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Race Watch 11

Formula One:

British Grand Prix

A week off should have given both teams and drivers a chance to relax, reset, and ensure their in the best possible condition to race, right?

In all honesty, I’m not entirely sure what to make of this weekend’s race. On the one hand there was an incident-strewn opening and a mesmerising final few laps, yet for more than 35 of the 52 tours of the Silverstone circuit, nothing happened.

Of course, the drama around this race weekend kicked off on Thursday, with the news that the seemingly under-pressure Racing Point driver Sergio Perez had tested positive for COVID-19, and that the (rightly or wrongly) exiled Nico Hulkenberg was to take his seat. Now, I am fully aware that the professional Formula One driver that is Sergio Perez does not read these blogs, however I would still like to wish him all the best in his recovery, after all nobody wants to see another person ill of health.

The talk of the paddock, though, quickly shifted to whether the man holding the record for longest F1 career without a podium could finally break his duck. After all, here he was, substituting in to a competitive machine – one that some experts were claiming as the second fastest! The fairy-tale was not to be, unfortunately, because when it mattered the most, the engine would not start and so the German was unable to even begin his comeback.

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Elsewhere on the grid – before we get to the main talking point – Alex Albon once again had a difficult weekend, as the windy conditions in Northamptonshire once again exposed the technical issue that causes the Red Bull to be extremely unstable in the corners. A big crash at Stowe during Friday Practice would have dented the Anglo-Thai’s confidence, before another poor qualifying session ensued, failing to make Q3. A good comeback drive in the race however saw him finish in eighth place, aided by Bottas and Sainz dropping out of the points near the conclusion, although he would still have earned one point regardless.

Right then, let’s talk about tyres. After all, they were the sole reason behind the race dulling down initially, before ramping the drama up at the end. To start with, there was Kvyat’s right-rear suddenly losing all pressure on the entry to Maggots, resulting in a huge off and a safety car, during which time everybody except Grosjean pitted for the hard tyres, effectively killing off the strategy game.

Now, given a choice of all the places at which I would have a high-speed crash, Maggots would not be high up on my list. Feeling the car swapping ends in the first part of a flat-out pair of sweeping turns probably isn’t fun, and so it was understandable that Daniil wasn’t in the greatest mood after. I haven’t read any report into why his rear-right tyre lost pressure, but looking back at the incident, I wonder if it was a similar problem to that experienced by Bottas, Sainz and Hamilton later on in the proceedings.

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Speaking of which, three tyre failures that all occurred on the outermost wheel (i.e. the one that travels furthest over the course of a stint) would certainly indicate to me that the problem was wear related. The official word from Pirelli of ‘we’ll investigate, but it might be wear or it might be debris from Raikkonen’s front wing failure’ can be paraphrased as ‘we don’t want to talk about it right now, so here’s a theory that removes all guilt from us.’ All I know is that, in this modern era of near-perfect reliability, seeing a few components spontaneously combust certainly increases the fun, certainly when those at the front of the race are involved, and with the nature of these tyre failures, there were no huge safety concerns for those involved either.

Interestingly enough, the last time Pirelli came under fire on the tyre front also occurred at Silverstone, if my memory serves me correctly. After the 2013 British GP, Pirelli were at the centre of a crisis after no fewer than six high-speed tyre explosions, with one causing Lewis Hamilton to lose a ‘probable victory.’ Interestingly, following an analysis of the problem, one factor causing the failures was an aggressive use of the kerbs at Silverstone. Now, it would be interesting to find out if the kerbs have been changed in the seven years that have passed, or if they may have contributed to the problems seen this weekend.

All I do know is that, with warmer temperatures and softer tyres on offer next weekend, I severely doubt anyone will chance a one-stop strategy come this Sunday. Maybe we could even see a three-stop? One can dream.

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