The F1 world will turn it’s mind back to racing this weekend after a traumatic week that saw Maria De Villota seriously injured in a testing crash. The championship moves on to Round 9 at Silverstone
After all the drama of Valencia where Fernando Alonso became the first man this season to claim a second victory; we have the potential for one hell of an unpredictable weekend thanks to a weather forecast that’s largely predicting rain.
Having watched the torrential downpour that hit Free Practice 1 and Free Practice 2 it does look like that the re-profiled Silverstone may struggle a bit with standing water. This will mean that car control and ability to find grip whilst managing the tyres will be key to having a successful weekend. As we saw in Malaysia the wets and intermediates have a limited operating window and do seem to suffer from overheating if pushed on too hard.
Fernando Alonso won this race last season in a trying season for Ferrari when they struggled with the blown diffuser concept. Of course this race last season was also when the FIA placed limits on how much off throttle blowing was allowed. This limited the advantages that the likes of Red Bull and McLaren had over the Prancing Horse for one weekend. In a wet/dry race Alonso made the most of a savvy pit strategy and mistakes from other teams to take an unexpected victory. I don’t know what to expect from Ferrari this weekend; I personally think Alonso is still out-performing the car. In Valencia where they were expected to go well they qualified horrendously.
Alonso battled early on and pushed himself up the order following a flying start. He was also decisive when making moves and didn’t get stuck behind anyone for too long. Once in front, he controlled the pace of the race and took victory. Silverstone in recent times is where Ferrari have had a fight back. In 2010 this is where Alonso announced that they’d be part of the title fight. Of course they went on to improve massively and effectively lost themselves the championship at the last round of the season.
In 2011 they were victorious as mentioned. This season however I do have worries; following the massive overhaul of the car at the Spanish Grand Prix we’ve seen the car steadily drop in qualifying performance and others pick up on race pace. The car’s ability to manage it’s tyres relatively well since the updates has been important but it will be interesting to see if this race turns into a wet/dry affair whether or not the Ferrari has that instant switch on of pace that it had in Malaysia when Alonso claimed a shock victory. Alonso has a 20 point gap at the top of the championship and it may be a situation where Ferrari try to play it safe with what should be a very difficult weekend.
Red Bull arrives at Silverstone off the back of their most impressive performance of the season. Adrian Newey and the rest of Red Bull’s aerodynamic department have worked tirelessly to try regain some of the down force lost this season. At Valencia they appeared to have found a solution that allowed Sebastian Vettel to get the full potential out of the car. This was evident by first his staggering qualifying lap and secondly by his ability to just drive away from the field prior to his retirement from the race with an overheating alternator that killed his engine. Mark Webber had a weekend of lows and highs.
The low was failing to get out of Q1 in qualifying. The high was his race day charge back to fourth following a late stop for fresh tyres. Red Bull’s performance has been highly unpredictable this season and the car has seemed extremely nervous compared to the last few seasons. Silverstone is a circuit that plays to the team’s traditional strengths however with the unpredictable weather and low temperatures it may not be best suited to Red Bull. However in saying that, Vettel and Webber are both excellent wet weather drivers and should flourish this weekend.
Vettel has had some notable performances in the wet including his first victory in F1 when he took a Toro Rosso to a shock Monza victory back in 2008. If things were to stay dry this would likely be a chance for Vettel to regain ground in the championship and challenge for victory. For Webber’s struggles in qualifying in Valencia it must be remembered that he is the leading Red Bull in the championship. He also has some form at Silverstone.
Oh and watch out for the faces color scheme that the team is running on the car this weekend. It’s a charity initiative for the Wings for Life charity that’s raised over €1 million for this race alone through fans being able to donate and get their picture added to the car.
This is McLaren’s home race and with Lewis Hamilton having won in every category he ever raced here they do have a driver that’s both performed at the circuit in the past and that loves racing in front of the British crowd. His performance in the wet back in 2008 was staggering. Had it not been for Nick Heidfeld and Rubens Barrichello he would have lapped the entire field. Quite simply Silverstone 2008 was Hamilton’s equivalent of Senna’s legendary Donnington win. Button has never been successful at Silverstone in F1. His best result to date is 4th.
Last year he had a nightmare pit-stop error that left him with a wheel detaching from the car as he left the pits. Button parked the car before he was left with three wheels on his wagon. Hamilton will be looking to come back from his late Valencia clash with Maldonado that put him out of the race whilst battling for the final podium position. Button of course has had major struggles in recent races and it’s yet to be seen if he can find the form that he had early on in the season when he dominated the Australian Grand Prix. One thing that is interesting with this season’s tyres is that Button struggled in the wet of Malaysia. This came as a shock as he’s long been held as one of the better wet weather drivers out there. With rain expected for most of the weekend he may be in for a tough time. Hamilton took the quickest time in Friday’s saturated second session and appears to be motivated to get the most out of the weekend.
