British Grand Prix: Hamilton at Home

Lewis Hamilton took out his home Grand Prix after inheriting the lead from his team mate’s retirement. Valtteri Bottas stormed his way to the second step of the podium, making up twelve places throughout the race. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo just managed to keep his tyres intact to fend of Button to come home in P3. It was a very long first lap at Silverstone. Rosberg maintained the lead from lights out through the first sector. Vettel was caught sleeping off the line, and immediately conceded a place to Button and Magnussen. Lewis Hamilton had a good start from P6, coming up to challenge Vettel for position. The two made contact through the Farm Curve, but kept control of their cars. Hamilton took the place from Vettel however, pushing him back to P5. Further back in the pack, Perez was turned around by Vergne, pushing him off track at the exit of Abbey. The race was only to continue for another hundred metres after a terrifying incident involving Kimi Raikkonen saw the race red flagged. Kimi ran wide at Aintree to avoid contact while trying to pass Gutierrez. As he came back on track the Ferrari appeared to catch a bump, immediately losing control and sending the F14 T straight into the barriers. It was a terrifying moment watching Kimi be flicked from the barriers across the track, narrowly missing the Caterham of Kobayashi and Williams of Massa in the fray. Massa was bogged down at the back of the grid when his anti stall kicked in. As he caught his way back up to the field, Raikkonen’s crash was blocked from view by the Caterham. It was extremely smart driving, and lightening quick reactions on Massa’s part to avoid Kimi. Only the monocock and right rear tyre remained of the Ferrari, while the Williams suffered rear suspension damage. Just to give us another reason to love him, Kimi’s first reaction over team radio was “is Felipe OK?”. It was over an hour before race restart. Eventually the grid snaked it’s way back through the circuit behind the safety car and the race resumed in a less theatrical manner.

Hamilton had a competitive race, getting off the line well to make up for his poor qualifying position. Unsurprisingly, the Brit made easy work of passing the McLaren’s and Red Bull, and was playing catchup to Rosberg by lap 3. The shoe was on the other foot for the Mercedes driver, as it was Hamilton’s turn to keep his F1 W05 racing while both cars suffered from mechanical issues. Rosberg led the race from the start (both of them), though gearbox issues for downshifting saw the points leader retire on lap 29. While Rosberg was lapping Chilton the Mercedes got stuck in fifth gear, slowing down and passing the lead on to his team mate. The win for Hamilton shrinks the points gap with Rosberg down to a 4 point difference, putting him back in stronger contention for the championship.

It was a bittersweet day for Williams after such a promising race for the team. Massa unfortunately never made the race restart after getting caught up in first lap fray. Bottas had a flying start off the line, and throughout the race demonstrated the more than competitive pace and aerodynamic advantage of the FW36. The Finn appeared to effortlessly carve his way through the field, choosing the favour the outside of Stowe for overtaking.

Ricciardo changed his MGU-K was changed in Parc Ferme before the race. The energy recovery unit failed after qualifying, with the RB10 looking much more competitive during the race. Ricciardo made up a brilliant five positions during the race to finish, once again on the podium and ahead of his team mate. Vettel amazing battles between Alonso, but the RB10 just didn’t have the pace on the straight to keep the Ferrari at bay. The battle for position between the two world champions was the highlight of the race. The Red Bull would catch up in the corners, before the Ferrari would extend the lead again on the straights. Every move the Red Bull made to over take, the Ferrari would have a counter move to match. Finally, Vettel put it all on the line, moving alongside Alonso with DRS assistance, the Red Bull outbroke the Ferrari going in to Brooklands and took P5.

Perhaps McLaren should stick to their wet weather set up, even for a dry race, as the MP4-29 hasn’t been this competitive all season. The podium once again eluded Button at his home race, though he was unlucky not to take the final step. Button maintained his competitive qualifying position throughout the race, and was closing on Ricciardo for P3. However, there just weren’t enough laps left in the race, and just too much grip left in the Red Bull’s tyres. A P4 finish at their home Grand Prix is still a huge success for Button and the team. Kevin Magnussen was also on form in the McLaren, finishing P7 making it a double points finish for the team.

