- British Grand Prix - The Final Stint
Don't rain on my parade
A round-up of the good, the bad and the downright ugly from the 2012 British Grand Prix
Red Bull's number two driverMark Webber said earlier this season that fans wanted to see rivalries and a pecking order rather than a different winner at each race, and it actually went largely unnoticed that first and second in the championship lined up one and two on the grid at Silverstone. Webber's performance all weekend was top drawer as he outperformed Vettel in both wet and dry conditions - something he hasn't done all that often in the last two seasons - and in taking his second win in three years at Silverstone (the scene of his infamous "not bad for a number two driver" line), he strengthened his championship position compared to his team-mate. With the top three in the standings filling the podium the pecking order has well and truly emerged.
If it doesn't rain it poursBritish motorsport fans are all-to-intimately familiar with bad weather and bad traffic - which probably goes some way to explaining how the majority of them managed to keep smiling through the weekend. Friday's travel chaos was unprecedented as some fans spent an entire day stuck on the A43 inching forward while a few miles away their heroes travelled at over two hundred times the speed. The problem was that campsites and car parks were waterlogged, meaning many had to turn punters away and in doing so created a huge amount of confusion on already congested roads. The circuit started to get to grips with the situation on Saturday, albeit by asking fans not to attend in order to save the grass car parks for Sunday. Nevertheless, it seemed to work, with a better flow of cars into the circuit on race day as they were told to park either bumper to bumper or in the middle of a quagmire. At the time of writing, ESPNF1 is rather anxiously awaiting the state of the latter, but the early signs on Sunday evening were that people were managing to leave in an orderly and relatively efficient manner. At the end of it all, fans that did make it will be able to take pride in saying "I was there" ... and if not they will be comforted by Silverstone's refund.
The Story of the Weekend
- Shock The weather - A rather unusual addition to this part of the Final Stint, but nobody could predict quite how much the weather would screw up the weekend - let alone predict a dry race on Sunday!
- Shocker Silverstone's Friday - Again an unusual addition, but anybody who was stuck on the A43 on Friday would undoubtedly agree
- Best overtake Bruno Senna - One lap from the end he made a do or die move around the outside of Nico Hulkenberg at Brooklands for ninth
- Best lap Mark Webber - On lap 43 he knocked 0.3s off his previous lap time and a whopping 0.9s off Fernando Alonso's lead. From that point onwards it was clear who would win
- Worst lap Pastor Maldonado - He exited the pits ahead of Sergio Perez but lost the rear of his car into Brooklands as the Sauber attempted to overtake and took the Mexican out. He made it back to the pits but the damage was done to his race - not to mention his growing reputation as a crasher
- Drive of the day Romain Grosjean - He was last on lap three after visiting the pits for a new front wing, but managed to do two monster stints of 24 and 26 laps to get his way back up to sixth by the end of the race
A difficult problem to solveThose fans that did make it into the circuit on Friday will have been rather disappointed by the lack of running during the practice sessions. Some drivers complained of a lack of wet tyres, with three sets allocated over the weekend under the regulations, but Pirelli quite fairly pointed out that "if you've got three sets you can do 180 laps". Ultimately, the problem was rooted in a risk/reward equation: Why put a driver out in dangerous conditions when there is little to learn? An accident could leave a car in bad shape for the rest of the weekend and it made little sense to take the edges off the wet tyres' grip pattern if your rivals aren't going to do the same. The only feasible solution is to offer a "free" set of full wets to be handed back at the end of FP2 (to match the existing rule for inters), but this would cost Pirelli upwards of half a million Euros per season. It would also result in another set of tyres being chopped up at the end of most grand prix weekends - unused tyres cannot be refitted at the next race once they have been stretched and glued to a rim. The only other solution is to feed all the other drivers whatever Kamui Kobayashi is eating as he completed 35 laps on Friday regardless of the conditions.
Racing incident?When Maldonado and Perez tangled at Brooklands there was air of "Oh no, not Pastor again". Clearly Perez thought similar as he stormed back to the paddock to call Maldonado "a very dangerous driver" and call on the FIA to take action. The only action was a reprimand and a fine from the stewards, which in the circumstances was the right decision - Maldonado simply lost the rear and slid wide in to Perez. It was hardly reckless, but Perez's claim that every driver in the paddock has concerns about Maldonado will ensure this is a story that continues to run at Hockenheim.
A growing deficitAfter two consecutive single-figure points hauls, McLaren has dropped to fourth behind Lotus in the constructors' championship. At Silverstone the error-prone pit stops were solved, but more worryingly the pace just wasn't there - and this on a track that McLaren was so confident it would be strong at. The tyres appear to remain a mystery to the two drivers, who are all too often unable to get sufficient grip from the fronts. But in typical McLaren fashion, team principal Martin Whitmarsh put on a brave face after the race: "I'm not seriously worried. Being worried doesn't make your car go quicker. I'm disappointed, but there's no magic. You have to work on developing and understanding the car and the conditions. It is very tricky, as you saw, to go from being so strong in the first stint on a set of primes, and then 15 minutes later you put them on again and they feel different and they respond differently on the same pressures and the same temperatures. It's quite challenging."