70th Anniversary GP Qualifying: Bottas pips Hamilton to pole in a close fight

Valtteri Bottas took pole at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon after beating teammate Hamilton by 0.063 seconds in a extremely close battle as Mercedes locked out the front row after yet another dominant qualifying this season. The Finnish driver would be delighted at this result especially after signing on for one more year with the Silver Arrows. He will definitely be looking forward to starting the race on pole after the disappointment of last weekend.

Nico Hulkenberg put on a stellar display in the final parts of the qualifying to put himself on the second row for the race tomorrow in third, a tenth of a second ahead of Max Verstappen in fourth. The other Racing Point of Lance Stroll couldn’t extract the maximum out of the car and ended up qualifying sixth, which puts him on the third row alongside Daniel Ricciardo. The Renault driver put in a mega performance in Q3 on medium tyres but he couldn’t quite get on the second row which was looking likely after the first run of Q3. His teammate Ocon in the other Renault did not make it out of Q2 and will be starting 11th, pending an investigation after impeding George Russell during Q1.

Nico Hulkenberg, Racing Point RP20

Ferrari’s dismal form continues. Sebastian Vettel failed to make it to Q3 and will be starting 12th on the grid; Leclerc, who managed to make it to the second row last week couldn’t make it past the fourth row this time and will start eighth. The only direction the team seems to be going is backward and there will be a lot of questions asked back at Maranello.

Pierre Gasly in the Alpha Tauri looks to be set for another impressive weekend at Silverstone after managing 7th place today with an impressive lap. Teammate Kvyat, on the other hand, never made it out of Q1 after an error-ridden lap which saw him finish 16th.

Alex Albon and Lando Norris made up the fifth row in 9th and 10th for which both the drivers would not be overly happy.

It was a very average afternoon for McLaren with Norris at 10th and Sainz at 13th and they will be hoping that the fortunes change come race day tomorrow, especially with the midfield very tightly packed.

George Russell maintained his perfect qualifying record against his teammate after an extremely impressive lap which saw him progress to Q2 and put him fifteenth on the grid while his teammate will be starting P18.

Haas will be disappointed with their qualifying after only one car made out of Q1 with Grosjean in P14 and Magnussen in P17 after making a costly error in Q1.

Alfa Romeo started 1st-2nd-3rd-4th for the first ever British GP in 1950 but fast forward 70 years and they will be starting at the back with Giovinazzi at 19th and Kimi at 20th after a poor showing in Q1.

With Mercedes locking out the front row for the 67th time, it looks set to be a straight fight between the Silver Arrows for victory while the long-awaited podium for Hulkenberg might finally happen. With an extremely close midfield starting all the way from 3rd to 13th, it looks set to be a promising race for the 70th Anniverary Grand Prix.

Hamilton takes 91st pole position ahead of British Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton has taken the 91st pole position of his career ahead of tomorrow’s British Grand Prix, three tenths in front of team-mate Valtteri Bottas and over a second clear of third-placed Max Verstappen. It makes Mercedes the first team in F1’s history to take eight consecutive pole positions at the same circuit.

Hamilton suffered a spin at Luffield on his first run in Q3 but recovered to post two laps good enough for pole, the quickest being a new track record of a 1:24.303.

Charles Leclerc got to within a tenth of Verstappen in what is Ferrari’s first second-row start of the season. McLaren’s Lando Norris will line up a very respectable P5.

Lance Stroll only just made it through to Q3 and qualified P6 ahead of Sainz and the two Renaults of Ricciardo and Ocon.

Having struggled all weekend, Vettel will line up only tenth for tomorrow’s race. What’s more, he will be starting the race on the soft tyres rather than the more favourable mediums.

Alex Albon failed to make it through to Q3 for the second race in a row and only managed P12 behind the Alpha Tauri of Pierre Gasly. He suffered a hefty crash during free practice on Friday and was plagued by an electrical issue on Saturday morning.

Nico Hulkenberg, drafted in at the last possible moment to replace Sergio Perez after Perez tested positive for COVID-19, qualified P13.

Daniil Kvyat will start P14 ahead of George Russell, who made it through to Q2 for the third consecutive time in his Williams. He was, however, investigated for failing to slow for yellow flags after his team-mate span at Luffield in Q1.

