Nico Wins, Mark Recovers And Fernando Reaches The Podium (Again) – The British GP
As the title implies these were the top three finishers when the checkered flag came out at the end of racing on Sunday. With perfect weather in the 2013 running of the British GP, you could not have asked for a more action packed, drama filled race. Where to begin? All season long the Pirelli tires have been the story and for this meeting on the Formula 1 calendar the tires once again were the focal point and will be in the days to come. But before we get into that, lets have a few words about the main characters of Sundays race and the supporting cast.
For our third place finisher, one Fernando Alonso, I’d like to revisit my own post written yesterday after qualifying:
“As it stands right now the best that I can hope for is through some crazy turn of events Alonso can manage to have a top five finish, and although Alonso has on many occasions pulled the proverbial podium out of the hat, I just can’t see it happening this time around. Not when the Red Bulls and Merc’s are so strong.”
Well I guess I was wrong and in being wrong I guess I was right. That is just how good Fernando Alonso is. You could bet money that beyond any rational possibility, no matter where this guy starts, he will end up on the podium. It must be maddening to his competitors. Alonso possesses this ability to a far greater degree than any one else on the grid. That’s why he’s the man.
Drives like this remind me of why I like watching Formula 1 so much, and particularly Alonso. It also reminded me of something I read some time ago. It was an interview with a commentator who in turn was recalling an interview with Michael Schumacher and this commentator (I apologize that I don’t remember his name, who knew I would be blogging about it years later) asked Schumacher whom he rated highest.
Now before you Vettel and Hamilton fans get all out of shape I will concede that neither was in the sport yet. However, this does not diminish what Schumacher said, which was along these lines: “The driver that I really rate as a concern for me is Alonso.”
Alonso did his championship no harm today and took 15 valuable points off Vettel. Still, I wonder, after the uncharacteristic tenth place grid position and his incredibly fast Montreal race pace which was nowhere to be found this past Sunday, do Ferrari and Alonso still have a chance at this year’s title? This blogger is not very happy to type the words, truth be known, but it must be said nonetheless.
Today Red Bull and Mercedes looked like they could not be matched by the Ferrari even in Alonso’s hands and that has to be worrying for Maranello. Was this due to the track? Red Bull has been strong here the last three out of four years so was it business as usual? Has Mercedes really sorted out their tire issue? Monaco and Montreal were not good indications of tire wear, but Silverstone is a proper high speed circuit and the Mercedes chassis looked nothing like the car we saw in Spain just four races ago, prior to their secret test.
I’m going to delve into this more in another post, but for now, Ferrari and Alonso who started this season with such confidence must be scratching their heads and wondering where they made a wrong turn. As usual, Alonso has been the voice of calm and has backed the Italian marquee in its ability to come together and work to solve the problems at hand, but with another race in a week’s time, I just don’t see the situation changing that dramatically and I am quite confidant that the Red Bulls will not be suffering from a faulty gearbox again anytime soon.
On to the second place finisher, Mark Webber. He is such a gritty fighter–starts fourth, and then by the opening lap is down in fifteenth. His result Sunday was due to his refusal to allow obstacles to get in his way, or take his focus off what he needs to do. Webber had a horrible start (not unfamiliar to him it must be said) but then puts his head down and delivered possibly the best drive of the day, in fact, he should be a shoo-in for Driver Of The Day. It was a classy way for the Australian that lives in England to finish out his F1 career at Silverstone, which must be considered a home GP for him.
I have a habit after a race of pointing out the race we didn’t get to see and today was no different. Had Webber not made such a rotten start I have no doubt he would have been a real threat to his teammate Sebastian Vettel for the win. Throw in the fact that there is bad blood between the two, plus Webber is on his way to go race Porsches, which means he is not racing for his job and we most likely missed a great battle. There is still plenty of time for that to happen, but Silverstone would have been a great one for this hypothetical battle since Webber always seems to shine here.
Mark Webber might not have won Formula 1’s ultimate prize, just as Stirling Moss and the beloved Gilles Villeneuve never did, but similar to these two drivers, he is a multiple race winner and highly respected in the paddock. Had there been 53 instead 52 laps to run, Webber would have been on that top step. Regardless, he showed everyone, especially Red Bull, why he deserved to pilot the best car on the grid of the last four years.
Last but not least, Nico Rosberg is now a three time race winner, two of which have been from the last three races. Most people felt that Rosberg was going to get blown away by Schumacher when he joined Mercedes, myself included. Most people thought that Rosberg was going to get dusted by Hamilton, myself included. Good thing I am not an expert F1 commentator. Ha Ha. I don’t feel too bad about this, many pundits and experts made the same mistake. It happens in F1 all the time, you get it wrong, you don’t see it coming, and then something changes, the car becomes competitive, the driver calms down, is more at ease, the results come and seemingly out of nowhere a driver is winning races just like that.
