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#848 2011 British Grand Prix

2023-01-17 23:00

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#2011, Fulvio Conti, Translated by Giulia Montemurro,

#848 2011 British Grand Prix

The name says little even to insiders: Tim Densham. His curriculum, on the other hand, is respectable: he comes from the school of Colin Chapman and d

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The name says little even to insiders: Tim Densham. His curriculum, on the other hand, is respectable: he comes from the school of Colin Chapman and designed the Renault that won the World Championship in 2005 and 2006 with Fernando Alonso. The news is that Densham left his post as chief designer at Renault in June. Officially for personal reasons, but the times are suspect: six months is usually the period that a top coach must pass before moving to another team. This is a form of caution commonly adopted in Formula 1: in this way those who change teams do not take away the latest industrial secrets. According to market rumors, the now former Renault engineer has entered the orbit of Ferrari. The anticipation started from a Greek site, gocar.gr, and began to circulate thanks to the internet. The curiosity is that the news comes from Athens, the city of origin of Nicholas Tombazis, chief designer of Ferrari and, potentially, the new head of Densham. In Maranello the news is denied, as is the practice in Formula 1 for all such indiscretions. But it is very likely. Densham is one of the many technicians who have recently left Renault, probably unconvinced of the team's development plans (the French company supplies the name and engines, while the property is owned by the Luxembourg fund Genii Capital). 

 

At the end of 2010, technical director Bob Bell left (he reappeared at Mercedes six months later), sporting director Steve Nielsen resigned between May and June, aerodynamic engineer Jason Somerville, who will go to Williams, and Tim Densham. If the news is confirmed, Fernando Alonso will find the technician who was the basis of his success in Formula 1, from the beginning to the victory of two consecutive championships, beating the competition of Kimi Raikkonen with McLaren, in 2005, and Michael Schumacher, with Ferrari, in 2006. Indeed, it is possible that the Spanish driver himself was consulted and expressed a positive opinion on the new signing. Densham is English, he is 56 years old, after university he found his first job at Rolls Royce, entered F1 by responding to an advertisement from Chapman's Lotus, worked with Ayrton Senna and Nelson Piquet and, above all, has that specialization in aerodynamics that Ferrari has been looking for for three years to make up the gap from Red Bull Racing. His arrival would complete the revolution that began twelve months ago: the first arrival was Pat Fry, who started as assistant technical director and then took over from Chris Dyer as head of track operations, at the beginning of the year, and from Aldo Costa as technical director of the chassis area, from May. Since January Neil Martin, ex Red Bull, has been in charge of race strategies in connection with Maranello. Ferrari's weak point remains aerodynamic efficiency: the drivers have complained about it at every race since 2009, the start date of the Red Bull cycle.

 

"In Italy we are more specialized in mechanical engineering".

 

Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari team principal, had remarked a few weeks ago, effectively opening the doors to the arrival of a foreign technician. Changing the subject, although the teams have just found an agreement (from 2014 they will use 1600 cc turbocharged 6-cylinder engines with energy recovery systems similar to hybrid cars) Bernie Ecclestone is threatening legal action.

 

"Grand Prix organizers fear that racing with the new engines will lose one of the things that attracts the public: the noise".

 

No public, no receipts and contracts that fall off: on the basis of this reasoning, Ecclestone says he is ready to sue the FIA, chaired by Jean Todt. Earlier on Wednesday 29 June 2011, the FIA announced that Formula 1 will officially switch to 1.6-litre V6 turbo engines from 2014 after the teams' proposals are ratified by the World Motorsport Council. The FIA issues a statement in which it announces that the members of the World Council have agreed, via a vote by fax, to formalize the introduction of the new turbo engines which will be equipped with units for the recovery and reuse of energy.

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"Following a faxed vote of its members, the World Motor Sport Council has ratified the engine rules resulting from recent consultations with the Formula 1 teams. The new engine will be a 1.6 V6 turbo with energy recovery and reuse systems. This new formula will come into effect at the start of the 2014 Formula 1 season".

