Our British F1 Grand Prix Preview is brought to you by F1 guest writer Justin Johns:
The final round of the three-race mini championship comes to an end this weekend at the spectacular Silverstone circuit. This track hosted the first official F1 race in 1950 albeit in a different layout but it still retains its special feeling.
A special track
I absolutely love Silverstone. My favorite section starts at Copse, which, in qualifying, will be flat out through the fast, blind-entry right-hander, then onto the breathtakingly quick Maggots and Becketts corners, followed by a blast down the Hangar straight. At this point, you touch the brakes, for the first time since exiting Turn 8, for the quick Turn 15 right-hander called Stowe. Turn one or Abbey is also impressive to watch with a slight twist in store for us this season.
Turn 1 will now be part of a DRS zone, making it one of three DRS zones in total. I think we will see some mistakes and some extremely brave moves going through T1 to line up for a pass under braking into Turn 3. Normally there is a slight lift, or in qualifying, full throttle, but that’s with the full downforce of the rear wing applied.
Silverstone generally offers some processional racing unless there’s rain, none of which is expected this weekend. However, for me, the star of this race weekend will be the circuit itself and I’m looking forward to seeing Formula 1 cars through the high-speed stuff even if the racing maybe interpreted as boring.
Click here to see exclusive images taken at the Michael Schumacher museum.
Who will win the mini championship?
The current leader is Max Verstappen, who is driving impeccably well after the media and fans started to imply he was overrated due to his crashes in the opening rounds. I thought this was a short-sighted evaluation of him, as I have noticed many world champions make silly errors in the early part of their careers.
Mistakes occur, but speed is still highly evident with the greats, so they are easily forgiven for their mistakes. Daniil Kyvat, for me, just didn’t have enough natural speed, and I agree with Red Bull’s decision, as heartless it may appear, on dropping him. Kyvat is fast, and may enter the sport again in the future. Max though, has now caught Daniel Ricciardo in the standings, which will diminish the leverage Daniel may have had for contract negotiations.
Max is reportedly earning over $20m per annum, where Daniel is currently at $5m or so per annum. It’s just natural for the team to gravitate around the higher paid driver, it happens in the corporate world, too. I have a feeling that Ricciardo’s antics in qualifying last time out were purely ego driven.
The team rules were clear about who leads during qualifying, but he still complained and attempted to switch it up. Max is Red Bull’s new Vettel in my opinion, and he’s pulled off iconic victories such as winning on debut for the team and winning RBR’s home grand prix. Sebastian did the same with first wins and championships. Daniel is aware of this and it will be interesting to see that intra-team battle play out. We are in for some drama between them by the time the season ends. Strong team-mates, who have not won the title before, in general, do not get along. Their relationship for me, is a bit suspicious and, I want to see them fight it out because they are both brilliant in wheel-to-wheel combat.
Battle for 3rd place
The battle between the bulls adds to the Bottas and Kimi fight for 3rd place. As much as I would love them to be close to Lewis and Sebastian, I think it will be a tall order to overcome. I hope I’m wrong on this as the championship will be open to six drivers and three teams which will be highly entertaining come season end.
No luck for the Finns?
Will Bottas ever catch a break? I hope Valtteri does not give up, and comes back stronger this weekend. He should have easily been in the title fight but that’s Formula 1, a great analogy for life. We are starting to see some emotion coming through his body language of late. The fire is there, and it shows in his driving now. He didn’t let Max pass him into Turn 1 at Canada and fought back for a double overtake around the outside on Kimi and Max into turn four on the opening lap in Austria; what a move.
Kimi is starting to achieve podiums on a consistent basis, but, in hindsight, Austria should have been Kimi’s race. His competition dropped out and once again he cracked under pressure when braking into Turn 3 and ran wide on the opening lap. He then made another mistake into Turn 5, which allowed Max to get alongside and pass into Turn 6. The race was lost there. Will Kimi win a race again? The giant Kimi fan boy, that I am, still believes he can win the championship, but I may just be a bit delusional on that point. The Finns need some luck to swing their way, and wins for them will be highly deserved and popular at that.
Mercedes fight back
Mercedes, statistically speaking, must be favoured to win this weekend. The team has won the British GP every year from 2013; Hamilton won the last four in a row. If Lewis wins this weekend, he will be the first driver since Ayrton Senna to win five races in a row at the same circuit. Senna achieved this feat at Monaco. This is Hamilton’s home track, he loves the adoration and attention, and boy does he deliver when it matters. He is my pick to win on Sunday.
It does not seem as though the Mercedes pair will receive any penalties from their retirements last time out. But this isn’t confirmed as I write this, so there is a still a chance. The double failure was not a coincidence, Mercedes brought a substantial performance gain and I think the team didn’t mitigate the risk of reliability issues. Performance sometimes occurs at the cost of reliability and that needs to be managed carefully.
Even though they’ve come under fire for their strategy calls this year, it’s short-sighted as Mercedes has won both championships for four years in a row. That can only occur when your strategy is on point and compliments the speed of the car. With all these point of contention, Mercedes will be hungry to obliterate the competition at Silverstone this weekend.
McLaren are reshuffling
The big news ahead of this weekend is Eric Boullier’s departure as part of a giant structural shake-up at McLaren. Why the structural shakeup? Well, according to news from Woking, the new reason the car is slow, is because of the organizational structure. So, first to go is Mr Boullier and we wait to see what happens next at McLaren. I am generally wary of people who don’t have accountability in the work environment, you know the type I’m talking about? The people who always blame someone else. That’s my interpretation of whatever is happening at McLaren.
Roll on Silverstone and here’s to a great race.