After the snorefest in Valencia we were all desperately looking forward to an exciting race again at the home race of pretty much all the F1 teams. Only Ferrari and Toro Rosso are based outside of the UK though granted, we hear the Austrian anthem with every Red Bull win but somehow I must have skipped the geography class that put Milton Keynes as a suburb of Vienna.
The tension in the Red Bull team reached new heights. While it had been kept on the wraps since the very controversial Turkey incident, Qualifying saw these tensions flare up again. Red Bull had brought 2 new front wings to Silverstone, but Vettel’s failed in practice. Red Bull made the rather strange decision to pull the one remaining new wing off Webber’s car and put it on Vettel’s, supposedly a decision driven by standings in the championship (Vettel was at this point 12 points ahead of Webber). It was all a bunch of horseshit of course, and drove the point home that Webber was Red Bull’s number 2 driver. We already had a clear incling of this after Turkey, where inexplicably Mark was criticized by some in the team (cough…Marko…cough) for the incident where to me it’s a clear cut case of Vettel turning into Webber.
The best starters of the race were probably Kubica, who found himself into p3 after the first lap shenanigans; and Button, who made up 6 positions on the first lap to move into 8th. Vettel had a fairly bad start and damn near put his teammate into the pitwall trying to do the classic Schumi chop off the start line but yielded just in time to avoid a Turkey repeat. However he did not yet concede what was effectively a position he already lost with Webber established on the inside for Turn one. Both kept their foot in and it was inevitable Vettel was pushed wide. It was clear that after all the controversy Webber was intent to make a point, he was not gonna let Vettel or the team bully him out of the way. A charging Hamilton was right behind Webber on the inside as well, and minor contact with Vettel’s rear tire resulted in a puncture, sending Vettel off onto the grass and putting him all the way at the back to limp back to the pits. The Ferraris tango’d as wel, with Felipe yet again coming out of it the loser as he too suffered a rear puncture and was forced to come in.
Following the same ‘ol predictable pattern of 2010 races, everybody settled in and started managing fuel and such, tires of course being no issue with Vettel pitting for hards on lap 1 and nobody expected him to have to pit again to the end of the race. Hamilton did what he could to stay with Webber but it was clear the Red Bull had more than enough in hand to manage the gap and pull out whenever they needed it. Behind the top 2 a gap quickly developed to Kubica and a train of cars behind him, so unless reliability hit them it was clear who would be 1-2 in the race from lap 2 onwards. Schumacher started the pitstop phase hoping to get himself out of traffic and leapfrog the likes of Barichello and Alonso but as other people came streaming into the pits it became clear the performance difference between the hards and softs was not enough to make the undercut. This was demonstrated best by Button who stayed out the longest of the front runners on his softs and managed to jump Barichello to go into p6.
Rosberg, for all the critics who say he’s too boring and never takes risks, pulled an amazing move on Alguersuari who had not pitted yet as he started on the hards, going round the outside first and then cut back into the inside on the final corner. It did result in a damaged barge board which compromised his pace for the remainder of the race. But the main incident in this race would be the Kubica-Alonso fight for P3. It was clear that the Ferrari was being held up, and a frustrated Alonso (remember how pissed he was after the last race in Valencia with the SC shenanigans) was getting impatient. He made a move round the outside against a hard defending Kubica going into Vale corner but as always, Robert gave no quarter and stuck Alonso out to dry. Alonso was forced to cut the corner and passed Kubica in the process. With this year’s Button-Massa incident in mind it’s clear Alonso should have just given the position back but he didn’t. Again the stewards took ages to make a decision, and it was only quite a lot of laps later that Alonso was issued a – deserved- drive through. The similarities with the Button-Massa incident are striking. It was too late for Alonso to be told to let Kubica back through after a few laps, since Robert was forced to retire with a mechanical failure.
Compounding Alonso’s woes, the safety car was brought out just as he had gotten word of the penalty – meaning the field would bunch up and of course he would have to wait until after the SC period to serve his penalty. He must have been fuming in his cockpit and a funny team radio convo ensued with Alonso saying his engineer to basically shut up :’I don’t want any more radio for the race’. The safety car was brought out following an incident between De La Rosa and Sutil where the Spaniard chopped in front of Sutil who subsequently rammed into him, showering the track with pieces of De La Rosa’s rear wing on the pit straight and the hangar straight. Of course this played beautifully into the hands of Button and Rosberg, who moved up into p4 and p3 respectively.