Both Alfa Romeo cars failed to make it through to Q2 yet again, as did both Haas cars. Nicholas Latifi will line up P20 after his aforementioned spin.

 

[Featured image – Steve Etherington]

Hulk is back – The German driver impresses on his F1 return with Racing Point

With news that Sergio Perez had tested positive for COVID-19 breaking on Thursday evening, Racing Point had a decision to make as to who would come in and effectively replace him for at least this weekend’s British Grand Prix and even possibly for the 70th anniversary race weekend the next week. Well, it was all to perfect for a certain German driver who’s last race came some 243 days ago.

After losing his seat at Renault at the end of last season, Nico Hulkenberg was most likely wondering how he could get himself back in a seat. However, what he probably wasn’t expecting was how it would come about and how much earlier an opportunity for him to return to the grid would arise. With that said, news broke hours before the start of Free Practice 1 that Racing Point had opted to replace Checo with Nico, who had already spent three-quarters of an hour of Friday morning in the Racing Point simulator ahead of his scheduled return.

With 177 Grand Prix’s to his name, it absolutely makes sense for both Nico and the Pink Panthers for him to take the drive, replacing his former Force India teammate and he did not disappoint!

Glen Dunbarr / Racing Point F1 Team

Free Practice 1:

Nico’s initial lap of the historic Silverstone track was slightly delayed due to the fact we were still awaiting the result of his own COVID test, however, it wasn’t too long of a wait and before you knew it, Nico was taking to the track in the RP20 and was actually the first out.

After a couple of bedding in laps and a could of stops into the pits, Nico went on to complete an impressive 24 laps and subsequently posted a best lap time of 1:28.592 which was good enough to see him end FP1 in 9th just +1.170 behind the fastest man of the session – Max Verstappen (1:27.422).

What was more impressive was the fact that while he was just over one second off Verstappen, Nico was only +0.591 off his teammate Lance Stroll, who ended up finishing the first session third fastest posting a 1:28.004 (+0.582 behind Verstappen).

Post FP1 thoughts had you thinking that given Nico hasn’t taken to the track whatsoever this season let alone jumping into a car which has a serious chance of challenging this weekend, he could only get fast. Excitement building for FP2? Absolutely.

Final Session Times:

Free Practice 2:

FP2 got underway and Nico took his time in the garage before heading out to put an initial lap time of 1:29.906 for 13th with almost 20 minutes of the session gone. The following lap, Nico got himself into the top 10 with a much more improved 1:29.041 (9th), pace was starting to gather for the 32-year-old German.

With just under an hour of practice left, Nico saw teammate Stroll set a session fastest 1:27.274 during a qualifying simulation run. Nico’s answer? Well, it was 1:27.910 to go 5th fastest and move to within +0.636 of Stroll.

With just three quarters of an hour left in the session though, Red Bull’s Alex Albon went off the track at Stow in a big way after losing the rear end and spinning in barriers. The session was red flagged and all car’s returned to the pits for around 15 minutes.

With restart of the session and around 30 minutes to go, Nico went on to complete a further 25 laps and ultimately ended up in P7 at the checkered flag. As for his teammate Stroll, well.. he ended up being the fastest man of the session with his before mentioned lap of 1:27.274 which was +0.090 fastest than second quickest Alex Albon, who after his crash at Stow, didn’t return for the rest of the session.

Final Session Times:

 

What Nico Had To Say:

“The 24 hours has been a bit special. Crazy and wild. 16:30pm yesterday afternoon I got the call took a plane here and then seat fitted until 2am last night. Then into the simulator at 8am for an hour with a bit of prep work. It was a short night, but all worthwhile.”

Mark Sutton / Racing Point F1 Team

Overall Assessment:

Nico’s return to the track after 243 days was a very impressive one giving the circumstances. With as much notice as he had, I don’t think you could have asked much more from him. Yes, we all know that the car he was in control of could and should have been up with Stroll’s timing but let’s be honest, 24 hours on from being told he was coming in, Nico did an excellent job in staying within six hundred tenths of his teammate.

The rest of the weekend will now be an opportunity for Nico to repay Racing Point’s trust in giving him to replace Checo. You can well imagine that with the data collected from his laps today and the debriefing to follow, Nico’s confidence will have grown massively and could show not only in tomorrow’s FP3 but also in what is expected to be a much cooler Qualifying.

