I don’t know what the feeling was from the comfort of an armchair, but it was at the point that Fernando Alonso ducked away from the flailing rear tyre on Sergio Perez’s McLaren that it was obvious to me, standing at Village, that all the talk would be about tyres. Which is pretty silly in some ways, because this race was much less about tyres than most of the other races this year. In fact, you could argue (and I do) that Pirelli had got this one spot on. The tyres lasted, but degraded. The optimum was two stops, but three stops was close. The drivers were visibly pushing hard. Which makes the failures all the more frustrating. So I’m not going to talk much about them.
Mercedes v. Red Bull
The race was a straight fight between Mercedes and Red Bull. No-one else came close – Ferrari were about 0.5s down on pace, and Lotus about 0.8s off. There was no sign of phase 2 tyre degradation, just the 0.1s per lap we got last year. What is interesting is the relative pace of the drivers of the fast cars. Whilst Webber was in traffic when on the mediums, he was about 0.3s faster than Vettel on the hards – this suggests that either he was the faster Red Bull driver on the day or that Vettel had some in hand whilst leading Rosberg for the majority of the race, or perhaps a little of both. Either way, this suggests that the logic that Hamilton had this one in the bag is flawed. He was the fastest on the medium tyre, by 0.2s, but once on the hard tyre he did not have the same pace advantage. In fact, I have him about 0.5s down on Rosberg on the hard tyre. Some of this may be due to the change of plan to run a long second stint to recover some of the time loss, and he did spend a lot of time in traffic, but there is no evidence to suggest that his pace on the hard tyre was sufficient to keep him ahead of Vettel. It would have been fascinating to see how it would have played out.
Pace defeats track position
Without the second safety car it is possible that Sutil and Ricciardo might have claimed higher positions in the final classification, but they finished in the correct positions on pace. The Ferraris and the Lotuses were plain faster than them. Massa may have been unlucky after his great start, but was again a few tenths shy of Alonso, and Grosjean was back to being on Raikkonen’s pace. Sutil was faster than Di Resta, and a problem with Vergne’s car could be seen quite early in the data – but Ricciardo just about had the edge to start with. And Force India had the edge on Toro Rosso – but strangely were not as fast in the race as in qualifying.
The curious case of Jenson Button
There are many articles about how when things are just right, Jenson flies. And also many about his never being on the podium at Silverstone. But this was a bad race for Jenson. I have him 0.4s down on Perez on the medium tyre, and a full 0.8s slower on the prime. This put him behind the Saubers on pure pace. The middle stint where he was dropping back from his team mate despite being on the faster tyre says it all.
Williams nearly score – without being fast
It is quite something for Maldonado to have come 11th, despite being nearly 3s from the pace. However, the timing of the Williams cars’ change to the hard tyres (just before the safety car) allied to the fact that they were faster on that tyre than the medium (by 0.6s in Maldonado’s case) meant that their pace in the final stint looked good. For those who had stopped much earlier and stayed out under the safety car, who were less than 1s faster, the Williams suddenly became a threat. But they certainly didn’t nearly score on pace.
Caterham and Marussia drop back
The teams at the back were much further back at Silverstone. Pic was more than 3s down, Bianchi about 4s down and their respective team mates were 5s down from the pace. It’s a long time since I’ve had to put numbers like this into the model, and quite a while since I’ve seen the sort of pace gap between team mates as there was between Pic and Van der Garde. I think 1.9s is a lot.
Where from here?
This race could quite possibly herald a very different looking second half to the season. With the changes to the tyres quite possibly reinforcing it. Lotus and Ferrari were not as competitive, and Mercedes were. It makes you wonder if the Championships will be fought out between the Blue cars and the Grey cars – when before this race it was the Red and the Black cars which were the main threat. I’m not convinced that Mercedes quite had the race pace (Rosberg certainly did not) to beat Red Bull in a straight fight, but they were close, and are clearly doing well in the development of the car. Hmm.