3 weeks have gone by since the Canadian GP weekend on 9th June. The long break also meant that a lot would happen outside the track as well.
In the weeks leading upto the British GP weekend many talking points have emerged and the British Grand Prix itself has caused more unrest in the world of F1.
1) The International Tribunal Verdict on the "PirelliGate" scandal :
The Verdict was out on 21st June after the hearings in Paris. Mercedes AMG Petronas & Pirelli received reprimands and the former was excluded from the Young Driver's Test to be held at Silverstone.
Mercedes would view the verdict as fair but the others felt it was a big let-off. Ferrari and Red Bull made their feelings known publicly but the verdict was given. The results of the last 3 races ( including Silverstone ) clearly indicate that Mercedes has gained an advantage through the tyre-test held at Catalunya. Hamilton was successful in carrying out a 2 stop strategy ( including the damage tyre stop ) to finish 4th after being bumped down to 22nd due to a tyre burst at the British GP. His race pace clearly suggested that the team had made giant leaps and seemed to have ironed out their tyre degradation problems.
The results have helped them leap-frog both Ferrari and Lotus F1 to 2nd in the Constructors' Championship and Hamilton has closed in on Raikkonen for 3rd place in the Driver's Championship.
Christian Horner, Red Bull Team Principal was livid when news emerged that Ferrari were planning to run a similar test on a 2011 chassis with 2013 aerodynamic parts. He has written to the FIA wanting clarifications on the prerequisites of a legitimate test and what chassis should be allowed to run.
2) Mark Webber announces his retirement while Vettel extends his deal for another year at Red-Bull :
Mark Webber chose Silverstone as the appropriate weekend to announce his retirement from the sport. He shall switch to Le Mans with Porsche. Red Bull were caught unawares and will have to move quickly for a replacement. Vettel extended his contract for another year and it was no surprise for the 3 time F1 World Champion. 2014 though see new power units so he has kept his options open for 2015. The Incident in Malaysia and his non-cooperation in helping Vettel for his 3rd Title would have
The Big Talk in the Paddock though is : "Who should replace Webber for 2014? "
The Canditates : Kimi Raikkonen, Daniel Ricciardo, Jean-Eric Vergne.
Daniel and Jean-Eric drive for the sister Red-Bull ( Toro - Rosso ) and have moved up the ranks in the Red Bull Driver Program. The duo definitely will make the promotion to the " A " team one day but a move in 2014 would be a bit premature. Kimi Raikkonen is the favourite to land the seat.
I feel that Kimi Must Stay at Lotus F1 for 2014.
Kimi has finished every race since his return to F1. He has beaten Michael Schumacher's record of 25 consecutive points finishes. Its a big feat considering that Kimi didn't finish as many races ( let alone in the points ) even in his championship winning year in 07. He was riddled with incidents and unreliability in his past seasons but Lotus has helped him finish all races since his return. Kimi has claimed that he enjoys life at Lotus. A Blunder in Silverstone might not cause him to defect but it will definitely cause him to lose some confidence in the team. It is paramount for the team to hold onto a driver like Kimi. He is a World Champion and his contribution over 2 seasons has helped a mid-table team become a top team in F1. The team can attribute their position in this year's championship to his consistent performances. Grosjean has been mercurial and still needs to develop as a challenger to the title. Kimi would be irreplaceable and another driver of his calibre might not come to Lotus. Maldonado is being looked at if a replacement is needed but he would not be a Kimi. I also dread the prospect of having Maldonado and Grosjean in one team considering the reprimands and penalties both have incurred in the past 2 seasons. The Team must do a rethink if such a move is being hinted at.
Kimi enjoys being No.1 in the team and enjoys life outside F1 too. He has many interests and was on a leash during his time at Ferrari. Lotus has allowed him to pursue other interests and brought in the people he enjoyed working with ( Mark Slade who was his engineer at McLaren ). Red Bull might not follow the same philosophy and Vettel has been the favoured driver throughout his time there. Dr. Helmut Marko wants to land Raikkonen and I see it more like a stop-gap arrangement for Red Bull until the time is right for the Younger Toro - Rosso Drivers to make the big leap. Red Bull is the best car on the grid but is prone to Failures, the most recent being Gearbox Failure for Vettel at Silverstone. However Kimi will do what he thinks is best and our opinions won't really matter.
