The Frontstretch: Formula 1 Friday: Catching Up With Business by Andy Hollis -- Friday July 12, 2013

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Formula 1 Friday: Catching Up With Business

Andy Hollis · Friday July 12, 2013


So, a couple of weeks away and we have a couple of Grand Prix to catch up on – perhaps not the most spectacular in terms of the out-and-out racing itself, but if you’re a fan of drama, then the British and German Grand Prix will have left you well sated.

Let’s look at both in turn.

British Grand Prix –

The build up at Silverstone centered around the Mercedes team and, more specifically, a quite superb pole position lap by local hero, Lewis Hamilton. With Hamilton and Rosberg scrapping it out in qualifying, a little way ahead of the Red Bull drivers, Lewis proceeded to pull off a blinder and gained pole position by some 4/10ths of a second. Impressive stuff indeed.

Come the end of the race itself though, all anybody was talking about (again) was tires. However, this time it wasn’t specifically those buzz-words of the season so far – drop-off/degredation/falling off the cliff – it was because those pesky black rubbery things kept going ‘BANG’ at rather inconvenient points. Like when you’re travelling at 200mph down the Hangar Straight. Enough to get the attention of even the world’s finest drivers.

Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes held off a hard charging Mark Webber for the win in the British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

That particular handicap hobbled the race for Hamilton (who fought back to gain a superb 4th from the back of the grid), Felipe Massa (whose early-season form seems to have dropped off exponentially with his confidence levels. I fear we’ll not be seeing Felipe in a Ferrari in 2014, though I’ve said that in years past), Jean Eric-Vergne (currently being outshined in the RBR junior team by teammate Daniel Ricciardo) and Sergio Perez……leader Sebastien Vettel’s left rear was also found to have cuts in it at his first pit stop – much as the naysayers moaned that Vettel gets all the luck in the world, later in the race his Red Bull was to fail him on the way to a routine victory. Good news for the championship and those people tiring of the ‘finger wagger’…..

Going back to the tires, though it spiced up the order and the race itself, it was more than a little unnerving, even as a spectator, to see shredded pieces of rubber from the stricken cars flying into the cockpit of Kimi Raikkonen’s Lotus, or causing Fernando Alonso to use his thankfully feline reaction times to avoid a major accident. There was much talk of safety after the race and even a threat by the drivers to boycott the following week’s race. Equally disturbing was learning how the teams had been swapping the tires from right to left in order to gain a small advantage with the cambers and even wear – now outlawed by Pirelli and the governing body. Pirelli reacted, and by the time the German Grand Prix came about, they had replaced the steel belt in the tires with Kevlar and imposed stricter restrictions on how the tires and their pressures were used. Problem (hopefully) solved.

In the race itself, Rosberg held off a charging Mark Webber (newly freed of any real responsibilities by his recent decision to retire at the end of the season. He’ll be one to watch for the remainder) and a mildly frustrated Fernando Alonso, confused by the all round lack of pace being displayed by his Ferrari. Most frustrated of all though was Kimi Raikkonen who had been left out by the Lotus team to defend second place on old tires, whilst the rest of the leading teams pitted under the safety car to retrieve Vettel’s stricken motor. Even at the time it seemed an odd decision, and I tweeted “please tell me they’ve pitted Kimi.” They hadn’t, and by the end of the Grand Prix he was a sitting duck to the freshly bedecked Webber and Alonso. One step perhaps towards persuading him to join Red Bull next season.

German Grand Prix –

The F1 circus moved quickly on to the emotive Nurburgring complex. Of course, the Nordschleife circuit is no longer used, but for me the emotions and history around the track, it beats Hockenheim any day.

Once again, Hamilton displayed his prowess over one lap by nicking pole position from the two Red Bull’s, who were followed in turn by the two Lotus drivers – Grosjean putting in a much improved and impressive performance across the whole weekend. He even managed not to hit anything. With Hamilton’s teammate, previous winner Rosberg languishing down in tenth after a qualifying blunder from the team, the fear was a Red Bull dominated weekend…….well nearly, but not quite.

Though the records will show a Vettel victory, denying a hard charging Raikkonen and Grosjean in the rejuvenated Lotuses, the real tale of the race was again about tires. This time, not of the exploding variety but that of a bouncing tire. Safety again came to the forefront, as the Red Bull team struggled on Mark Webber’s first stop, mistakenly sending him out with his right rear not attached properly. As the wheel worked itself loose it bounced it’s way down the pitlane, horrifically striking FOA cameraman Paul Allen (no, not the Microsoft one) on the back, breaking his collarbone and two ribs. The only saving grace was that it hadn’t bounced a couple of inches higher.

So once again F1 is looking at itself and asking whether or not those occupying the pit lane during the race all really need to be there, and, if they are, should they be wearing helmets or other devices. Though a helmet in this case wouldn’t have particularly helped, it’s a sensible question to ask and hopefully some well thought out measures will be applied.

As we so appositely noted in the last comment though – motor racing is dangerous…..

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