It, without doubt, was the hottest weekend I can ever remember at Silverstone. At time tempers frayed on the track, and at the end it got a bit heated too. Mercedes alluded to strange Ferrari tactics – the early season bromance seems to have fallen way now – and Lewis Hamilton, in his own words, said some “dumb shit” that he’s now going to learn from.
But throughout the four days at the British Grand Prix, the enthusiasm, passion, support and enjoyment of over 340,000 of the best fans on the planet, shone through. It was, as it always is, a total and utter delight to be there and from the smiles on the faces of the fans I bumped into, I get the feeling it was a brilliant weekend for you too.
To everyone who stopped me and said hello, both at the track and on the campsite, it was great to meet you. A special mention to the man I bumped into leaving the Paddock on Sunday night who asked me to sign a model of a blimp that he’d had imported from the USA. I’m sorry you had to wait such a long time, but thank you for waiting. My son, thought it was fantastic that a total stranger wanted ‘Lofty Crofty’s’ autograph.
On Thursday night, the grandstands on the main straight were packed as we kicked off proceedings with the F1 Show, live on the grid. I might be a bit biased here but I think football darts needs to be played at every major sporting event. Fast forward to Sunday and the grid was packed again as Lewis Hamilton made a brief appearance to say hello, and then another bloke from Stevenage, got a chance to climb the fence too. I decided against crowd surfing, you guys don’t need me doing that!
As ever, the British Grand Prix was expertly run and fantastically attended. We stage big events very, very well in the UK and Silverstone should be hugely proud for the way that this event is run. As Ross Brawn said to Martin and Jenson on the Gridwalk “We can’t leave this behind”. He’s right, we can’t and whilst next year is scheduled at the moment to be the last British Grand Prix weekend, I know that both sides are working hard to find a solution that works in the interests of both sides. Liberty can’t give races away for free, Silverstone can’t pay a huge price to stage the race. Somewhere in the middle is the way forward and on behalf of everybody who loves this race, its time for both parties to quietly, behind the scenes, find that way forward. 2020 is the 70th anniversary of the first ever Formula 1 world championship grand prix, wouldn’t it be totally magical to still be racing at the very circuit where it all started and looking ahead to many more years to come?
Mercedes have had an incredible recent record at Silverstone and although the incredibly high track temperatures didn’t necessarily suit them this weekend, the fact that Ferrari matched them for pace and once again made a much better start, will have the alarm bells ringing loudly at Brackley. Not that they weren’t ringing already. There was a fear before the race that if Ferrari got clear then the defending champions might not be able to stop them, and that came true in the early stages. The two Safety Cars came out at the right time for Sebastian Vettel, who was showing more signs of wear on his front left tyre. Would Valterri Bottas have made it past him on track? We’ll never know but he was gaining before Ericssons crash. Would Lewis Hamilton, after one of his best ever pole laps on Saturday, found more pace to fight Vettel in the race had he not been hit by Kimi? We won’t know that sadly either. The crash at Village compounded his poor start, but the recovery drive that followed was a terrific effort and his team were right to keep him out and gain him track position during the first safety car period. It was, at that time, Mercedes best option to go for the win, and if they have an option to do that, given how close it is between them and their Italian rivals, they have to take it.
Ferrari came to Silverstone and Sebastian Vettel extended his championship lead. That wasn’t in the normal script and with the half way stage of the season approaching, a pretty good time for the Scuderia to make their move. Mercedes brought a big upgrade package to the track recently and the Spec 2.1 engine was a major step forward. Ferrari appear to have it covered so where do the defending champions go from here?
We’ve just had the first, and I help last, F1 triple header. I saw too many tired faces amongst those working in the teams, who haven’t had a day off since the Monday before Paul Ricard and now will probably only get a couple of days off before the next two races, run back to back of course. Even Fernando Alonso looked exhausted when I saw him on Thursday evening, but then he hasn’t had a weekend off since before Monaco, so I’m not surprised.
One man has been a consistent presence on the podium during this triple header period and that’s Kimi Raikonnen. I loved his battle with Verstappen at Silverstone and I’d love to see him carry on with Ferrari for more than just the next 11 races. But he acknowledges that the decision isn’t his and there’s a worrying rumour for Kimi fans that the decision has already been taken and Charles Leclerc will step up next season. If that happens then what happens to Kimi? There’s one team that could be in need of a big name, former world champion, to drive for them. All will become a little clearer when Fernando Alonso makes his decision as to where he wants to drive next season, and that decision should come shortly after the summer break. But if he retires from F1, the prospect of Kimi going back his former employers isn’t as far fetched as you might think.