Ferrari get full marks for theatrics after Alonso delivered a spectacular race from the back of the grid, putting it all on the line to make up ten places throughout the day. It wasn’t an easy race for the Spaniard. From the first race start, Alonso lined his Ferrari up halfway through his grid slot. Though the advantage was short lived, he was handed a 5-second stop-go penalty. Despite the penalty, Alonso raced to take Hulkenberg at Stowe for P5. However, it was Alonso VS Vettel that delivered the most exciting battle of the race. The two played cat at mouse during the final stages, demonstrating just how world champion drivers should race. Alonso was defending his P5 from Vettel, skilfully closing the door on any attempt from the Red Bull to pass. A highlight of the battle occurred on lap 35, where Vettel had managed to take the position coming into the corner, Alonso flicked the F14 T back in front on the exit of Copse. Magnussen, who was following the two, ran wide at the corner no doubt in awe of what he had just witnessed. Eventually the Ferrari’s tyres started to go, and Alonso conceded the place to Vettel, finishing P6. Despite being a short race for Kimi, he too added to the Ferrari spectacle, but not in the way we would have preferred. Thankfully Kimi avoided serious injury from his accident, suffering from a bruising to his ankle and knee. It will be a fortnight of rest, ice, and pain killers for the Finn*. In all seriousness, we wish you a full and speedy recovery.

Hulkenberg got off to a flying start, though he seemed to lose steam throughout the race. The Force India driver was involved in several cat and mouse battles for positions against the Red Bulls and the remaining Ferrari. The team chose to run a one stop strategy for both Hulkenberg and Perez, which didn’t exactly pay off. Hulkenberg’s second stint on the more durable hard compound tyres, kept him within the points though only for P8. The team put Perez on the medium compound tyres after the race restart, leaving him just outside of the points in P11.

It was a good day Toro Rosso, with both Kvyat and Vergne picking up points. The race unfolded largely without incident for both drivers. Similarly to Force India, Kvyat opted for a two stop strategy, finishing on the hard compound tryes to finish P9. It appeared to be the more competitive strategy, as Vergne on a one stop finished P10.

Lotus had a disappointing race with Grosjean finishing outside of the points, and Maldonado retiring on the penultimate lap. Grosjean was lapping around a second faster than his team mate, though he spent the entire race outside of the points in P12. The E22 looked to have improved slightly over the weekend with better balance and grip, but wasn’t competitive enough for the race. Maldonado was involved in a racing incident (which wasn’t his fault…) with Gutierrez in the early stages of the race. The E22 became airborn after a shunt from the Sauber, and it was with some skill on Maldonado’s part to keep the Lotus in control as all four wheels made it back on track. Unluckily for the team, Maldonado stopped on lap 50 due to exhaust damage.

Sauber continued to have a difficult weekend with the C33. Sutil was the sole Sauber to finish the race back in P13, though complained of brake issues throughout the race. Gutierrez’s race was short lived after retiring following accident damage on lap 11. The Sauber driver made contact with Maldonado’s Lotus while attempting an overtake into Vale. It appeared that Gutierrez failed to turn in to the corner, resulting in payback for Bahrain with Maldonado’s E22 being flicked up into the air. The collision caused damage the C33, and Gutierrez went off into the gravel pit shortly after.

Marussia finished just behind where they qualified due to race retirements. Bianchi’s race unfolded without incident, finishing P14 ahead of Chilton’s P16. Chilton served a drive through penalty after the race restart for entering the pit lane after the race had been red flagged.

It was another retirement for Ericsson, as the Caterham came into the pits on lap 12 with a very wonky looking CT05. On a positive note for the team, credit needs to be paid to Kamui for avoiding an out of control Kimi on the opening lap. The Caterham was close behind, and made the split second decision to move left across the track to avoid further collision. Escaping over the grass, Kobayashi suffered nose damage which was repaired before the restart. While his team mate suffered from mechanical issues, Kobayashi kept his Caterham running until the final lap, finishing P15.

