Its Game On For The Title!

The British Grand Prix weekend was crazy. I like many of the other hundreds of thousands, turned up to the once disused airfield we now call “Silverstone” to watch a motor racing spectacle. And we were gifted with just that. Sebastien Vettel and Fernando Alonso proved this this generation of F1 car can produce some awesome close combat. Valterri Bottas showed that his podium in Austria wasn’t a one-off for Wlliams. But most of all Lewis Hamilton gave the home crowd a feel-good British sporting success story by winning on home soil, showing once and for all that motor racing is something this nation does best.

I was in the main grandstand when Nico’s gearbox failed, and I remember seeing his hand rather weirdly gripping the steering wheel on the big screen just across the circuit. I thought “Thats new. I’ve never seen a driver hold the wheel like that before!” only to realise four seconds later that he was in fact pulling in the clutch because he was stuck in fourth gear. It reminded me very much of twelve months ago when the same thing happened to Vettel’s car, only that time I saw it with my own eyes.

Of course when the crowd realised Lewis took the lead, they went wild. I must admit, I was sitting on the fence. Even though I had my special edition Lewis Hamilton cap on and was chanting “He’s gonna take him on track!” all through his first stint as the gap visibly closed every lap, I was still gutted that they couldn’t have it out on track. In fact I was rather baffled that many others weren’t the same. At one point I shouted “OH NOOO!” when Nico got out of his car, only to have everyone else around me respond “OH YESSSSS!” in rather pantomime fashion.

I guess they were too caught up in the moment to realise what actually just happened. However I do remember being one of the few to commemorate Valterri Bottas on his pretty bold move around the outside of Jenson Button at Stowe for P3. Although to be fair there were other on track racing moments which got us all excited, particularly the battle between Alonso and Vettel.

For me that was one for the history books, proper side-by-side, gutsy overtaking moves. Overtake of the race for me goes to Fernando Alonso. I did the track walk in the morning and said to my Dad when we got to Copse “I’ll be surprised if we see anyone overtake here,” only for the feisty Spaniard to prove me wrong a couple of hours later by pulling off a Senna-esq move around the outside.

Vettel_vs_Alonso_F1WeekendsMartin Brundle made the observation that he put Vettel in a position to determine whether or not they were going to have a crash, and he’s exactly right. The four-time World Champion did very well to just give him the space to execute the move, to which he later returned the favour at the same corner in the same situation.

What was also fascinating about that battle was how the stewards reacted to it. Despite the playground whining from both drivers on the team radio saying they were putting all four wheels off the track to gain an advantage, or because they were chopping each others line off, the stewards did nothing but issue a reminder to both drivers about respecting the track limits. Thats all that was needed really. I thought Alonso’s aggressive defence into Luffield was a bit cheeky, but I remember Hamilton doing the same thing to Rosberg earlier on in the season at Bahrain, and he never got a penalty for it.

But whilst I can praise Alonso all day for his efforts, I can’t do the same for his teammate. Whilst I’m relieved to hear Raikkonen will be fit enough to take part in the German Grand Prix weekend after missing this weeks tests, I’m still left wondering why he did such a novice thing on track. From the aerial shots I could see where he was aiming to rejoin back onto the track, but I don’t think I’ve seen something that stupid since Vitaly Petrov pulled his rallycross antics at Malaysia in 2011.

Its just a total lack of respect for fellow competitors, marshals, and spectators. Chilton was lucky to escape with his life after his four kilo tyre nearly struck him on the head as it came off the rim, and its a shame for Massa who was forced to retire having just been an innocent victim on his 200th Grand Prix. After the race weekend there was talk of him being parked for Germany, but I’d say that was too harsh. Whilst the incident itself is of similar nature to Grosjean’s at Spa in 2012, its not like Raikkonen’s was building up after a repeat of offences.

On that basis, I personally think Raikkonen should be forced to start from the pitlane. At Hockenhiem drivers like to run wide at the first corner, and I think having Kimi go through there after the incident he just caused would just be inappropriate.

As for what else happened on track, Ted Kravitz made an interesting note about Force India in his Notebook feature on Sky, in saying that it was the wind direction patterns that were stopping them from having any pace on Sunday. According to the team, its just a characteristic of their car; that it’s yaw sensitive. Of course Silverstone was an airport in its past time for a reason, but it will be interesting to see if that particular trait returns later on in the season.

One last thing on the strategy, I thought McLaren made some steps this past weekend. Silverstone is usually a hard track to make your car work if its not up to the challenge aerodynamically, and to see both Button and K-Mag visibly with pace – with Button even manning to challenge Riccardo for P3 on the Hard tyre at the end – shows that they are making progress after what has been a pretty tough eighteen months for Woking.

Vettel_Silverstone_2014_F1WeekendsAs for the final thought of the day, that goes to the sound. I said earlier on in the year that I would revisit this discussion once I’d got some experience first hand. And I have to say, F1 doesn’t need to worry about making them louder. I say this having been in a rather unique position where I could actually compare properly as well, since Silverstone put on the 50th anniversary parade with all of the cars from different periods doing laps around the circuit. Whilst the sound isn’t as earsplitting as the V8’s of yesteryear, this years motors are still as loud as the cars from the 70s and 80s.

You still find yourself having to wait for a gap when speaking to people that are just inches apart from you, and there is still that rumbling feeling when they go by. There is also a distinct sound to each engine. You couldn’t tell the difference from a mile away, but close up you know that its Ferrari or a Mercedes-powered car. To put it short, F1 is a lot more enjoyable to watch live. Whilst I will always love the sound of the V10s and the V8s, I find that the strain isn’t as much on the ears.

With that, I’d like to say thank you Silverstone. I love coming to this track every year, and it always seems to deliver even more. From the people that work at the track to fellow racing fans, its always a pleasure to speak to everyone about our passion, even if they favour the driver with a union jack beside their name at times. But I have to admit, I couldn’t be more ecstatic for the result. Not only because of seeing a British driver win at Silverstone, but also because it means the championship battle is back on!

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