We are nearing the halfway mark of the season and the British Grand Prix on Sunday threw up another few surprises.
After a fantastic aggressive start from Fernando Alonso, and I have to say from Mark Webber too, because starts are not is forté, it looked as if Alonso might take this win too and make it two in a row. But those tyres…
Alonso pitted from the lead on lap 15, he had started the race on the hard compound, but surprisingly the harder compound didn´t seem to last much longer than the soft. Mark Webber started on soft tyres, which lasted 14 laps, so the gap of performance are so tight and the difference between the two compounds really small. comparing the two drivers and we see that Webber managed 19 laps on his hard tyres, after the first stop, then pitted for another hard tyre on lap 33, while Alonso managed 21 laps on his second set of hard. So at the end, we knew that Alonso needed soft tyres, but for some reason they couldn´t hold for the remainder of the race, despite the fuel load decreasing. Another thing that surprised, was McLaren´s tyre strategy for Hamilton. He pitted on lap 21 from hard to soft tyres, and was told to give it all. The problem was that the field was stretched out a little too far for Hamilton to capitalize on this and on his faster soft tyres he managed only to overtake Michael Schumacher for one position. He then pitted after just seven laps, came back out as 12th and ended the race in 8th place. Still, no matter how you look at it, Pirelli gave us another exciting race.
With the win at Silverstone, his second here, Webber is now carefully positioning himself as Red Bull´s best bet for a champion. We have heard him say, that he is driving for himself and that he will do everything it takes to win. There is also the added element of him being a, shall we say, grown man. He is 36 in a month and a half and if he doesn´t win this year´s championship, then what? He´s fast, reliable and consistent this year, while Sebastian Vettel seems to be having a little post of trouble from time to time.
But who did the best job on Sunday? Who surprised us and who failed?
Driver of the Day: Felipe Massa
I am so happy to give this one to Felipe Massa, after what has seem to be race after race of frustrations and finishing well away from the points, despite team mate Alonso getting a lot more out of the car. Of course there is the issue of personal driver set-up and for all we know, Massa needs the car to react very differently than Alonso. We know the car is a handful and can be tricky to get the most out of it, but his performance at Silverstone was aggressive, fast and calculated. It was a real joy to watch him. Great job.
The Oh No Not Again Award: Jenson Button
Seriously, what is going on at the moment? From what I´ve been told, Button is annoyed that he can´t tweak the car to his liking. He is a very smooth driver and is a very good tyre management driver, but I fear the ground model McLaren made has proven too hard to set-up. It´s like if you make a base model and then you know that as the season progresses you can bring updates. But I think that McLaren are really scratching their heads at this moment, because Button has always been able to get a lot out of a car that doesn´t perform 100%, but perhaps the base model is just not good enough? So the gap from the base model to the options the drivers have to adjust it to their individual settings, ie. Button´s, are just too large. I don´t know, but I am sorry to say that this championship is over for Button.
Driver Responsible For Putting More Action In The Championship: Mark Webber
You would have expected me to give Webber the Driver of the Day award, but even though he had a great race, I don´t think it can be labelled as the best of the day. I didn´t see much aggressiveness from him, but of course winning a race, is still winning a race. Did he deserve the win? Absolutely. As you can read below, this championship is not about who is starting from pole, or who has the fastest car. Ferrari has won two races with Alonso, and five podiums in total, in a car that´s basically not that fast. The Red Bull is the car to beat, but the tyres play such a big part that the usual driver set-ups can be thrown out the window. That´s why we haven´t seen Vettel go from win to win, but the reason Webber is winning, is due to his determination and his will. Whenever things aren´t going great for Vettel, he isn´t winning. Unless he is in front, he will have a tough time winning the race. So thank you Mark!
Worst Driver of the Day: Pastor Maldonado
Winning one race doesn´t give you permission to crash into others. Granted, the incident in Valencia wasn´t his fault, but I can think of a few that was. And if we look away from F1 and the other series he has participated in, he has a story of dangerous driving. In 2005, when racing in the World Series by Renault. In Monaco he failed to slow down for yellow flags after an accident, and seriously injured a marshal. And in GP2 he picked up a penalty for speeding in the pitlane at Silverstone, then another penalty for passing under yellow flags, then crashed into Adrian Vallés and Kamui Kobayashi on the final lap. And in F1, when at Spa in 2011, he and Lewis Hamilton had another run-in, after squeezing Hamilton during the qualifying session, for which he received a five-place penalty, in Abu Dhabi he ignored blue flags twice. In the opening race of this season, Maldonado crashed while fighting for points, in Monaco he was penalised with a ten-place grid penalty for a collision with Sergio Perez in a practice session, only to top off the weekend by hitting Pedro de la Rosa´s HRT and retired. In Canada, he crashed his car into the Wall of Champions, and finally at Silverstone last weekend, he collided with Sergio Perez, again, retiring the Sauber and finished 16th. Maldonado was given a reprimand and a fine of €10,000 with two penalties given due to the “serious nature” of the incident. So sorry for my lack of enthusiasm about this guy.
With the championship so unpredictable, when a surprise winner emerges I would say that his talent plays second fiddle. I am not saying that the drivers aren´t talented enough, absolutely not. I am saying that there is a very good reason we had seven different winners in the first seven races. When Maldonado won in Spain, it had more to do with the set-up, the tyres, the conditions, luck, than it had to do with his talent.