It’s fair to say that despite the circumstances that surround his return, it’s great to see the man that they call Hulk back in a Formula One car. Welcome back, Nico!

F1’s Shocking Home Records

Following the 2019 Monaco Grand Prix, Charles Leclerc has now competed in four races across two open wheeled series at his home track. His record in Monaco, however, is something that no one wants. He has yet to see the chequered flag at any of his four starts despite having some very good equipment at his disposal, albeit being classified twice due to completing 90% of the race.

We will focus on F1 after his two no scores in his F2 season winning campaign. In his rookie season last year he was close to scoring points, but complained of grip and brake problems throughout the race. Eventually, a brake failure resulted in him plowing into the back of Hartley’s Toro Rosso at the chicane coming out of the tunnel. He would still be classified, though, as 90% of the race had been completed.

We know, too, about the recent mess Ferrari got Leclerc and themselves in after taking a risk and avoiding completing a second run in Q1, resulting in Leclerc being knocked out in the first stage of qualifying. He was the entertainment early on in the race, though, with some ballsy moves, but a collision resulting in a puncture ended his day early causing too much damage to the floor.

He isn’t the only one to have a pretty poor showing at his home track – some F1 legends also never did well.

Jacques Villenueve

Jacques Villenueve started off well at Montreal. He tried to emulate his father by winning at his home rack and finished P2 in 1996 behind team-mate Damon Hill, but after that he never saw the podium, and helped to create the Wall of Champions. He crashed into the wall in 1997 and also in that famous race in 1999 along with Hill and Schumacher. He actually only ever finished the race twice more in nine attempts, both outside the points, a spell of five consecutive retirements between the year 2000 and 2004.

Wikimedia Commons

Rubens Barrichello

Rubens Barrichello currently holds the record for most ever starts in F1, having competed between 1993 and 2011 using an array of machinery including the Ferrari in the early 2000s. Despite this, he was only ever on the rostrum in Brazil once, in 2004. From 1995 to 2003 he retired from every single Brazillian GP.

In 2001 he could only manage sixth on the grid, and problems prior to the race meant he had to switch to the spare car. It was over before it began really – Hakkinen stalled on the grid, bringing out the safety car, and at the restart Barrichello went straight into the back of Ralf Schumacher at turn four, ending both of their races early.

2003 looked like it could have been his year – by lap 46 of 71 he was in the lead, but his car crawled to a halt due to a fuel pressure problem.

Leandro Neumann Ciuffo – Wikimedia Commons

Jenson Button

Jenson raced at Silverstone for 17 consecutive seasons. In that time he had some great machinery, but he never managed to stand on the podium in any of those years.

The 2006 and 2011 races demonstrated his poor showings. In 2006, whilst competing for BAR, he was knocked out in Q1 behind both Midland cars. He may have started off well in the race with some great overtakes, but it was all over by lap nine as an oil leak resulted in his Honda engine failing.

2011 was no better. Mixed conditions forced Button to pit thirteen laps from the end – the front right wheel, however, wasn’t attached properly, and he was forced to retire at the pit exit.

Wikimedia Commons

As you can see Leclerc has only raced in two home races but is well on his way to being in this category. It took team-mate Sebastian Vettel until 2013 to win the German Grand Prix despite having the dominant car three seasons prior to this, so things can only get better for Leclerc.

 

[Featured image – Ferrari Media]

Silverstone Circuit to be resurfaced ahead of 2019 British Grand Prix

The Silverstone race track is to be resurfaced in June ahead of both the F1 and MotoGP races.

The news comes as bosses of both Silverstone and F1 desperately scrap to come to an agreement to keep the F1 race alive at Silverstone, and try to avoid the British GP moving to a different and perhaps less favourable home.

Situated on the site of what used to be a military airbase converted into a race track in the 1940s, Silverstone has been the sole home of the British Grand Prix since 1987, having alternated with Brands Hatch and Aintree prior to that.

Last year saw a resurfacing job completed on the track ahead of the start of the F1 season. Now, another resurfacing will be completed just a month before the Formula One race towards the end of June, and two months before the MotoGP race in August.

