The Grand Prix of Great Britain, the home race for most Formula 1 teams, including the toon-tastic McLaren. A typically British wet weekend, saw the teams practicing and qualifying in the rain. Things fared well for Ferrari on Saturday, with Fernando Alonso securing pole. Just behind was Red Bull’s Mark Webber and Mercedes’s Michael Schumacher. The hometown heroes, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button continued to struggle with grip. Button has had a notoriously bad career at Silverston and was unable to break out of Q1. His teammate Hamilton qualified 8th overall. This was not looking to be the home race McLaren had hoped for.
Experience Trumps Speed
Now that Formula 1 has reached it’s midseason crest, we’re beginning to see a couple teams pull away from the pack. While Red Bull’s RB8 and Ferrari’s F2012, aren’t the fastest cars on the grid, they’re both being piloted by seasoned war horses.
Fernando Alonso has continued to drive brilliantly, while Mark Webber has firmly established his place at Red Bull; outdriving his teammate Sebastian Vettel. The end of the race would see Alonso and Webber going head-to-head. After leading most of the race, Alonso began to lose pace because of tire degradation. This provided the perfect opportunity for Webber to overtake in the final laps, ultimately securing the victory.
He now sits just 13 points behind Alonso in the Driver’s Championship.
Something To Prove
Williams’s Pastor Maldonado routinely came into contact with another driver on Sunday. This time it was Sergio Perez who was forced to retire his Sauber. Maldonado’s overly aggressive style alludes to a driver with something to prove.
After being constantly referred to as a “pay driver” he’s eager to show his worth. While the drama may be good for marketing purposes, I’m not convinced by Maldonado, who’s become Formula 1’s new Jacques Villeneuve. In the media he comes off as an arrogant brat, with his accusations of other drivers and complete unwillingness to accept responsibility. An order of humble pie is certainly on the menu.
Home Team Woes
Following Sunday’s race, McLaren Team Prinipal Martin Whitmarsh, called for an emergency meeting at the team’s Woking fortress. Since March, the “car to beat”, has lost pace and struggeled for grip.
It’s a scenario that’s impacted most of Jenson Button’s season and is now beginning to affect Lewis Hamilton’s. For whatever reason, Pirelli’s new tires don’t seem to want to work for the MP4-27, as we saw Hamilton admit to his team, that Romain Grosjean was much faster, just before being overtaken. McLaren’s new aero
improvements have done little to help the car’s pace.
In a contract year for Hamilton, this isn’t the position McLaren want to be in. Rumors have been swirling over a possible Hamilton move in 2013, but ultimately I think the driver wants to stay with McLaren. Despite the car, Hamilton has driven extremely well and stood by his team. His new-found level of composure is something we haven’t seen in years past.
American Fans Are Imbeciles
All summer long, FOX has insulted our intelligence with their Formula 1 broadcasts. It pains me to say this, but NASCAR is currently catered to a more eclectic audience in the states. During the summer months, SPEED does a 5 race swap with FOX. I can only presume this is to grow American interest in the sport. In typical fashion, FOX’s broadcasts are aimed at the lowest common denominator, rather than the seasoned fans, who likely make up a vast majority of the audience. Sunday’s race intro sums up the FOX style brilliantly, with an absolutely cringe-worthy montage of drivers, morphing into superheroes; including Alonso as “El Lobo” and Hamilton as “Two Face” (WTF?!). This combined with SPEED’s Three Musketeers explaining DRS 47 times, made for a truly horrendous viewing experience. Watching F1 on SPEED has always been for convenience, but it’s getting to the point where I’ll go out of my way to find a SKY/BBC stream. The whole situation brings up an interesting discussion of how Formula 1 is marketed to Americans. With 2 races scheduled here in 2013, it’ll be interesting to see how bad it truly gets.
The Road Ahead
With teams like Red Bull and Ferrari pulling away, Mercedes consistentely qualifying well, and Lotus setting the pace, it’s going to be intersting to see what’s in store, for the second half of 2012. Felipe Massa’s fate is at the hands of his replacement. If rumors of a Vettel move are true (doubtful), Massa may get one more season with the Scuderia, before Vettel takes over in 2014. There’s also the prospect of Sergio Perez making a move from Sauber (more likely), which could happen before the end of 2012.
McLaren have come leaps and bounds from their previous pitting strategy and are back to form. A blistering 2.8 second stop at Silverstone, cemented the fastest time of the season. Despite being back on track, the MP4-27 needs immediate attention. If McLaren hope to secure Hamilton for an extension, the car must become more competitive. Rumors of a Hamilton move to Lotus or Ferrari have been discussed, but neither team seems to be a good fit.
Sebastian Vettel doesn’t seem to be performing at the level he’s grown accustomed to. He ultimately needs to learn how to lose and should take some cues from Alonso and Hamilton. Both drivers have had to come to grips with not being the best in the past and they’re both better for it. Vettel would be wise to create some distance between himself and puppeteer Helmut Marko, who’s been making waves in the German media, with his conspiracy theories.
The Lotus boys have been quick all season. Romain Grosjean is no doubt one of the stars of the future, but he lacks intelligence and comes off as overly eager. This has proven his downfall and caused the driver to make costly mistakes. Kimi Raikkonen still seems to lack any interest in F1 whatsoever. However, with a good tire strategy, it’s only a matter of time before his first win. It’ll be interesting to see how Lotus fares through the end of the season.
Formula 1 invades Hokenheim next week.
Photos courtesy of F1 Fanatic.