Winners and Losers: British Grand Prix

Winners

  • Lewis Hamilton: He might have been a no-show for F1 Live London, but he showed up in qualifying and race day and absolutely bossed it. 
  • Daniel Ricciardo: Starting from the back row and finishing P5 is always going to be exciting, but the way he sliced through the mid-field showed that it wasn't just contra tyre strategies or superior horse power that handed him the result.
  • Esteban Ocon: Another race, another intra-team battle at Force India. This time Ocon found himself with track position and able to hold his own and defend against his more experienced teammate who had more life in his tyres. Still, Perez made his bed during the Canadian Grand Prix and has to lie in it for a while. Rock on!

Losers

  • Daniil Kvyat: It doesn't get much worse than crashing into your teammate and taking them out of the race. Daniil was also investigated by the stewards and given a drive-through penalty and two points on his super licence. If Toro Rosso are waiting for the "right price" to off-load Sainz to Renault, perhaps they can pay someone to take Kvyat.
  • Palmer's hydraulics: The guy desperately needs some results to court Renault into keeping him around, having your car crap-out on the formation lap makes that pretty difficult. Sainz? Kubica? Leclerc? Feels like a pineapple could get better results than JP at the moment.
  • Pirelli: It's been years since we saw tyres exploderising on F1 cars with any regularity. That they ruined Ferrari's race is just not what the sport needs right now.

Have your say

Driver of the day: British GP

Silverstone could lose F1 race after 2019

What has been a developing story over the last few weeks will come to a head next week, and the consensus is that British Grand Prix organisers want out of their contract. Under the current agreement hosting fees for the race at Silverstone, although modest compared to some other events, have been increasing by 5% annually.

Key to the arrangement has been the fact that Silverstone is owned and operated by the British Racing Drivers' Club (BRDC), which is an independent enterprise with no government backing.

BBC's Andrew Benson breaks down the numbers:

The current contract - signed at the end of a tedious few years of speculation and machinations concerning the future of the race - was for £12m in the first year, 2010. But it has a 5% annual escalator in it. So this year, the race is costing £16.9m. By 2019, it will be £18.6m, and by 2027, the final year of the deal if it were to run its course, £27.5m.

These numbers are massively less than some circuits are paying - for example, Bahrain pays at least $40m (£31m) a year; Russia $50m (£38.7m); Azerbaijan a reputed $75m (£58m).

But those races all have one thing in common - they are funded by authoritarian governments keen to promote their country to the world. Silverstone is a private members' club that has to run a viable business.

To undercharge, and even worse to renegotiate existing contracts, would leave the sport's new owners in a difficult spot and could lead to every race organiser insisting their fees to reduced. 

If not Silverstone, then where?

With Liberty Media and FOM looking to increase the number of races on the calendar, it's clear from the Silverstone deal that they'd rather create new events in destination cities rather than renegotiate ones that aren't working.

Having indicated that they'd prefer more street circuits, London becomes the obvious substitute for a British Grand Prix. This comes with it's own challenges, but if Formula E can do it, why not F1?

Alternate locations in the UK include former GP circuit Brands Hatch which shared the British Grand Prix with Silverstone in alternating years through the 60s, 70s and into the 80s before Silverstone became the permanent home of the race in 1987. It seems though that they are not equipped, nor can they afford to host an F1 race either.

Whatever the outcome, Liberty Media certainly want a race in Britain to maintain their core fanbase. Although the BRDC are desperate for the race to continue at Silverstone, they can't continue if the costs lead them to ruin. 

Will FOM take control of the British GP themselves?

Short-term relief could come from FOM directly, with an offer on the table to take over running of the race at Silverstone for five years to keep it running while a solution is found.

From Alan Baldwin writing for Reuters:

A source close to the commercial rights holder said Formula One Management had offered to take over the race for five years, absorbing annual losses of between two and three million pounds ($2.5-$3.8 million).

The offer, and another to delay the deadline to the end of the month to allow more time for negotiation, had proved insufficient.

Perhaps BRDC are playing hardball with the new owners now rather than taking long-term pain. Even if they get a reprieve until 2026, it would be left with an event that will cost up to £26 million by the end of their contract, far beyond their means.

It's hard to see exactly how Silverstone can continue hosting the race as things stand, but stranger things have happened. If the sport can attract new owners, teams and even race organisers, perhaps investors in the track can be found.

FIA get their apology, no further action against Vettel

With Ferrari team principal Maurizio Arrivabene by his side, Sebastian Vettel stood before Jean Todt and several other senior FIA figures on his 30th birthday to voice a full-throated apology for his actions during and following the Azerbaijan Grand Prix during which he made unsporting contact with Lewis Hamilton.

From Motorsport.com:

A statement from the FIA said: “In light of these developments, FIA president Jean Todt decided that on this occasion the matter should be closed.

“The FIA remained deeply concerned by the wider implications of the incident," it read, "firstly through the impact such behaviour may have on fans and young competitors worldwide and secondly due to the damage such behaviour may cause to the FIA’s image and reputation of the sport.”

For the FIA, it's the apology they were wanting to hear. Although they "remian deeply concerned" by Vettel's behaviour, to issue further sanctions would have made the body look indecisive and struggling to maintain control of their sport. Less than a month ago Daniil Kvyat was given not one but two penalties for a protocol mistake on the formation lap at the Candian Grand Prix after which stewards issued the wrong penalty. 

FIA officials also refused Vettel's offer to participate in their road safety efforts, instead he finds himself removed from the campaign for the rest of the year. 