 

The FIA and the teams broke the deadlock of recent weeks thanks to an F1 Commission meeting ahead of the European Grand Prix weekend. The new plan saw the abandonment of the four-cylinder idea previously proposed by the FIA in favor of V6s. Ferrari was against the four cylinders for marketing reasons related to their production cars while Mercedes and Cosworth were concerned about development costs. The team's technical managers met in Valencia to back the 1.6-litre V6s. The teams later stated that they would request revs to be increased from 12.000 to 15.000. It is not clear whether the request has already been ratified or not. Furthermore, it is not yet clear whether the request to postpone the introduction of the rules on the chassis foreseen for 2013 to 2014 has been accepted. Thursday 7 July 2011, on the eve of the British Grand Prix, there is talk of the Silverstone circuit, a track where the curves are nothing more than a slight deformation of the straight. The Abbey is tackled in sixth on the verge of 300 km/h, at the Copse the riders keep their foot pressed almost fully on the accelerator, at the Becketts you enter at over 300 km/h. Stowe, at least there, has to slow down: from 310 km/h to 240 km/h. In a normal person, the head would tend to detach under the effect of centrifugal force. For the drivers, on the other hand, it's all a question of the single-seater's aerodynamic efficiency, as well as courage and madness, but that's part of the job. Ferrari labels the British Grand Prix as the most complex of the season. Red Bull Racing, which should dominate here more than it has done in the eight races already held, is instead worried to the point of hysterical crisis. The reason? The rules change, or at least their interpretation.

 

"Exhaust gases will go back to being exhaust gases".

 

Sentence the technical delegate of the FIA Charlie Whiting. The designer Adrian Newey had instead found a way to exploit them to improve aerodynamics, a solution later copied by his rivals. Now it's no longer possible, and Newey can't find peace:

 

"I had designed the entire car around the exhaust system".

 

We will soon find out if Sebastian Vettel really starts losing, but he might be right Fernando Alonso when he says:

 

"Red Bull is the strongest car in the history of Formula 1. And it is for a thousand details, and not just for the exhausts. Unfortunately".

 

The Spanish rider shows the evidence:

 

"Vettel made a mistake on the last lap in Canada and was too conservative in China, otherwise he would have won eight out of eight races".

 

The secret of Red Bull, and the concern of its opponents, Ferrari and McLaren in the first place, is called aerodynamic load: it is the air pressure that keeps a car attached to the asphalt and allows it to tackle fast corners almost like straight lines. In today's F1, it is worth more than the engine and driver combined. The British Grand Prix is the home race for eight out of twelve teams. The Austrian Red Bull Racing, the German Mercedes, the French Renault, the Indian Force India, the Malaysian Lotus, as well as McLaren, Williams and Virgin are based across the Channel. Ferrari leads the group of foreigners (Sauber, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Hispania).

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"I have fewer worries than Vettel, fewer calculations to do, fewer strategies to study. I just have to try to win. Then, of course, thoughts are welcome if you have a hundred points advantage".

 

In addition to being a difficult race, Silverstone could become the crossroads of Ferrari's 2011 season: if Red Bull Racing is unbeatable even without the aerodynamic exhausts and Ferrari is beaten despite the efforts made in recent months, Maranello will increase resources in favor of the 2012 project. Fernando Alonso explains:

 

"The reasoning is simple. We have no options to manage. If he's in trouble, Vettel can settle for fourth place. But if he's not wrong, we have no chance of winning the championship".