As the season progresses, the Williams developing incredibly, matching the Mercedes for competitiveness. It’s only really due to bad luck collisions and tyre strategy that the margin isn’t smaller. Though Mercedes are still set to walk away with the constructors championship, the gap for the drivers between Hamilton and Rosberg has shrunk down to four points. The championship moves on back to the mainland for the German Grand Prix in a fortnights time. Hopefully Williams will have some better luck, until then, goodnight.

– Alex

Qualifying Pole Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
Podium Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
Valtteri Bottas (Williams-Mercedes)
Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull Racing-Renault)
Fastest Lap 1:37.176 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

* Vodka is a painkiller right?

British Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

‘Allo, and welcome to the British Grand Prix. The unofficial home of Formula 1, takes place at Silverstone. The 5.891km circuit is fast flowing, but puts a lot of pressure on the tyres. The mix of slow corners through turns 6 and 7, and high speed corners through 10,11,12,13, and 14 requires a balance of aerodynamics and grip. The stewards are continuing their strict attitude to exceeding disallowing lap times, focusing on exceeding the track limits at turns 9 (Copse) and 18 (Club). Saturday delivered a drizzly qualifying (but could we really expect anything different from an English summer). The grid headed out on intermediates, but  some swapped to the medium compound tyres with a dry line emerging, before more rain forced strategies back to the inters. The variety of conditions played Russian roulette with tyre strategies and scrambled the starting grid. Adding to the confusion of the session, double yellows caused by Sutil kept the Ferraris and Williams in the drop zone and pushed both Marussias into Q2, leaving a “what on earth happened?” feeling for many of the teams. In the final flurry of times in Q3, Nico Rosberg snatched pole from Sebastian Vettel by 0.294s. Jensen Button achieved his best qualifying result since Brazil 2012 starting from P3.

Mercedes were once again consistently quick at the circuit, though the team didn’t manage a front row lock out for the second year running. Lewis Hamilton, feeling comfortable with 1:39.232 (for provisional pole) backed off as the session ended so Rosberg could have a final flying lap. Unfortunately for the ‘crowd favourite’, not only did his team mate lap quicker, but so did half of the field who were also on their final lap. A, no doubt confused and unhappy Hamilton has to accept starting from P6. Though, as Austria showed us, don’t count on Hamilton staying behind for long.

The pressure was on the reigning world champion in Q2 after his 1:44.085 (putting him at the very top of the time sheets) was deleted for exceeding the track limits at turn 9. By the time the decision had been made, Vettel had already pit for slick tyres. In Q3, Vettel aborted his first flying lap on the medium tyres as the track became wetter. At the two minute warning, Vettel went out on the medium tyres for his only timed lap, he pulled it out of the bag taking provisional pole with 1:37.386, until Rosberg crossed the line, pushing him down to P2. Ricciardo suffered from a poor strategy as the team chose not to send him back out at the two minute warning of Q3. The Australian was sitting P4 with his 1:40.606, but was bumped down P8 as both the Force Indias and McLarens tried for one more lap.

It’s been a while since McLaren looked competitive, but the MP4-29 thrived during qualifying as a result of good strategy and good grip. Button was lucky to make it through to the second session after having his lap time disallowed in the final minutes of Q1. The Brit had it all on the line with one last attempt for the session, which was enough to comfortably get him back out of the drop zone. At the two minute warning of Q3, Button ventured back out on the medium tyres, it was a risk, but it paid off for the Brit. Button crossed the line with 1:38.200 securing P3. Magnussen, though having a quiet qualifying, also benefited from the sudden competitive nature of the McLaren, qualifying a strong P5.

