It was hot and it was humid for the first day of the British Grand Prix at the revamped Silverstone circuit. As the 2010 Formula 1 season crosses the halfway point, the battle up front is just as hot, if not more so than the oppressive sun above.
As with most sessions this season, Paul di Resta stepped into the Force India in place of Vitantonio Liuzzi, while Fairuz Fauzy assumed Jarno Trulli’s Lotus seat… or he would have had his car not had an engine failure just after fire-up – Fauzy would eventually miss the first sixty minutes of the sessions, before breaking down again as the chequered flag came put. Both Virgin’s also had reliability issues; Glock (fuel pick up problem) and di Grassi (sensor failure) had tough starts to the weekend that would only gradually improve. With Sakon Yamamoto in Bruno Senna’s seat at Hispania at short notice, one can imagine a tough weekend for the Spanish team – Yamamoto finished the first session a full second slower than teammate, Karun Chandhok, but was also showing signs of severe tiredness from a lack of running.
Friday morning was the first session on the new track for the drivers and it was Jenson Button that had the honour of putting in the first timed lap in an Formula 1 car on the layout; however a 1.37.994 would not him get him near the top of the timing sheets. Ferrari and McLaren worked on some long runs as they brought new developments, while Red Bull concentrated on some short runs and a reworked wing for Sebastian Vettel. The German would eventually top the session, but a late quick run from Lewis Hamilton gave him second spot ahead of Robert Kubica, Mark Webber and Adrian Sutil. As expected, there were a number of offs during the session as the drivers pushed the limits on the new section, particular from Hamilton and Michael Schumacher, as the dust of the run-off area was raised many times.
A clearer rubber track graced the racing line as the second 90 minute session commenced, following stints by the GP2 and Formula BMW machines. A shame therefore that the returning Trulli could not take advantage; the Italian found his session finished after three laps with a gearbox problem. It was far from ideal for Lotus who brought their final 2010 updates to Silverstone – an update that saw them drop up to 40 kilo’s from the car, yet they were unable to take advantage. Trulli’s teammate, Heikki Kovalainen would also stop on circuit late in the session as a power steering failure made his Lotus undriveable.
Liuzzi also returned to his Force India seat; however some light offs and a fast half spin at Abbey made for a difficult session and the Italian spent the session over one second slower than the second Force India driver, Adrian Sutil. The German has been gaining in confidence and has had a fairly decent season with points scored in six of the last seven races. Although early stages, the Ferrari’s have picked up speeds with their upgrades and another team having a decent day were Renault; Vitaly Petrov finally penetrated the top ten during the afternoon, with Kubica not far behind.
A cloudy, but very warm Saturday morning welcomed the third practice session and the fans were met with the news that McLaren had dropped their blown rear diffuser – the addition had cause the McLaren to become very unstable; however the all-British team still found themselves struggling despite reverting to the more reliable Valencia parts and settings. The pace once again came from the Red Bull’s, Ferrari’s and one of the Renault’s, although the front runners had their own share of problems; Fernando Alonso stopped early with a broken water pipe and Vettel’s front nose box collapsed approaching Village corner. The German was the first to get under 91 seconds on the new track, but had the advantage of the latest front wing development from Red Bull. Following the practice session, the new front wing wing was removed from Webber’s car and given to Vettel, while the Australian had to settle for the old configuration – moments like this will surely only serve to make the Webber fan base suspicious. Meanwhile Webber himself lined up behind Vettel and ahead of Alonso, Nico Rosberg, Felipe Massa and Kubica.
Further in the pack, Sutil suffered a driveshaft failure requiring an engine change, Trulli and Liuzzi both had hydraulic issues and Glock stopped early with a throttle problem. Both Williams cars featured well during the 60-minute practice with Rubens Barrichello running in the top ten and Nico Hulkenberg just outside the leading pack. Sauber’s Pedro de la Rosa was also quick during his practice-qualifying run; something that the veteran would reproduce in qualifying later on.
