It was always going to be one to remember though, wasn’t it? F1 fans had high hopes after an interesting Saturday qualifying, and were duly rewarded with what Jake Humphrey described as, “a race fitting for a new look Silverstone”.
Formula 1 had some making up to do after the European GP, as it was widely perceived to
be a ‘boring’ race; sentiments also shared by McLaren’s Jenson Button. The British Grand Prix wasted no time in making amends; Sebastian Vettel passing Mark Webber off the line and Lewis Hamilton making up three places, all in the first few corners of a half-wet, half-dry circuit.
As the racing line began to dry out, the performance of the Intermediate tyres the drivers elected to start on dropped off dramatically. Michael Schumacher was first into the pits to change to dry tyres, and immediately set the fastest lap of the race. The rest of the teams followed suit, and the pack began to chip away at Vettel’s lead; Hamilton, at times, pressing too hard as he missed braking zones attempting to overtake Felipe Massa’s Ferrari.
Later, in a spectacular double whammy, both McLarens succesfully executed overtakes on the two Ferraris in one lap. Jenson Button was particularly brave in what Lee MacKenzie described as a “cracking overtake” as Button stayed glued to the outside of Felipe Massa through a series of chicanes to gain the racing line through the following corner. But as the track continued to dry out, Ferrari began to show great pace. Fernando Alonso took back Lewis’ hard earned P2 before going on to capitalise on a bad Red Bull pit-stop as the Spaniard passed Vettel on the pit lane exit. The pits continued to take centre stage when an unsafe release by Sauber saw Kamui Kobayashi almost collide with the Williams of Pastor Maldonado, damaging Force India’s wheel gun rigging in the process. Sauber were later fined by the race stewards, as were McLaren for releasing Jenson Button from the
pits without properly fitting the front tyre. This lead to the home favourite’s retirement, much to the disappointment of the the home fans and Button himself, who had been in contention for a podium finish. Button later apologised to his fans, as he failed to earn a podium in his 12th successive outing at Silverstone.
After an impressive 6th place qualifying and a strong start to the race, Paul di Resta too, fell victim to pit crew mistakes. In his first British Grand Prix, a tyre mix-up dealt the young Scot a lengthy pit-stop, shattering Force India’s, the home fans’ and the promising driver’s hopes of a points finish. In spite, the rookie managed to maintain a positive outlook on his first F1 season, and revelled in the new the paddock and its accompanying “new high” for F1 to build on.
Back on track, Vettel battled with Lewis Hamilton for 2nd. Hamilton defended well under pressure as the two drivers almost touched through the old pit straight. All the while, Alonso’s lead was increasing and by the time Hamilton fell victim to the Red Bull’s superior pace, the race was Alonso’s to lose.
Hamilton’s chances of a win dissolved as his team issued instructions to go into fuel saving mode. A wary Mark Webber, suspicious of McLaren dummy tactics cautiously dispatched the helpless and understandably frustrated Hamilton, confirming McLaren’s fuel issues which turned out to be the result of a lack of heavy fuel load testing in Friday practice.
With a few laps to go, the podium positions looked set. But after a tire change late on, Felipe Massa was now taking seconds per lap out of the fuel saving McLaren. Massa caught Hamilton and the pair battled it out on the last lap. After clashing with Hamilton at the Monaco GP, Massa aired his caution regarding Lewis’ aggressive driving style in an interview prior to the race. After pulling up alongside him in the penultimate corner, the
Ferrari driver was on the receiving end of Hamilton’s aggression once more, as the two collided. After his recent regular post-race meetings with officials about his driving, Hamilton joked he might need his ‘platinum card’ handy, but stewards later deemed the tussle a racing incident and Hamilton held on to a well deserved 4th.
Despite the last-gasp action between Hamilton and Massa, it was the championship-leading Red Bulls that would later make the headlines. With a few laps to go, Webber had closed the gap to team-mate Vettel, and looked set to race the German right to the finish line, until Team Principal Christian Horner issued team orders…
Mark, maintain the gap.
Webber raced on, but the damage was done, and left a sour taste in the mouth of F1 legend Murray Walker, who described the instructions as “the four bitterist words”.
But regardless of the addition to a weekend full of racing politics, F1 served up, not just one of the greatest British Grand Prix’s, but one of the greatest races ever. So rarely does motorsport deliver a last lap as exhilarating as the first. The wet weather had fans hoping for a repeat of the action witnessed at Montreal a month ago, and that’s exactly what they got. Two of the last three Formula 1 GP’s have been hailed as some of the greatest ever seen, and suggest the FIA and Pirelli’s ambitions of boosting F1 overtaking and excitement is working.
An ecstatic Fernando Alonso declared his P1 a “special win”, and went on to assert the need
for more of the day’s “aggression” if Ferrari are to challenge for the driver’s championship.
In what Eddie Jordan described as a “cool touch” to add to Alonso’s special win, the fans gathered in their droves, saturating the entire racetrack to share in the podium celebrations .
Given that the Germans are every bit as motorsport mad as the British, and if you believe F1 institution Murray Walker when he says “there’s no such thing as a boring Formula 1 race”, we really have something special to look forward to at the Nurburgring in a fortnight. Now that Vettel leads the driver’s championship by 80 points, you can expect Alonso and Hamilton to up the aggression even further. For the sake of keeping the championship interesting the season, I hope they can ‘reign ‘on the German’s parade.