Let there be no doubt that the only constant in this years Formula One season is its unpredictability. Consistency is there, if only posing as a small token of homage paid to the brilliance of the drivers themselves. Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton come to mind.
Silverstone should, by all rights, be the one track where McLaren and Red Bull will shine-perhaps.
McLaren threw down the gauntlet today proclaiming that their new upgrades for Silverstone should put them on par with Red Bull.
That statement is a bit misleading as Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren team principle, admitted or at the very least hopes that Vettel’s Valencia pace was track specific. One second per lap is an eternity in Formula One.
Immediately following the Valencia race, Ferrari’s President, Luca di Montezemolo, said in no uncertain terms that Red Bull worried him. Translated that meant a screaming, arm waving Italian style meltdown meeting was about to happen in Maranello. My bet is that it did.
He said, “I don’t want outsiders to think that one win is enough for us to put on a fireworks display,” he added, “It would be a big mistake to think the win in Valencia means we have done enough. We have a competitive car, but to win, we must do even more.”
Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who is tantamount to a pit bull on acid, was the saving grace of Valencia by not easing off and using his considerable skills to stay near the front. The fact that Vettel’s Red Bull and Romain Grosjean’s Lotus mechanically failed is irrelevant to the driver’s points at the moment. The fact that they were both ahead of McLaren and Ferrari is very relevant to the livelihoods of the engineers from Renault, the engine supplier for Red Bull and Lotus, and the team technicians.
Like an old re-run from Star Trek, Alonso proclaimed that the Ferrari’s need “more speed.” They all need more speed but in Ferrari’s case, they need it on the medium-speed corners as well as grabbing traction sooner on slow corner exit.
Silverstone, were it to stay dry, would give a good indication as to whether or not Red Bull has actually found something. However McLaren, Ferrari and Lotus haven’t remained static with Silverstone updates. With rain, we may never see those upgrades reach their potential until Hockenheim several weeks hence.
Unfortunately for Red Bull, it is not likely to be a dry race or qualifying. Rain is, after all, the great equalizer. Mercedes is seeding clouds as we write. Lotus may as well employ the Navaho Indians to gain wet weather favor.
The rain may very well see Force India near the front joined by Lotus. Perhaps Raikkonen can satisfy his urge to win this go around giving him good reason to party, but don’t rule out his team mate, Romain Grosjean, who looks for all the world ready to take a win.
The greatest challenge to racing in the rain at Silverstone is that the corners are breathtakingly fast. Dry it’s a beautiful thing, wet is a challenge but manageable, too much rain and you can’t see the car in front of you.
Ferrari’s Felipe Massa may have said it best, “It’s okay if you are right at the front, but if you’re not in the top three on track, you actually have to look to the side rather than straight ahead to see where you are and this is the only type of condition we all hate, as you are driving blind.” Massa needs a strong result and soon as it’s no secret he’s in a musical chairs position, the difference is young wolves are circling for his seat, not cute girls.
As defiant as “Uncle Hugo” himself, Venezuelan driver Pastor Maldonado has vowed not to change his aggressive driving. He may not have to change as in the wet he has the ability to take out several cars around him, which is not to say he isn’t incredibly good, but impatience in a wet race is an E-ticket into the gravel traps. If it’s dry he could be a factor.
Expect the unexpected again this weekend at Silverstone as this has been the only constant in 2012.
It’s been a fantastic season so far.
All of the staff at Motorsports Unplugged beg to offer our heartfelt wishes for a speedy recovery for Maria di Villota, the Marussia F1 test driver who was critically injured in a testing crash this past week. It is a stark reminder of just how dangerous auto racing can be. Her driving career may be over, but she has a life to live and we wish her the best.