Webber may have been the first driver to break the 90 seconds barrier at the revised Northamptonshire circuit, but it would be his teammate that secured the all-important pole. It seems that the only thing that can get in Red Bull’s way might be themselves – something that has already been seen this year. The lack of parity in equipment continues to be touchy subject and while friction and tension may be becoming permanent ingredients in the Red Bull garage, it was temporarily being matched by the heat faced by Liuzzi and Alguersuari. Having spent most of the first stint of qualifying in 18th, the Toro Rosso slotted ahead of Liuzzi before the Italian banged in a faster lap with moments to spare – Alguersuari out and joining the three new teams (headed by Kovalainen) at the back of the grid for tomorrow’s race; however sadly for Lotus, their updates have not quite helped as the gap to Kovalainen ramps back up to two seconds.
Liuzzi ruined it all in Q2 though as he baulked Hulkenberg very badly through the Maggots / Becketts complex , resulting in a 5-place penalty after the session and putting the Italian a long way behind his teammate. A clearly nervous McLaren sent both their drivers out early in the second part of qualifying on the grippier soft tyres as they struggled on the new Silverstone circuit, with Button having an especially difficult time of it. The reigning Champion never got his car to work and found himself 14th on the grid – Button has never been on the podium at Silverstone and his pain may continue tomorrow. To rub salt onto the wound, both Webber and Vettel – still on the hard tyres – continued to edge their Red Bull’s further and further away from the pack. Barrichello, De la Rosa and Kubica just made it into the final session, but also squeezed out their teammates in the process – Kubica has in fact out-qualified Petrov in every race this year and this would be no different; although the Russian would suffer a car failure with five minutes remaining, curtailing his chances.
Immediately in the third session, the Red Bull’s claimed the fastest times and such is the ferocity of the inter team battle, that the pair fought again with Vettel pulling out even further and Webber’s time remaining static. The other eight runner’s were virtually anonymous – Alonso leading the charge to row 2 alongside Hamilton; Rosberg and Kubica just behind them. Massa qualified a disappointing seventh, while his fellow Brazilian, Barrichello takes up the other spot on the fourth row. The Williams driver decided on only one run, as did the pair behind him – one flying lap was enough for ninth place de la Rosa and tenth place Schumacher; a result that pleased the Sauber driver, but irritate the German.
A cloud and drizzly morning opened Sunday’s festivities at Silverstone – it was almost as if Northamptonshire was preparing itself for a storm and after all the suspicious noises being raised in the Webber camp following the Saturday morning wing swap at Red Bull, the Australian answered the challenge with a dominant, almost crushing victory at Silverstone.
In a move that displayed a perfect balance between skill and aggression, Webber surged down the inside of turn one at the green flag, forcing his teammate out wide through Copse. Vettel, searching for the racing line was touched by Hamilton on the approach to Becketts, leaving the German with a right rear tyre puncture and Webber with a clear track. Three corners and the race was won. Sounds boring, doesn’t it?
It wasn’t. There were worries that the reworked Silverstone would not deliver, but it did – and then some. The record books will tell us that Webber led from start to finish, but they may forget to include an early fight from Hamilton, a disastrous race for Ferrari and a Sebastian Vettel fight back – admittedly helped by a timely safety car. In Hamilton’s favour, the touch between he and Vettel was innocuous, but it was enough to see the German fall to the back and pit on the opening lap. The Red Bull driver was not alone though; the two Ferrari’s also collided as Massa battered a slow starting Alonso – another puncture, Massa pitted in; two races ruined early on. It must have been particularly galling for Alonso – his former McLaren peer, Hamilton jumped him at the start and while the 2008 World Champion fired off into the distance to chase Webber, the Spaniard found himself locked behind Kubica. Not far behind the lead Ferrari, the second McLaren of Jensen Button also discovered a burst of pace off the line, jumping from 14th to 8th by the end of lap one.
At the front, Hamilton stayed close across the line after a lap darting around in Webber’s rear view mirror, but today he was not budging – the top eight were Webber, Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, a shellshocked Alonso, Barrichello, Schumacher and Button and that was how it stayed for the opening stint. While not getting by, Button pressed Schumacher, as Rosberg challenged Kubica and Alonso stalked both of them; however further down Liuzzi – desperate to make up for a poor weekend – proved that passing could be done. From his row ten start, the Force India dispensed with Glock off the line, and later a good starting Trulli and Kovalainen – 10 laps and and 16th place for the Italian.
