British Grand Prix - Mark Webber rules Britannia On Sunday 130,000 spectators found their way to the Silverstone Circuit and witnessed how Red Bull driver Mark Webber won the British Grand Prix, perhaps not the result they were hoping for, but...
British Grand Prix - Mark Webber rules Britannia
On Sunday 130,000 spectators found their way to the Silverstone Circuit and witnessed how Red Bull driver Mark Webber won the British Grand Prix, perhaps not the result they were hoping for, but at least they got all the action they wanted. Webber's win was also a sweet revenge for the fact the Red Bull Racing team gave Webber's undamaged newly designed front wing to Sebastian Vettel, who damaged his wing during free practice, a decision that disgusted the Australian. However, he did not allow the issue to get the better of him, made not one single mistake during the race, scored fastest lap after fastest lap, dominated the race, and won in style.
Webber on his official website, "To win there [Silverstone] in F1 is the icing on the cake. The British Grand Prix is one of the most prestigious races on the calendar; every driver wants to win it and I've now got the trophy sitting on my mantelpiece."
Webber's Red Bull RB6 was no match for Lewis Hamilton who finished second for McLaren, followed by Nico Rosberg in his Mercedes, who took a surprise third position, the third for him this season. Although Jenson Button ended his race in fourth position, he had a bad weekend and only managed to secure a 14th place on the start grid. Therefore the expected battle between the two McLaren colleagues did not unfold, a pity for the fans, but good for the team, McLaren is now instead trying to take advantage of the driver rivalry within the Red Bull team.
Rivalry heats up again
Webber was not happy after his team decided to give his new front wing to Vettel just before qualifying. There were only two new front wings available, and after Vettel damaged his wing during free practice, Red Bull decided to give the remaining wing to the driver who was ahead in the championship, and before the race Vettel was leading Webber. Strangely enough, team principal Christian Horner on Friday assured both drivers would be treated with 'transparency and equality.' Horner on Friday, "I think the most important thing for any driver is to know that he's getting equality of equipment and priority." Webber responded after the race by stating he would not have signed a new contract if he had known he would treated as a second driver.
Red Bull have announced they will talk with Webber, and it seems there is another kiss-and-make-up conference to be held at the team's headquarters. After the race Horner again denied Vettel was favored by the team, "As a team member, he [Webber] is an important part of the team and he has delivered his bit - as every other individual has today. Of course we will talk about it. If the air needs to be cleared, it will be cleared. But, he has been around long enough to know that as a sportsman difficult decisions have to be made."
Plenty of action at Silverstone
The race was a textbook example of how the refueling ban has led to more overtaking on track, instead of overtaking during pit stops. The Bridgestone tyres did the rest, and although there were questions about the durability of the tyres at the start of the season, they do last very long, drivers only have to pit once, and therefore there are no big gaps between cars anymore. Again spectators were entertained by many overtaking maneuvers, and as was already displayed in previous races, multiple groups of six to eight cars were formed during the race, and within each group all drivers were dicing for the same position. The safety car brought all cars even closer together, perhaps not ideal for a driver who has build up a 10- or 15-second gap, but the safety car intervention certainly caused a renewed battle for positions.
Mixed feelings for Vettel
After he made a slow start because he was too aggressive with the clutch, Vettel's race was hampered by a flat rear tyre during the first lap, caused by Hamilton, who slightly touched the tyre with his front wing, but it was enough to puncture it. Vettel had to limp back to the pits for new tyres, which he had to use until the end of the race. He spend the next 20 laps in last position, luckily for him, the safety car came to his rescue, and when the whole field had bunched up behind the safety car, he was able to overtake cars and worked his way up to the middle of the field.
By lap 37 Vettel was in tenth position, then started a fight with Michael Schumacher, and later with Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil, and finally managed to score six points with his seventh position. Vettel about his battle for points, "After the safety car I had some people to fight and that was good fun, I was racing people like Felipe and Michael - it's great as whenever you try something and you see a gap you know that they are smart enough to see it, so it was good fun for the last twenty laps." And he was very clear about the tension with Webber, "I focus on myself and so does he [Webber], I guess. You get to know people a bit better and, I think, see their true faces. I think I learnt my lesson and I'll focus on myself."
