2018 British GP Review – By Bob Constanduros
You have to hand it to Ferrari, they timed their latest engine update perfectly. It’s there for all to see in their results. Before the triple header, Sebastian Vettel was a point ahead of Lewis Hamilton. That margin is now eight points. Before Canada, Kimi Raikkonen was fifth and compatriot Valtteri Bottas third; now those places are reversed.
Daniel Ricciardo was in fourth place, just two points behind Bottas. He’s maintained that place but now he’s ten points behind Kimi Raikkonen. But the real proof of Ferrari’s resurgence is Mercedes 17 points in the lead of the Constructors before the triple header, now 20 points behind Ferrari, a 37 point reversal.
And if any further proof were needed, just take a look at the recent performances of Ferrari’s customer teams, particularly at Silverstone where Haas were well placed at times as was Sauber.
The Scuderia has clearly done an excellent job and they were obviously on top as they came to Silverstone after Mercedes’s double retirement in Austria with mechanical problems – even if Ferrari didn’t win there. And it became more and more obvious that it was going to be a massive Ferrari versus Mercedes battle at round 10; Red Bull just couldn’t keep up. And Mercedes’s gamble to keep both cars on circuit during the race rather than pit for a second set of tyres was perhaps their only chance of victory, but it didn’t come off.
True, that without his touch with Raikkonen Lewis could have converted that stunning pole position into victory but then Kimi has said the same thing. Kimi is normally a pretty fair driver and when he does something wrong, he usually holds up his hand to admit it. He is also, admittedly, the first to whinge about another driver’s poor behaviour. The penalty for that collision was 10s, enough or not? Look back a week and we also had a disputed penalty, so perhaps there is a case for reviewing them.
Staying on the subject of that collision, it was manna from heaven for the UK press when ‘a furious’ Lewis Hamilton accused Ferrari of staging the move that took him out briefly on purpose. To a man (and lady, Rebecca of The Times) they sensed a story here and pounced on it; even better when Mrs Raikkonen suggested that Lewis should go off and do ballet if he couldn’t take it!
I put ‘furious’ in inverted commas there because when I saw Lewis he was still exhausted by his effort in the car; ‘seething’ might have been a more suitable expression but even ‘resigned’ might have been better than furious, unless he let rip later. And of course it’s all been diplomatically rescinded; it was all said in the heat of the moment, and all is now lovey dovey and hunky dory again.
But it is an intense championship, made more so by the pressures of the triple header. There were quite a few very tired looking people at the end of the Silverstone weekend. It probably wasn’t helped by our glorious weather; all those who were ‘in tents’ were probably better off than those of us in hot bedrooms with our windows open letting in all manner of noise and bugs etc. (Before my host chucks me out, I hasten to add that there were no bugs and it was a new experience sunbathing at six in the morning as the sun streamed through my open window!)
Mindful of previous British Grands Prix, when I did wake up, I set off to ‘beat the traffic’, so successfully that I didn’t see any and there seemed to be no complaints from colleagues either. I was at the circuit early enough to indulge in that great British invention, the full English which I’m now busy walking off, or trying to.
In fact this was probably my most enjoyable British Grand Prix for many years. I’m not a big fan – in fact few pros are fans of their home Grands Prix simply because it’s always so busy – and I have never approved of the new paddock and Wing building. (We all still hanker for the days of the old grass paddock behind the old pits.) But when the sun shines in the UK there is nothing to beat it and that’s from someone who’s been to one or two GPs over the years: over 600 and counting. The sight of the flags flying above the campsites which greeted us every morning was magnificent. Far from the comment of a BRDC council member years ago as he surveyed a similar scene on an albeit foggy and damp morning: ‘if this were a third world country, they’d be sending in aid by now.’
But it was a great weekend with a fantastic crowd which really bolstered one’s confidence in the sport. How can Liberty dispute the presence of the British Grand Prix on the calendar, but we professional media people have already torn into Liberty for the potential damage of offering Miami ‘a deal’ to run their Grand Prix at a reduced price, so how can we accept the same thing at Silverstone, whatever its heritage?
But then that’s exactly it, isn’t it? It has the heritage of being the very first Grand Prix in the World Championship in 1950. And you can at least guarantee a good crowd, 135,000 on race day. With a new venue, that certainly isn’t a given and how can you be certain they can even get into the circuit, that the communications are going to work, France being an example?
Back on the track, we had a fair amount of damage over the weekend, and some worrying breakages at Toro Rosso over the last couple of races. Sauber was the latest to run into ‘wheel nut’ problems. All eyes will now be on McLaren after relieving Eric Boullier of his duties; his position had perhaps become untenable following the arrival of Zak Brown whose real focus should be more marketing rather than treading on Eric’s toes, but that’s a view that should be taken by the shareholders.
Meanwhile, how do you solve a problem like Romain Grosjean, as one of the weeklies wrote recently? He is quick, always has been, of that there is no doubt, but it comes at a cost of crashed cars. It’s really unfortunate, but how long can Haas afford to keep him? Is he learning? There’s not much evidence of it. And if he doesn’t learn from his mistakes, he will surely be let go and that’s sad for a driver who is quick.
Elsewhere, the cost-cap looms which means that there will be redundancies but then why not satellite teams, employing those skilled people who find themselves out of a job? Surely this is an opportunity to expand F1 rather than reduce it? Let’s hope so; F1 is on a high at the moment, I feel, and the on-track battle continues to fascinate. Look at the end of that British Grand Prix; thanks to the safety car we had Mercedes, Ferrari, Mercedes, Ferrari battling over the last nine laps. Brilliant stuff. Next please.