Lucas di Grassi was the first to pit, but a lack of action from his crew suggested his day was over early; it was indeed – hydraulic pressure stopping the Virgin. The first of the regular stops came on lap 12 as Schumacher dived into the slow lane in his Mercedes. Hoping to send Michael out on fresh rubber in clear air didn’t come off for the German team and he dropped behind Kobayashi upon the Sauber driver’s stop a lap later. Rosberg enjoyed rather opposing fortunes though, as “Britney” emerged ahead of Kubica’s slower Renault – sadly for the Mercedes driver, the early stint behind the Pole saw him a full twenty seconds behind the leaders, both of whom had error free stops.
This left a fuming Alonso trapped under the rear wing of Kubica by the 17th lap around and after nearly two laps of pressure, Alonso pushed and battered his way around the outside of Kubica at Vale corner; however unwilling to give way, the Krakow native neatly shoved pushed the Ferrari off the circuit. Alonso took to the run off area and gained a place from Kubica in the process, keeping the position thereafter – something that raised the ire of the Renault team and would earn the Ferrari driver a drive through penalty soon afterward. Not that it mattered too much to Kubica – it would be only two laps before his Renault retired with a differential problem, capping a disappointing end to what was looking like a promising weekend.
Ahead, Rosberg found himself fighting with the yet-to-pit with Alguersuari – another tough Spaniard in an Italian car. Whereas Alonso was clumsy in his move on Kubica, Rosberg was inch perfect in taking the Toro Rosso man; a perfect exit from Village followed by a great run down the Wellington straight, gaining enough momentum to force a way around the outside of Alguersuari in the tight Luffield section and into Woodcote – a move that also allowed Alonso through and onto the rear of Rosberg. Button, meanwhile stayed out until the 22nd lap – a good stop from his McLaren crew dropped him to 6th, just behind the Rosberg / Alonso fight.
The face of the race began to distort on the 26th lap – chasing de la Rosa on the edge of the points, Sutil suddenly rubbed into the back of the Sauber on the start / finish straight. With the rear points weakened, one side of de la Rosa’s rear wing shattered on the Hangar Straight, littering the circuit with huge clumps of carbon fibre. De la Rosa pitted, but the damage was too severe. Game over – safety car.
In a moment, two opposing fortunes played their hands; Vettel, left behind by his early puncture was brought back into the frame; while Alonso’s drive through was to be taken upon the withdrawl of the safety car, essentially ending his race. With the pitted Hulkenberg and Petrov out of the way, the race restarted on lap 31 with the stalemate once again in order at the front – Webber wasn’t going to lose this. Behind the leading two, Button pressed Rosberg, but the German driver held both his line and position – another stalemate slowly forming for 3rd and 4th. However battle lines were drawn in the pack – Sutil barged passed Schumacher into Brooklands for 7th as Hulkenberg, Petrov and Alguersuari all fight for 9th, while the lapped Kovalainen lingered.
Within three laps, Vettel, now sensing points picked off Massa for 12th position, before charging passed Alguersuari, Petrov (lap 37) and Hulkenberg (lap 38). It would be a further two tours before Schumacher was in Vettel’s sights – the veteran unwilling to let the Red Bull by, fought through the new section, but as with Sutil, Brooklands proved to be Schumacher’s weak spot – the Red Bull driver now found himself in 8th place. Convinced that more was on offer, Vettel found himself with Sutil by the 43rd lap, but with more power the German was not going to be easy to pass, but Vettel’s attack was relentless and the Red Bull was clearly demonstrating better cornering speeds each lap around. Vettel remained forceful and kept the pressure on and had a number of serious looks down the inside of Brooklands – laps 44 and 45 he didn’t have enough and on 46, he half spun; however on the 47th time around, Vettel recaught Sutil and forcefully shoved his way passed the German – leaving Sutil both bemused and annoyed.
