The drama of the closing laps in the British Grand Prix as tyre after tyre gave up was replaced with a fascinating strategic battle, in which Red Bull not only outsmarted Mercedes by starting Verstappen on the hard tyre from qualifying, but out-performed them on merit to take their first win of the season.
The victory put Verstappen up into second place in the drivers’ championship, relegation Valtteri Bottas to third as he suffered for the second successive race at Silverstone - a double-blow that leaves him teetering on the edge of dropping out of the championship battle with Lewis Hamilton.
Yet while a fourth consecutive race victory eluded Hamilton, he minimised the damage with a well-taken second place to ensure his 30-point lead in the drivers’ championship remained intact.
Elsewhere there were impressive drivers from Charles Leclerc, Daniil Kvyat and replacement Nico Hulkenberg, who stood in for the absent Sergio Perez for the second successive race and secured a handsome points finish for Racing Point.
With the fifth race of the season down, here’s how The Independent’s driver power rankings have been affected.
20. Nicholas Latifi (Williams) - down one
The second race at Silverstone proved a disappointing affair for Williams, though at least Latifi did out-qualify both off the Alfa Romeos to get himself off the back of the grid. That promise did not translate into race pace though, with Latifi coming home last of the finishers.
19. Antonio Giovinazzi (Alfa Romeo) - down two
Giovinazzi looked to be on course to continue his trend of outperforming teammate Kimi Raikkonen after winning their qualifying battle, but race day unfolded very differently. The Italian managed to work his way past both of the Williams, but he will still be disappointed with 17th place after a tricky afternoon.
18. Romain Grosjean (Haas) - up one
A weekend that Grosjean desperately needed, the Frenchman enjoyed a quiet yet positive outing in the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. For starters, he made it through to Q2 at the expense of Daniil Kvyat, producing his best qualifying performance of the season in the process, and although he could only manage 16th in the race itself, it was more important to keep himself out of trouble and get a solid weekend under his belt. A step in the right direction.
17. Kimi Raikkonen (Alfa Romeo) - up one
Another man who really needed a good result to quieten claims that he is past it. Things did not get off to a good start when he qualified last, but that makes his drive to 15th all the more impressive from the veteran Finn - who took the record for the most laps completed by any driver in the process - as he made the one-stop strategy work.
16. Kevin Magnussen (Haas) - down one
Two races at Silverstone produced two DNFs for Magnussen, and the less said about his British experience the better. Still, his points in Hungary remain fresh enough in the memory to prevent a large slide down the rankings.
15. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) - down one
The way Vettel’s season is going, he will be bottom of the pile by the end of the original eight-race stint. Vettel was once again at fault for his own demise for spinning at the first corner, and his attempt to deflect the blame onto the team for a strategy call only added to the feeling that he is losing control of his Ferrari career. Even without the spin, his qualifying performance was considerably worse than Leclerc’s, and finishing 44 seconds behind his teammate will not have gone unnoticed. It’s getting increasingly harder to see Vettel finishing the season.
14. George Russell (Williams) - up two
A strange weekend for Russell. The Williams driver was left disappointed with his race performance, and rightly so as Kvyat, Giovinazzi and Raikkonen all managed to fight their way past him to lead to an 18th-place finish. But a strong qualifying performance saw him again get through to Q2, and the poor performances of those around him bumps him up the order.
13. Sergio Perez (Racing Point) - down one
Another missed weekend for the Racing Point driver as he tested positive for coronavirus for the second race in a row.
12. Carlos Sainz (McLaren) - down three
What appeared to be a close battle at the start of the season is now becoming a one-sided affair as Lando Norris repeatedly gets the better of his more established teammate. Sainz qualified 13th, finished 13th and saw the race largely pass him by, and it could have been even worse had Ricciardo not made a mess of his afternoon.
11. Lance Stroll (Racing Point) - down three
Stroll’s promising start to the season is quickly unravelling into a season of disappointment. With Perez absent for back-to-back races, Stroll needed to seize the opportunity to show he could manage the pressure of being a No 1 driver, only to be outclassed by Nico Hulkenberg all weekend. Had Hulkenberg not had the late issue with his tyres, he would have finished down in seventh, and given Racing Point were hopeful of a podium finish at Silverstone, you do wonder what is going wrong.
10. Daniil Kvyat (AlphaTauri) - up three
A poor showing in qualifying transformed into a successful race display, making up six positions to claim a point even though he stopped twice like most around him. As others around him struggled to make their tyres last while getting good grip levels out of them, Kvyat seemed to find the right balance to be successful.
9. Pierre Gasly (AlphaTauri) - up one
Gasly delivered the qualifying performance of the weekend to put the AlphaTauri in seventh, continuing his impressive work this season. An early second stop left him with a lengthy 30-lap stint to the end of the race, which proved too much to manage as he slipped down the order to eventually finish behind teammate Kvyat and out of the points.
8. Esteban Ocon (Renault) - up three
A second impressive display in as many races sees Ocon race up the rankings and into the top 10. The Frenchman looks to be getting his eye in after a season away, and he comprehensively outperformed his teammate on race day. A penalty in qualifying for blocking Russell is noted, but he more than made up for the failure to get into Q3.
7. Daniel Ricciardo (Renault) - down one
A strong showing in qualifying completely unravelled on race day as Ricciardo plummeted from fifth to 14th. A good start failed to pay off as Stroll was able to get by on the opening lap, before he started to struggle and slip down the order. By the time he spun out of the top 10, his race only going in one direction.
6. Lando Norris (McLaren) - down two
Norris calmly delivered just about what’s expected of the McLaren, with a ninth-place finish adding a couple more points to his championship tally to keep him in front of Albon, Stroll and Ricciardo. He will have better weekends, but he will also take pleasure out of not having a worse one.
5. Alex Albon (Red Bull) - up two
Albon is still making life hard for himself by not getting it right in qualifying, but his race craft on Sunday helped deliver an impressive fifth-place finish in which he calmly dispatched both Racing Points. However, with teammate Max Verstappen out in front and now winning races, the magnifying glass on Albon gets that little bit bigger.
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) - down one
Bottas had grounds to be the most disappointed driver on the grid on Sunday as his impressive pole position became a third-place finish in which he saw his teammate handed a superior strategy. Bottas tried to at least make a fight of it when Verstappen and Hamilton came steaming up to him, but with tyres in a condition that was far from suited to wheel-to-wheel combat, he had no chance of coming out victorious.
3. Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) - up one
Leclerc is massively outperforming what the Ferrari should be capable of this year, with Vettel showing just how bad it can get, and while it all goes wrong in one half of the garage, Leclerc is actually increasing his stock this season. A combination of third and fourth from Silverstone adds to his second from Austria, and given how far off the pace Ferrari have been this season, to sit fourth in the drivers’ standings is an achievement in itself.
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) - no move
A few more performances like the one he produced this Sunday will see him heading for top spot in no time at all. The way Verstappen was able to manage his tyres while setting times considerably faster than the two Mercedes for the majority of the race was so impressive that he very nearly knocked Hamilton off top spot, having moved into second place in the championship standings in the process. If he can find a way to take the fight to the Mercs on a full-time basis, the championship will be much richer for it.
1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) - no move
As salvage jobs go, Hamilton pulled a rabbit out of the hat. He had nothing to challenge Bottas with before the first lap, with the blisters on his tyres robbing him of so much pace that he feared they would explode on him. However, he persevered through the difficult and painful middle stint to ensure he had much fresher tyres come the end of the race when he was free to race Bottas, delivering a convincing overtake into Brooklands to take second place and maintain his 30-point championship advantage.