Slipstream Saturday: The British Grand Prix, the Last Stop on the Triple Header

The British Grand Prix marks the end of the much ballyhooed Triple Header.  The past three races have been the first time in the sportʻs history that the series has run on three consecutive weekends.  The takeaway seems to be that, well, it really wasnʻt all that different for any of the races than it usually would be.

This column had wondered if the toll of the treble would bring about crew errors or fiery confrontations but that has not come to fruition.  That is to say that any of those issues that have manifested themselves have been typical of any of the usual races. Drivers get offended at any point, and mistakes from crew persons are matters of happenstance more than any schedule variance.

What makes the British GP somewhat unusual is that afterward there are still two more races, though spaced out, that precede the usual summer break.  The Hungarian GP on July 29, will be the final race prior to the teams all shutting down for a month before returning for the Belgian GP on August 26.  The schedules the last few years have usually placed the British GP a week or two later and worked as a harbinger of the upcoming break, but this year is not the case.  

Of course, what makes this whole prologue so comical is the fact that the schedule this year has brought such attention and scrutiny.  Thereʻs something to be said for a series that is willing to take a chance and mix things up a bit. The sport has frequently added or removed tracks from the schedule, while also tinkering with the dates, and this year is no different.  

The outcome has provided little in the way of fireworks but perhaps the solid attendance figures in France, Austria, and now Britain is all the sport needed.  

Odds & Sods

One of the big items to come out of the paddock has been Eric Boullierʻs resignation from McLaren as race director.  The announcement seems to be more of Boullier taking the fall for an organization that seems rudderless than it is for someone who lacks expertise.  

His background in aerospace engineering made him a comfortable fit in racing, beginning in 2003 with Nissan.  He later moved to Genii/Lotus and found a solid home with some surprising results – notably Kimi Raikkonenʻs win with the team in 2012.  

McLaren taking him on seemed to be a coup but he struggled to have much of a voice within the organization.  With a litany of changes having manifested themselves in the past couple years, as Ron Dennis was ousted and Zak Brown took over, Boullier seemed to skate through but with little in the way of authority.

As race director, he was the one who oversaw the on-track product, but he battled to be heard among the competing divisions of aero, power, and handling.  Rather than being the demonstrative voice, his was often shuffled out, something that meant that the three divisions engaged in combative attitudes rather than being tied together into a cohesive unit.  

What it all means is that Boullier fell on the sword for McLaren.  Having Toro Rosso show more speed than McLaren, with the same engines that McLaren used in 2017 proved to be too much.  His resignation does little to change how things are with the team and that is the biggest problem. Change at McLaren needs to be something that takes shape in a thorough restructuring.  

– The Silverstone track has taken on a primary focus at this stop for the series.  Repaved since the last race, it offers a new challenge in the fact that, surprisingly to the drivers, that the course really isnʻt any smoother than its previous iteration.  That assessment comes from the drivers, and it is good to keep in mind that they tend to be abnormally harsh toward pretty much anything. Such criticism may indicate that the course is rather decent but that it is not as smooth as some of the other repaves that have occurred recently.

The big concern has been the addition of the DRS zone on the front straightaway.  This added zone allows for a new task in the fact that drivers are forced to navigate using their controls to close the DRS flap on the back wing prior to a tricky right-hander.  Haas driver Romain Grosjean already found making such a maneuver to be difficult as he hit a bump and failed to close his DRS which then led to him crashing out in free practice one.  

The other area of the track that has endured close examination is the sweeping turn 17.  Drivers had taken to flying off the track there in the first two practices, a driving line that exceeded the track limits as they head onto the front straight.  The FIA decided that such a line should be compromised and added a kerb for free practice three, thus making for a tighter and more difficult drive.

The Race

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 5 wins.  Lewis Hamilton is seeking to best Prostʻs mark as he also has five wins and must be the seeming favorite to make it to six on Sunday.

About the author

As a writer and editor, Ava anchors the Formula 1 coverage for the site, while working through many of its biggest columns. Ava earned a Masters in Sports Studies at UGA and a PhD in American Studies from UH-Mānoa. Her dissertation Chased Women, NASCAR Dads, and Southern Inhospitality: How NASCAR Exports The South is in the process of becoming a book.

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David Edwards

EB leaving Macca really isn’t a surprise. Results have been far below expectations, expectations that were in part raised by EB and Fernando. Then Whitemarsh’s revelation of dissnsion within the team and his (snicker) offer to save the situation made it obvious that a scapegoat was needed.
Who will be next? And Williams can’t be far behind.

David Edwards

Feel I need to comment on the difference between the Sky Sports coverage of qualifying this morning and a typical Nascar presentation, by either network.
No silliness, people that are involved with the sport, or recently have been talking about relevant subjects, and not avoiding the warts that are there in every sport. And in short a professional sport presented professionally.
Is it a matter of the networks feeling that the nascar audience isn’t ready for that?

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