Having a race to forget Alonso picked off Buemi for 15th spot, but hit an Italian brick wall in the shape of Liuzzi – Alonso just could not pass the Force India. he battle continued onward with Alonso gaining a short term advantage only to fall further back and as a final insult, the double-world champion would slice his front tyre following contact with the Force India with two laps remaining – another pitstop. It was a poor day for the Spaniard’s at the British Grand Prix – with de la Rosa out and Alonso struggling, some eyes reverted to Alguersuari for a decent result. Unfortunately the Toro Rosso suffered a spin at Luffield, digging himself into the gravel trap and into retirement. Massa in the second Ferrari was having yet another dire Silverstone race – the Brazilian mysteriously managed to spin on the exit of Luffield and into the pitlane itself. With his Bridgestone’s flat-spotted and destroyed, Massa made for new rubber.
Almost unseen by all, Kamui Kobayashi drifted into an excellent sixth place, while Rubens Barrichello picked up a well earned fifth position; the Sutil / Vettel battle behind them, gave the pair enough room to feel comfortable in their respective top 6 spots, rewarding their teams with hard earned points.
At the front, Webber had no excitement whatsoever – an untroubled run from flag-to-flag was simply the best answer he could give to his critics within the team and with that, the Australian became the first driver in 2010 to pick up three victories. Hamilton and Button crossed the line in 2nd and 4th respectively, giving the home crowd two more great performances; especially from Button following his dreadful qualifying. The McLaren duo sandwiched Rosberg, who picked up his third podium of the season; something that may not be of much comfort to Schumacher – the veteran finishing a lowly 9th. More points for Kobayashi may not jump Sauber up the Constructor’s Championship, but with team looking to rebuild a solid base for the following season, all points are welcome. A double points finish for Williams is also a bonus for the Didcot based team – Barrichello’s 5th place and Hulkenberg’s 10th, giving the team a rare double-points score, that got them a little closer to Force India – Adrian Sutil managing to get his car home in 8th place.
Vettel’s seventh place seems him drop to fourth in the World Championship behind his teammate – something he may wish to fix quickly at the next race in Germany in two weeks. Hamilton and Button may still lead the title hunt, but Webber sent out a message today that the Red Bull is still the best car out there.
As Webber put it on the slow down lap “not bad for a number two”. Not bad at all Mark, not bad at all.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5
Silverstone, British Grand Prix (Round 10, July 11th)
1 WEBBER Red Bull 52 laps
2 HAMILTON McLaren +1.3s
3 ROSBERG Mercedes +21.3s
4 BUTTON McLaren +21.9s
5 BARRICHELLO Williams +31.4s
6 KOBAYASHI Sauber +32.1s
7 VETTEL Red Bull +36.7s
8 SUTIL Force India +40.9s
9 SCHUMACHER Mercedes +41.5s
10 HULKENBERG Williams +42.0s
11 LIUZZI Force India +42.4s
12 BUEMI Toro Rosso +47.6s
13 PETROV Renault +59.3s
14 ALONSO Ferrari +62.3s
15 MASSA Ferrari +67.4s
16 TRULLI Lotus +1 lap
17 KOVALAINEN Lotus +1 lap
18 GLOCK Virgin +2 laps
19 CHANDHOK HRT +2 laps
20 YAMAMOTO HRT +2 laps
R ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso +8 laps
R DE LA ROSA Sauber +23 laps
R KUBICA Renault +33 laps
R DI GRASSI Virgin +43 laps
Britain, Qualifying (July 10th)
1 VETTEL Red Bull 1m29.615s
2 WEBBER Red Bull 1m29.758s
3 ALONSO Ferrari 1m30.426s
4 HAMILTON McLaren 1m30.556s
5 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m30.625s
6 KUBICA Renault 1m31.040s
7 MASSA Ferrari 1m31.172s
8 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m31.175s
9 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m31.274s
10 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m31.430s
11 SUTIL Force India 1m31.399s
12 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m31.421s
13 HULKENBERG Williams 1m31.635s
14 BUTTON McLaren 1m31.699s
15 PETROV Renault 1m31.796s
