Practice Sessions - FP1/FP2/FP3:
It was only two practice sessions that the teams could run the desired programme they wanted to. The British weather hampered their Saturday session as rain meant the teams could only venture out for few laps. Although Friday was sunny but there was a strong breeze which did pose a problem for several drivers. Massa crashed heavily in FP1 which saw Susie Wolf (female driver) drive for the first time during a F1 weekend. Mercedes took charge as usual up ahead with the usual close fight between Hamilton & Rosberg (both topping one session each); the best of the rest title hovered between RBR (Vettel topped rain affected FP3 session), Ferrari, Williams & McLaren.
With no Indian GP this season, Silverstone & British GP became SFI’s #HomeSweetHome GP and there was increased number of eyeballs on the team with several partners, factory members and their families visiting the GP and the team’s HQ for Family Day and several other events. While on track, the team did struggle a bit with lack of pace both on one lap and the long runs. Yes, this was one of the tracks which ideally doesn’t suit the car but in the previous “not suiting” tracks the team had done reasonably well. Hulkenberg stated that the strong winds on Friday made it worse for the team; the German only got two sessions to drive as he was replaced by reserve driver Juncadella who made his first appearance for the team during a F1 weekend in FP1 finishing a good P14. Perez carried out his usual programme but he wasn’t very happy either though he was optimistic that there was scope for improvement.
The crazy British weather made it presence felt in a major way and I am sure Williams & Ferrari would agree and regret having not made a quick decision in Q1. With rain playing the hide and seek game, it was a major blow to Williams & Ferrai who couldn’t make it to Q2 after the session ended under yellow flags with neither teams being able to make any improvements. It meant that both Marussia went through to Q2 for the first time together and Bianchi qualified a superb P12 along with Chilton at P13 (dropped to P17 after penalty) thereafter. That was not the end of the rain drama as in Q3, Hamilton aborted his final lap thinking he would not improve but others who carried on did improve and moved ahead of the British driver. Rosberg took full advantage to grab pole while Vettel and other home hero Button qualifying P2 & P3 respectively. Hamilton, Perez, Ricciardo, Vergne & Kvyat all were pushed down to bottom half as a result.
After a tough Friday, the SFI team had something to cheer about on Saturday as all the strategic calls proved to be right for the team right from Q1 to Q3; one can argue about Perez not being able to cross the flag on time but it was more of a driver error than the team’s as he qualified P7. On the other hand, Hulkenberg was advised that they can run a lap as they had nothing to lose even if they were not to improve but luckily the third sector was dry enough to push and he thus qualified a strong P4 (briefly got the pole position). Earlier on both had made it safely through to Q2 and Q3, thanks also to some bad calls from other teams but they were there to take the opportunity. Perez was spot on post qualifying that after Friday’s tests, he will take P4 & P7 on the grid happily. With this grid position they were in line for a good result, only doubt in mind was about the lack of pace shown on Friday.
The buzz around the British GP was there to be seen with so many stalwarts visiting the Grand Prix, from actors to sportspersons to models to even the Prince. And add to this the full stands plus many of the mechanics and engineers had the liberty to stay at home and had the chance to bring their families. British GP also gives opportunity to the fans to camp in the official camping ground near the track. The weather was back to being the same like Friday; sunny but very windy. The wait for the race start was an anxious one for everyone and it got extended further after the initial race start saw a huge accident of Raikkonen when he slammed to the barriers damaging his car badly as well as the barrier; Massa suffered a DNF avoiding the Ferrari while Chilton had a lucky escape after the Ferrar’s tyre flew past him brushing his car. Thankfully the Finn was unhurt but the barrier had to be fixed which delayed the proceeding by almost an hour. During the initial start we saw Magnussen & Hamilton making good start while Vettel & Hulkenberg losing ground. Behind them it was a good start from Bottas & Bianchi who were already in points before the red flag came out. Perez lost a big chunk when he collided with Vergne and the Mexican driver was dead last.
Rosberg was comfortably leading the pack as Hamilton was all out chasing his teammate; things changed after the first pit stop when Hamilton was catching Rosberg pretty quickly, at first everyone was surprised to see Hamilton so fast on the hard tyres but after few laps it was evident that Rosberg was facing steering issues which slowed him down and eventually he had to retire giving the lead and effectively the win to Hamilton. The battle for remaining podium places was heating up as Bottas was the man on charge, he quickly moved ahead of Ricciardo, Hulkenberg, Magnessun, Button & Vettel to put himself right behind the Mercedes. While another driver on the move was Alonso who like Bottas moved ahead of the STR drivers and then Hulkenberg & Magnussen but his jump start during the start meant he had to serve penalty which ended his podium chance. Outside points, it was a good scrap between Lotus, Sauber and Bianchi; the French driver clearly punching ahead in the Marussia.
After losing places at the start, Hulkenberg was always in fight with those behind for the start of the race. With the conditions similar to Friday, the car was indeed lacking pace as compared to other races. As a result he was overtaken by Ricciardo & Alonso but he didn’t let go without a fight. He then positioned himself well in the top 10 as he ran mostly at P8 & P9 during the middle stint. As for Perez, he had to salvage his race after being pushed down to last after first lap. It was tough for him to move up as he suffered balance problems early on but after the pit stop, he was doing some good laps to move up towards P10.
Hamilton had an easy win in the end after Rosberg’s retirement and he now closes the gap to just 4 points away from the lead. Bottas claimed his second podium back to back though this time he bettered it with a P2 finish helping Williams to move ahead of SFI in the CC. Ricciardo completed the podium, although he was under pressure from Button towards the end; Button finished a brilliant P4 in his home race. The fight for P5 was to watch for as both Vettel & Alonso fought valiantly on track as well as off it (through the wonderful radio messages); Vettel won the battle in the end to take P5 as Alonso finished at P6. Hulkenberg finished P8 soaking in all the last few laps pressure from Kvyat and making sure that this time he doesn’t let anyone pass him on the last lap. Perez finished P11 just outside points behind Vergne; surely if had not been dead last at the start, he would have finished behind his teammate at least but nevertheless it was a good fight up to P11 from him.
It seems like Mercedes have sealed it for the CC with RBR right behind; the real fight is still open from P3 onward. We have Ferrari, Williams, SFI & McLaren in the frame and every other GP it is one team or the other taking big chunk of points to close up or move ahead. SFI lost a position in Silverstone but they have some good tracks in hand ahead to recover and move ahead of Williams again, the fight won’t be easy but there is much optimism among the team. The plus point coming out from the GP is that Hulkenberg & the team maintained its point scoring record making 9 out of 9 (only Alonso is the other driver to score points in all races). Next up we go to Germany, home race for Hulkenberg and he would certainly want to extend and keep his point scoring run going and also try and grab the much awaited podium finish while Perez will try to score again after missing out in Britain as they battle it out with Williams to reclaim the P4 position in CC.
Apologies for not posting the Austrian GP article, I was busy with my exams.
Thank you for reading.