I think it’s safe to say that on TV at least, the British Grand Prix was one of the standout races of the year so far, and that’s not because of the racing. I’ve only been alive since 1994, and I’ve only been watching F1 since 1998 but I can’t for the life of me remember a watching a Grand Prix with that kind of atmosphere outside of Italy. There can be no doubt that the much improved attendances at Silverstone are down to Hamilton, who has effectively reached superstar status when it comes to racing drivers and although he’s had more than a few people criticize his lifestyle and commitment, he continues to do his talking where it matters most on track. It’s hard to believe that the British Grand Prix almost fell off the F1 calendar a few seasons ago, or maybe not when we consider Bernie’s insatiable appetite for money….
Anyway, that’s a conversation for another day! As we enter the mini break in this early summer F1 marathon I’ve put together my take on the biggest conclusions to come out of the 2016 British Grand Prix.
A Dominant Performance
Lewis has now won four of the last five races after his torrid start to the season and it’s become clear that on raw speed alone, Hamilton still has the edge on Rosberg. Nico had absolutely no answer to Lewis either in qualifying on Saturday and during the race on Sunday and I must admit, I do feel a little sorry for Rosberg at the moment. Booing in Formula One is disgusting, and as incredible as the crowd was on Sunday there was a small minority who really let British motorsport down. In a race where Rosberg did no wrong I think we can all safely say that the booing was rather unjustified however it’s not hard to imagine reasons as to why Rosberg’s demeanor has portrayed a more miserable manner of late.
There was a small moment at the end of last season, and certainly the start of this season where much of the F1 community, including myself thought Rosberg could perhaps, for the first time match up to Hamilton in the fight for the championship but once again, the son of F1 champion Keke Rosberg finds himself one step behind Lewis. Hamilton, like all multiple world champions do have that extra edge which sets them apart from the rest of the field. Schumacher had it. Vettel had it, and Fernando Alonso also posses that final piece of the jigsaw but I don’t think Rosberg does. He’s still an incredibly good driver (don’t get me wrong) but I see Rosberg falling into that category of drivers which includes Jenson Button, and perhaps Kimi Raikkonen. These are still great drivers, but are they the same as the likes of the multiple world champions? I think not. Not to take anything away from Button or Raikkonen, but the majority of drivers could have won the 2009 title in the Brawn, and would Raikkonen have won the 2007 title had it not been for the animosity at McLaren and the mistakes made by the then inexperienced Lewis Hamilton? Maybe. But also maybe not.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that I can’t see Rosberg winning the title at Mercedes with Hamilton as his teammate. If you gave both drivers a trouble free season I’m willing to put plenty of money on Hamilton coming out on top by a country mile and I guess that’s why I feel a little bit sorry for Rosberg. No matter how hard he tries, how much extra simulator work he does or how well he is prepared for a Grand Prix weekend it looks like Hamilton always has that little bit more, and it’s understandably frustrating. Rosberg knows that now is his chance to win the title.
The chances of this Mercedes domination we’ve experienced in the past three seasons continuing into 2017 are slimming as Red Bull and Ferrari draw ever closer, and with Verstappen now in a rapidly improving Red Bull car, personally, I think the young Dutchman is fast becoming Hamilton’s biggest challenger. Will Rosberg have as clear a shot at the title next season with the all the new rules changes? I hardly think so given the rate of progress we’ve seen from Red Bull and Renault, and the jury’s still out on Ferrari.
Some Other Runners and Riders
It was a great drive from Verstappen, but his teammate Ricciardo was caught out by the virtual safety car and had a lonely race to another fourth place finish. Max seems to be finding his feet incredibly quickly at Red Bull, and I think everyone is a little surprised at just how quickly he’s begun to match his incredibly highly rated teammate. I rate Ricciardo extremely highly, and there’s no doubt in my mind that he’s one of the fastest drivers in F1 but honestly? Verstappen is from a different planet, and is certainly the most talented driver I’ve seen in my years of watching F1. I really wouldn’t be too surprised to see him finish ahead of Ricciardo come the end of the year. But, I’m a huge fan of the Honey Badger so I hope I’m wrong!
Going by the fact that they, and indeed the rest of the F1 community thought they’d be challenging Mercedes for the title this year it’s safe to say that the the British GP was an awful race for Ferrari with Raikkonen finishing in 5th and Vettel in 9th after a scrappy race and a gearbox penalty. Ferrari, or more accurately, Raikkonen seems convinced that their lack of speed at Silverstone was a one off and with Hungary round the corner a repeat of last year’s win for Sebastian Vettel would be a very welcome result for everyone at Maranello. It’s difficult to catch Mercedes when the bar has been set so high, but I think it’s critical that Ferrari win at least one race this year. Hungary would be a good place to start.