"Just Leave Me Alone, I know what I am doing" - Right, Kimi !
3) Suspension Change for Lotus F1 before Nurburgring, Launch of "The Device" :
Lotus F1 was reported to the stewards by McLaren Mercedes after the latter spotted an anomaly in their suspension. Article 10.5.2 of F1's Technical Regulations states: "The loads from the suspension members and wheel bearings must individually and entirely be carried by the suspension upright. Exceptionally up to three suspension members may be connected together by titanium, aluminium alloy or steel components before their load is passed into the upright."
It is suggested that the Lotus design could be interpreted as having four suspension members connected together, rather than the maximum three.
The Team has been instructed by the FIA to modify the same prior to the Nurburgring Grand Prix next week and the team has agreed to do so. The Effects of such a modification would only be known by the end of next week.
The Team also ran their talked-about innovation at Silverstone - The Device or the Passive DRS. Kimi Raikkonen ran this configuration on his car's rear-wing throughout the weekend. The Race Pace was good and a strategic mistake caused him to lose a sure podium. The performance though of the system cannot be doubted and will definitely aid team performance on faster circuits like Italy, India.
4) De-lamination at Silverstone, Pirelli pulled up :
Pirelli has already been at the centre of controversy due to the "PirelliGate" Scandal. They came into Silverstone hoping to put the worst behind them but their problems haven't left them. Perez Suffered a left rear de-lamination in the Final Practice and the Race Saw 4 Tyre Bursts - Hamilton, Massa, Vergne and Perez. Hamilton was the biggest loser as the tyre burst robbed him of sure victory. Massa too missed out on the podium after a strong start in the race.
The Tyre Burst for Hamilton jeopardized Track Safety causing the Safety Car to come out and other 3 drivers also suffered on track. Pirelli were left red-faced and Paul Hembery was summoned by the FIA President Jean Todt and Race Director Charlie Whiting over safety of the tyres. Reports are also hinting at Razor-Sharp Kerbs at turn 4 close to where 2 of the blowouts occured. Cuts on the Tyres were also reported so Pirelli might not have to bear the brunt but a change in construction would now be mandatory.
Pirelli had expressed their desire to replace the Steel Belt with a Kevlar Belt to improve tyre durability but Lotus F1 and Ferrari voted against such a move and the plan was scrapped. A Steel Belt Construction also helped Pirelli to keep costs in check but a change is imminent now starting from the Hunagarian GP. Lotus F1 and Ferrari would feel hard done by such a move as their cars are kinder on their tyres. Tyre Bursts occured with the usual suspects but Pirelli can't shy away from the incident.
Anthony Davidson of Sky Sports F1 also pointed out a change in construction of the tyres. Video Evidence Shows that Tyre De-Lamination at Bahrain wasn't as damaging as the ones in Silverstone as Pirelli had a wider belt in Bahrain allowing Cars to maintain form unlike Silverstone which caused extensive Floor Damage.
5) Introduction of Mid-Season Testing for 2014, Point Systems for Penalty applied :
The Decision for Mid-Season Testing has been made and it makes a return for good. The Young Driver Tests, held to allow teams to evaluate potential drivers, will be abandoned in favour of a return of mid-season testing. Four European venues will each host a two-day test in the week following the Grand Prix held at the circuit. The move will definitely rule out the possibilities of secretive tests and encourage healthy competition.
The teams agreed upon the introduction of a "penalty points" system for driving offences. Driving offences would carry a pre-determined points value based on their severity that would be tallied up over the course of a season, with a driver receiving a race ban after accumulating twelve penalty points. The points would stay for 12 months and there would be a possibility of drivers carrying the same into the next season which I am a bit skeptical about. More changes have been introduced, most notably a downgrade from the 2.4l V8 to 1.6l V6. Drivers shall have only 5 engines as against an allocation of 8. A 21 Race Calender shall not help teams putting immense strain on the resources and personnel. Hopefully Racing isn't compromised amongst all this.
A lot has conspired in the 3 weeks gone by. A lot of unrest has been caused and the Sport is going through a rough phase. However the racing has been fantastic and hopefully will stay that way.
I look forward to the German GP Next Week as I shall have the privilege of being in the Paddock with the Lotus F1 Team and meet my hero Kimi Raikkonen again.
F1 was missed, Welcome Back!!