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Britain 2012 - Red Bull succeed at surprisingly sunny Silverstone - Red Bull and Ferrari show great pace, whilst McLaren continue to struggle

Published by Christine

Vettel waits in the garage at Silverstone
Credit: Mark Thompson/Getty

Silverstone threatened rain and delivered on the first and second days, but once the Grand Prix began, the sun came out.

It was a weekend of small surprises, culminating in an impressive victory for Mark Webber. He and Fernando Alonso are now the only two drivers with more than one win this season, and they were the pair fighting for the lead of the race. There was more to the British Grand Prix than just P1, however we have to start somewhere.

Red Bull

Although the previous race weekend in Valencia was a challenge for both Red Bull drivers, the team had managed to show some worrying pace in amongst adversity. We caught a glimpse of their 2011 form, back in all its glory. Vettel's incredible pace in qualifying was thwarted in the race, but I, for one, expected more of the same this weekend.

It's hard to say what would have happened if we hadn't had such mixed conditions. Friday and Saturday were complete washouts - with qualifying red flagged for a full ninety minutes. Would the team have been able to show their supreme speed once more? If Mark Webber's performance is anything to go by, then I think they would have. After a disastrous qualifying for the European GP, Webber dug deep and harnessed his fondness for the Silverstone track to secure second place on the grid - the gap to polesitter Alonso next to nothing.

He kept pace with the Ferrari throughout the race, and managed to bide his time until their differing strategies played a part. With Alonso on dying tyres, Webber made his move and secured the lead of the race just a few laps from the end. It was his second victory of the year, and was almost immediately followed by confirmation of his re-signing for next season. Confidence on that side of the garage is high.

Vettel didn't do too badly, particularly in difficult conditions and a track where his teammate was always tipped to dominate. He qualified fourth and finished third with a measured performance over the full weekend. The partnership between the two Red Bull drivers has never looked so equal, and it will be fascinating to see how the next couple of races affect their mood.



Despite Fernando Alonso's convincing win in Spain, the Ferrari team still haven’t managed to shake off the impression that they are playing catch-up. They’ve had a fantastic recovery after a rocky start to the season, but domination did seem a step too far. The team themselves have been anxiously playing down expectations for many weeks, but after their weekend at Silverstone, it may be time to loosen up a little.

Alonso and Webber fought hard for pole position, and it could have gone either way, but the pair were a step above the rest. In the race, Fernando seemed relatively cool and calm, despite the fact he couldn't shake off the competition and pull out a distinctive gap for himself. He lost the lead of the race towards the very end, and looked disappointed on the podium, but there is much to take from this weekend. Ferrari seemed able to adequately fight Red Bull on pace, if not on tyre strategy. They have also kept their driver on top in the driver standings, despite losing ground in the constructors. They even managed to get two cars home in the high points positions.

Felipe Massa has a chequered history with Silverstone, and has been known to spin a lot when the rain comes down. But here, we saw a Massa completely in control - avoiding accidents with other drivers and keeping to his own race plan. He followed Vettel home to a fourth place finish. It may not be the position that he wants to be in, but it's certainly a step above where he has been so far this season. We've already seen one potential turning point for Massa at Monaco, and it went by the wayside. This could be a second chance.



A lot of attention this weekend has been focused on the damage that Pastor Maldonado did to his own race, and to others. It should be noted that Romain Grosjean has also been involved in his fair share of incidents this season, too. Although perhaps not as controversial, and not always his fault, Grosjean has missed out on some great opportunities through collisions with other drivers.

The British GP saw two incidents for the Frenchman - the first a crash in qualifying where the wet track got the better of him. The second incident occurred as he had some first lap trouble with Paul di Resta. The Force India was knocked out of the race, whilst Grosjean managed to keep it going. In fact, he improved quite significantly after that. Having started ninth with no time, Romain was knocked way down the field but pulled it back to sixth place.

