Palmer shares crucial data: ‘That honor goes to Verstappen’

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Palmer shares crucial data: ‘That honor goes to Verstappen’

Rain races demand the utmost from Formula 1 drivers, but in changeable weather, strategic choices and the timing of pit stops are also crucial. This was once again clear at Silverstone, where a shower caused many position changes. Jolyon Palmer delved into the data and concluded that Max Verstappen secured his podium place here.

There were no changes in the top five in the opening stages of the race, apart from Verstappen’s overtake of Lando Norris on the opening lap. ‘George Russell had the race under control at the beginning, but after the rain the race came to life. When the rain started to fall, Lewis Hamilton came along. He overtook Russell, and look at the difference between the two cars,’ Palmer exclaimed when he saw the footage. ‘We know how good Lewis can be in wet conditions, but you can clearly see that he is fighting more with the car than George. After that, both Mercedes went off the track.’

In his analysis of the race on F1TV, Palmer notes that risk paid off in those tricky laps. ‘You can see in the onboard footage that Hamilton has to correct enormously during the overtake. Russell has to do that too, but much less. He is not over or at the limit in terms of grip, like Lewis is in those corners. In this crucial part of the race, Hamilton is pushing the boundaries much more. He takes more risks than Russell. This is where Hamilton wins the race.’

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lewis hamilton george russell
At this moment Hamilton lays the foundation for his victory in England.

McLaren is steaming ahead

Hamilton could not enjoy his leading position for long. ‘Norris was also very good in the rain. He also had oversteer in the first corner, but unlike the Mercedes, he kept the car on the circuit. He complained that they came back dangerously on the circuit, but that is nonsense’, the 33-year-old analyst judges. In that lap, only Norris and Verstappen kept the car within the lines in the first corner, as Oscar Piastri also went wide.

‘The Mercedes drivers are still ahead of Norris, but Norris has more grip. He has more downforce, and when it gets difficult on the slicks, that pays off,’ Palmer continues. ‘He was able to overtake the Mercedes and take the lead of the race. That should also be the defining moment in the race for him. The McLaren was once again the fastest car in the rain.’ Last month, McLaren also excelled in Canada when the track surface became wetter.

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lando norris mclaren race day silverstone 2024 oscar piastri
McLaren fans watch as the British team takes charge.

Palmer then brings the other McLaren driver into the story. ‘I also thought Oscar Piastri drove fantastically in this Grand Prix. He also came to life when it started to rain. He also overtook Hamilton and Russell, and was even able to put his teammate under pressure,’ says the former Formula 1 driver full of praise. ‘He also fought with the car, and almost lost control of the car, fantastic! McLaren was first and second, ahead of Mercedes in third and fourth. Verstappen was far behind. At this point it looked like McLaren were going to win the race.’

Verstappen strikes

‘We now know that it didn’t go McLaren’s way’, the Briton continues. ‘They were very strong, and drove first and second. That normally gives you the advantage that you can split the strategy and do different things, but Mercedes and McLaren both didn’t choose the ideal strategy, by stopping at the ideal moment. That honour goes to Max Verstappen.’ Verstappen fought his way back into the fight for the podium places during the pit stops and later even the victory.

‘When the teams in front finally decided to pit, Verstappen stopped immediately, and Sainz followed him,’ says Palmer, who then shows in a graph how much time Verstappen gained during that round of pit stops. ‘The top drivers stopped over three different laps. The first lap was the best. Max made the call in the cockpit, and Carlos Sainz did it even earlier in the lap. They drove together, and Sainz was on Verstappen’s tail. He also drove very strongly in the Ferrari,’ Palmer indicates. The table below shows the time differences from that first series of pit stops, with the time differences taken from the moment of Verstappen’s pit stop, until after Piastri’s stop.

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Racer

Round pit stop

Time difference

Max Verstappen

27

+0.0s

Carlos Sainz

27

+4.5s

Lando Norris

28

+7.5s

Lewis Hamilton

28

+8.0s

George Russell

28

+13.5s

Oscar Piastri

29

+25.0s

Although Verstappen stopped on the same lap as Sainz, the Spaniard still lost a lot of time, especially in the outlap. ‘In the pit stop period, Sainz lost quite a bit of time to Max, who timed the pit stop well, and also performed great in the inlap and the few laps after his pit stop. The best choice after lap 27 was to stop the lap after that. McLaren and Mercedes looked too much at each other, and not at the track conditions. Verstappen and Sainz were sure of themselves, and made a decision. Ferrari and Red Bull only had one iron in the fire, and made the right choice. At McLaren and Mercedes, neither driver stopped.’

Verstappen gained about ten seconds on his competitors with dry weather tyres in his outlap, which made a tyre change seem like a no-brainer. McLaren thought differently. ‘Norris and Hamilton stopped on the next lap, as the first cars of their team. They lost a lot of time on Verstappen, but stayed in front. Verstappen’s first stint was really bad, which meant that despite the big advantage during those pit stops, he still didn’t compete at the front’, according to Palmer. ‘This shows why Hamilton’s overtaking move on Russell was so important, because he was now the first Mercedes at the pit stops. Russell had to wait, and that cost him a lot of time and a place at the expense of Verstappen.’

McLaren blunder

‘The worst situation, however, was with Piastri, who continued for another lap’, Palmer points out. ‘He almost lost a pit stop to his teammate, and even 25 seconds to Verstappen, by staying out for another lap. Mercedes limited the loss, but McLaren did not want to accept that. McLaren gambled, instead of losing a few seconds. As a result, Piastri was out of the fight at the front.’

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lando norris mclaren race day silverstone 2024 oscar piastri
Piastri has yet to stop, while Norris is almost overtaking him again.

‘If McLaren had brought Piastri in on the same lap as Verstappen and Sainz, he would have won the race’, Palmer concludes. The Australian finished 12.5 seconds behind winner Hamilton, despite the big loss during the pit stops. ‘This could have been his first victory, but McLaren missed that opportunity, because they looked too much at Mercedes.’ Piastri was therefore very disappointed after his fourth place. In 2023, he also finished fourth behind the same trio after losing a place due to strategic reasons.

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