Silverstone is always a crucial Grand Prix during any F1 season, but with the field tighter than ever; getting an upgrade to work even if it gives just a tenth can propel you 5 spots up the grid so the heat is definitely on this year.
The British GP is where a team’s chosen development paths since the start of the season come to fruition (or fail horribly), not only because it almost marks the halfway point of the season, but it is also the home Grand Prix for every team bar Toro Rosso, Sauber and Ferrari. This means that logistically it is much easier to tryout big update packages, and the timing of the Grand Prix in mid season make it that the development programs of the teams have now had the lead time needed to finish the major upgrade packages they decided on pursuing after having gathered data in the first races of the year. In addition Silverstone‘s combination of fast sweepers requiring a lot of downforce and slower corners added in the new layout where good mechanical grip and traction is need make it a track well suited to testing out new developments.
You can bet that every team will be coming with major changes so the likes of Scarbs will have a field day scouring every new update the coming weekend. Even Marussia reported bringing its first proper windtunnel designed upgrade to Silverstone –though De Villotta’s accident will have surely set them back a bit- and the Caterham duo is expecting big things from a heavily revised package. Red Bull already came out swinging in Valencia with what they called a D-spec car, so arguably they did get the one up on their rivals and can now fine-tune that blisteringly fast design which did still suffer from reliability problems in Valencia (though Vettel’s failure was due to a Renault designed alternator). Red Bull’s main challengers Mclaren, Ferrari and Mercedes will need to come up with something special to counter the stunning pace exhibited by Vettel in quali and the first part of the previous Grand Prix.
With the team starting to get a proper understanding of the 2012 tyres, the development race will probably become the next big talking point for the latter half of the season so whatever happens in Silverstone may be a good indicator to see how the title battle could develop. But what exactly will happen? Get set for another round of backmarkersF1 predictions!
I for one got really scared to see Vettel scamper away at the front in Valencia as he has done so many times last year. That, as well as the qualifying gap would make anyone betting against him a very brave man..or a fool. Which is exactly why I will not be picking a Red Bull winner of course! The fact that the weather report is looking pretty gloomy could of course also throw a wrench in most people’s plans and the wreak some havoc in the running order.
But I didn’t say I wasn’t going to predict a Red Bull pole because Vettel’s pace did not come out of nowhere, that Red Bull is quick for sure. That said I’m still going for another shock pole man in….Mark Webber. After all, the Silverstone Grand Prix marks some of the lows in Red Bull’s treatment of the Aussie and it’s about time he reverses the trend. It’s a track he has traditionally gone very well at, but 2 years ago it was the stage for the front wing switch saga, where even though Vettel broke the newest iteration, they took the only other new wing off Mark’s car and he had to race with the older spec win.
This low point was followed by a great high though as Webber brought it home with a dominant victory and could not resist saying ‘not bad for a number 2 driver’ on the team radio to a hypocritical Horner smiling through his teeth. Last year of course it was ‘Mark, you need to maintain the gap’ which put the final nail in the coffin for Webbo’s woeful 2011 season, as with the massive lead Vettel had already built up at that point, it was very disappointing to hear the team forbid their driver to fight his teammate for the podium.
I hope this year will be different for Mark, where the team will just bloody well let him race. He suffered reliability woes with the heavily revised RBR in Valencia so he could not show his potential in qualifying – though it remains doubtful whether he could have gotten close to Vettel’s stunning q3 lap- but he drove a smart race to 4th from 19th on the grid. After all, Mark is 6 points ahead of Vettel in the championship, and his consistency this year will surely pay off in the end…but I don’t think anyone out there believes Mark will ever get preferential treatment against the wunderkind no matter how big his lead could be. Still, I believe Mark will show he’s got the beans and hook up a very nice lap to grab pole. Hamilton has been ace in qualifying this year so will take p2, narrowly pipping Vettel who’ll make a little mistake on his final lap and will be very grumpy as a result of it.
But then the trouble starts for Mark in the race. He’s no slouch in the rain but has never really excelled in it either and I’m predicting a very wet race, allowing Hamilton to shine again a-la Silverstone 2008 when he took a stunning wet weather victory, this time in a titanic battle with Fernando Alonso. Failing to keep up with the leading duo’s pace, Mark will have to satisfy himself with p3, after having fended off a charging Vettel for most of the race and probably survive an attempt at getting screwed by the pitstops at Red Bull.
Further back I sincerely hope for Caterham that the updates they are so positive about in the press turn out to be as successful on track, with Kovalainen mentioning a whopping .5 to a full second in gainsWhile that is probably a case of Caterham being too optimistic again if the race does turn out to be rainy, I’m predicting first points for the team – with Heikki of course – as the race will also see a fairly high attrition rate due to poor conditions and fairly untested updates brought on most of the cars increasing unreliability. The Mercs will be running well but will lack that last little bit to really allow them to fight with the leading trio.
I believe the Lotus and Williams will drop back a bit because for starters it doesn’t seem like either car is as good in low temperatures, and their lack of budget compared to the big four will start to show as they are going to start struggling keeping the development pace. Same goes for Sauber, even though their pace should be good in the wet conditions, I believe in Silverstone we’ll start seeing and end to the fairy tale for midfielders in 2012.
As for Cucumber of the race I ‘m sorry but I have to go for Felipe Massa. With my mind again going back to Silverstone 2008, he turned in an embarrassing performance constantly spinning out while his title rival dominated. Some say he lost the ‘08 title in Singapore or because of Timo Glock in Brazil..I say he lost it just as much in Silverstone with that appalling drive, and he’s on to relive the experience this year as the heavens will open in England. Perez will do well again and the rumor mill will keep on churning.
To round up:
Cucumber of the race
As always, now show me yours and win #HornyHorner. Tattoos are out, nothing better than scarring your soul for life!