Both Force India drivers made their first appearance in Q3 at Silverstone after a strong qualifying for both drivers. Hulkenberg was  quickest of the two VJM07s, taking the honours of bumping Hamilton’s provisional pole with 1:38.329. As Vettel and Button crossed the line, Hulkenberg’s time was shuffled down to P4, which is still a really strong result for the team in tricky conditions. Perez on the medium compound tyres was early out in Q3, to get quick lap in on the dry tyres. Similarly to Hulkenberg, Perez’s laps were clean, with the VJM07 coping well in the varying track conditions. Perez was the quickest of the 1:40s, with 1:40.457s for P7.

Toro Rosso have always been competitive on a wet track, and today was no different. The team sent their drivers out early in Q3 on the medium tyres, while the track was still dry (that’s a relative term btw…). Kvyat set the pace in Q3 with a 1:40.707 ahead of Vergne’s 1:40.855. It was just the one attempt for Toro Rosso in the final session, with Kvyat finishing up with a P9 and Vergne marking the middle of the grid with P10.

It was a bittersweet qualifying for Lotus. The E22 looked more competitive than in recent rounds, as Grosjean was unlucky not to take part in the top ten shoot out, while Maldonado starts from the back end of the grid. Grosjean had his lap time in Q2 deleted for exceeding track limits, and unfortunately couldn’t improve on his time at the end of the session, leaving the Lotus to start P11. Maldonado was asked to stop track side after a fuel pressure issue at the end of Q2. While Maldonado obeyed the team’s request, I hardly think they intended him to drive slowly though the bumpy gravel trap to do so… In any case, the Venezuelan’s P15 was disqualified due to the fuel infringement, meaning the E22 will start P20.

Marussia both made it through to the second qualifying session… Yes, even Chilton. The second session was dryer, which played an advantage for Marussia who were amongst the first drivers to head out on the medium compound tyres. It was a risk, but paid off with both drivers cracking less than the 1:40s. As the second session drew to a close, both the Marussias were still out of the dropzone, sitting P6 and P7. It was only really due to Gutierrez’s yellow flags that caught out Bianchi and Chilton on their final flying lap, shuffling the time sheets once more. Bianchi was quicker by 1.09s with 1:38.709 for P12, ahead of Chilton’s 1:39.800 for P13. Chilton however drops 5 places due to an unscheduled gearbox change over the weekend.

Sauber caused havoc during qualifying, first with Sutil’s double yellows in Q1, and then again with Gutierrez in Q2. Gutierrez got on to the white line on the exit of turn 6, sending him straight off onto the grass and into the barrier. The Sauber qualified P14, but holds his ten place grid penalty for unsafe release from Austria. Sutil beached himself in the gravel at turn 6, with only a few seconds left of Q1. The team risked sending Sutil out on the medium compound tyres at the end of the session after a dry line was emerging. The Sauber however appeared to be unable to get the heat into the tyres, and had no grip going into Brooklands, running straight off the track. Despite not finishing the session, Sutil’s time of  1:42.603 was good enough for P16.

Williams were late arrivals in Q1, eventually heading out on the inters both Bottas and Massa only managed to get a few timed laps in before double yellows at the end of the session ruined any chance of another flying lap. It was a bit of an anti climax for the Williams team, coming from such a positive result from Austria. Neither Bottas or Massa looked particularly quick in the FW36. Bottas’ 1:45.318 was good enough only to qualify P17. Massa had a few slippy moments on track which he collected quite nicely*, but could only put in 1:45.695 to qualify P18. Admittedly, the Williams should have been able to qualify higher if it weren’t for Sutil’s incident at the end of the session.

Both the Ferraris were caught out at the end of the session, and would be rounding out the back of the grid if it weren’t for Maldonado and Gutierrez’s penalties. The Ferraris just weren’t there in qualifying sitting in the drop zone for most of the session. It’s been a terrible season for the team, but the F14 T really had no grip whatever in the tricky and wet conditions. Alonso span at turn 6 on a flying lap with only 35 seconds left in the session, leaving him not enough time to get back around for a final attempt. Raikkonen’s first attempt of a flying lap was deleted in accordance with article 12.3.1 of the Sporting Code (exceeding track limits). Crossing the line just before the end of the session, Raikkonen had one last attempt while Sutil was beached. But in the confusion, Alonso got in the way of his team mate and the Finn’s first sector was slow. Bizarrely, Ferrari were the slowest qualifying team with Alonso P19, and Raikkonen P20.