Not a good day for Ferrari
Massa also got a puncture during the first lap, caused by his team mate Alonso, after that his race was effectively over, and the little Brazilian finished in 15th position. Alonso also had a bad start, and after the incident with Kubica his race was also over. Alonso had to wait until the safety car went into the pit lane again before he could absolve his drive- through penalty, but by then the whole field was close together again and he lost a lot of places. Alonso finished in 14th position.
Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali was not a happy man after the race, "We seem to be really cursed at the moment, when everything that could go wrong, does. We are not happy, but we must not feel sorry for ourselves. Instead, we have to react calmly, remaining focused and continuing to work in the way we did over the past few weeks."
Williams, BMW-Sauber, and Mercedes
Again an excellent performance by the Williams team. Rubens Barrichello delivered his Williams at the finish line in fifth position, while rookie team mate Nico Hulkenberg, who was on a different strategy than Barrichello, picked up one point by finishing in tenth position. Barrichello about the progress his team made, "It is a great effort from the team to achieve a top five finish two races in a row - not so much in absolute results, but the direction of improvement. The team is still not quite where it belongs, but we are quite happy with our performance today."
Kamui Kobayashi put on a great show during the European Grand Prix, he again excelled on the Silverstone circuit. After the start he already had gained four places, and was ninth behind World Champion Button. No pit stop trick this time, he changed tyres on lap 12 and rejoined the race in 14th position. He was one of the drivers who made a perfectly timed pit stop, and it started to pay off right away. He followed Barrichello who was carving his way through the field, and on lap 30 he was in sixth place, he kept that position until the finish, and the Japanese driver scored his best result -- and BMW-Sauber's best result -- of the season.
Kobayashi was again modest in his comments about the race, "I was pretty confident before the race because I can really feel how the car is getting better and better now. I had no chance to overtake anybody this time, but I still enjoyed the race. I didn't find it especially hard, I didn't even sweat." His team mate Pedro de Rosa also drove an excellent race until he was forced to give up after he was hit from behind by the Force India of Adrian Sutil. De la Rosa, "I was still racing for points when Sutil hit me from behind at half distance of the race because not everybody in front of me had stopped by then. Unfortunately the damage proved to be too bad to continue."
Mercedes finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel, Rosberg qualified fifth on the grid, while Michael Schumacher took tenth position during qualifying. Rosberg made his one and only pit stop on lap 15, rejoined the race in sixth position, 12 laps later he was in third position, and from then on drove an anonymous race. A very happy Rosberg, "It's been a good effort from the team to turn our situation around after Valencia. We have made a step forward and analyzed where we went wrong and to come away with a podium today is fantastic. It's a real turnaround and I am confident that there is more to come from us."
Michael Schumacher was less fortunate, he made a very early pit stop, but after he pushed too hard to keep in front of Barrichello when he exited the pit lane, he made a mistake and went off the track, which cost him a lot of time plus two positions. He was later sandwiched between the two BMW- Saubers, he gained one place after De la Rosa retired, but lost that place to Sutil again. Not much later he was overtaken by Vettel, and Schumacher finally finished in ninth position.
FIA Stewards Report
On Friday, the Stewards approved HRT's request to replace Bruno Senna with Sakon Yamamoto for the whole weekend. Test driver Fairuz Fauzi (Lotus) and Kobayashi (BMW-Sauber) were both fined 400 Euro for speeding in the pit lane during the first free practice session. During the third free practice session, Vitaly Petrov was fined twice for speeding in the pit lane, which added up to a 1400 Euro fine, and Vitantonio Liuzzi was fined 1000 Euro for the same offence.