 

From this Grand Prix, as mentioned, the new technical regulation comes into force which prohibits the use of exhaust gases, when releasing the accelerator, towards the rear diffuser of the single-seater: only 10% of the exhaust gases will be used. The problem was raised during the Spanish Grand Prix, where it was however decided not to apply this ban in that race, while in the following race, in Monaco, the HRT team manager, Colin Kolles, declared that he was ready to send a formal protest if the matter was not decided before the Grand Prix. Subsequently Kolles had stated that he wanted to wait for the meeting of the technical group on 16 June 2011. The Technical Working Group, made up of team representatives, and the FIA, represented by Charlie Whiting, met in London on Thursday 16 June 2011, then decided to modify the application of the regulation, prohibiting this measure. Furthermore, it has been established that from 2012 the exhausts will have to be directed upwards and no longer towards the diffusers. On Saturday 25 June 2011, Charlie Whiting, technical delegate of the FIA, finally announced the reasons for this ban:

 

"What we do is to ensure that we all have a car that complies with the regulations. It is not our job to say whether any teams in particular will be penalized by this decision. It is true that I have seen the cartographies of some really extreme engines. But this doesn't concern just one team".

 

Whiting added that the Federation intervened earlier in the season, as the extreme maps were not yet used:

 

"We knew they had blown speakers but it all depended on how they were used. We know that exhaust gases have an influence on the aerodynamics of the car. We accept it, but the fact is that the design of the car should minimize the effect of these gases, in order to comply with article 3.15. The exhaust gases cannot be used for this purpose".

 

The technical director of Red Bull Racing, Adrian Newey, said he was very disappointed with this decision stating that:

 

"It's easy when these things happen to fall into the temptation of seeing conspiracies. I don't know and I don't want to comment, but I know that our car was designed around this system and therefore it will probably suffer more, even if it's very difficult to make predictions".

 

As if that weren't enough, the changes made on the Silverstone circuit are fueling the controversy. Previously, the new paddock of the circuit was inaugurated on Tuesday 17 May 2011; the finish line has been moved from the area between Woodcote and Copse curves to between Club and Abbey. The new complex cost £27.000.000. The new pit lane has been intentionally designed to be more challenging for the drivers and to minimize the time required to enter and exit the lane itself. 

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The entry lane, located just before the Vale curve, allows the driver who uses it to continue accelerating, while the drivers who remain on the track must instead slow down to face the driest curve on the track. The pit lane does not run parallel to the circuit, but is angled five degrees to make the corner entry slightly quicker. However, Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner notes that the entry lane is lower than the circuit and also believes drivers will need to navigate the entry corner into the pits as if they were a corner on the track. This particular conformation does not allow spectators in the grandstand to see the pit stop. And Sebastian Vettel heavily criticizes this new entry to the pit lane, calling the project criminal.

 

"At the entrance to the pit lane you arrive at 280 km/h, in seventh gear. You have to brake hard and there are no alternative exits to the left or to the right. It is a criminal project".

 

After the British motorcycle Grand Prix and complaints from the riders, the track was resurfaced at Abbey corner to remove a dip. For the British Grand Prix, Pirelli will bring the Soft and Hard compound tyres, which have caused problems for Ferrari in the first five races. Paul Hembery, Pirelli Motorsport director says:

 

"Ferrari shouldn't be unhappy, now the single-seater works".

 

Felipe Massa feared the Medium-Hard duo. Fernando Alonso says:

 

"The tires are the same for everyone, there's no point in arguing".

 

The Australian Daniel Ricciardo, after having held the role of third driver for Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, and having carried out Friday tests with the Italian team in the first part of the season, will be the starting driver at HRT-Cosworth in place of the Indian Narain Karthikeyan. On Monday 4 July 2011, the transfer of ownership of HRT from José Ramon Carabante to the Spanish fund Thesan Capital was also announced. Thesan Capital is the third owner of the team, after the foundation by Adrian Campos. The departure of Colin Kolles had recently been anticipated, arriving as manager right after the beginning of the Carabante management. Later on the same day, Virgin Racing announced it had entered into a technical partnership with McLaren in a bid to improve its performance in Formula 1. Just weeks after the team divorced its technical director Nick Wirth, Virgin Racing revealed it had concluded a technical partnership agreement with McLaren. As part of the deal, Virgin Racing will have access to McLaren's facilities - such as test rigs, simulators and computer technology - plus the wind tunnel. In addition, staff from McLaren will be placed within the Virgin Racing group. However, the team will continue to use Cosworth engines. Andy Webb, CEO of Virgin Racing, says:

 

"When we embarked on our restructuring in the first half of 2011, it was clear that our bold ambitions for the future needed to be coupled with some equally bold steps towards realizing them. I am delighted that in a relatively short space of time we are now in the fantastic position of being able to take some steps forward with immediate effect. Our technical partnership with McLaren is very exciting. McLaren is one of the most prestigious and successful marques in the history of Formula 1, with an enviable record of success over the years. We can benefit enormously from McLaren's in-house technical capabilities and I have no doubt this partnership will see us take the necessary technical steps to take a significant leap forward".

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And he adds:

 

"Moreover, the acquisition of Formula 1 WRT guarantees the continuity of the technical infrastructure for the foreseeable future, which means that the transition of work with our new technical partner can start immediately and is not frustrated by logistical problems. Our three operations centers have served us well in our formative years, but our ambitions for the future will be based on employing the entire team uniting under one roof. The technical changes at Virgin Racing will come after an in-depth analysis of the team's situation by Pat Symonds, who has acted as a consultant to the team since earlier this year. Symonds will continue to assist the team, although it is not yet officially possible for him to return to a full-time role in Formula 1 due to the disqualification he received for his involvement in the 2008 Singapore crash-gate".

 

Speaking of the link with Virgin Racing, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh says

 

"Under the terms of this technical partnership, Marussia Virgin Racing will be able to access McLaren's wind tunnel, simulator, as well as all other facilities. We therefore confidently expect that Marussia Virgin Racing will be able to derive significant benefits from it. Andy and his team have been extremely positive in negotiating this partnership and we realize that he and his colleagues are very determined to raise the competitiveness of their cars over the coming months and years".

 

Recall that McLaren also has a technical partnership with the Force India team. Furthermore, again on Monday 4 July 2011, it was announced that one of the most successful partnerships in the history of Formula 1 will be making a comeback, given that Williams and Renault will once again be partners starting from 2012 and for two seasons, with an option for 2014. Of course, times have changed, but the agreement with the French company, reigning World Champion, could make a decisive contribution to the recovery of Sir Frank Williams' team. The period of collaboration with Cosworth is archived, in an attempt to return to the splendor of the four drivers' titles and five constructors' titles of the period 1989-1997. The choice of Williams confirms the will of the French brand, already leaked in the past, to expand supplies to four starting next season. Speaking instead of the next Grand Prix of Great Britain, after two zones were foreseen for the activation of the DRS in the previous two races, at Silverstone the FIA decided to identify only one zone. The point for determining the gap is placed before the Arena and the system can be activated on the straight before the Brooklands bend. In addition, Nigel Mansell is called upon to play the role of Deputy Commissioner. The Briton had already performed this function in the 2010 British Grand Prix. Incredible, but true, on Friday 8 July 2011 the FIA manages to change its regulatory changes, obviously always relating to the prohibition of blowing hot air on the diffusers when the accelerator is released. And he does it while the first session of free practice was underway. Eliciting lively reactions from McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh. The point is that initially it was communicated that the opening of the accelerator butterfly in the release phase had to be between 10% and 20%. So it had been decided in Valencia. But Renault, which supplies the engines to Red Bull, disputed this notification because their engines, for reliability reasons (as already documented, says Christian Horner, in 2009 and 2010), need a greater opening. As a result, the FIA sets the throttle opening to 50%. Martin Whitmarsh complains. Does the anti Red Bull Racing rule turn pro Red Bull Racing?

 

"We have never raced with a throttle opening of 50%. And if we could open it up to that point we would have no data to rely on. We have been thrown into icy water, we are in worse shape than before and Red Bull substantially profits from the new FIA directive".