2018 British Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

So, why the same job twice in as many years? You may remember the MotoGP race that was supposed to take place in August last year, but never did. Race day brought with it typically British weather, and alleged drainage problems meant the rainwater could not be cleared. As such, the race could not be contested or even rescheduled, and travelling fans had to be reimbursed after what turned out to be a disaster of a weekend for them. The track is thus being resurfaced again to avoid the same problems from occurring this year.

The source of the funding for this year’s job is as yet, according to Silverstone managing director Stuart Pringle, uncertain. There is still an ongoing investigation as to whether Aggregate Industries – the company who surfaced the track last year – were at fault for the cancellation of the 2018 MotoGP race, and therefore should have to compensate for this year’s job, or whether the Silverstone circuit will have to fund it themselves.

If Silverstone has to pay for the job itself, it will be a huge dent in its plans to host the race beyond its current deal which expires this year. Last year’s MotoGP cancellation cost Silverstone a huge amount of money, and having to pay for a job they feel should be paid for by the company whose alleged poor drainage cost them will result in struggles to pay the F1 race hosting fees beyond this year.

The Silverstone management is not the only disgruntled party. Lewis Hamilton described the 2018 resurfacing as ‘the worst job ever,’ so all was not well even before the MotoGP disaster of August.

Ferrari Media

In terms of the racing, the change in surface will mean that the track will not be rubbered in and there will be no racing line, resulting in less grip. Therefore, the lap times over the course of the weekend will take longer to fall as the drivers try to find traction.

There is, however, another potential plot twist. Stuart Pringle was quoted as saying that he ‘hopes’ the job will be complete ahead of the F1 Grand Prix. Missing the race would be another big hit in terms of revenue, and it would mean that F1 would have to search for a new home for the race. British GT will be the last event run before the F1  race, and several club meetings have already been cancelled to accommodate the job. They will be hoping and praying the track will be ready for F1’s British Grand Prix weekend between the 12-14 July.

The race is an extremely popular one for the fans, drivers, and teams alike. The campsites along with by the ample grassland allow for fans to enjoy barbecues over the course of the weekend. The track is vastly expansive and the Maggotts, Becketts and Chapel complex is truly a sight to behold.

Because of the popularity of the track, it would be nice for F1’s British Grand Prix to stick around in Northamptonshire for a few years yet, but the resurfacing job really is just the surface of the many issues the Silverstone track faces in 2019.

 

[Featured image – Andrew Hone]

F1 2018: British Grand Prix Driver Ratings

Looking at the results, you wouldn’t have thought much happened during the British Grand Prix, but some action at the start and a couple of safety car periods spiced the race up. The final race of the triple-header in Europe saw Sebastian Vettel take the win.

The 2018 Formula One British GP winners; (left to right)Lewis 2nd, Seb winner and Kimi 3rd. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel – 9

There were pre-race doubts about Vettel’s fitness – he had tape put on his neck after FP3 – but the adrenaline kicked in and his start was beautiful, waving concerns away. All the action happened behind him. The safety cars late on in the race put him behind on the track but a great dive-bomb up the inside of Bottas sealed the win. Great victory as we head towards Germany next! 

 

Lewis Hamilton – 9

The Brit got a tardy start which he would come to regret, even if he ended the race in a position where he lost minimal amounts of points. There were some very interesting comments from him afterwards suggesting that tactics from Ferrari were what resulted in him being taken out, bringing back memories of Mexico 2017. Hamilton was the last car on track at the end of lap one, but like a knife through butter he carved his way through the field. A disappointing start, but if you look from lap two onwards it was a great race for him.

 

Kimi Raikkonen – 7

Raikkonen has finished on the podium at the last three races, but never on the top step. The Finn owned up to his coming-together with Hamilton, saying the incident at turn three was his fault and accepting the penalty handed to him. Team-mate Vettel stormed off into the distance, while Raikkonen couldn’t quite match Hamilton near the end of the race.

 

Valtteri Bottas – 8

The Mercedes team threw away the lead again today, deciding to keep Bottas out after the second safety car. Before that he was faster than Vettel, so on a level playing field Bottas could have beaten the German and taken the flag first. Much like in China and Baku, strategy from his team may have cost him the victory once again, even if it may have been tougher in Silverstone to remain in the lead. A great start made amends for a poor qualifying on Saturday, but he is clearly still playing second fiddle to Hamilton.

