July 06, 2015

F1 Update: Great Britain 2015

The sky above Silverstone was a clear, clean blue, playfully dotted with little tiny white clouds.  A beautiful summer English day had greeted the Thundering Herd as they pulled onto the grid.  140000 fans roared their approval as Lewis Hamilton took his pole slot, his teammate Nico Rosberg beside him.  Behind them were the two Williams of Felipe Not Nasr Massa and Valterri Bottas, a marvelous performance for the legendary British team.  Arrayed behind them were 15 other cars; Felipe Not Massa Nasr's Sauber was wheeled off, dead before the recon lap began.  It looked to be perfect conditions for a Formula 1 race.  Would the reigning World Champion run off with it, the way he has so many times before?  Or would it be his surging teammate, winner of three of the last four races, that would take the win?  THIS is your F1 Update! for the 2015 Grand Prix of Great Britain!

*LIGHTS OUT... THE HELL?:  As is usual, once the race began both Mercedes jumped off the line, Hamilton leading Rosberg.  We've seen this picture a hundred times: they'll get themselves sorted by the end of the first turn, then it'll be a case of the Silver Arrows rocketing away while everybody else fights for third.  And indeed, that's exactly what occurred... for two car lengths or so.  Felipe Not Nasr Massa got a blinding jump off the line, zipped right between the two Mercs and had a clear lead going into the first turn.  At the same time, Bottas decided he wanted him some of that too and followed the diminutive Brazilian through the same gap.  He wound up only getting past Rosberg, though he did put a scare or two into Hamilton for a few turns.  Behind them, the two Lotuses of Pastor Maldonado and Lettuce Grosjean had a coming together in Turn 1, with Lettuce ending up beached in the kittylitter.  In a desperate attempt to avoid the Lotii, McLaren's HWMNBN dodged to his right, lost the rear of his car, and speared directly into the side of HIS teammate, Jenson Button.  The Brit, who has never had a podium in his home race in 16 tries (not even in his world championship season!), was out on the spot.  HWMNBN had to pit for a broken nose, a change that took nigh on a minute to effect.  Maldonado lasted a few more turns before his damaged Lotus gave up the ghost, and a Berndt Maylander was awoken from his slumber to bring the Safety Car out on track.  Thus, the first lap ended with Massa leading Hamilton, Bottas, and Rosberg.  Incidentally, this was the first time this season that anybody other than a Merc or Ferrari had led a lap.

*LET US RESUME:  When Berndt Maylander returned to his place of eternal slumber, Hamilton was the very picture of "aggressive" behind Massa, who hadn't led the field into a restart since... well, before he took a spring to the helmet in 2009.  As a result, the Merc driver did everything he could to get past the Williams... and more besides.  He locked up a tire, slid off-track, and Valterri Bottas took his Williams into second.  Instead of mounting a furious counterattack, the British driver was forced to defend against HIS teammate, which allowed the two White cars a modicum of breathing space.  So from Lap 3 to Lap 19, we were treated to the mind-boggling sight of the two Williams leading the two ridiculously dominant Mercedes.  Together, these four cars pulled away from the rest of the field, but couldn't get away from each other, less than two seconds covering them.

*TEAM ORDERS:  At one point during this bit of racing, Bottas was clearly the faster of the two Williams.  The team called to both their drivers that there was to be "no racing", and they should work together to get away from the silver cars.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Bottas made his case over the radio quite clear: "I have more pace, I have more pace."  Still, he was told to stay back.  A lap or two later, the team reversed course, telling the Finn that if he does pass, it had to be clean.  Pointedly, they didn't tell Massa to let him go.  While Bottas tried to get past Massa, the time had passed: his tires had gone from golden to iron pyrite, or Massa's had come back to life, or something... the Finn could get close, but couldn't quite get past.  Some are saying that Williams, in their attempt to "play fair", actually threw away the race win at this point... if Bottas had been let past, he stood a great chance of being able to gallop away, so the argument goes.  We here at F1U! are less than convinced of this, but it's not impossible.

*THE PITS:  The leader's pitstops began on Lap 19.  Hamilton dove in first, followed by Massa and Rosberg the next lap (resulting in a little duel down the pitlane as the two exited side-by-side) and Bottas on Lap 21.  The fastest stop of the four gave Hamilton the advantage, and once the stops were complete, he had the lead over Massa, who was ahead of his teammate, who in turn was ahead of Rosberg.

*DOLDRUMS:  After this, the race became something a little more familiar.  Hamilton began to open up a lead on the two Williams, peaking around six seconds ahead on Lap 32.  The other three had a couple of seconds between them, though, and it looked like Rosberg was unlikely to be on the podium this race.

*AND THEN IT ALL WENT INTO A COCKED HAT:  Almost from the beginning of the race, a wall of black clouds in the distance had been a reminder that Silverstone was one of the best examples of the concept of "microclimate" anywhere in the world.  Built on top of the highest point in the area, what is happening below it weather-wise often has nothing in common with what's going on on top.  On Lap 32, the rain that had been skulking in the distance decided to come a-callin'.  The back half of the circuit was getting dampened and slippery, while the other end was bone dry... and it was in the slippery parts where Rosberg got past Bottas for third.  A couple of laps later, he pulled the same trick on Massa, just as the rain died out.  However, an ominous call from the Merc pit wall made the F1U! crew giddy with anticipation: "expect more rain in five minutes."

*MEANWHILE:  Behind the action up front, we had an attrition fest.  Cars were dying like flies, with a full seven pushing up the daisies by the end of the race.  With the Manors holding up the final two slots, that left only 11 cars racing for 10 points-paying positions... and HWMNBN'd McLaren was one of them, dueling the Sauber of Sony Ericsson for 10th.

*SPLOOSH:  On Lap 43, Lewis Hamilton came into the pits for a new set of tires.  As he came to a stop in his pit box and the team began to bolt Intermediate tires onto his chassis, the black skies above decided to dump much of the Atlantic Ocean upon Silverstone.  As he regained the circuit, it became obvious just how prescient (or lucky) the choice had been.  Behind him, Seb Vettel's Ferrari came into the pits for Inters as well.  Rosberg pitted a lap later, as did the two Williams, but by then the damage had been done.  Hamilton strengthened his lead, of course, but Vettel leapfrogged both fading Williams for third, a position he'd never had even the remotest chance of gaining before this.

*ANTICLIMAX: And that's how it ended, with Hamilton leading Rosberg leading Vettel, Massa and Bottas.  A bog-standard finish, but an extraordinary race to get to that point, and probably the best of the season to date.

*THE REDEMPTION OF THE SPANIARD:  Somewhere during the rainy part of the race, HWMNBN got his McLaren past Sony Ericsson and into 10th place, the position he held when the race came to an end.  In doing so, he earned his first point for his "new" team, and the team's first point of the season.  Because of this, the F1U! team has decided that He Who Must Not Be Named has been cleansed of his sins and will henceforth be known once again as Fernando Alonso.  In some ways this is a sad moment, as he's held the HWMNBN'd moniker for nigh on eight years; it'll be hard to retrain our fingers to type "Alonso" again.


"That was about the best tire call I've ever seen." - Lewis Hamilton

"Only one of the two Mercedes drivers passed anybody on track today." - Nico Rosberg

"I don't know what I'm doing up here, or how it happened.  I'm just glad it did." - Seb Vettel

"It's a damn good thing the pit wall didn't say 'Felipe, Valterri is faster than you, do you understand?'  There would have been blood.  BLOOD, I tell ya." - Felipe Massa

"Oh, there will be harsh words in the race debrief, that's for sure." - Valterri Bottas

"I'm going to have to get my superlicense reprinted!" - Fernando Alonso.

So that's really it from Silverstone.  The next race is in a couple of weeks, at Hungary.  I can barely withhold my joy.  See you then!

Posted by: Wonderduck at 11:39 PM | Comments (6) | Add Comment
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1 I joined the race about lap 9 and was astounded to see the two Williams cars 1-2. The live blog made clear that some of that happened at the start. That must have been a hell of a move by Massa to thread the needle like that.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at July 07, 2015 11:12 AM (+rSRq)

2 The whole Massa/Bottas thing is interesting.  If the race had stayed dry, everyone would be arguing about it for a long time.  Once the rain came down, I don't think it mattered much, the difference between the Williams and Merc chassis is bad enough dry, but in the wet there is just no comparison.
Plus of course, even if the team had told Massa to let Bottas pass, nobody seems to think he would have actually done so.

Posted by: David at July 07, 2015 11:47 AM (dr1tX)

3 They say never to give an order unless you're sure it will be obeyed....

Posted by: Suburbanbanshee at July 07, 2015 12:31 PM (ZJVQ5)

4 Steven, it all happened so quickly, I don't think Hamilton or Rosberg had time to balk the Williams' charge.  I mean, here's a gif of the start as seen from Rosberg's cockpit.  It's not particularly sped up in any way, either.

David, you probably noticed that if #WilliamsDriver had gotten something like a three or four second lead over #OtherWilliamsDriver, he almost certainly would have held the lead after the first round of stops.  I can't speak to what happens next, but Hamilton's change to Inters probably would have been race-winning, not just "race locking down."  Or the Williams chassis may have faded just like it did in real life, and Lewis would have passed for the lead.  Or something else.

I suspect Massa would have let Bottas by.  If he did it during the "Fernando is faster than you" travesty, when he had a VERY serious chance of winning, he'd probably do it during the first 10 laps of a race.

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 07, 2015 06:41 PM (jGQR+)

5 The period when the track was half wet was probably the most exciting piece of racing I've seen this year.

Posted by: ReallyBored at July 10, 2015 10:57 AM (ulGxe)

6 Apparently Fernando Alonso showed up at a go-cart track in Daytona last week and had some fun.

Posted by: Rick C at July 20, 2015 09:26 PM (FvJAK)

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