Great Britain Snippets (Belated)

(This piece is obviously very belated, and indeed I have not blogged at all for much too long. I did write some of this entry the night after the race, was not happy with what I had written about the Red Bull situation, felt very tired so went to bed. Then for more than a week, I have not been notably ill but have not been that well either, feeling far too mentally groggy to concentrate on writing. So sorry about that. I am undecided if I will still write about the Red Bull situation separately, but have excluded it from this entry. Readers may be interested in the last Motorsport podcast, essentially an extended interview with Christian Horner, after Turkey but before the events of Silverstone, a very interesting listen in itself but even more so in view of subsequent events. I expect most of you follow Joe Saward’s blog, but if not you really should read this and this, the first posted last month on Helmut Marko, the second on who runs Red Bull, which seems to be the most germane issue.)

Webber’s Silverstone win was his fifth, and his fifteenth podium from 148 races (Mark holds the record at 130 for the most GPs contested to win for the first time). There have been eight different winners in the last eight years at the circuit, Barrichello (Ferrari 2003), Schumacher (Ferrari), Montoya (McLaren), Alonso (Renault), Räikkönen (Ferrari), Hamilton (McLaren), Vettel (RBR) and Webber.

There was some talk that the new Silverstone would rival Monza on sheer speed. Comparing fastest laps, this year’s best was 145·3 mph (233·7 kph) whilst last year’s was 142·5 (229·2 kph), so not a huge difference and partly due to the cars getting faster. The fastest lap at Monza last season was 152·9 mph (246·1 kph).

It was sad to see Bruno Senna dumped for Britain in favour of Sakon Yamamoto. The Japanese pay-driver was clearly not race fit judging by the way his head was lolling around in practice runs. He was about a second a lap slower than Karun Chandhok early in the race, dropping to three or four seconds slower as the laps mounted, but after a rest behind the safety-car, Yamamoto was able to circulate at around a second behind his team-mate’s lap-times for the rest of the race. Rumours have been flying about why Senna was replaced at Silverstone, and we know now that Chandhok is to be usurped by the Japanese pay-driver for Germany, but clearly the team just need the money. It was a financial struggle to get the team on the grid this season for Bahrain with José Ramón Carabante providing most the money. The Carabante family business in Spain has had its assets frozen in a legal dispute over the sale of part of the group. Obviously, no one wants to sponsor them, apart from via pay-drivers, which may help the team survive from race to race but will not help the long-term position. The team have minimal infrastructure to run the Dallara-built cars. It has to be questioned if they will survive until the end of the season, and even if they do, what then? A takeover is probably the team’s only chance, maybe by one of the outfits tendering to FIA for the thirteenth-team-slot that is not selected, but it would have to be before the end of the season to stand any chance of preparing new cars in time. It has been pointed out that HRT have little more than an entry to sell, but if they do survive the season, they will get a third of the $30 million allocated to help the new teams. Anyone wishing to enter F1 next year could use the current cars to at least turn up at the earlier events perhaps producing their own car by the European rounds. Judging by what happened in the late ‘eighties and early ‘nineties, I can envisage HRT using the ten million dollars to make some minor updates to the car, make a down-payment on engines, and turning up to try to evade the 107% rule with whichever drivers bring the most money, as long as they can get a superlicence and are faster than continental drift.

I was interested as ever by that shot shown from time to time during races of fifteen to twenty Ferrari guys staring at computer screens. Their job is to monitor a forest of telemetry-parameters for the cars and engines ready to alert the team to any emerging problems. Two things strike me. Do they really need that many people? Surely computer-programmes could be written to detect and flag aberrant readings. Secondly, with modern telecommunications, surely these guys could do this back in Italy as effectively as behind the pits? Just how many of them are thinking, “For all the years I have been doing this, I might as well have been playing Minesweeper.”?

“What the stewards say is always right, so that is it.”, said Alonso after the Silverstone race. Again I sense the guiding hand of the Ferrari PR department, as immediately after the race, Fernando was too angry to give any interviews. I am sure the Spaniard was also instructed to make the quote about being convinced, after the British performance, that he will win the World Championship this year, despite being 47 points behind with nine to go, and Ferrari struggling to match Red Bull and McLaren, never mind beating them. Ferrari’s recent performances have led to a protracted roasting by the Italian media, and this was probably a desperate attempt by the team to generate some positive headlines after their drivers finished an unimpressive fourteenth and fifteenth.

Also making optimistic forecasts for the future shortly before Silverstone were F1’s comeback seniors, Schumacher and Pedro de la Rosa. Michael talked about concentrating his efforts towards next year whilst Pedro explained that a driver needs a full season to get fully up to speed. I would imagine most of us will be wondering if de la Rosa will be back at all next year (or indeed if Sauber have anything like enough money to be already spending on next year’s car plus finding a budget for next season), and is probably keen to engender the message that if they replace him, it will set the team back a year in driver-experience. I do not think he will be convincing anyone. The German seven-time champion, who used to be renowned for his ability to immediately set fast laps on getting in a car, has run out of excuses for not cutting the mustard, but looks determined to continue the experiment, and like de la Rosa and Ferrari, to distract from current weak performances with promises of unlikely future success.

As a Williams fan of thirty years, it was good to see Rubens Barrichello finish fifth, but bad that that is now an excellent result for the team that in the past have garnered seven drivers’ titles, nine constructors’ titles, and 113 wins. I so want to believe Barrichello’s enthusiasm about the team being on the way back to the top, but, as has been pointed out, the only reason they can really have for sticking with Cosworth is needing cheap engines, which does not bode well. Although pretty competitive last season (at least with Rosberg), the team made the decision not to adapt last year’s car but design a completely new one, and this has not improved the team’s fortunes. After ten races in 2009, Rosberg had 25·5 points, whilst Rubens, if calculated by last year’s points, would have ten points. I doubt Adam Parr replacing Frank Williams as Chairmen of Williams Grand Prix Engineering Limited has much real significance; it was probably just felt Parr was due a promotion.

I was interested by an observation made in Free Practice (with the cost of F1, they should call it, ‘Bloody Expensive Practice’) that despite Force India being based within site of the Silverstone circuit, if they won, the Indian National Anthem would be played. Of course, Lotus Racing are based in Norfolk, are very keen to hark back to Team Lotus’s heritage with the cars resplendent in British Racing Green, but if they won the Malaysian National Anthem would be played. Most will remember that when Vettel took RBR’s first victory, it was by accident the British National Anthem was played instead of the Austrian, as used for subsequent victories. However, when Vettel won for STR, the Italian anthem was played as the Red Bull junior team are allowed their Italian identity. McLaren, Williams and Virgin are the only teams for whom victory would be marked with the British anthem, despite eight of twelve teams being based in Britain.

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