In fact, he finished seven seconds down the road from teammate Kimi Räikkönen who had only managed to convert his sixth place grid position to a fifth at the chequered flag. A good double points finish for the team, but we’re still waiting for that fabled weekend when one of these drivers is going to take a victory. They have the car beneath them, it just needs that little extra push. The only question is if it will happen on a day when Grosjean has some luck behind him, or a day when Räikkönen is on it and feeling the pace.



Nico Rosberg never quite looked on the pace in qualifying. Although he entertained the crowds during the red flag break, there was not so much to smile about once the Saturday action was complete. He’d had to do battle with Jenson Button to get through to the second session, and once the latter half of Q2 was underway, he ran wide on his flying lap and ruined his chances of going any further.

The weekend was to get worse yet, however, as it was Mercedes turn to suffer a bungled pit stop. TV commentators paid tribute to the team, suggesting they were level-headed, didn’t panic, and resolved the problem with the tyre before attempting to send their driver on his way. This may be so, but it didn’t stop Rosberg returning to the track in a dismal position, and finishing the afternoon in 15th place.

Schumacher looked set to have a better Sunday at Silverstone, as he started the race third lining up alongside Vettel. Unfortunately, either his strategy was not very well thought out, or the car was not particularly compatible with the tyres, as he held up train after train of cars, lost four places and finished the race seventh. It was a couple of points on the board, and better than his teammate, but he afterwards admitted the circuit didn’t show the best of the car. As each race weekend goes by, the Mercedes seems to get more and more temperamental about which circuits it will behave at and which it won’t. They’ll want it to be a more favourable weekend in Hockenheim, as the team celebrate their home race.



For me, the most surprising thing about McLaren’s current lack of pace is that they’re usually the team developing their way out of any tight spot. All teams have ups and downs, but in the last few seasons McLaren have started slowly, only to close the gap with some remarkable work back at the factory.

So far, things seem to be going in the opposite direction as Jenson Button continues to struggle to drag his car around the track. The Brit fell out of qualifying at the first hurdle in front of his home crowds, although was promoted to 16th on the grid due to the penalties of others around him.

Although Lewis Hamilton got into the top ten shootout, the car was almost two seconds off the pole pace, good enough for eighth position. He finished the race in that same spot too, despite pushing hard and racing with the leaders at one point. Button succeeded in hauling his car up to tenth at the very last minute, to make it a double points finish. However, neither driver was satisfied, wanting to do more for the home fans.

They both have said that the car doesn’t feel particularly bad (you wouldn’t know it from Jenson’s radio traffic!), it’s just that other teams appear to have a lot more speed. It’s a long time since I’ve heard such complaints from McLaren, I wonder if something has changed at the factory.

In better news, the pitstops were all very good.



There has been plenty of talk about Pastor Maldonado’s performance at Silverstone, one that ended in a steward’s reprimand and a less-than-significant fine. Pérez himself was particularly vocal about his thoughts on the Venezuelan’s conduct, but then again, he was on the receiving end. What is most frustrating, as ever, about these accidents is the cost to the team as a whole. Maldonado was running in the points with what appeared to be a steady strategy that probably wouldn’t have seen him go any further forward, but equally keep him in the top ten.

After the accident, he dropped out of the points and was forced to trundle the car around to the finish.

Meanwhile, Bruno Senna was putting in a great performance, practically unnoticed. Compared to his teammate’s seventh place grid slot, Senna was a little frustrated with his 13th position. The team have since said they are working with Senna in the simulator to improve his qualifying performance, but for now the results are not yet showing through.

Despite that, the Brazilian drove a clean race that left him happy in ninth after some good battles with Force India and Sauber. A point or two on the board, and a sense of light at the end of the tunnel if he can sort his qualifying out. And stay away from his teammate.



The other half of the Maldonado incident, Sergio Pérez, appeared to be frustrated for most of the weekend, even before he was forced to retire after the Williams collision. He was sitting in P1 when the red flag came out in the second session of qualifying, and although it was only midway through, the Sauber looked like it had the means to stay near the top. However, once the session got going again, they opted for intermediate tyres which put their drivers on the back foot, and it was a disappointment from then on.