He’s come out and criticised the team for being slow pushing through improvements in the car. Add to that his ongoing contract situation regarding a drive next season and you have a driver that may not have his full concentration on the track. It will be intriguing to see how that pan’s out over the coming weeks and months as it may have an impact on how the driver and team interact to their detriment.
Mercedes come into the British Grand Prix weekend off the back of Michael Schumacher’s shock Valencia podium. The podium had been expected but not at a circuit where Schumacher had struggled in qualifying and only managed 12th. Ironically at a track where overtaking had been scarce in the past it was the men who qualified 11th and 12th that were 1st and 3rd respectively.
Many are unsure of what to expect from Mercedes this weekend; there are aspects of the circuit that should play to Mercedes strengths but also some sections that have caused the team trouble at similar tracks. Both their drivers are on top form and chomping at the bit. Rosberg has continued to qualify and race well; however his penchant to go backwards at the start will worry the team. Schumacher will be looking to keep the momentum gained from Valencia as he continues to ponder his future. Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn announced on Tuesday at the FOTA fans forum that a decision on Schumacher’s future is expected by the end of the summer. Both drivers are hoping for rain based on their comments in the press this week and should the forecast be correct they may be challenging for a podium on Sunday.
Lotus come to Silverstone disappointed that they only claimed a lower rostrum spot in Valencia through Kimi Raikkonen finishing 2nd. They had been expected to challenge for victory with Romain Grosjean prior to his retirement with a similar failure to Vettel’s Red Bull. The team are expected to challenge rain or shine this weekend. With both their car and drivers being suited to seemingly every condition they may be about to make that breakthrough finally.
Their car is also one of the kindest on the tyres which may be extremely important if it’s wet/dry as expected on Sunday. The team have gone from being content to finish in the top 5 or 6 to being disappointed with another 2nd position. This shows a marked turn in attitude and it has to be said that Lotus have been the surprise of the season with their development ability and driver’s performance. They should be challenging again this weekend and with Grosjean having been fastest in the first practice session this weekend he may be one to watch if he can avoid trouble.
The midfield teams may come to the fore this weekend too. Williams will be looking to claim a home victory for the first time since 1997. Maldonado has as ever been unpredictable but quick. Ironically his team-mate Bruno Senna has had more points finishes despite not being as impressive in qualifying. The team were again a podium challenger in Valencia. One thing to remember also is that Senna was one of the fastest in the wet race in Malaysia. A points finish may be possible.
Sauber will be hoping that the rain comes and they can repeat their Malaysian heroics where arguably they should have won if not for a late mistake by Sergio Perez when he chased down Fernando Alonso. Kamui Kobayashi has been impressive on Friday and at a circuit where bravery can equal tenths he’s definitely one expected to pick up points this weekend. If the rain comes a bet on a Sauber being on the podium is a worthwhile endeavor.
McLaren can take their 150th pole in Silverstone. It would have come in Barcelona after Hamilton qualified fastest but he was stripped of pole for a fuel miscalculation.
Vettel now has 33 Poles to his credit at the age of 24, the same number that Jim Clark and Alain Prost took in their entire F1 careers. Only Michael Schumacher (68) and the late Ayrton Senna (65) have more Poles to their name.
Ferrari’s last pole was with Alonso in Singapore in September 2010.
Red Bull have been on pole for the last three races, and Vettel can chalk up a personal hat-trick this weekend.
Michael Schumacher’s podium at the age of 43 in Valencia means he is the oldest driver to stand on the podium since Australian Jack Brabham aged 44 in 1970.
Vettel has now gone four races since his last podium finish. That is the German’s worst run since a six race podium-less streak between the end of 2008 and early 2009.
Alonso has finished his last 20 races in the points. Schumacher holds the record of 24 scoring finishes in a row.
Silverstone hosted the first race in the Formula One world championship in 1950. The circuit has hosted every British Grand Prix since 1986.
Red Bull have been on pole at Silverstone for the last three years (Webber 2011, Vettel 2010 and 2009).
Historically, pole has not been a big advantage at Silverstone. Only four times in the last 17 races there has the quickest driver in qualifying won.
Twelve British drivers have won their home race since 1950. The last was Hamilton in 2008. The last British driver to win from pole in Britain was Damon Hill in 1994.
The last British one-two in Britain was in 1999 with David Coulthard and Eddie Irvine. In 1965, the top five were all British with Jim Clark, Graham Hill and John Surtees on the podium.
McLaren’s Jenson Button has never stood on the podium at his home race.
Sebastian Vettel has never won a Formula One race in the month of July.
Kamui Kobayashi has scored points at all the odd numbered race events so far this season and none of the even numbered race events.
– Rosberg each way for Pole at 14/1 with Boylesports
– Kovalainen to finish in the points 20/1 with Bet365 (this is a risk but Caterham have had more updates from former McLaren designer John Illey and were battling for points in Valencia).
– Webber 10/3 for a podium with Paddy Power.