 

Daniel Ricciardo – 7

Silverstone turned out to be a track which highlighted the frailties of the Red Bull package. Roughly 80% of the track is spent at full throttle, and power isn’t exactly Red Bull’s strong point. Ricciardo was out qualified once again by Verstappen, with a DRS issue hampering his performance. He was great at defending against Raikkonen during the race but unfortunately the safety car came out at the wrong time for him, as he had already made a pit-stop two laps beforehand. The lack of speed along the straights prevented him from passing Bottas in the closing laps of the race.

 

Nico Hulkenburg – 8

Best of the rest and great haul of points for the German. Renault were the only team to use the hard tyre during the race, having worried about blistering on the other compounds, and the tactic worked brilliantly. Hulkenberg did supremely well to keep the pack behind him at the two safety car restarts.

 

Esteban Ocon – 7

Ocon is showing his worth a lot more this season compared to last, and provided a great result at for Force India at what is essentially the team’s home race, given that their factory is literally just over the road. Ocon made it through to the final part of qualifying, and kept the car in the top ten on Sunday. 

 

Fernando Alonso – 8

Alonso’s McLaren may lack pace on a Saturday but on a Sunday, in the hands of the Spaniard, it is one of the best in the midfield. He took advantage of the safety cars to pit for some fresh rubber, allowing him to get past Kevin Magnussen at the end. He may appear calm on the outside, but it isn’t hard to imagine that deep down all is still not well with the relationship between himself and McLaren.

Sebastian Vettel leads the 2018 British GP. Image courtesy of Ferrari

Kevin Magnussen – 7

Hampered by the first lap accident with his team-mate, Magnussen did well to score points considering the clash inflicted some damage to his car, which restricted his speed. He was one of few drivers not to pit under the safety car which pushed him down the order late on, but he managed to hold on to salvage some points.

 

Sergio Perez – 6

Much like Hamilton, Perez saw the field drive past him after contact on the first lap spun him at turn one. He recovered well and found himself in contention for the last point, which was ultimately claimed by Pierre Gasly Chafter a collision between the two near the end of the race. After the race, though, Gasly was awarded a five-second penalty for the incident, meaning Perez inherited P10 and the one point that comes with it.

 

Stoffel Vandoorne – 4

It was a quiet weekend in general for Vandoorne. He was a whopping 0.9 seconds slower than Alonso on Saturday, and with others making the decision to start the race from the pit-lane it meant he was the last on the grid. He finished the race in 12th, meaning he now hasn’t scored since Baku. Lando Norris in currently second in Formula 2 and is hotly tipped for a drive in F1 next year. It could well be this seat that he takes.

 

Lance Stroll – 5

Williams are currently the worst car on the grid, and unfortunately nothing put that more on show than Sunday’s race. Prior to the first safety car they were the only team to have been lapped, and Stroll made a mistake in qualifying which ended up his car being beached in the gravel.

 

Pierre Gasly – 7

Gasly had a good Sunday and initially finished tenth, a welcome result given that Toro Rosso been having a tough time of it recently. The Frenchman collided with Perez with a few laps to go, and a harsh time penalty given to him after the race pushed him down the field. Silverstone was a track which showed Honda’s deficit to the other manufacturers, but there are still promising signs and it was a far better day for Gasly than the results suggested.

 

Sergey Sirotkin – 5

Sirotkin, along with his team-mate, started the race from the pits after taking on new parts. Like Stroll, Sirotkin also made a mistake in qualifying, but managed to keep the car going and set a lap, albeit one that turned out to be the slowest of the session. Seeing the Williams team run plum last is such a shame to see.

 

Max Verstappen – 7

Verstappen may have been classified as a finisher, but a brake-by-wire issue ended his day late into the race. Ever-hungry, he was running in a solid podium position, but with the deficit of his Renault power-unit he was a sitting duck at the restarts. His defending to Raikkonen was brilliant.

 

Carlos Sainz – 5

A poor performance for Sainz both on Saturday and Sunday. A less-than-par qualifying session put him in the thick of the action, and he collided with Romain Grosjean. A weekend to forget for the Spaniard.