While from then on the race at the front was over, Vettel did provide us some excitement driving from the back of the field. Of course he also profited massively from the safety car and went for a charge up the field. He got Petrov easily after the Russian went into the grass, then mugges Schumacher and Barichello with qome quite nice moves. However then he got stuck behind Sutil’s Force India, trying to salvage p7. He was lucky to get away with a mistake putting all four wheels on the grass as they entered the new arena section, but did well to keep it together and didn’t seem to lose any time from it. On the penultimate lap he basically just barged Sutil out of the way, who only just managed to keep Schumi behind him.
Webber took a well deserved and dominant win ahead of Hamilton, Rosberg, Button, Barichello, Kobayashi, Vettel and Sutil. Great results for Williams and Sauber after an equally nice performance the race before. Hamilton kept the lead in the championship ahead of Button but Webber jumped Vettel to be 17 points behind Lewis in P3. It might give us some hope for this year to think Alonso was 47 points down on Hamilton yet still managed to lead the championship as we went into the final race. Of course Vettel now has an extra win in the bag in terms of points but you never know!
There you have it, the Silverstone GP 2010. It was quite enjoyable really, with some good scraps, a few nice overtakes, a tad of drama, and Vettel’s nice drive at the end. So what do we think Silverstone 2011 will have in store for us? As we all know the race will see a major change to the cars as the off throttle blown diffuser will be limited to just 10% as opposed to 100%, so any prediction is going to be even more guesswork than it usually is (and I totally stuffed it up last race already!). There’s no way of really knowing which cars will be most affected by it. In my opinion Renault will be the hardest hit. They have built their entire car around the concept of maximizing use of the blown floor with their front exiting exhausts, and this rule clarification (note, it is not a change of rules mid season, it is enforcing a rule already in place which the FIA determined was breached by the teams) is likely to hurt them badly. A grim prospect of course judging by their declining performance already before this change. Red Bull might be hurt quite badly as well…or not.
As I detailed in my latest 1k special video, Adrian Newey is admired for how he builds his cars not just for the great aero, but because he puts together the whole package beautifully, he always has the big picture in mind. Take away one important element of the overall package he’s worked so hard to perfect, and it might upset the balance of the car more than those of its rivals, since they seem to be less subscribed to the one man- one concept idea than Red Bull. Of course I might be clutching at straws – and probably am- and it does not mean the Red Bull will all of a sudden become a midfield car, it is near guaranteed the car is still bloody quick and the main advantage of the Red Bull is in the high to medium speed corners, going flatout where others can’t because they have such massive downforce. Last year the Red Bulls were the only ones to take the first corner flat out and flew through Becketts and Maggots so think of this: exhaust blowing when on throttle hasn’t been changed, so Red Bull will keep blowing their diffuser in these corners (and Silverstone has loads of them), while the others lift off and lose the extra downforce given by blowing off throttle. Looking at it this way, it might even increase Red Bull’s overall performance advantage compared to the others.
Technical things aside I’ll of course have to name some names! Webber is the only one who can save this championship realistically by challenging his teammate so I’m going to put the good’ ol Aussie bastard up for pole and the win. Valencia showed he’s finally getting to grips with the Pirellis, and as discussed previously on this blog, the EBDs introduced by Red Bull midway through last season took away a key advantage Webber’s driving style had over Vettel.
Predicting (well to be honest, more like hoping 😉 ) Vettel to be phased by Webbers’ regained mojo, he’s going to get sloppy and involved in incidents, putting him down the field but fight back for a p4 finish, still setting the fastest lap. As for the fight for second best team, a lot will depend on which tires Pirelli will bring and they have just announced it will be the hard/soft compounds. Though Ferrari claims to have gotten round the issue, they sucked badly on them the last time they were used in Spain and have never tested them on track since then so if this is the case Ferrari will be fighting for third best team again. Added to this, while the Ferrari has definitely improved, the last 3 tracks were fairly similar: street circuits with fairly minimal aero dependence and not many high load, mid to high speed corners, and aside from the tires aero is the area where Ferrari have struggled the most. Rear tire wear should be ok here and that might put the Mercedes up for a good finish. Mclaren I believe will bounce back from a tough weekend in Valencia, and we’ll see Button snatch his first Silverstone podium in p3, Hamilton p2.
I believe the biggest impact of the EBD rules will be seen in the midfield and amongst the backmarkers: those midfield cars like Sauber, STR, Force India used the EBDs, but only as an afterthought so they are likely to have it less developed as the front runners so we might see them close the gap. This might prove exceptionally good for Team Lotus to move closer to the midfield as well, and might help them gain that half a second they need to start challenging the back of the midfield for real. The 107% rule will probably also be less of an issue for Virgin and HRT, since the front runners will be slowed down they will not lose much. It might put HRT back firmly behind Virgin though, because HRT did use the EBD for the past 2 GPS while Virgin did not.
fastest lap : Vettel
Nobody did particularly well last week so feel free to post your predictions in the comments to see if we can do better this time!