Sunday 9th August saw Max Verstappen score the first win of the Formula 1 season for the Aston Martin Red Bull Honda.
The Red Bull strategy of starting Verstappen on the hard Pirelli tires paid dividends early as he moved from fourth on the grid to within a second of the frontrunning Mercedes. Eschewing advice from his team to reduce his pace and save his tires, Verstappen harried the Mercedes into pit stops by Lap 14 and took a lead that he would hold for the next 12 laps.
He pitted for medium tires on Lap 26, briefly yielding the lead to Valtteri Bottas before taking it back just five turns after coming off of Pit Lane. Building a two-second advantage, he and Bottas both pitted again on Lap 33 while Lewis Hamilton stayed out to lead, albeit on rapidly blistering tires.
Verstappen turned up the heat, shaving three seconds off Hamilton’s advantage in two laps, forcing the Mercedes driver to pit and claiming a lead he would not relinquish. Ten laps later, Verstappen had built an 11-second lead in taking his and Honda’s first win of the year. The victory was the fourth for Honda since its return to F1 competition in 2015, its 76th overall and its first in Britain since Alain Prost’s 1989 win at the former Royal Air Force base.
Verstappen’s Red Bull stablemate Alex Albon used a number of bold passes to finish fifth, scoring his third top-five of the year. Albon made three passes on the outside of Copse (Turn 9), including one of Kimi Raikkonen where he just barely kept his Honda-powered machine within the track limits.
The Scuderia AlphaTauri pair of Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat had vastly different starts to the race, but ended up with a valuable championship point as Kvyat came from 16th on the grid to place 10th. Gasly had his best qualifying result of the season in starting seventh and ran in the top-seven for the first stint before falling to 11th.
The victory, matched with a third-place run by Bottas, moved Verstappen into second place in the championship after five races, and maintained the Honda-powered Red Bull squad’s second-place position in the constructors’ championship. Albon is sixth in the driver’s title chase while Gasly stands 12th with Kvyat in 16th.
The teams and drivers of the Formula 1 World Championship will head to Barcelona for the Spanish Grand Prix next week, running at the Barcelona circuit where Honda put three cars in the top 10 a year ago.
Toyoharu Tanabe - Technical Director, Honda F1
“It is fantastic to have taken our first win of the season at this special 70th anniversary race, at Aston Martin Red Bull Racing’s home track, which is also very near to our Milton Keynes headquarters. It also has further significance for us, as a few days ago, on 5th August, it was the anniversary of the death of our founder, Soichiro Honda, who passed away in 1991, making it an even more emotional win. We knew that this race would be tough on tires, but thanks to an excellent strategy and Max’s ability to make it work, we were able to take this win. Honda’s PU contributed to the victory, giving good performance and running reliably. Alex had a difficult race starting from ninth, but fought back well, while Daniil came from (16th) to tenth so that Honda had three cars in the points. Pierre had shown great pace all weekend, and I am sure he will get the result he deserves soon. It took a while to get our first win of the year, but I’m sure our fans will be delighted and we will continue to work hard to get more wins soon.
Max Verstappen - Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda
Start 4th, Finish: 1st (First of 2020 season, 9th of his F1 career)
“It’s a great day and I’m very happy with the result as we did everything really well as a team. The race showed we had the right strategy after our decision to qualify on the hard tire and I’m pleased it paid off. I think the length and pace of our first stint was the key to being competitive as the mediums don’t last that long, so starting on the hard was definitely the right call. When you are able to overtake and pull away from a Mercedes it is really satisfying. Of course, I hope this will happen a lot more throughout the season and we’ll keep pushing them hard even though they have been the dominant team up until now. We will enjoy today because everyone deserves it after all the hard work, before focusing on next week’s race in Barcelona
Alex Albon - Aston Martin Red Bull Racing Honda
Start: 9th, Finish: 5th
“I am happy with today’s race and the car was unbelievable. At the beginning of the race it was tricky to overtake with the DRS train but once we had clear air we had a really good chance to get through the field. I was a bit surprised by the balance and race pace today, it was so good, so we need to go away and understand why. It was a good finish to get fifth and hopefully we can now bring some more performance to next week’s race.”
Pierre Gasly - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 7th, Finish: 11th
“I felt quite comfortable with the tires on the first stint, so I was a bit surprised when I was called in for the first pit stop earlier than we had planned. Once back on track, we found ourselves in traffic and I had to push more on the tires to make up positions. This caused massive blistering after a few laps, so from there on the race was pretty much a nightmare. We need to review what we could have done better and get back into the points in Barcelona.”
Daniil Kvyat - Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda
Start: 16th, Finish: 10th
“I’m very satisfied today, I felt like it was a mega race. As a team we did a great job, we were able to squeeze everything out of the car and I think today’s result was the maximum on the table. We took every opportunity that came our way and, unlike last week, we were able to capitalize on them. We definitely need to put it together on Saturdays, as starting the race from a better position would make things much easier to regularly fight for points. However, starting from P16 and finishing tenth to score one point makes us happy today.”