 

Romain Grosjean – 5

Will Austria be seen as a peak in Grosjean’s season? Three collisions in one weekend isn’t good enough. The first occurred in practice, with the second being the cardinal sin of hitting his team mate on the first lap. The third, a tangling with Sainz at Copse, ended his race. Grosjean should have lifted off the throttle, but he kept his foot buried, causing instability and ultimately the collision.

 

Marcus Ericcson – 6

Ericsson’s DRS didn’t close as he approached turn one during the race and he crashed heavily, bringing out the first safety car. The crash rounded out an unfortunate weekend for the Swede, after England took his country out of the World Cup the day before. He did, however, have great pace during qualifying and got through to Q2.

 

Charles Leclerc – 8

An unfortunate error in the pits for Sauber resulted in Leclerc’s rear tyre not being fitted properly and the team telling him to stop the car. He had made another Q3 appearance on Saturday and had been running seventh at the time of the error, which meant the loss of a potentially big haul of points.

 

Brendan Hartley – N/A

You can’t really comment on what a horrible weekend the Kiwi has had. The suspension failure on Saturday pretty much ended his weekend. He didn’t see any track action in qualifying, and a last minute problem starting from the pit lane resulted in retirement after one lap. None of it whatsoever was his fault.

Ferrari Media

There is now a two-week break before we head to Hockenheim in Germany, a track that we see appear every so often on the calendar. Vettel won on Hamilton’s home turf this weekend, but can Hamilton strike back with victory in Germany? Vettel hasn’t got a record like Hamilton at his home track, and has only won in Germany once in his Red Bull days. The summer break looms and, for drivers such as Grosjean and Vandoorne, the pressure increases.

The British Grand Prix: The Summer Festival of Formula One

It’s that time of the year again. No, not Christmas—the British Grand Prix. Once an airfield in the Second World War, Silverstone was turned into a race track in the late 1940s, and it is the second oldest track on the F1 calendar behind Monza.

The 5.1-kilometre track has seen some changes in recent years. The left-right Abbey chicane which led to Bridge was changed into a right-hander—now Turn one—and Bridge was disused, but is still an attraction for spectators during the weekend. Instead, we have the Wellington straight which leads to the long left-hander of Brooklands. The start/finish line is no longer the straight between Woodcote and Copse, but instead the uphill run from Vale to Abbey.

One thing that hasn’t changed, however, is the appeal of the race. The activities, the camping, the barbecues and the atmosphere among the fans gives the British GP weekend a real festival feel, and expect it to be no different this weekend. The appeal of the Maggots, Becketts and Chapel complex has never changed either in 70 years of Silverstone. The high-speed section provides speed, fun and excitement for the drivers, and with these high downforce cars, most of it is now flat out.

Silverstone hasn’t always been the home of Formula One racing in Britain, however. It used to alternate with Aintree in the 1970s, and Brands Hatch has also hosted the race.

Ferrari Media

The third part of Formula One’s first ever triple-header will see British favourite Lewis Hamilton race in front of his home fans—he has won each of the last four races at Silverstone.

Sebastian Vettel comes into this weekend with a one-point lead over Lewis Hamilton in the drivers’ championship after his third-place finish in a crazy Austrian Grand Prix. Max Verstappen won the race, his first win in 2018, from Kimi Raikkonen, while Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Hamilton all retired due to mechanical failures. As a result, Ferrari also lead the Constructors’ Championship—it was a pivotal moment in the season, and it is all perfectly poised coming into one of the most eagerly anticipated weekends of the year.

The favourites will be Mercedes. The power-sensitive nature of the track, coupled with the extra motivation of it being Hamilton’s home race, will work in their favour. However, the high speed sections will be more suited to Ferrari and Red Bull, and let’s not forget the power Ferrari have as well.

As the Red Arrows fly over, will it be the Prancing Horses, the Silver Arrows, or the Charging Bulls who will enjoy the taste of victory in the one of the biggest sporting events of the summer? We’ll find out this weekend at the home of British Motorsport.

