Britain's Silver Lining
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle reflects on a weekend which brought out the best of the British fans but not the country's F1 drivers, and considers what lessons both the sport and Silverstone will have learnt...
Last Updated: 10/07/12 12:47pm
Once again British motorsport experience, dedication and commitment shone through to deliver an impressive performance at the British Grand Prix. I'm talking, of course, about the crowd because it was one to forget for the British drivers.
The McLarens of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton looked woeful on a track which pretty much everybody thought they would perform well on beforehand. Lewis even seemed positively brimming with enthusiam and anticipation at that point. Poor grid slots in the wet qualifying didn't help although curiously the team said that had it rained in the race they would have been in better shape.
Lewis's initial race pace looked very solid but as the laps peeled off the team were clearly focused more on defending against the recovering Romain Grosjean rather than laying claim to some silverware. A short middle stint left Lewis struggling for pace in eighth place at the finish with Jenson actually closing in while stealing a lowly tenth. His victory in Australia must now feel like a different season and car.
One engineer said to me that it's reasonably easy to engineer and develop a car to be slower this year. We've seen just how knife edge the 2012 cars and particularly tyres can be, and with so little testing its easy to misread new development parts if the conditions happen to be right and the tyres are 'switched on'. It's clearly about careful evolution and constant validation in order to move forward in small steps.
Mercedes-Benz are a good example. Nico Rosberg looked supreme back in China when all the temperatures and tyre dynamics were just right for his car which started from pole position and basically disappeared. At Silverstone he was virtually anonymous.
Because of the wet qualifying it was interesting to note that every driver had copious amounts of new tyres available for the race and so they all started with the same chance. The mixture of strategies were interesting particularly as some of the teams were absolutely convinced it would rain during the race.
One by-product of this close and unpredictable season is that drivers are firmly reminded that a few places made on the first lap are crucial. We are seeing some very agressive driving which unfortunately included Grosjean damaging his front wing against Paul Di Resta's Force India which effectively meant the young Scot's race was over by turn four.
Grosjean's subsequent comeback drive and Raikkonen's solid pace confirmed once again that Lotus have a potentially race-winning car if they don't fall off the development curve of the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari. Romain seems a bit accident prone in wheel-to-wheel combat but overall he is clearly out shining Kimi.
Mark Webber drove a blinder. While the focus was on the Brits, Alonso and Vettel for most of the event he quietly popped the Red Bull on the front row, stayed out of trouble, was measured throughout, very aggressive when required, and as soon as he realised Alonso wasn't just teasing and saving tyres in front of him, launched a relentless charge to victory. The fourth consecutive podium for the Aussie at his 'home' track.
He had the measure of team-mate Vettel who was on the podium for the first time since he won back in Bahrain. In fact that's the first time both Red Bull drivers have been on the podium since Brazil last year.
Nonetheless it was Alonso's 21st consecutive point scoring finish and he continues to lead the championship. His team mate Felipe Massa continues to return much closer to his previous form in fourth place.
Once again Pastor Maldonado was in the wars. Both just out of the pits, Perez was trying to nail him round the outside of Brooklands corner but Maldonado, likely with brakes and tyres not fully up to temperature, lost the back of the car and contact was made. Often that would have been deemed a mistake in close combat and a racing incident, but Maldonado's history means the finger points at him. I've sensed general antagonism between these two South Americans which they need to fix because it's costing them serious results, especially Maldonado who clearly has red mist moments under pressure.
I feared Silverstone would get a proper thrashing in the media on Monday but frankly looking at all the images of other events and dramas around the country it's clear that Silverstone was just one of many places seriously affected. It wasn't good by any means and my personal experience is that the traffic management out and about was very poor, and personnel at key pinch points weren't briefed or empowered enough to make sensible decisions. They must also recognise that Friday is like a full on race day at just about every other GP and should be treated as such.
We are approaching half point in the season now but there's no time to stop and draw breath for anyone.