Pérez qualified 17th, frustrated, and he was angry as anything after retiring from the race. It’s certainly a weekend to forget, for him. Kamui Kobayashi also struggled. He qualified 12th but had to drop five places after his penalty from the European Grand Prix. When the racing began, he made some forward progress, but messed it up in the pit stop.

Three mechanics were hit, thankfully with no serious injuries, and the Japanese driver has apologised for his mistake. Despite the troubles, over the course of the race, he improved to 11th place, just missing out on some points.


Force India

Where Force India have been known to struggle for notability during the Grand Prix weekends of 2012, this weekend saw them noticed for mostly the wrong reasons. Paul di Resta was caught up with an early incident with Romain Grosjean that gave him a puncture. The subsequent slow lap to the pits caused enough damage that he was forced out of the race.

The pressure for a good result rested on Nico Hülkenberg’s shoulders, but he was already on the back foot having taken a five place gearbox-related grid drop after qualifying. The team had also set up his car for a wet race, and the weather did not oblige.

Nico regained some of the places that he lost as the race went on, and was running just in the points in tenth place. Unfortunately, his strategy meant the old tyres at the end of the race hit that oft-mentioned cliff and he could do nothing to stop the drivers behind him from picking up the pieces. He dropped out of the points and finished the race in 12th place.

Although a troubled weekend, and a disappointing result for a team with a factory close by, the drivers remain positive that Force India are making steps forward, even if we haven’t been able to see them at Silverstone.


Toro Rosso

To be frank, Toro Rosso had another invisible weekend to my eyes. Jean-Éric Vergne has yet to come out of his qualifying slump, and that was compounded by a ten place grid drop hanging over his head from Valencia. He was on the back row of the grid, but had a better Sunday afternoon.

He drove without incident to a 14th place finish, and although admitted he was disappointed with the result, he said it was one of those weekends where you learn a lot and they are very useful in themselves.

Daniel Ricciardo qualified 12th, which is slightly better than we would normally expect from a Toro Rosso, but he suffered some wheelspin at the very start of the race and lost positions off the line. From there, it was a matter of damage limitation, and the Australian did well to finish 13th, just ahead of his teammate.



Vitaly Petrov managed to outqualify Heikki for only the second time this year, but it was for nothing as he didn't even make the start of the race. The engine gave up beneath him on the formation lap. The Caterham mechanics pushed it back to the pitlane and it was game over.

Therefore, the team’s sole effort came from Heikki who had a quiet race, or as he put it “uneventful.” He didn’t trouble anyone for points and equally didn’t get in anyone’s way, so it was another race under the team’s belt, and another missed opportunity for picking up that fabled first point. The team have said, however, that the mass of upgrades they brought to Silverstone were not given their full chance to shine in the changing conditions, so it’s all eyes on Hockenheim for more.



It’s been a very difficult couple of weeks for Marussia, and it would have been very easy and understandable for them to be distracted by events outside the race weekend. However, the support shown by teams and drivers, and of course the fans, helped them to keep their cool as they got on with the task in hand.

Charles Pic did not manage to qualify inside the 107% time on Saturday, but the damp conditions meant he was not in doubt for the race itself. His qualifying was compounded by a gearbox change that saw him last on the grid. Meanwhile, the team were set up for a wet race, so the sunshine on Sunday will not have filled them with joy. Timo Glock raced his way to 18th, whilst Pic secured 19th.



Pedro de la Rosa and Narain Karthikeyan lined up for the British Grand Prix in 21st and 22nd place respectively. They finished the race 20th and 21st. The one place gain doesn’t suggest very much for the team at the back, but underneath there is slightly more to it.

De la Rosa is incredibly happy with his weekend’s work - the team risked a strategy to try and beat the Marussia cars which didn’t work, but was closer than anticipated. The Spaniard also found his tyres did not degrade quite as much as they thought they would, which no doubt helped the aforementioned strategy decision.

Karthikeyan did have problems with the rear tyres, and the vast differences between qualifying in the wet and racing in the dry. That must be something that Pedro’s many years of experience can deal with, whilst it is easy to forget that some of these drivers are experiencing only their first or second race in such conditions as we saw at Silverstone.


All content in the series Britain 2012