Mercedes looking for blame in the wrong places

It was Sebastian Vettel's fourth victory of the season, but it was clear this one meant more. The win -- on a track eight miles from Mercedes' Brackley factory - was laden with emotion and after he crossed the finish line it spilled out over the team radio.

"Sebastian, you are a lion!" Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene told his driver.

"We had a super car, a great strategy and we did it at their home [race]," Vettel responded. "Now we take the English flag and hang it in Maranello. Yes!"

Prior to Sunday's race Silverstone had become something of a fortress for Mercedes, with a run of five consecutive victories dating back to Nico Rosberg's surprise victory in 2013. What's more, Mercedes had taken great pleasure in dominating on Italian soil at Monza in recent years -- a track where Ferrari's victory drought dates back to 2010 -- and this was seen as payback. Add to that an eight-point lead in the drivers' championship and a 20-point lead in the constructors' championship, and Ferrari was understandably smitten with the 233rd win of its long and illustrious history.

But the emotions on Sunday weren't confined to the Italian team. For Mercedes, a defeat on home turf just two weeks after a double retirement in Austria -- both races where the team had expected to win -- was hard to take. Scrabbling for answers after the race, Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff hinted at Ferrari foul play. The accusations were well wide of the mark.

"It is a lot of constructor points," Wolff said. "In [technical director] James Allison's words, 'do you think it is deliberate or incompetence?'. So this leaves us with a judgement."

Conspiracy theories bounces around the internet after every race weekend, but it's rare to see the touchpaper lit by someone in Wolff's position. As frustrating as it was to see Hamilton taken out by Kimi Raikkonen just two weeks after Vettel hit Valtteri Bottas on the opening lap in France, the comments made by Wolff were inadvisable at best.

While it's not beyond the realms of possibility for a driver to take a rival out at the start of a race, Raikkonen's onboard camera shows the No.7 Ferrari clearly attempted to make the corner. After drawing level on the run out of Turn 2 he locked his front right wheel while trying to complete the move into Turn 3 and, as he applied full steering lock to the right on cold tyres, understeered into the rear of Hamilton. There's no doubt that it was a silly mistake -- and one that deserved the ten-second time penalty handed out by the stewards -- but it was in no way deliberate.

Mercedes starts under focus

By Monday morning Hamilton had retracted his "interesting tactics" allegations -- admitting on Instagram that "we all say dumb s---" -- and accepted Raikkonen's apology. The comments directly after the race on Sunday were a clear indication of how much those 52 laps had meant to him and how painful the defeat had been. Such emotion is what makes a sport otherwise dominated by data and technical details so fascinating to watch, but when the adrenaline subsides in Brackley the blame will no doubt focus on the true cause of Hamilton's missed opportunity: his poor getaway at the start.

For the second race in a row, the Mercedes starting on pole position had dropped to third by the exit of the first corner and in this case it put Hamilton right in the danger zone for braking into Turn 3. In France Ferrari also got the better start, with Vettel admitting his extra speed heading down to Turn 1 was part of the reason he misjudged his braking and ploughed into Bottas. Had Hamilton nailed his start on Sunday and emerged from the opening corners in first place, there is no reason to believe Vettel would have had the pace or the tyre life to challenge him.

It's not the first time Mercedes has struggled with starts. The clutch release on the 2016 car also proved troublesome and the team worked hard to find a solution, including modifying the drivers' gloves to give a better feel for the paddle at the start. No doubt a similar level of attention to detail will be go into the various elements of this year's car to improve starts, especially as the car itself looked to be the fastest on the grid at recent races.

A big win for Ferrari

In Germany and Hungary, Mercedes faces two track layouts where victory is far less certain than it was in France, Austria and Great Britain. By all accounts, the updates Mercedes brought to its car during the triple header have given the W09 the edge over the Ferrari, but it's by no means huge. Ferrari countered in Silverstone with a new floor and rear wing and ran Mercedes much closer in qualifying than anyone expected.

Silverstone was also the last round where we will see Pirelli's thinner gauge tyres. The thinner rubber was introduced to prevent blistering on the newly-resurfaced circuits of Barcelona, Paul Ricard and Silverstone and, as luck would have it for Mercedes, suited the W09 more than the SF71H. But those tyres won't be seen again this year, and if the heatwave in Europe continues through to September, Ferrari is likely to have an easier time controlling tyre degradation on the "normal-spec" tyres that will return in Hockenheim, Budapest, Spa and Monza.

"I think what we've seen this season is a little bit of a different pattern," Wolff said on Sunday night. "Everybody brings updates to every race and there is never a silver bullet that provides you three tenths or four tenths, which was the difference between us and Ferrari last year.

"It is just a constant learning of the tyre which is the single most important denominator of performance. You get it right and you get it wrong. I believe that if we would have had 10 degrees less temperature in qualifying, maybe we would have had a bigger gap and maybe the same on Sunday. But it is what it is and we just need to learn, understand and just try to get in control of the tyres in the best possible way.

"Yes I would have loved for us to build a gap in Austria, Montreal and Silverstone because we lose some in Hungary and we lose some in Singapore. But we will look at it now and try to fight and score as many points as possible."

Viewed in that context, it's easy to understand why emotions were running so high in Silverstone.