NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Slipstream Saturday: Changes Are Coming; Silverstone Up Next

Two weeks ago, Nico Rosberg scored a surprising win at the Austrian Grand Prix, making a statement after his teammate Lewis Hamilton had cruised to victory in Canada. The surrounding sense in the sport pushed the notion that with Hamilton’s win, his recovery from losing at Monaco was complete and that he would begin to run away with the title. To see Rosberg just out drive Hamilton in Austria indicated that the likelihood of Hamilton having an easy go to a consecutive title is not going to happen.

The main problem with the situation is that the only real competition is happening between teammates. Consider the fact that Mercedes have earned the pole position for the past nineteen races – or the entirety of a season. Or consider that Mercedes has won seven of the eight races this season, with Ferrari’s win in Malaysia looking all the more like an aberration.  It doesn’t look like anything will change at Silverstone this weekend.

In Jenson Button’s lengthy interview that posted this week on the UK ESPN site, the driver lamented that Mercedes was running away with the title. However, the Brit also stated that it’s not the fault of the sport or Mercedes, it’s that the other teams haven’t done the job of being able to compete at the level needed.

His rational comment is exactly what works and what doesn’t in Formula 1. That the other teams have yet to figure out a way to match pace with the Silver Arrow is indeed their fault – however, the attempt to find those areas to work on in this amazingly technical sport makes finding speed quite difficult. Or maybe the better way to look at things is to recognize that Mercedes somehow found the solution to a shifty lock that no one else has been able to, even if they’re trying.

Perhaps the coming rules changes will be a leveler. Then again, it just may lead to one team again finding the perfect combination while the others flounder.

Odds & Sods

  • The state of the sport is an interesting one. The stalwarts continue to hold their lofty positions in the financial side, even if the results for a team like McLaren are not there this year. Even as Red Bull and Renault carry on with their frustrated relationship, no one quite knows what either may or may not do. Yet, it’s wild to recognize that teams like Force India, Manor and Toro Rosso are all on the block for a change in ownership. Such a situation does not factor that the sport is going under or anything of the like but rather that the back-markers can run for only so long before needing some fresh minds.
  • In the hopes of improving the racing (something that seems to be happening with every form of asphalt racing), the F1 strategy group continues to push a myriad of changes, with the possibility that some may be enacted this year. The engine rules are the ones that may change during the season to remove the draconian limitations on engine and penalties. Looking to the future, the exhaust system is something under scrutiny as an alteration would seek to bring back more of a roar from the engines. There is also the enduring hope of bringing about wider bodies and wider tires. The latter is one that may result in a tire war between current supplier Pirelli and the interested Michelin company, and is something that many drivers feel could really bring new challenges. The one confusing aspect is that there may be the potential to limit driver aid from the pits. While there is every reason to put the racecar in the driver’s hands, the question of how to limit information exchange is one issue, while the fact that each car really is run by a team and to remove those personnel would also be disappointing.
  • Force India unleashed their first upgrades to their car. The team had been slow to do so and was basically running their 2014 edition. The funny thing is that even with running last year’s model they still held down the fifth spot in the constructor’s points.
  • Toro Rosso may be in the fight for a podium finish. That’s right, the little team that could is still managing to show that they can compete with the big teams. While their single-lap pace didn’t match that of Ferrari, Red Bull or Mercedes, they did show long-run speed that matches the top of the charts. While they still might be a long-shot for the podium, they do have the potential, and a little bit of creative pit strategy might just get them there.
  • Just a quick rundown on the driver’s standings: 1-2 Mercedes; 3-4 Ferrari; 5-6 Williams; 6-7 Red Bull. Not until the eighth spot is there any kind of split amongst teammates which illustrates how the top four teams have established themselves in 2015.
  • To support the comment from the opening, Rosberg led in both practice sessions, though Hamilton fluctuated between second and then fourth and struggled a bit with the handling of his car. Ferrari maintained their position as second-best once more, but may be able to put a threat to Mercedes and a foregone one-two for the race.

The Track

The track is built on the grounds of a former World War II bomber airport. It’s 3.66 miles in length, high speed, and features 18 turns. The track came into existence in 1950, and Alain Prost leads the way with five wins. As for current drivers, Fernando Alonso and Hamilton both have won twice at Silverstone.

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