British GP: Sprint race could give these drivers an 'extra life'

15-07-2021 08:30 | Updated: 15-07-2021 10:23
British GP: Sprint race could give these drivers an 'extra life'

The British Grand Prix weekend sees the introduction of sprint races. It’s perhaps one of the most rigorous and obvious changes the Formula 1 weekend has ever seen. The Sprint race will take place over 100km at Silverstone and will determine the grid for Sunday’s main Grand Prix. But who will this benefit the most? And who will suffer? GPblog have delved into some statistics to produce some sprint race predictions, and who might get an 'extra life'. 

Daniel Ricciardo 

It’s no secret. The Australian has been struggling ever since he made his debut in the McLaren this year. Whilst teammate Lando Norris has been scooping up points, podiums and even a front-row start, Ricciardo hasn’t been able to get close. 

Out of the nine races in 2021, Ricciardo has started outside of the top ten in five. Norris had the luxury of a P2 start last time out in Austria, whereas the former Red Bull driver started in P13. Qualifying is clearly not Ricciardo’s strongest skill in the McLaren. 

Still, Ricciardo has finished every race in the 2021 season. He’s only failed to score points on two occasions which would seem to suggest his race pace is stronger. Over the season, Ricciardo has gained 10 places on the opening lap, just over one per race on average. In a 17 lap sprint around Silverstone, Ricciardo will be backing himself to make gains ready for a stronger grid spot for Sunday’s race. 

Valtteri Bottas 

The Mercedes driver hasn’t necessarily had the best starts to races over the last couple of years. In 2021, he lost three places on the opening lap. And despite doing some good work in qualifying in 2020, Bottas often got off the line slower than Hamilton. 

But Bottas loves a green track. Whether it’s down to his rallying skills or just a preference, the Finnish driver always seems to get a grip of the track quicker than most others. Last season, Bottas had a ridiculous streak of first practice P1s. It certainly wasn’t a fluke. 

With just one practice session prior to qualifying, the track will remain fairly green. And if Bottas can find the right set-up just as quickly, he might feel the benefits. 

Max Verstappen 

Despite the Dutchman starting every single race inside the top three grid spaces, Verstappen has still managed to gain three places during opening laps in 2021. One of those is down to Charles Leclerc’s DNS in Monaco. 

Still, the 23-year-old is solid at race starts. The RB16B is better at getting the tyres in the working window compared to its predecessors. If he qualifies on pole on Friday, it’s likely he’ll manage to stay ahead. And if he misses out on pole position for the sprint race, then he’ll pose a serious threat to whoever is in P1. 

The older guys

Perhaps this is more surprising. Kimi Raikkonen tops the statistics for places gained on the opening lap. In 2021, the Alfa Romeo driver gained 23 positions, an average of 2.5 at each Grand Prix. 

Some of this might be down to the alternative strategies selected by his Alfa Romeo team, but there’s no denying Raikkonen remains one of the best drivers on the opening lap. If he spots a gap, the 41-year-old goes for it. Raikkonen has been struggling to perform in qualifying this season. 

He hasn’t started in the top 15 since the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. With the sprint race offering two opening laps in the weekend, Raikkonen’s chances of adding to his single point in 2021 seem slightly more likely than usual. 

Similar to Raikkonen, if Alonso sees a space he’ll go for it. Sitting in the midfield, the two-time World Champion has nothing to lose. Following the red flag in Baku, Alonso moved from 10th to 6th and therefore brought home a solid number of points. The Spaniard loves to get his elbows out.

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