There were some early signs, the pole when Rosberg was driving for Williams, and later the signing to Mercedes. If Ross Brawn believes in you enough to sign you to drive one of his cars, you must be good, really good. There were races that you could see the machinery was holding Rosberg back. This season he is really putting it all together as the saying goes. With three pole positions and two race wins, we are seeing a real coming of age for the Mercedes driver.
The jury is still out with regards to the Mercedes chassis, but if the team has indeed made a step forward in competitiveness (thanks to the FIA for letting them get away with the secret test worth three race distances), then we should expect to see more of these great results from Rosberg. People throw around the “Future World Champion” title quite a bit in F1, but in Rosberg one is truly starting to see that it could be a real possibility. Enough said.
Let’s get back to the tires shall we. Tires let go all the time in motor racing, this is nothing new, but even to the casual viewer what transpired during the race must have seemed bizarre. Suffice to say “Houston we have a problem.” I am going to let all the experts that report, comment, analyze and get paid for their opinions to take the lead on this. If you read my blog you will find that I have defended Pirelli for most of the year (minus their secret test with Mercedes) concerning the tires that they were mandated to provide to F1.
I am not going to throw Pirelli under the bus, they have done a great job overall. Yes, the tires coming apart the way they did on Sunday was alarming. Yet it would be silly to just outright blame Pirelli without taking some time to investigate what was the real cause. More than likely it is a combination of several factors and not all of them have to do with the chemistry back at Pirelli HQ. Pirelli seem to be in a really difficult situation. As Andrew Benson of the BBC states:
“Attempts to find a solution were stymied because politics got involved, as they always tend to do in Fl. To be fair to Pirelli, it has wanted to change the tyres for some time. The problem has arisen, though, because of the way it has handled the situation, which allowed politics to take over.”
Now here we are in the eighth round of the championship and for reasons that have not entirely been explained, we had four tires implode during the race and a total of five for the race weekend. Take into account the tire of Alonso which failed right at pit entry, Vettel’s tire which was all cut up and the front tire of Esteban Gutierrez that did fail out on track and clearly something needs to be done, and pronto. One can only assume that since the FIA has called Pirelli to an emergency meeting in two days time in Paris we will have immediate action and a solution for the next Grand Prix.
None of this will make Lewis Hamilton feel any better. You can’t sympathize enough with Hamilton, he put the Mercedes on pole, had a great start, and was controlling the race for the short time he was in the lead. I am going to write a separate post on this as well, the incredible transformation that Mercedes has gone through since the Spanish GP (can you say 1000km secret test without cracking a smile?) but lets leave that one alone for now and instead just concentrate on the race.
Hamilton at his home GP was looking very strong and to suffer a tire failure for whatever reason, curbs, faulty tire construction, lack of tire pressure, etc., has got to hurt. Hamilton did amazingly well to recover and finish in fourth, but even if it was third or second on the podium, it can’t be any consolation with what could have been. Hamilton has had a great start with his new employer, maybe not the one he wanted considering what the guy on the other side of the garage also with a yellow helmet has accomplished, but as soon as Hamilton finds the sweet spot he will be a force in the team and out on the track.
lf one is to be sympathetic to Hamilton, then we must also sympathize with Sebastian Vettel. He also did nothing wrong and was driving the only way he knows how, very fast and extremely precise. Similar to Hamilton, retiring from a race is one thing, retiring from a race while leading and leading handily as already stated, must really be the worst feeling for a driver.
However, Vettel and Red Bull can take comfort in knowing that their car is still the best on the grid and it would appear any advantages that Lotus and Ferrari enjoyed in the beginning of the season in regards to tire wear have now been nullified. So although Vettel did not leave Silverstone with the result he was due, the smart money is on him to win the next race in Germany, and regretfully if you are an Alonso fan like yours truly or for that matter a fan of anyone else, odds are also with him to win the Drivers Championship.
One last thought about the British GP. The last ten laps were an absolute pleasure to watch, even with the spectre of a rear tire blow out. There is nothing like the adrenalin rush you get from watching close racing. I have watched the end three times now and each time it gets better and better. Unfortunately the Pirelli tires and their issues have yet again highjacked what would have been an example of a classically great, exciting race.
This time it was not an issue of who won, who did not win, or who went backwards. It was an issue of safety. The safety of the drivers, and I for one think that this time around Pirelli has some explaining to do.
-jp- (and come on paul fix those damn tires…)