During qualifying, Jaime Algueruari was fined $5000 for an unsafe release in the pit lane. Liuzzi was handed a 5-place grid penalty for impeding Hulkenberg, and Sakon Yamamoto was reprimanded for impeding. On Sunday during the race Alonso was handed a drive through penalty for cutting the corner at Vale and gaining a place on Robert Kubica, and De la Rosa was fined 4,200 Euro for speeding in the pit lane.
Safety car rules tweaked and un-tweaked again
The FIA initially agreed to alter the safety car regulations, the speed limit when the safety car is out would be the speed of the safety car itself. But after the new slow pace was tested on Friday, some drivers feared it would be dangerous if they had to slow down too sudden, and a few hours before the race the new rule was scrapped again. Only one rule was tweaked, the safety car will not come out immediately, but will come out when the race director feels no drivers will be penalized in an unfair way. The safety car will pick up the leader of the race, and with this alteration the FIA hopes the leading pack will not be split like in Valencia. The FIA also promised they would make it more clear for drivers and teams whether the pit lane exit lights are red or green.
Controversy over Alonso's penalty
Many people did not agree with the FIA's decision to give Alonso a drive through penalty after he cut the corner at Vale, overtook Kubica in the process, and did not hand him back his position. The regulations are clear about situations like these, a driver has to hand back the position he gained after cutting a (any) corner, not only that, he must also wait until the next corner before he is allowed to try to overtake him again. The reason why a driver cuts a corner is also irrelevant, the FIA does not accept any excuses, cutting a corner and gaining advantage is simply not allowed.
This was decided after the controversial overtaking maneuver of Hamilton on Kimi Raikkonen during the last two laps of the 2008 Belgium Grand Prix, the stewards demoted Hamilton to third place, and Massa was declared winner of the race, McLaren appealed the decision of the stewards, but to no avail. Needless to say, Ferrari did not complain about the decision, in those days fans always jokingly suggested the name FIA was an acronym for 'Ferrari International Assistance', a myth which certainly has been busted this season.
Although Alonso later said he fully supported the decision of the FIA Stewards, he defended his action by claiming he was pushed off the track by Kubica, and did not have the opportunity to give back the place he gained because the Pole retired from the race, and because he had retired, Alonso argued, the penalty was pointless. A few things can be said about Alonso's defense.
He is a professional racing driver, he should have known Kubica would defend his position and would slam the door shut for him -- and he had every right to do so -- it's very likely Alonso would have done the same. And as Kubica retired three laps later, there was ample opportunity to let him pass again.
Whether the penalty was pointless or not is irrelevant, if someone ignores a red traffic light, he will get a fine for running a red light, telling your action did not cause any damage and did not injure or harm anyone, is not going to change the mind of the police officer who writes the ticket. Alonso knew the rules before he started the race, he knew he had to give his position back to Kubica, even rookies know that. And today, FIA race director Charlie Whiting revealed he had immediately after the incident advised Ferrari to tell Alonso to give his place back to Kubica, if not, the stewards would investigate the incident. He didn't ask this once, but three times, but Ferrari chose not to do so, therefore a penalty was inevitable.
Next stop: Germany
There are still two races to go before the summer break, the eleventh race of the championship will take place at the German Hockenheim circuit on July 25. Teams will again bring improved blown diffusers and other novelties to Germany, technical updates and development are the key to success this season. Some teams and drivers have already set their sights on 2011, while others still believe nothing has been lost yet. It will be the first home Grand Prix since decades for the all-German Mercedes team, and like Ferrari they will have to up their performance to have a go at the championship, if they don't start scoring now, the season will be lost for them as well.
Although Red Bull has won the last two races, they lost their dominant position in both the drivers' and constructors' championship, and will have to solve the friction between Webber and Vettel. If they don't succeed the situation will escalate, and they could lose valuable championship points. On Monday Vettel drew the only right conclusion regarding the internal struggle the team is facing, "The most important thing is the atmosphere within the team. We have a really strong car and the only thing that can stop us is ourselves."