The Ferrari Owners’ Club
of Great Britain

GRAND PRIX: Britain: It’s Lewis’ Turn

17-07-2014

Report by Winston D’Arcy

It’s not often these days that I write Grand prix reports, the pressures of a growing family divert me elsewhere, but I must say it’s a pleasure to be back, and to such a wonderful new website as well! Congratulations to the team, it looks fresh and neat, and should serve the members well over the next few years.

I looked forward to the British GP. The only question I was really interested in was whether Rosberg would again out-smart Hamilton and head off to another win but in the event there were lots of other things to get excited about. Firstly, there was the usual paddock stuff, gossip flying around, and various shenanigans as each team tried to destabilise some of the others. It was announced that Toto Wolff, he of the Merc team, had finally managed to off-load most of his Williams shareholding, and so we wondered how long Mrs Wolff would last in that team. In the event only a lap or two before her much-hyped drive in free practice was halted by an engine failure. Apparently she will have another go at the next GP in Germany. Can’t wait.

Back-marker Caterham were sold by Tony Fernandez. He had threatened this for a while but it seems that the pile of debt proved too much and others moved in for the kill; who are the ‘others’? None knows, some even suggested it was Bernie himself. And with this sort of economic background facing the start-up teams Gene Hass is still running around trying to set up another F1 squad. As someone once asked: ‘How do you make a small fortune out of motor racing? You start with a big one….’ Ferrari have announced that Hass will in the meantime become a sponsor, which probably means they want him to buy a Ferrari engine supply.

Qualifying was an enthralling affair, largely due to the vagaries of the damp track and occasional drizzle. Ferrari got their timing completely wrong and never got past Q1, and the same happened to the Williams’, and behind the leading Rosberg there was a right mix up with Kvyat in second, Hamilton in third and Bianchi in fourth! Q2 was an all-Merc affair, but Q3 saw a big upset when Rosberg continued at full pelt to the end of his final lap, but Hamilton giving up as he thought the track was too wet. The result was that Rosberg would sit on pole with Hamilton down in sixth – and again he did his public whinging which is getting to Mansell-esque proportions. Vettell, Button, Hulkenberg and Magnussen made the best of the changeable conditions and separated the two Mercs. There was an interesting race in prospect.

Sunday was warm and dry as they lined up on the grid. Alonso compounded Ferrari’s woes by parking half a car length beyond his slot. When the lights went out the two Ferraris immediately set about trying to improve on their lowly starting positions, bullying their way though the back-markers, but then it went awry at the entry to Wellington Straight. Raikkonen got forced off the track but kept his foot in it and had the most enormous accident as the car bucked out of control. He ricoched back into the pack and several others got involved and it was one of those situations where another inch or two either way for the cars, drivers, debris, wheels, and there could have been serious injury or even worse.

The race was immediately red flagged and it took over an hour to clear everything up and repair the barriers. Kimi suffered no worse than bruising in the 47g impact against the barrier.

Once the race got going again there was an enthralling battle between the two Mercs. Rosberg went into an immediate lead but Hamilton quickly worked his way up from 6th on the grid and into second by lap 4, just 5 seconds behind his team-mate. The gap then began to close, slowly but surely, until it was down to 2.2 secs. We were then denied a spell-binding battle as Rosberg’s Merc hit gearbox troubles, and was forced to retire on lap 29 out of the 52 scheduled.

Would Hamilton have caught him? Probably, as he was closing at about 0.3 secs of a lap, but we have seen this before with Rosberg still being able to out-wit and out-think the quicker driver. Although Hamilton took the chequered flag it cannot have done much for his psyche to win because of his rival’s retirement. The question as to who is the better remains unanswered.

But the second half still brought great excitement even without the Merc battle at the front. Bottas was driving the socks off his Williams and, by dint of one-stopping, he was up into second with Rosberg’s retirement. The battle of the day, though, was probably that between Vettell and Alonso down in 5th and 6th places. Here was a display of skill, bravery and respect that was spell-binding to watch, just inches away from each other, each thinking deeply as they were hurtling around at vast speeds. Alonso’s car was clearly struggling, also with tyre degradation, and once Vettel got past he quickly pulled away. It’s just a shame we weren’t spared the mutual whingeing that was going on between the two drivers.

We again enjoyed the never-give-up attitude of Alonso and there are more and more rumours that will finally give up the struggle at Ferrari and join another team at the end of the season – probably McLaren when they get the new Honda engine supply. He combines speed, determination, sheer skill, and maturity as a package beyond any of his contemporaries and will be a fine catch for another team. And a big loss to Ferrari.

In all of this it’s easy to forget there were others racing! Ricciardo did his usual fine job and, helped by a one-stop race, came home in third place but only just as Button, also one-stopping, nearly caught him on the line as he brought an unlikely fifth place to the McLaren team which doesn’t seem to be making much progress under Ron Dennis’ renewed leadership.

But with the Mercedes steamroller at the front, sometimes 2secs per lap quicker than anyone else, there’s little chance for the others to shine at this point of the season. That unfortunately includes Ferrari who can’t seem to make the jump to the front, further handicapped by the failure of Kimi Raikkonen to show anything like his Lotus form from the previous season. But then the Lotus was a very good car with a strong engine, neither of which is the case with what he is driving this season.

This was a rare thing – a Grand Prix that brought much interest and excitement to the punters.