Austrian GP Review and British GP Preview By Bob Constanduros
As I write this, I’m kind of sad for all those struggling from Spielberg to Silverstone. It’s one hell of a doubleheader, and there have been storms in Europe which won’t have helped those making the trip. Normally, I would have been at Vienna airport on Monday afternoon, prior to flying back to UK, but thankfully I wasn’t there. Friends report storms and even a tornado, delayed flights etc.
And our new bosses, in their wisdom, have brought forward the action at Silverstone by a day, so that things start at 15.30 on Thursday with F2 practice followed by GP3 practice. There’s a 15hr plus drive between Spielberg and Silverstone; not fun, and it’s raining here in the UK on Tuesday as the trucks arrive – and there was a massive thunderstorm as they packed up on Sunday night. And suddenly – for us – they pop in a demonstration in London. Well, I suppose they had to go past so they might as well come into the centre. Nice idea; hope everyone was well prepared.
But never fear, you might not have to go to Silverstone for much longer. The British Grand Prix is under threat. Have you heard that before? Having sought a contract for the Grand Prix for so many years, the British Racing Drivers Club – owners of Silverstone – manage to secure a long one a few years ago but now they want to break it because they made a loss on the GP last year and the year before, a £4.8m loss in 2016.
The contract, of course, was signed with FOM under the previous management, headed by one B Ecclestone. He was never a great fan of the BRDC, in spite of being a member. I’m told all this goes back to a meeting with the BRDC back in the late eighties, early nineties. I believe it was an open meeting, and the dialogue included Bernie suggesting that he handle the solution to some problem. At which point a member asked “yes, but how do we know that we can trust you, Mr Ecclestone?”
That was about as big an insult as you can lay on Bernie, and his distaste for the old boy network of the BRDC began there. It didn’t help when they built themselves a nice new clubhouse when they might have upgraded the pits. I won’t go on; Silverstone wasn’t Bernie’s favourite place. And apart from anything else, he had found that dealing with governments who liked to sling money at sporting events far more preferable than companies – or clubs – who actually wanted to make money – or at least, break even.
A couple of years ago we had an interesting double-header with Japan and Russia. There were – shall we say – cultural differences between the two which proved revealing. The same might be said – for different reasons – between Spielberg and Silverstone, and the Red Bull organisation and the Motor Sport Association and the BRDC.
But let’s talk about it from a sporting point of view: the relatively and apparently simple Red Bull Ring, and the third longest multi-corner former aerodrome that hosted the first Grand Prix in the current World Championship, Silverstone, home of 50 British Grands Prix.
Spielberg had its difficulties, as I predicted, particularly turn one in practice and races, the new turn three in both practice and races, turn four in races, six and seven in practice, and nine and ten any time, so not a bad circuit with challenges throughout!
Silverstone has 18 corners to Spielberg’s ten, and nine braking points, so it’s still a big challenge. The drivers will tell you to get out to the Becketts-Maggotts-Chapel-Hangar Straight complex because the changes of direction and G-loading will be even more dramatic than before, thanks to the new regulations dictating wider tyres and therefore more grip although personally I think the back view of cars going into Copse and the sudden change of direction is spectacular on its own.
Lewis Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are all previous pole- and race-winners at Silverstone but can anyone beat the Mercedes driver at home? He may have been off-form in Austria and this wasn’t helped by either loads of questions about the Baku incident plus the gearbox penalty, but he drove as best as he could and it netted him fourth. It was one of those damage-limitation days when he got what points he could. Believe you me, that situation following a penalty is coming the way of everyone!
I would love to say that Valtteri Bottas is a championship contender but he needs to beat Lewis Hamilton in a straight fight. OK, he virtually did that at Sochi, thanks to being on pole and Hamilton fourth which is where they both finished, but I think Hamilton will be on fire at Silverstone and he will be very very hard to beat. Ferrari will be up there – or at least Vettel will be and Kimi could be but we are continuing to wait to see Kimi’s best this year – apart from pole at Monaco of course.
We would love to see Red Bull part of this battle but that looks a little unlikely. Verstappen’s luck in front of his many travelling fans was disastrous in Austria – you have to feel sorry for him because he is massively talented but it’s also nice to see Daniel Ricciardo picking up points on a regular basis, even if everyone else has to drink out of his bloody driving boot!
Austria wasn’t a great race although it did liven up towards the end. You may know that my son was handling track announcer duties in my absence, and I was interested to hear that he felt it was quite a good race. That’s because a commentator should be so caught up in every instance of time gained or incident that he can highlight every potential place change; something is always going on and being a track announcer, someone, somewhere is watching whoever you are talking about. It’s not quite the same on TV.
And so everyone heads for the halfway point in the World Championship at Silverstone. There’s lots going on on the circuit: demonstrations by Formula Student, Williams and Renault in their 40th years of Grand Prix participation, even a Formula Two drivers parade. It’s going to be a very busy weekend but also possibly one of the last ones at Silverstone. Haha, we’ll believe that when it happens. I have to say, however, that in this instance, I shall be happy watching it from a friend’s, and in this instance on Channel Four. I hope you enjoy it too.