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Pirelli and Mercedes Survive the Tribunal: British Grand Prix Preview

The FIA Tribunal in session this past week.

Last Friday, neither Mercedes Benz, Pirelli or the governing body of the sport, the FIA, were looking clever when an International Tribunal delivered its verdict on the ‘Tyregate’ scandal. The massive Formula One row erupted after the Monaco Grand Prix when it emerged that Mercedes Benz had been involved in tests run by Pirelli to assess tyres for the 2014 season with a 2013 car.

It was accepted that Pirelli and Mercedes Benz acted in good faith, but both were reprimanded for the way in which they proceeded on Pirelli’s less than clear contract. Mercedes Benz received their slap on the wrist. They will be prohibited from taking part in sanctioned tests with young drivers scheduled after the British Grand Prix. The FIA has drawn a line under the issue.

Mercedes in public is crying how desperately this is hurting them. Privately, it could have been much worse for the Silver Arrows.

The FIA has accepted that it needs to learn the lessons to ensure “a more rigorous procedure for testing in the future, particularly to support the appointed tyre supplier” is adopted.

Pirelli’s Hemberey and Mercede’s Ross Brawn.

Red Bull and Ferrari, who lodged the protest, have been muttering about the leniency of the out come as it pertains to Mercedes Benz, but essentially the origins of this issue lie with the FIA. When doesn’t the opposing side feign torturous grievance?

More importantly this weekend sees a return to Silverstone for the 68th British Grand Prix where the eleven teams will be fighting to improve their standings in the World Drivers and Constructors Championships.

On current form Red Bull are clear favorites to win with Sebastian Vettel on the top spot of the podium, though circumstances have kept the German out of victory lane at this circuit since 2009. Although, Ferrari is said to have the power to win on a track like Silverstone and a bulldog in the cockpit named Alonso.

Alonso is counting on Ferrari power to take the fight to Red Bull.

Team mate Mark Webber, who is considering contract renewal with Red Bull or retirement, was the last winner of this race repeating his 2010 victory. Anything but a podium finish would be a disappointment for the Australian who has finished in the top three in every British Grand Prix since 2009.

Fernando Alonso finished 14 seconds adrift of Sebastian Vettel at the Canadian Grand Prix and he will be the man most likely to capitalize on any Red Bull misfortune. Fernando has won this race twice, in his second championship winning season 2006 and 2011 when a temporary change in rules on exhausts helped Fernando’s Ferrari to a one off win.

Any finish ahead of Nico Rosberg would be a good result for Fernando’s team- mate Felipe Massa who sits eight points behind the Mercedes Benz driver in the championship table. Anything less than a top six finish will be a disappointment for the Brazilian, not to mention the internal team eyes glaring holes in him at the moment.

Rosberg and Hamilton of Mercedes hope that their qualifyng form is there and it rains.

Mercedes Benz came away from the Canadian Grand Prix with 3rd and 5th place finishes for Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg who qualified for the race 2nd and 4th respectively. With the team’s string of pole positions prior to Canada expect Lewis on his home circuit to be challenging Vettel for pole on Saturday, I’d be surprised if Nico was not in with a shot of finishing Saturday with a top three start.

For a team that runs it’s tyres noticeably warmer than it’s rivals, Mercedes Benz will be welcoming the over cast conditions forecast for the whole weekend. With low ambient temperatures Hamilton, who won here in his 2008 Championship winning season and Mercedes could be the team that upsets current form. Reaction to such an unlikely outcome in the light of “Tyregate” from Red Bull and Ferrari would be interesting. In fact, everything Mercedes has done since Monaco is interesting.

Last week I mentioned the absence of firm plans from Lotus and Kimi Räikkönen regarding next season. A day later team owner Gerard Lopez announced he had sold a 35% stake in the team to a consortium called Infinity Racing, a diverse group with connections to US Hedge Fund management, Abu Dhabi based multinationals and it’s royal family.

Was the 35% buy in by Infinity Racing designed to keep Raikkonen in the Lotus seat?

Hopefully this development will up the pace of Lotus plans for next season, their driver sits a better than expected third in the driver’s standings. Kimi, another British GP winner dating back to 2007 also his championship winning year, will probably be struggling to match the qualifying pace of Red Bull and Mercedes but he might just sneak in ahead of Alonso on the grid. In the race it is hard to see Kimi making the podium without unforeseeable incidents removing rivals ahead of him. But if it rains, it is England after all, that changes everything.

Kimi’s team mate Romain Grosjean will need to score points to improve on his last two retirements and 13th place finish in Canada to impress. He could be driving for his job along with Massa of Ferrari.

Sitting 5th in the constructors table with less than half of the points held by Lotus, in 4th, are Force India who make their tyres last longer than anyone else. If the team, whose factory is opposite the Silverstone circuit gates, can get on top of it’s wayward qualifying management both Paul di Resta, on as good as home turf and Adrian Sutil could spring a surprise with a couple of top six finishes but top eight is more likely.

Torro Rosso come into the British GP with two well earned points finishes for Jean-Éric Vergne and there is no reason why the Frenchman will not make it a third.  With a possible vacancy at Red Bull beckoning, a points paying finish for Jean-Éric’s Australian team-mate and former British Formula Three Champion, Daniel Ricciardo, is essential to remain in the frame for the second Red Bull seat.

Perez has been quite vocal for a new driver at McLaren.

McLaren failed to score in Canada and it would be a surprise if they turn their fortunes around here, expect Jenson Button on home ground to finish ahead of Sergio Perez with either lucky to get in the points. Perez has been quite vocal lately regarding the McLarens performance.

Sauber, Williams, Marrussia and Caterham will struggle to break recent form to score a point. On home ground Williams will want to prove me wrong while Caterham still need to score an unlikely 12th place finish or better with Marussia behind them to avoid the constructors championship wooden spoon.

To sum up I’ll go with Hamilton on pole and the weather favoring Vettel for the win.

Personally, I’m preparing my wet weather gear as I will be in attendance. I hope you will join me again next Monday for opinions on the out come of the British Grand Prix.

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