A Day with Emil Frey Racing – Blancpain GT Round 4, Silverstone

It was an early start on Sunday the 20th of May, heading up at 6.30am on Sunday for the two-hour trip to the Northampton track. The weather was fantastic, with sunshine and blue skies. Ed Hocknull and I had been invited by Lexus UK to attend the second UK round of this championship that is held in the UK, although this would be the longer endurance three-hour race, rather than the two separate one-hour sprint races held at Brands Hatch.

There were perfect track conditions for the three hour race. – Photo credit, Warren

The team run two Lexus RC-F GT3 cars, numbered 14 and 114. The drivers of car 14 are, Albert Costa, Christian Klein and Marco Seefried, whilst Stephane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler and Marcus Palttala team up in 114. We were given a warm welcome by the team, with VIP passes allowing access to the garage at all times and grid access too.

Emil Frey Racing hospitality – Photo credit, Warren Nel

The first track action of the day was qualifying, which is an hour long. Each driver has to drive the car in qualifying, getting 15 minutes each, with a seven-minute break between each run. This makes for a busy hour when there are 50 cars on track! When all was said and done, the number 14 car was third on the grid, whilst the sister 114 car had qualified seventh. The team were very happy with this result, particularly after topping the timesheets in the second part of the session with car 14, showing that they were starting to find the sweet-spot in the set-up and unlocking the potential pace.

Everyone was watching how qualifying would turn out! Photo credit – Warren Nel

At the start of the afternoon, we were given a garage tour. The BOP or, Balance of Performance was explained. The are so many different cars that run in this championship, that SRO mandate certain things to keep the performance of the cars very close. For example, every team get the same tyres and fuel and then there are also restrictors placed on the inlets for the engines, controlling the power the engine can produce. There are freedoms though and the teams use trick single seater suspension systems.

Garage tour – Photo credit – Warren Nel
The poor guy giving us the tour kept getting interrupted by engines revving and wheel gun noise! Photo credit – Warren
The garage tour continued with a look at the engineers area. – Photo credit, Warren

A pit walk followed the tour, allowing the fans to meet the drivers and teams. The championship definitely welcome fans with open arms, and it’s great to see! After this, we had a delicious lunch at the teams’ hospitality. It was getting close to race time though, and before that was the grid walk. It was super busy on the grid, with the cars coming around from the pitlane, before being pushed to their spots on the grid.

The drivers meet the fans! Photo credit, Warren Nel
A very fan friendly championship – Photo credit, Warren Nel
What a great looking race car! – Photo credit, Warren Nel
On the grid with the team – Photo credit, Warren Nel
The number 14 Lexus chases down the 62 Aston Martin. Photo credit, Warren Nel

Race Recap

Christian Klein would be taking the wheel of the number 14 car, whilst Stephane Ortelli would start the 114.

Now after half an hour of racing, the two Lexus were running very well, with Klein in 4th place and Ortelli two places further back in 6th. As the pitstops approached after nearly 50 minutes of racing, the RC-F GT3’s were 6.3 and 9.4 seconds from the leader.

The team had done a very good job indeed. The number 14 Lexus, with Klein behind the wheel pitted, but suffered a slow pitstop. The reason? Well, the team had a failure with a wheel gun slowing down the changing of the tyres.

Ortelli pitted a couple of laps later, and the pitstop was completed without any hitches. All of this meant that the 114, driven by Marcus was now in 5th place, whilst number 14, piloted by Marco was now in 7th.

Lexus 114 approaches the left-right-left before Hangar Straight. Photo credit Warren Nel

Twenty minutes after the pitstops Marcus passed the number 4 Mercedes, and then quickly closed on the number 62 Aston Martin which had Alex Brundle behind the wheel. On lap 51, Alex made a mistake and slid wide in the left-right-left and this allowed Marcus to get alongside the Aston and then make the pass into third place down Hangar straight!

With an hour and five minutes to go, Marcus pitted and handed 114 over to Norbert. It would be down to him to bring the car to the chequered flag. A lap later and Marco pitted and Alberto Costa took the wheel of the number 14 and re-joined in 8th place. He started setting some very fast sector times, looking to move up some places.

Lexus RC-F GT3 – Photo credit, Warren Nel

On lap 69, Albert Costa passed the Strakka Racing number 43 Mercedes for 7th place. He was just two seconds behind the 62 Aston Martin now. Just thirty minutes remained in the race.