Ericsson had an off moment at the end of Q1, drifting and going sideways through the gravel trap disabling DRS momentarily. Kobayashi took to the track cautiously, but dived back into the pits before setting a lap time. Both Caterhams exceeded the 107% qualifying requirement, and will therefore race at the stewards discretion.

It was one of the strangest qualifying sessions when you look at the grid order. Marussia mid field, and Ferrari and Williams at the back of the grid sounds like some kind of April Fools. Hopefully, the random shuffle of experience and competitiveness throughout the starting grid will give way to some good driving. Alonso will have to work hard to make his way through the field, and Kimi, well, who knows what he will do really. Marussia may be able to hold their position for a while, but whether they can make the race distance keeping Williams and Ferrari behind then is rather unlikely. It’s set to rain again for the race, which again shuffles the grid. Let’s see what happens in the race, a wet race is a good race.

– Alex

* Just stay away from Stowe please.


Pirelli Blames… Everything

Pirelli have issued a statement saying that the tyre issues we saw at the Silverstone Grand Prix were due to teams swapping tyres and running them below recommended pressure, and at extreme camber angles. This, combined with sharper curbs at Silverstone. An “anything that could go wrong, went wrong” situation it seems. The manufacturer have also stated that teams will be  switching back to Kevlar reinforced tyres for Germany this week.

Here’s the deal though, Pirelli hadn’t raised issue to side-to-side tyre swapping during the Canadian Grand Prix. Looking back over the season, it appears that Mercedes were the first team to trial swapping the left and right rears during the tyre testing after the Spanish Grand Prix. Mercedes seemed to get better grip and degradation from tyres, so they trialled the move in Monaco (proving successful), and more teams it seemed followed suit in Canada, and again at Silverstone.

So, here’s what strikes me as odd… Obviously Pirelli would do extensive tests during the winter break when developing the next seasons tryes, a much more thorough test than Mercedes were able to do in Spain. It’s not difficult to see that fitting tyres backwards could be dangerous at high speeds (ie. 300km/h), so why did Pirelli sit back and let the teams do it?

British Grand Prix: Post Race Mind Blown (and a few tyres)

I think it’s safe to say that Pirelli’s PR division would be working in over drive today following Sunday’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone. It appeared that not a single driver was immune from tyre issues yesterday, though some suffered considerably worse than others (and not just from Pirelli).

From lights out, Hamilton made a very clean getaway from the grid. Immediately Rosberg conceded a position to Vettel, and Webber suffered a poor start (Hmm) and then some contact from Grosjean (Again, hmm). For the next five or so laps it seemed as if the podium was decided. Hamilton had a strong lead on Vettel and Webber was at the back of the pack. I admit, I was quite disappointed when I thought Webber’s shot of the podium was out of reach.

Hamilton was the first to suffer major issues with his tryes. On reflection, that’s a bit of an understatement, Hamilton was the first to recover from his tyres just flat out giving up and exploding in a sea of debris. The blow out occurred right after the pit lane entrance as well, so Hamilton was forced to limp back around the track for one more lap before he could change his tyres.

Massa was next to suffer a rear tyre blow out, followed by Vergne who was forced to retire. In the final laps Perez became the fourth and final driver to have a tyre blow out, with debris missing Alonso by inches. It was quite unbelievable to watch, there was a very intense feeling when you didn’t really know who was next. It felt like there was a sniper on the track taking drivers out one by one. After Hamilton, Massa, and Vergne’s blow outs the safety car was deployed. To be honest I was half expecting the SC’s rears to go too… I’ve never seen race marshals have to work so hard, it was hard to believe that the race wasn’t even halfway through. More than just marbling. Pirelli have reported saying that this season’s bonding process is not to blame for Sunday’s incidents.  A number of drivers have defended the Silverstone track after suggestion that tyre damage was caused by the kerbs.

