Thursday, June 18, 2009

British Grand Prix Preview

Wednesday 17th June 2009

If Simon Gillett, the developer of the Donington Circuit is to be believed, then this is the last British GP at Silverstone for at least the next 17 years. That's the length of the contract he's been given to run the F1 grand prix.

He may not have time on his side or the necessary investment, but what he can rely on is a big audience.

In Turkey at the last round they couldn't attract punters in with a £40 weekend pass and £200 grandstand seats. This weekend Silverstone will be full to bursting with punters paying £180 for a weekend pass alone. Which makes the prospect of taking this grand prix off the calendar a total nonsense. Just as it has been in Canada,

Montreal and Silverstone may not have circuit buildings that look like a Disney-inspired industrial estate, but they do have something far more relevant. Fans.

This weekend they'll be packing out the Northamptonshire circuit in the hope of a Jenson Button victory. However armed with typical British pragmatism they won't mind if he comes in the top three and maintains his championship challenge. Most of them will have despaired of Jenson ever getting into a top class car and this weekend will be more like a celebration of the season so far than a need to see him on the top step of the podium.

The former WWII bomber training base is similar to Turkey in that it has a lot of high speed corners, such as Copse, Becketts and Stowe, but it also has the fiddly Brooklands and Luffield complex making it far more of a compromise on set-up.

As we've seen from wins in Monaco and then Turkey, Brawn can do fiddly and high speed tracks, but can they do high-speed with fiddly? Certainly both BrawnGP drivers have an intimate knowledge of the track, Rubens having competed there since his F3 days and Button competing there since before he could produce any kind of ginger facial offence.

Rubens will be keen to get his starting mechanism sorted out having messed up royally in Istanbul. Hopefully by now he'll have gained a sense of proportion and remembered that he had a dog of a start in Australia, yet blinders in Barcelona and Monaco to balance that out

The Red Bulls will be up there vying for the front row and a Mark Webber win would probably go down almost as well as a Button victory. Webbo's been getting the better of his team mate of late and could even overhaul Vettel in the championship race this weekend.

Toyota should also be a force to contend with, along with the resurgent (though not as surgent as most people expected) Ferrari and BMW teams. It's unlikely to be such a fantastic weekend for the McLaren team and they've been doing their best to dampen down expectations.

Dampening down the circuit might be the best method of securing a Lewis Hamilton podium, but the long-range weather forecast is predicting a dry weekend, with all the rain being stored up for the following weekend's Glastonbury Festival.

Renault are in exactly the same position as McLaren and Fernando Alonso's continued presence in the team is a bit like Button in reverse. All that potential wasted in a below-average car.

F1 fans tend to get engrossed in the sport they love, and all the F1 vs FOTA machinations have tended to obscure the basic fault of motorsport compared to football, or rugby or tennis. My wife asked me why Jenson Button was so good all of a sudden seeing as he'd been in F1 since 2000; "Aah," I replied, "he's only just got a car that's good enough."

"So," she said with the kind of withering clarity I've had to endure for quite some time, "it's not the driver it's the car. How is that a sport?"

I could have given her a very long and complicated answer, but the easiest way out was, "yeah." Had we adopted Max Mosley's Idea-of-the-Year circa 2001 where drivers swap teams each race, then actually we could have more of a sport.

Under that regime the very best drivers would be fighting at the front all season long and we wouldn't have waited nine years to see Jenson Button arrive at his home grand prix leading the World Championship. Given that F1 is reluctant to give up its traditions lightly he better enjoy it while it lasts.

Source : Planet F1

No comments: