race had been red-flagged, which was particularly frustrating for Verstappen and Hamilton. And when the race did restart, Verstappen was asking the question again into Abbey, although Sainz would hold his ground. However, Verstappen and Sainz's respective teammates, Sergio Perez and Charles Leclerc, would collide at 'The Loop,' with both drivers losing a portion of their front wing, with Perez forced to pit.

Sainz had been leading comfortably until, on Lap 10, a sniff of oversteer at Chapel forced him wide, allowing Verstappen to sneak down the inside and into the lead ahead of Sainz. However, Verstappen's lead would be short-lived, as, on Lap 12, he suddenly slowed, initially with what the Dutchman believed to be a puncture. This allowed both Sainz and Leclerc to breeze by, with the Red Bull driver pitting for a set of medium tyres. Verstappen's pace would not improve as he had picked up a portion of AlphaTauri in his bodywork, affecting aero performance.

It seemed it would be between the Ferraris and Hamilton for victory, with Ferrari inverting the cars on Lap 31 to reduce the gap to the yet-to-pit Hamilton in what looked to be a thrilling race to the finish. When Hamilton eventually pitted, he would have a gap of 5 seconds to hunt down the Ferraris, albeit with significantly fresher tyres.

On Lap 39, the Alpine of Esteban Ocon would slow on the old pit straight, bringing out the Safety Car. Almost all the frontrunners, Sainz, Hamilton, Perez (who had come back through the field), Norris and Alonso, would box for fresh soft tyres. However, Ferrari elected to keep race leader Charles Leclerc on worn hard tyres until the end, although it would keep him in 1st.

The race would restart on Lap 43, and little did we know that we were in for the best racing of the season. Sainz and Perez were crafting moves on Leclerc and Hamilton, respectively, through 'The Loop' and 'Aintree'. Both drivers performing 'The Switchback' at 'The Loop' to get past down the Wellington Straight, with Sainz re-taking the lead initially, before the sight of the two Ferraris side-by-side into Brooklands, with Sainz holding his nerve, whilst Perez snuck through on Hamilton behind.

Leclerc would be hounded by Perez and Hamilton on the restart. Credit: Joe Portlock/Formula 1 via Getty Images

Perez would be next to get Leclerc, who was struggling on the hards and caught the Ferrari on Lap 45 down the Hangar Straight, with the two wheel-to-wheel, through Stowe corner, and into the Vale Chicane. Perez would attempt to hang it round the outside at Vale, meaning he had to cut the second part of the chicane, which forced Leclerc wide. Ever the opportunist, Hamilton, who had been watching the duel, performed a switchback and snuck through at Club Corner, leading Sky Sports F1 commentator David Croft, enthusiastically stating: ‘Off goes Leclerc, THROUGH GOES HAMILTON!’

The battle for the second was on, with the British fans jeering the home favourite on. Still, as soon as Perez seemed to have lost the position, he threw it up the inside at Village, pushing Hamilton wide; this allowed Leclerc to re-join the action, attempting the move around the outside at The Loop on Hamilton, with Hamilton, who had been in front of both at the DRS detection zone, but had lost two positions before the straight, suddenly under pressure from Fernando Alonso.

And as they headed into Brooklands, five drivers from five teams, all separated by a few metres, was the sight presented to the British crowd. With Perez just ahead of Leclerc, Hamilton, Alonso and Norris, the five perfectly demonstrated what the 2022 F1 regulations intended to do, five teams battling for a podium on merit.

Hamilton would try the move around the outside on Leclerc into Brooklands. Still, the Monegasque would have none of it, squeezing Hamilton wide. This seemed to open the door for Fernando Alonso to get the run into Copse, although the Mercedes would hold his ground. But two laps later, Hamilton would get another shot at it, similarly around the outside at Brooklands, and this time taking the position.

But Leclerc was not going to allow himself to be mugged like that!

The Ferrari would follow the Mercedes and try an audacious move around the outside at Copse. The move was made more incredible by the accident that he had seen the previous year, at the same corner, with the same driver on the inside. In an unbelievable showing of bravery and talent, Leclerc, still on significantly older hard tyres, stuck it around the outside of Copse to regain P3, quite quickly, the overtake of the season. However, Leclerc’s perseverance would not be enough; Hamilton would soon overtake the Ferrari into Stowe in the same lap, his wounded hard tyres no match for the Mercedes softs.

And while all this was happening, Carlos Sainz would cruise away to take his first victory in Formula One ahead of Perez, Hamilton, Leclerc, Alonso and Norris. Verstappen led home Schumacher after the pair were intensely battling until the final corner, as the championship leader tried to lighten the damage to his lead.

Sainz would come home to claim a 1st Grand Prix victory. Credit: Gongora/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The British Grand Prix was undoubtedly the Race of the Year for me in 2022. While Verstappen’s body damage gave Ferrari and Lewis Hamilton a massive opportunity, all three drivers battled on strategy for a crucial win in each case.

However, the racing on display after the safety car restart, not only in the battle for second but the much under-appreciated battle between Verstappen and Schumacher, was edge-of-your-seat entertainment and motorsport at its very, very finest, drivers battling hard but fairly for crucial positions, with five different teams in the hunt for the podium. Not often have I been so engaged in a battle not involving my personal favourites, but that of the British Grand Prix certainly did and has completely changed my perspective of the event, with Silverstone being the perfect venue for hardcore, old-school, wheel-to-wheel racing. I can’t wait for what 2023 holds.


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