Apart from the tyre ‘issue’ (magical exploding tryres), race leader Vettel suffered gearbox failure on lap 42. Vettel obviously didn’t read my Canadian Grand Prix post in which I asked for him to win for my birthday (naughty German). He went out in style though requiring a safety car and a crane to remove his car from the pit straight. Grosjean’s car suffered damage and he retired on lap 52 due to handling issues.

Rosberg’s win was considerably overshadowed by the multitude of tyre failures during the race. Not only that, but Webber’s comeback was just incredible. As I mentioned earlier, after his contact with Grosjean it seemed like his hopes of being on the podium were squashed. This was not the case as he pulled off some fantastic moves going around the outside to over take. Pure skill, it was awesome. Alonso’s drive throughout the race was unsurprisingly good, but incredible in the final five laps. During the second safety car, both Webber and Alonso came in to pit which was a very risky move. Though maybe due to the track temperature, both cars had much superior grip and speed. As a result, Alonso was able to steal a podium finish away from Kimi, and Webber secured second place.

So that was a few of the highlights. Other points worth a mention include Alonso’s fantastic moustache he is currently sporting (Please don’t shave that one off mate), and Kimi breaking Schumacher’s record for most consecutive races finishing in the points. Well done Kimi! It was a pretty good way to ring in my twenty third birthday to be honest, one of the best races of the season. A Finnish friend of mine wished me a Happy Birthday today, or more accurately wished me a “Hyvää Syntymäpäivää”, which is much more difficult to say.

Well, that’s all for now. I shall see you later in the week for the German Grand Prix

– Alex

British Grand Prix: Pre Race Thoughts

Greetings and salutations from Silverstone in Northamptonshire*, for round eight of the Formula 1 Championship. This weekend kicked off with a drizzly P1 on Friday in which Daniel Ricciardo dominated in the wet. Ricciardo continued to perform well in all three qualifying sessions, could Webber’s announcing his retirement have spurred the young Australian on to fight for a seat at Red Bull next year? I think it might have something to do with it, but there is no denying Ricciardo’s skill.

Mercedes secured another front row lockout with Hamilton and Rosberg to start first and second on the grid. Red Bull will take out the second row with Vettel starting third. I feel like Webber will be one to watch in tonight’s race. He’s had a good history at Silverstone, winning back in 2010, and 2012, and still making the podium in 2009, and 2011. Red Bull perform well at “the local”, but I’m thinking Mark will try and stick it to Seb this year.

Di Resta had qualified fifth on the grid, but has been handed a grid penalty for his car being underweight, and will therefore start from the back of the grid. On a brighter note, Ricciardo (who qualified sixth) will now be starting from fifth. I really hope he scores high in the points this race, it will be a good Birthday present to himself (Daniel Ricciardo and I share the same birthday, July 1st, tomorrow, I’ll be 23, he’ll be 24).

Kimi struggled in qualifying yesterday, though the trye god has his ‘points finishing’ record riding on this race. Ferrari also struggled on Friday and Saturday, with Massa colliding with the barriers in practice, and Alonso losing grip on Saturday.

I’m looking forward to tonight’s race. I’m thinking Vettel, Webber and Rosberg have a good shot of being on the podium. Though Kimi, Hamilton, and Ricciardo will definitely be drivers to watch tonight.

Other important events to note include Williams Team 600th Grand Prix start on Sunday, and the FIA and the teams pay tribute to Canadian marshal, Mark Robinson, who suffered fatal injuries clearing Gutierrez’s car during the Canadian Grand Prix. I’m not often serious in my articles, but my thoughts go out to Mark’s family and all those affected.

*Please note that I’m not actually at Silverstone, but hey, a girl can dream.