Lewis Hamilton made yet more history in front of his home crowed during last weekends British Grand Prix, equalising Jim Clark’s record of five victories at the fabled Silverstone circuit and setting the lap record in the process.
Hamilton was simply unstoppable this weekend; in qualifying you could see visibly how much more speed and confidence he had in the high speed Maggotts and Becketts complex, then in the race it didn’t take long before he stretched the gap to Kimi Raikkonen that by the end of lap 13 he was in a different postcode!
The Mercedes driver got a lot of flack for missing the event in London last week in which all the drivers apart from him attended, to showcase the sport in one of the worlds most renown cities. I don’t buy the excuse that PR people couldn’t rearrange his planned holidays, after all this was the event British fans were going to expecting to see Hamilton there ahead of the British Grand Prix. But having seen him sign EVERY autograph at pretty much every opportunity, doing his ceremonial crowd surfing, and appearing on the Grand Prix after-party stage with his family, I think Hamilton redeemed himself.
What has happened to Ferrari since Austria? I don’t think their pace is far off Mercedes but it seems to be down to the updates that they have been throwing at the car in a bid to stay on the level-playing field they have enjoyed since the Australian Grand Prix. Raikkonen didn’t look at all as comfortable as Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel was seemingly battling with brake problems which hurt his confidence, something that was visible in his feisty on track encounter with Max Verstappen.
The Red Bull driver finally managed to complete a race distance for the first time in four races, a statistic that becomes even more alarming when you realise the team have completed the fewest racing laps this year (and yes, even McLaren Honda have completed more than them!). It doesn’t look at all stable in the Red Bull camp, Verstappen is contemplating his options post-2018, and there are rumours of Carlos Sainz switching to Renault after the Hungarian Grand Prix in replace of the underperforming Jolyon Palmer.
Daniil Kvyat looks as if he’s on his last few warnings having committed the cardinal sin on the opening lap and crashing into his team mate, in a half-hearted attempt at an overtake. I felt a bit sympathetic after Canada when the stewards seemed to have consulted referee Keith Shroud in how to apply in-race penalties, but after Austria’s turn one antics and now this, no wonder Daniel Ricciardo is reminding him of his nickname ‘the torpedo’ (coined by Vettel) in the drivers presser.
One wonders what this does to the driver market, as Sainz seems to be the man in demand but Red Bull aren’t wanting to release him too hastily without reaching an agreement that benefits them financially. Pierre Gasly sounds like a sound replacement should they want to get Kvyat out early, although I can see them wanting to have continuity should Sainz leave as early as the rumours suggest.
Of course the other topic of the weekend was the future of Silverstone. Having activated the break clause in their contract to host the race last week, the circuit will only host the race now up until the end of 2019. You can see why when you consider under the current terms Silverstone would be paying up to £27m just to host the race, and unfortunately like any business if you can’t break even then it’s not financially viable.
There is no other venue in the UK that could host a British Grand Prix, London is kind of out of the question unless you look towards the docklands and any other circuit just doesn’t have the infrastructure. So where does it go? The answer is that it stays at Silverstone.
I can’t see the race dropping off the calendar if Liberty Media steps in and helps renegotiate a contract which favours both parties, something which probably won’t be too far away from the current terms. Putting up the price year-on-year for a struggling race that doesn’t have state funding behind it makes no sense for the customers, so that will probably be the first part to go. Elsewhere it looks like Silverstone will have to find further investment, which shouldn’t be too difficult considering how much it benefits the local economy – residents use money from parking to fund the local school developments.
Having spent the weekend at the circuit you could see how much people loved being there, even speaking to people whose first time was at the circuit this weekend. There is much more to Silverstone than a fancy F1 venue, it is the platform for Britain’s engineering heritage which extends to projects like the Bloodhound SSC and the Red Arrows Air show. Showing off our exports are quite key in the current state of affairs, and I think motorsport and engineering should be at the forefront of that – something Silverstone does very well.
I’ll be surprised and saddened if the big wigs can’t bang their headers together and sort out this mess, it would be a great loss to the sport and even greater one to the country if it doesn’t get sorted.