With just twenty minutes left, Costa was dropping back a little, with the 43 Mercedes getting closer and behind that, the 72 SNP Ferrari closing on the Merc.

Meantime, the 114 was holding its own, 22 seconds from 1st place, but the number 1 Audi was within 1 second of the Lexus. Drama though for the number 14 car which ran wide at Aintree on lap 75, giving the 72 Ferrari 7th place. Just six minutes remained now, and the battle was on for the final spot on the podium between 114 and 1! With less than 4 minutes remaining the 114 Lexus was still in 3rd place! The team were looking at their first podium finish!

The number 114 Emil Frey Racing Lexus RC-F GT3 chases the number 4 Mercedes – Photo credit, Warren Nel

Coming into the loop near Silverstone six stand, the number 1 Audi got a run and was starting to get alongside the Lexus, but he ran wide, giving Norbert a breather! It was enough! They’d done it! Further back number 14 had lost another place unfortunately, crossing the line in 9th place. The team had definitely done a very good job to improve the car, allowing them to fight at the front.

Nerves were high in the garage as the final minutes of the race counted down. Photo credit, Warren Nel

We all headed down to the end of the pitlane to watch the podium, which was their first ever in the Blancpain championship. The trophies were handed out and then it was the time-honoured tradition to spray the champagne!

The top three celebrate on the podium – Photo credit, Warren Nel
Stéphane Ortelli, Norbert Siedler, Markus Palttala, hold their trophies aloft! Photo credit, Warren Nel

It was now time to go home, but first we visited the team garage and watched as the team all celebrated their great result!

 

Finally, I’d like to say a big thank you to Matt at Lexus/Toyota and Emil Frey Racing for the invite. Ed and I had a fantastic time, with a really friendly team.

Silverstone must remain in Formula One

2014 Formula One British Grand Prix, Silverstone International Race Circuit, Towcester, Northampton, Great Britain, 3rd – 5th July 2014.
Flags, Atmosphere,
World Copyright: © Andrew Hone Photographer 2014.
Ref: _ONY9209

Save Silverstone, this must be Liberty’s first target. The British Grand Prix is one of the most historic races in Formula One. Silverstone was an aerodrome during the Second World War, when the war ended in 1945, the Royal Automobile Club decided to make Silverstone the base for the British Grand Prix in 1948.

Two years later, Silverstone hosted the first official Formula 1 race, in history, Guiseppe Farina was the winner with his Alfa Romeo.

The British Grand Prix is now in danger, the reason is simple: money. In our days it is very expensive to host a Formula 1 race. A 17 year contract, between FIA and Silverstone, was signed almost eight years ago, but the extremely high cost does not allow the owners to keep their deal.

In 2010 the cost for hosting a Grand Prix was £12m, this year the price increased to £16m and by 2026 the cost will be more than £25m.

“We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads, put simply, it is no longer financially viable for us to deliver the British Grand Prix under the terms of our current contract.” said BRDC chairman John Grant.

According to British Racing Drivers’ Club chairman, in 2015 they suffered losses equal to £2.8m, almost £5m the following year, and they are expecting the same losses for this year.

“We have reached the tipping point where we can no longer let our passion for the sport rule our heads. It would not only risk the very future of Silverstone and the BRDC, but also the British motorsport community that depends on us.” said John Grant.

The owners gave a two years termination notice, which means that the final race will be held in 2019, there is only one away to avoid Silverstone’s departure, Liberty Media has to offer an affordable contract to the owners and the two sides must agree and extend the British Grand Prix under new rules and less costs.

“I want to be clear that although we have now activated the break clause, we are fully supportive of the changes the Liberty team are making to improve the F1 experience. Our hope is that an agreement can still be reached, so that we can ensure a sustainable and financially viable future for the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for many years to come.” said Grant.

Liberty Media is in talks with Silverstone in order to find a solution and solve the problem between them, F1’s commercial boss, Sean Bratches said on Sky that the “break clause would not represent a black mark for the Northamptonshire circuit.”

Hopefully, the two sides will manage to find a solution and save Silverstone. It is one of the most fantastic circuits on the calendar and Silverstone is the track which must keep hosting the British Grand Prix.

Twitter – @FP_Passion