A new look Silverstone delivered a wet weekend but amongst the weather and the politics a sell out crowd was served up a brilliant grand prix on Sunday. And i was lucky enough to be there...
Friday was expected to be a bit of a wash out and so it proved to be, though it was quite changeable. At Noon i was sitting at Stowe bathed in sunshine. Before that was FP1. I headed towards the pit straight grandstands. Originally i was heading to the pit entry because i thought the top teams would be there but through a gap i spotted the Red Bull pitwall at the bottom of the pitlane. Most people were aiming for that end though! Eventually got in opposite the FIA garages at the final corner. At least the pitwall was lower at that end! It was a fun spot as the cars were really squirming through Club. A few cars ventured dangerously close to the astroturf and after 3 laps of power sliding Kamui Kobayashi lost it in spectacular fashion. As he got some air my view was blocked for a split second and i thought he was maybe going to roll! Thankfully he didn't but there was plenty of damage to the Sauber as seen in this picture taken by my Sister
Took up a seat at Becketts for FP2 and was really excited because i've heard lots of good things about this viewing area. Unfortunately it rained minutes before the start and i knew that with the first session also being wet and rain still possible for the rest of the weekend that the teams wouldn't want to use up too many tyres. Only 4 cars came out early on, including to my surprise Kobayashi in the repaired Sauber. Then it went very quiet for a long time and eventually i walked down to Copse as the wind was getting hard to handle! So it all fizzled out a bit and in terms of form there wasn't much to read into.
Returned back to the hotel to see Twitter dominated by exhaust rules discussion and disputes between engine suppliers. This would be an issue that would twist and turn all weekend. When i seen Christian Horner and Adrian Newey on the big screen during FP3 in the paddock i reckoned that something exhaust related had changed again! One line that Renault and Red Bull seemed to use a lot through the matter was that reliability would be an issue for them if the rules were changed. However i was talking to a friend with Lotus connections earlier in the week and he said something which at the time didn't mean much to me but which became more relevant as the saga unfolded. His words were that Renault were claiming reliability to be an issue but that this was just a ploy to try and stop the off throttle blowing being banned and hence stop a potential loss of performance
Qualifying was very entertaining as the conditions and circumstances meant everybody was under pressure through all 3 parts of the session and hence lots of laps from the cars. A slight anti climax as rain fell at the end of Q3. The cars came charging into Becketts as the rain fell so pretty dramatic but it meant the grid was set. Then there was some more rain post qualifying but nothing too severe so to see that they started the GP2 race under the safety car was shocking, a terrible and unnecessary decision.
Race morning and it was sunny and warm. It felt like a dry race was in prospect but an hour before the start there was a light shower at Vale. Despite that the track was still good enough for slick tyres but as the drivers came out to make their way to the grid it was clear on the screen that the other side of the circuit had got a much bigger soaking. It really was set to be a great race and so it proved to be. A dramatic opening lap seen Hamilton charging from 10th. Down into Vale Heidfeld and Petrov went into combat and almost collided! Petrov eventually ran out of space and had to give up the place.
Then it was a case of seeing who would make the stop for slicks first. I was tipping Button but it was Schumacher who pitted first, albeit he was coming in anyway after hitting Kobayashi. Another 2011 Mercedes front wing ending up in pieces. Sergio Perez did his usual trick of running long and his alternative tactics really worked out as he picked up a very good 7th. Jaime Alguersuari moved ahead of his team mate Sebastien Buemi in the championship after picking up another point.
The main focus was on the battle up front. Sebastian Vettel streaked away early on but a troublesome pitstop cost him the lead. Fernando Alonso was very quick so may well have challenged for the victory on the track but once he got out front he was away. Lewis Hamilton had fuel issues in the final stint which as confirmed by the BBC afterwards was because they had deliberately short fuelled him. A similar situation to Jenson Button in the same race last year where he started 14th and McLaren short fuelled him. It allowed him to make early progress but then handicapped him in his pursuit of Nico Rosberg and a podium finish. For Hamilton a frustrating finish but i think the strategy was a good one overall. Just shows you how much risk McLaren are having to take though. Hamilton probably would have been lower as well if Button had not been forced to stop after his wheel nut issue. Got a great view of his last lap battle with Massa, great stuff and brilliant to see cars racing to the line!
The other big talking point was the Red Bull battle in the closing laps. After Webber passed Hamilton he immediately closed in on Vettel. At first i didn't expect a fight and that Vettel would pick the pace up. But Webber kept closing and it was very exciting from the stands. After the race i was told that Webber had been told to "Maintain the gap" by Horner. My initial reaction was disappointment as i felt i had been watching a good duel develop and that it had been unfairly called off. On reflection i can see both sides of the argument, Red Bull just want the team to get the points in the bag but Webber wanted to finally beat his team mate this season. The key really is what was discussed before and during the race. If Red Bull have a policy of holding station in the final stint then Webber was quite naughty. I'm told by a Red Bull source that apparently (and i stress apparently) Vettel was told to turn down his engine with 10 laps to go as Alonso could not be caught. If that is true then the team may have created the situation. At the time Webber was still behind Hamilton so perhaps they thought he'd be busy battling him without getting involved with Vettel. Anyway there wasn't much harm done and there's a nice 4 week break in August where Webber can go and sign his contract extension if he wants to...
I thought DRS worked really well at Silverstone. Not many easy passes, lots of close duels and bringing cars closer which seen many battles through the following corners after the zone ended. Very good indeed and hopefully the FIA take note for future races. Track position was worth something in this grand prix but overtaking was still possible. It's been a fantastic season, the cars are actually racing rather than just getting near another car and being stuck. We are getting drivers going for it, being able to be positive rather than sit behind another car and wait for a pitstop and this is really good for the sport.
Another great thing at Silverstone was getting on the track after the race. Me and my Sister made a run for it and having seen on the screen that the podium ceremony was almost over we made a dive up the pit entry where there was hardly anybody and my Sister got some brilliant pictures of the cars sitting in Parc Ferme, That was very cool!
I think Ferrari have improved the car quite a bit but the Red Bull is still the one to beat. Alonso was a very deserving winner but things like the exhaust changes and avoiding the use of the hard tyre played into his hands. He's a superb driver though, he gets a sniff of victory and snaps up the opportunity so well. Vettel still increased his championship lead though. He has ticked many boxes in the last 12 months but one box which remains empty is a win on home tarmac so he'll be pumped up to achieve something which has proved difficult in his short career. A top 2 finish at the Nurburgring will also mean he becomes the first driver in F1 history to start a season with ten consecutive top 2 finishes. Lets hope for a fun double header in Europe before the summer break kicks in.