16 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m32.012s
17 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m32.430s
18 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m34.405s
19 GLOCK Virgin 1m34.775s
20 LIUZZI Force India 1m31.708s (*5 place grid penalty, originally qualified 15th)
21 TRULLI Lotus 1m34.864s
22 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m35.212s
23 CHANDHOK HRT 1m36.576s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m36.968s
Britain, 3rd Free Practice (July 10th)
1 VETTEL Red Bull 1m30.958s
2 WEBBER Red Bull 1m30.992s
3 ALONSO Ferrari 1m31.101s
4 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m31.188s
5 MASSA Ferrari 1m31.240s
6 KUBICA Renault 1m31.519s
7 HAMILTON McLaren 1m31.549s
8 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m31.555s
9 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m31.559s
10 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m31.581s
11 PETROV Renault 1m31.698s
12 BUTTON McLaren 1m31.703s
13 HULKENBERG Williams 1m31.867s
14 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m31.947s
15 SUTIL Force India 1m31.994s
16 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m32.235s
17 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m32.331s
18 LIUZZI Force India 1m32.723s
19 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m34.339s
20 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m35.479s
21 TRULLI Lotus 1m36.098s
22 CHANDHOK HRT 1m36.286s
23 GLOCK Virgin 1m36.640s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m37.178s
Britain, 2nd Free Practice (July 9th)
1 WEBBER Red Bull 1m31.234s
2 ALONSO Ferrari 1m31.626s
3 VETTEL Red Bull 1m31.875s
4 MASSA Ferrari 1m32.099s
5 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m32.166s
6 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m32.660s
7 PETROV Renault 1m32.745s
8 HAMILTON McLaren 1m32.757s
9 SUTIL Force India 1m32.787s
10 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m32.967s
11 KUBICA Renault 1m33.019s
12 HULKENBERG Williams 1m33.164s
13 BUTTON McLaren 1m33.200s
14 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m33.402s
15 LIUZZI Force India 1m33.728s
16 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m33.836s
17 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m34.051s
18 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m34.643s
19 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m35.465s
20 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m36.237s
21 GLOCK Virgin 1m36.553s
22 CHANDHOK HRT 1m37.019s
23 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m38.303s
24 TRULLI Lotus 1m42.901s
Britain, 1st Free Practice (July 9th)
1 VETTEL Red Bull 1m32.280s
2 HAMILTON McLaren 1m32.614s
3 KUBICA Renault 1m32.725s
4 WEBBER Red Bull 1m32.747s
5 SUTIL Force India 1m32.968s
6 ROSBERG Mercedes 1m33.318s
7 HULKENBERG Williams 1m33.377s
8 BUTTON McLaren 1m33.519s
9 SCHUMACHER Mercedes 1m33.955s
10 BARRICHELLO Williams 1m34.016s
11 BUEMI Toro Rosso 1m34.132s
12 PETROV Renault 1m34.365s
13 ALONSO Ferrari 1m34.490s
14 DI RESTA Force India 1m34.580s
15 KOBAYASHI Sauber 1m34.710s
16 DE LA ROSA Sauber 1m34.901s
17 MASSA Ferrari 1m35.037s
18 ALGUERSUARI Toro Rosso 1m35.318s
19 KOVALAINEN Lotus 1m36.747s
20 GLOCK Virgin 1m37.330s
21 DI GRASSI Virgin 1m37.518s
22 CHANDHOK HRT 1m38.735s
23 FAUZY Lotus 1m39.510s
24 YAMAMOTO HRT 1m39.673s
|1. Lewis Hamilton||McLaren||145|
|2. Jenson Button||McLaren||133|
|3. Mark Webber||Red Bull Racing||128|
|4. Sebastian Vettel||Red Bull Racing||121|
|5. Fernando Alonso||Ferrari||98|
|6. Nico Rosberg||Mercedes GP||90|
|7. Robert Kubica||Renault||83|
|8. Felipe Massa||Ferrari||67|
|9. Michael Schumacher||Mercedes GP||36|
|10. Adrian Sutil||Force India||35|
|11. Rubens Barrichello||Williams||29|
|12. Kamui Kobayashi||Sauber||15|
|13. Vitantonio Liuzzi||Force India||12|
|14. Sebastien Buemi||Scuderia Toro Rosso||7|
|15. Vitaly Petrov||Renault||6|
|16. Jaime Alguersuari||Scuderia Toro Rosso||3|
|17. Nico Hulkenberg||Williams||2|
|2. Red Bull Racing||249|
|4. Mercedes GP||126|
|6. Force India||47|
|9. Scuderia Toro Rosso||10|