Burn FM Sport’s Sam Bernard had the pleasure of watching the 2015 British Grand Prix from the stands at Silverstone, read below for a report of the days proceedings, as well as a fascinating critique of the sports inner workings…
I originally intended for this article to be a scathing criticism of what F1 had become in recent years. I, like many in the F1 community, had become increasingly frustrated with the sport I have followed religiously since the days of Michael Schumacher. The impressive advantage Mercedes have built over the rest of the field has made racing all too predictable. Some have suggested Formula 1 has lost its competitiveness, along with its appeal.
However, I was fortunate enough to travel to the British Grand Prix at Silverstone this year, to witness what will be remembered as one of the best races in recent years, and possibly even the turning point in F1’s recent crisis. Rather unsurprisingly Mercedes secured their accustomed one-two finish on the podium, with Hamilton pipping teammate Nico Rosberg to the line. But this fails to show the minute-by-minute drama and action, that the British crowd was treated to as the Silver Arrows were made to sweat by the stunning pace of the Williams’ car.
The Mercedes duo, of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, locked out the front row in qualifying – an all too familiar sight – but to everyone’s surprise both William’s drivers, Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas, got off to electrifying starts and had jumped both of the Mercedes before the first corner. Lewis’ racing instincts kicked in and he impressively wrestled back second-place before the intervention of the safety-car following a collision that prematurely ended Jenson Button’s race after less than a lap. As the safety-car pulled into the pits Hamilton attacked Massa into Vale, only to lose a place to the opportunistic Bottas, placing both Williams in the top two. For the first time this season Mercedes would have to successfully outrace another team if they were to going win the British Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who will undoubtedly be remembered as one of the all-time greats in motorsport; showed his class once again by pitting in before his rivals, and put in such a strong succession of laps that by the time everyone else had pitted, he had built a gap of three seconds to second place. By that point in the race, Hamilton looked as if he had the win in the bag, much to the delight of the 140,000 home fans. But in true British style, the weather took a turn for the worse as rain began to fall with around a quarter of the race to go.
Rosberg finally passed the stubborn, but ultimately slower, Williams’ cars, and was catching Hamilton quickly. The temperamental weather caused confusion amongst the teams as it became apparent that only half of the track was damp, while the other half was bone dry. In these tricky circumstances it appeared Rosberg had the beating of his teammate. It was up to the drivers to decide when was the best time to return to the pits and fit the intermediate tyres, designed for the wet conditions.
Switching too early risked tearing the rubber off the tyres; pitting too late would mean having to complete a lap with tyres with virtually no grip. Acing this pit stop would be vital in winning the race. Hamilton did just that, perfecting the timing of his pit stop. Seconds after he pitted he emerged into much heavier descending rain, meaning Rosberg had to manage the difficult conditions on tyres reserved for dry conditions, and thus dropped further and further behind the current World Champion. The British fans roared on as Hamilton cruised to his fifth victory of the season to extend his lead in the championship to 17 points. Williams, who looked destined to upset the Mercedes stranglehold at one point failed to adjust to the changeable conditions and were jumped by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who had featured little in the race until then.
This fantastic race reminded many fans of the pure drama and excitement that the pinnacle of racing can bring. It was a race that Formula 1 needed amidst growing discontent and showed that all it takes is for the appeal and the sexiness of F1 to return is for other cars to be able to compete with the awesome power of the Mercs. This is much easier said than done of course.
Formula 1, like the cars that race, needs constant refining and improving to ensure that it can continue to get better. The problem lies in the way the power is allocated. Rules are governed by the so-called F1 Strategy Group, which consists of the six biggest teams in F1 along with the dictator-like Bernie Ecclestone and FIA president Jean Todt – whom all have different targets, budgets and needs. Big decisions to make the sport more competitive cannot and will not be agreed upon. Many have their own reservations on how increase the appeal of the sport. I too have my own thoughts; namely to improve the spectacle of the sport by returning to the ear-piercing noise of the V8 engines that had become absolutely synonymous with F1 before the introduction of the V6 hybrid engines in 2014. But one must take into account of the cost. Already F1 is far too expensive as seen by the demise of Caterham and Marussia from last year’s grid. Thankfully Marussia were saved at the eleventh-hour and now race, albeit rather uncompetitively in a modified 2014 car, as Manor Marussia. I do strongly believe that in order for F1 to return to its hey-day an independent body should be designated as the rule-makers, who solely have the best interests of the sport at heart.
Amongst the negative atmosphere that has surrounded F1 recently, the British Grand Prix reminded everyone of how great F1 can be and why we all fell in love with it all those years ago. To witness the buzz firsthand was an unbelievable experience and I would fully recommend to anyone who gets the chance to visit Silverstone in the future to do so. Witnessing so many knowledgeable and passionate fans cheering on the British drivers around every corner of the track, lap after lap, would make you question if F1 was in a crisis at all. Yet there is something special and unique about the British fans. With the possibly the exception of the Italian Tifosi, the level of desire and dedication of the British fans is not replicated anywhere else with too many of the new, soulless circuits being dominated by the corporate businessmen who price out the ordinary fans.
The British fans are truly incredible and were deservedly treated to undoubtedly the best race of the season.