Although unlikely to have impacted the result, the media in Italy were railing for Ferrari to boycott this weekend's Austrian Grand Prix if Vettel were benched by the FIA. 

From grandprix247:

Umberto Zapelloni, deputy director of La Gazzetta dello Sport, has led the call for a boycott by Ferrari if Vettel is further castigated.

Spelloni wrote: “Jean Todt believes that the penalty of a stop-and-go plus three points on his license is not enough. Although he will never admit it publicly, he is working in the shadows to make an example of Vettel and Ferrari.”

“A public slap on the wrist, a symbolic penalty, suspended disqualification to be imposed if it happens again would be acceptable. But if the FIA disqualifies Vettel it would be outrageous and absurd. If this happens Ferrari should react by withdrawing the team.”

Most agree that Vettel was in the wrong and deserved some form of sanction. What that should have remains unsettled. They also needed to curtail his growing tendancy of showing disrespect for the race officials and stewards following his infamous, expletive-laden blow-up at last years' Mexican Grand Prix.

The stewards obviously felt that a 10 second stop-and-go penalty was appropriate, rather than the more forceful disqualification from the race. With no penalties in-between at their disposal they went with the one that seemed the most appropriate. At the time, Hamilton was still on track to win the race and Vettel's actions had no other impact on the race standings.

Compounding the displeasure of fans and (particularly the British) media, was Vettel's attitude post-race and the fact that Hamilton needed to stop for an unrelated technical issue. If Vettel's main championship rival had gone on the win the race the penalty would have seemed far greater than it actually turned out to be.

Whether you think Vettel deserves additional punishment for the plight of Mercedes' technical mishap will depend on how you view the application of penalties. More often than not, F1 has used penalties to address injustices on the track. A racing incident involving two drivers might, for example, depend on whether one is forced to retire to the other drivers' advantage, and so on.

In the end, the matter may be dealt with as far as the stewards are concerned. But if Vettel earns a podium finish at Silverstone in a few weeks I'm sure the fans will make their feelings about the matter known without reservation.

Winners and Losers from the Azerbaijan Grand Prix

IMG_1829.JPG

Winners:

  • Daniel Ricciardo - In this case we mean "winner" figuratively and literally. Certainly didn't reach the top of the podium on pure pace and merit, but you have to be in the right place at the right time, as he so often seems to be. Question is, what is it about Verstappen's driving that is ruining his engine that Ricciardo isn't doing?
  • Valtteri Bottas - File this one under "never stop never stopping", Valtteri came from last and a lap down to finish second, claiming the second step on the podium only metres from the finish line. It's really pleasing the team didn't ask him to back up Vettel, and finishing in P2 justifies their decision and helps them in the constuctors' standings.
  • Lance Stroll - The jury isn't quite out yet, but it's clear that Lance finally arrived in the F1 paddock beating Stoff the Doff, Palmer and even Esteban "Rock-on" to reach a podium. 

Losers:

  • Sebastian Vettel - Not only did Vettel have a brain fart and act like a child in reaction to Hamilton's driving behind the safety car, but his selective memory lead to some embarrassing team radio and post-race comments where he denied accountability. Someone from Ferrari needed to show him a replay. 
  • Force India - So much for not having awkward post-race briefings after Canada! The podium could easily have been crowded with driver's wearing pink if not for their clumsy racing incident, but we have to wonder how much the "let us race" attitude from Canada has heightened Ocon's determination to pass his teammate.
  • Debris - We mean "losers" in the sense that the cars lost a lot of it. 

What do you reckon? Leave a comment with your pick for winner and loser. 

Behind the scenes of Monisha Kaltenborn's exit from Sauber

Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein have commented on their Team Principle stepping down, shedding light on the inner workings of the team.

While it can't exactly be considered a shock, the dust is settling on Monisha Kaltenborn's announcement that she's stepping down as Team Principle of Sauber and the situation at Sauber is becoming clearer.

Wehrlein, it seems, was informed by Kaltenborn herself:

“I spoke to her on Tuesday evening when she called me,” explained Wehrlein. “I was obviously very surprised about it when she told me about what would happen. Coming to here obviously everyone is asking those questions and it feels different.”

Wehrlein indicated he had some understanding of the reasons by Kaltenborn’s dismissal, which came about so quickly the team has not yet appointed a replacement.

“I didn’t ask her for the perfect explanation because she doesn’t have to tell me the explanation,” he said. “She told me what will happen and what’s happening.”

Wehrlein has also praised Kaltenborn for standing by him throughout his injury at the start of the season, and ensuring he returned to the seat when he was ready.

Ericsson had, it seems, been informed not by Kaltenborn but the team owners about her departure. 

“It’s nothing I’m involved with so I don’t know what’s been behind it,” he added. “For me it’s just the last couple of days I knew about it.”

Simulaneously, Sauber has been dousing the rumors that the team is helping Ericsson over Wehrlein.

“The owners and board of Sauber Motorsport AG take strong exception to speculative and widespread media reports today that our race drivers have not been, and are not being, treated equally,” it said.

“This is not only patently untrue, it would be contrary to the team’s absolute and longstanding commitment to fair competition.”

“These reports, attributed to anonymous ‘sources’, are highly detrimental to both Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein as well as to the management and all staff of the Sauber F1 team.”

Sauber are currently sitting in 9th place on the constructors' table ahead of McLaren thanks for Wehrlein's 8th place finish in Spain, while Ericsson remains pointless.

To suggest they are favouring Ericsson over Wehrlein would suggest their ability to "aid" one driver over another is in a pretty sorry state.