By Bob Constanduros
Quite clearly, Lewis Hamilton’s win at Silverstone in the British Grand Prix ticked many boxes: home winner, fastest man on the track, on a roll currently, gaining in the championship. He is the fastest man at the moment even if his technology sometimes lets him down.
Lewis was fastest in every single session apart from one in the challenging conditions at Silverstone. He was the fastest man in the race too and thoroughly deserved his win. We can’t judge his starting procedure because we were robbed of that by the safety car start and that might have added extra spice, but clearly the team allowed their men to race and all they wanted was a one-two, they weren’t concerned with the order.
The Austrian backlash seemed to have been dealt with satisfactorily and to both drivers’ understanding. Both were questioned on the subject and both seemed happy with the outcome of their talks with Mercedes management. It was interesting to see another Mercedes board member present at Silverstone; one wonders if there will be a board member at all races from now on.
But Lewis is on a roll at the moment and I can’t see that coming to an end over the next two races in Hungary and Germany. Silverstone showed his speed and that he is fully focused; I just wonder if he was right from the start of the season. Which is perhaps where the latest radio rules come in. Nico was able to do the right thing at Baku and adjust his car in the right direction whereas Lewis didn’t.
The subject came up again at Silverstone, of course. I just wonder if Mercedes knew what they were doing, that they took a calculated gamble that it was cheaper to take the penalty than the consequences of leaving Rosberg out there with a failing gearbox. He may still get a gearbox penalty at the next race anyway…
But the radio rules once again came under scrutiny. It does seem particularly wrong that Sergio Perez was left with failing brakes in Austria and a team that was unable to warn him. Giuliano Alesi had already suffered brake failure going into turn one in GP3 practice, a subsequent impact which ruled him out for the rest of the weekend, so to leave a driver with potential brake failure on circuit seemed irresponsible of the team, hamstrung by FIA radio regulations.
Having a recalcitrant gearbox isn’t quite as critical as brake failure but even so, it was important for the team and perhaps worth a 10 second penalty to warn the driver. And it did bring the subject back into focus.
The other major subject was the form of Max Verstappen. He’s made some young driver mistakes of late which is only to be expected, but what a fine talent he is. The Silverstone crowd took him to their hearts and he responded with a seriously mature performance, mixing it with at least the second Mercedes if not the first. I’ve known him since he was a teenager – oh no, that doesn’t work, he still is one but before he’d got into a racing car at least and it’s just so good to see him go so far. I love it that he feels he can overtake anywhere, even around the outside of Stowe. I remember him trying the same thing at 130R at Suzuka in a Toro Rosso; he has no respect for tradition. Don’t overtake there? Why not? Do it. (Oh, and what’s this about the Renault engine being down on power? Looked pretty good at Silverstone.)
And it’s important to remember his old teammate Carlos Sainz who continues to completely overshadow his new teammate. I’ve heard that Sainz cracks under pressure but I haven’t seen that. He’s regularly in the points, qualifies well (which is when he might crack) and seems on top of the game. Admittedly his car still lets him down which is a shame but he is a good racer and if there was a three car Red Bull team then he should be in it. It’s worth reminding you that Toro Rosso are using last year’s Ferrari engine which is not benefitting from any development and therefore being left behind by the opposition – not that you would know it.
Of course another team punching above its weight – although they deny it – is Force India who continued with fine results at their home circuit. This is in stark contrast to Ferrari where Maurizio Arrivabene’s tenure is beginning to be questioned. Kimi Raikkonen may be popular outside the paddock but he is no media-friendly baby and up until Sunday’s race, no one was awfully sure why he had been re-signed. Williams, sadly, were bracketed with a similar performance which at least might have motivated the team to produce a car that performs over a wider range.
But the races come thick and fast; two more to go in this crazy six-race, eight-week streak, one of which will be crucial to Mercedes at home. Silverstone also proved that Formula One is still massively popular at least in the UK, but will Germany produce a similar crowd, one wonders? First comes Hungary, of course, where we had a fantastic race last year, but I’ll be previewing that next week. Oh, and of course, that only marks the halfway point in the championship. There is a long, long way to go yet.