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Whitmarsh against Horner, who replies point by point trying to assert his reasons. But on one thing they both absolutely agreed:

 

"This discussion should have been made at the end of the season, the change of rules while the championship is underway (even during free practice for a GP in progress, ed), is unfortunate".

 

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali said nothing, but was seen talking to Martin Whitmarsh as FP1 was underway. Nothing more. Who fully focuses on the problem is Tony Fernandes, owner of the Lotus team:

 

"I didn't understand anything about this dispute between Red Bull and McLaren. And I wonder what our audience understood".

 

He didn't understand it, nobody in Formula 1 understood it. The rules change, they leave loopholes open, they are negotiated individually with the Federation, they adapt to the needs of one or the other and finally they are sent via e-mail to the insiders so that they can immediately put them into practice. On the eve of the British Grand Prix, the ninth round of a World Championship so far dominated by Sebastian Vettel, the regulation appears fluid, as defined by Martin Whitmarsh, the McLaren team principal. Fluid in the sense that it changes from hour to hour. And the situation is messed up, again to continue the quote. The starting point is a technical innovation exploited in a particularly brilliant way by Red Bull Racing: the exhaust gases that come out of the engine even when the driver takes his foot off the accelerator and improve the aerodynamic effect. Last year the device was lawful, at the beginning of 2011 it was lawful, as of this week it is no longer so, since Friday during the lunch break it has been, but only 50%. 50% of what? McLaren which uses Mercedes engines and Red Bull Racing which has Renault ones do not agree on this point either. Ferrari abstains, Cosworth complies. The delirium derives from the FIA, which first does not understand the operating principle of the blown diffuser and then tries to remedy it by banning it after eight races. Then, the masterpiece. The FIA provides for the exception: those who already blew in 2009 will be able to continue to do so. On Thursday at Silverstone the engineers of the teams concerned knocked on the door of Charlie Whiting, the technical delegate of the FIA, showed him the telemetry data from two years ago and negotiations began. Red Bull ticked off the best discount: 50%. So the team that seemed most damaged managed to tick an embarrassing ad personam law. However, says Martin Whitmarsh at a press conference:

 

"After the first free practice we realized that Red Bull hadn't lost in performance as much as we had expected. And we learned why: it was authorized to use 50% of the exhaust fumes".

 

In private negotiations with the FIA, McLaren, Ferrari and Cosworth obtain less: 10%, but with the possibility of burning petrol in half of the cylinders. Which brings us back to Fernandes' initial statement: who likes a Formula 1 in which nothing is understood? Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner says:

 

"We use Renault engines like two other teams (Renault and Lotus, ed). Renault uses cold exhaust, Mercedes uses hot exhaust. The benefit is the same".

 

In the evening the teams meet. However, instead of clarifying and clarifying themselves, they bounce the problem back to the Federation and tackle a fascinating topic: the new engines that will be adopted starting from 2014. The problem: they don't make a lot of noise. 

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In short, yet another embarrassing situation. And it is all too easy to underline, at this point, how the FIA men led by Charlie Whiting have moved groping in the dark. The modification made is the clear and visible confirmation of this. Meanwhile, the first practice session is characterized by intermittent rain; for the first twenty minutes none of the pilots took to the track. The best time was set initially by Nico Rosberg, then beaten by Jenson Button and Mark Webber. In the first lap Fernando Alonso spun, without consequences. With the passage of the pilots on the track, the times are lowered. First, the McLaren-Mercedes drivers set the best time, then Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher, who also went off the track. And, finally, mark the best times Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso. 25 minutes from the end, another shower of rain fell on the circuit. Thirteen minutes from time Kamui Kobayashi ends up against the barriers, after losing control of the car on the curbs. In the last few minutes the condition of the track improves. Mark Webber then set the fastest time, but then left the car on the track after running out of petrol. The Australian driver precedes Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello. In the second session, held again on a wet track, Felipe Massa set the fastest time, followed by Nico Rosberg and Kamui Kobayashi. The pouring rain, which fell shortly before the start of the session, allowed only a few cars to complete a few laps. First Jaime Alguersuari, then Sébastien Buemi, Michael Schumacher and Adrian Sutil took to the track making a few laps. Next, Mark Webber sets the fastest time. However, the Australian, with improved weather conditions, plunged to P14, while his teammate, Sebastian Vettel, was only in P18, without having taken advantage of the better conditions provided by the track. Surprise for the Japanese of Sauber Kamui Kobayashi who, after the accident in the morning, finished in third place ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button. Fernando Alonso is in P15, while rookie Daniel Ricciardo finishes one place ahead of his team-mate Vitantonio Liuzzi, driving for HRT. Says Fernando Alonso, at the end of the tests:

 

"In this situation it is not possible to understand whether the new solutions brought by Ferrari will make us improve. We have to wait to ride on a dry track".

 

On Saturday 8 July 2011, following a meeting with the team's technical managers, the FIA revoked the exemption on the use of exhausts granted to Renault engines. On the other hand, the exemption granted to Mercedes engines to inject more petrol during the release phase is maintained. In the third practice session, the drivers are also faced with changing weather conditions. Initially it was Michael Schumacher who set the best time, then the rain came back but Mark Webber set a better time than the German. The second part of the session records the cessation of rainfall. Nico Rosberg took the lead thanks to the use of soft tyres. In the last ten minutes of the session, all the teams tried to mount this type of tyre. First Pastor Maldonado then Fernando Alonso set the best times, then, in the final minutes, it was Sebastian Vettel who, by just 0.063 seconds, was quicker than Fernando Alonso. A few hours later, in the first phase of Q1, the best time was set by Mark Webber, followed by Pastor Maldonado. Fernando Alonso is the author of an excursion in the gravel, but he can start again. In the last minutes the rain returned to fall on the circuit and none of the drivers managed to improve their times. The two STR-Ferraris of Jaime Alguersuari and Sébastien Buemi, the two Virgin-Cosworths of Timo Glock and Jérome D'Ambrosio, the two HRT-Cosworths of Vitantonio Luigi and Daniel Ricciardo, and the Lotus-Renault of Jarno Trulli were eliminated. Go to Q2 Heikki Kovalainen, with the other Lotus-Renault. During Q2 the damp track did not prevent the riders from fitting dry tyres. In the first part the best time went to Adrian Sutil. When the drivers switch to using the harder tires it is Fernando Alonso who takes the lead, ahead of Lewis Hamilton and Michael Schumacher. Sebastian Vettel fits between the two, but the best time is set by Felipe Massa, at the last attempt. The two Renaults of Vitalij Petrov and Nick Heidfeld, Heikki Kovalainen, Adrian Sutil, Sergio Pérez, Michael Schumacher and Rubens Barrichello are eliminated. In the decisive phase all the drivers immediately use soft tyres. Sebastian Vettel set the fastest time, but was beaten shortly after by his teammate, Mark Webber. The rain returned to the circuit in the last moments of the session and nobody was able to worry the Red Bull duo. The Anglo-Austrian team conquers the ninth pole, out of nine races, of the season.

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If you look at the starting grid of the British Grand Prix, one would think that nothing has changed. At most, an improvement in Ferrari's position can be noted. In fact, in the front row we find Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel with the two Red Bull Racings, in second Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa with the Ferraris. But is not so. In reality, the Maranello team has made a big leap forward in terms of performance: since the beginning of the season it had never been so close to its rivals. Precisely on the circuit that was most loved in the past for the great successes achieved, now more feared, for its fast corners that have made your opponents fly in recent years. There are not many secrets to explain these advances. A very small part of the result could also be attributed to the ban on using exhaust gases to the maximum to obtain a better ground effect. A trifle. In reality, the technicians of the Maranello team have worked hard in recent months to resolve the problems. It all started in the winter, when, based on the data collected in the wind tunnel, Ferrari, right up to the pre-season tests, were convinced they had a very competitive car in hand. Then, in the first race in Australia, it turned out that the opponents were faster. And that the information received from the gallery is wrong. Checks and comparisons were made and the truth emerged: the 150 Italia was born badly. Everything, or almost, to be redone. With the races to go and the others (Red Bull Racing, above all) continuing to progress. It took some time to recover. It had been promised that important changes would come to Silverstone, capable of changing the situation. New wings, different side pods, a modified rear suspension with different geometries, the redesigned bottom of the car. In short, a true package of different, well-chosen solutions. Fernando Alonso says:

 

"I'm very happy not so much with the position as with the performance of our car. So far we had suffered gaps on average between one second and seven tenths. Now we are close to the Red Bulls, about a tenth of a disadvantage. This is good news. The new parts worked like a charm. The race? We didn't ride much on dry asphalt, but we had very good impressions. We will certainly put a lot of pressure on Webber and Vettel. Obviously it will also depend on the use of the tyres, which unfortunately haven't been thoroughly tested due to the rain these days. But this is true for everyone. And I am convinced that both types of tires available will do well".

 

If the Spaniard appears happy, Felipe Massa even becomes optimistic.

 

"Here we hope to start a new World Championship. Ferrari is once again the protagonist".

 

Crucial as always the departure. Head-to-head duel between Red Bull Racing and Ferrari? It is probable. Behind the changes McLaren suffered a lot (Button fifth, Hamilton tenth) and Mercedes quite a bit, which was saved with Rosberg in eighth position, while Schumacher (P13) was eliminated in the second session. For the German it is a real setback: it is the first time in seventeen appearances at this circuit, since 1992, that the current Mercedes driver does not qualify in the top ten. Sebastian Vettel, beaten for the second time by Mark Webber, is worried:

 

"This time there was a lot of pressure, there were many discussions and our technicians had to intervene at the last moment to change some settings".

 

But, in particular, the German fears the start of the Ferraris which have been very fast in the last few races. For this reason, in Valencia, Sebastian Vettel had gone to spy on Fernando Alonso's car, he wanted to see if it has a new and particular system for starting. Sunday 10 July 2011, during the morning the FIA tries to find an agreement with the manufacturers to definitively determine the rule on the use of exhaust gases in aerodynamic function. 

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However, an agreement was not found in the Technical Working Group to return to the regulatory situation prior to the European Grand Prix, due to the opposition of Ferrari and Sauber. Subsequently, the rain disturbed Sergio Pérez's alignment lap which damaged the nose of his Sauber. The cars start the race on intermediate tyres. At the start of the British Grand Prix Sebastian Vettel passes Mark Webber. Fernando Alonso maintains his position, while Lewis Hamilton sprints from tenth place and climbs up to sixth place, after also passing Paul di Resta at Stowe corner. The Englishman from McLaren continues his advance climbing to fifth place, after overtaking Jenson Button, who had passed Felipe Massa at the start, before being passed by the Brazilian. After a contact with Kamui Kobayashi on lap nine, Michael Schumacher returned to the pits, changed the nose and put on dry tyres: his times immediately became very interesting. Because of this collision, the German will be forced to serve a ten-second stop & go. Shortly after, Jenson Button also follows the same strategy. Meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton attacks Felipe Massa but goes long. During laps 12 and 13 the drivers returned to the pits to change tires, putting on dry ones. In the pit lane, contact between Kamui Kobayashi and Pastor Maldonado came close. To lose out in the pit lap, it is once again Felipe Massa who loses fourth place to Lewis Hamilton. During lap 14 Felipe Massa was passed by Jenson Button while the following lap Lewis Hamilton moved up to third after passing Fernando Alonso at Copse. Now Sebastian Vettel is first, ahead of Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button and Felipe Massa. The Ferrari drivers picked up the pace as the track dried out, and on lap 24 Fernando Alonso passed Lewis Hamilton. At the end of lap 24, the British driver opens the second series of pit stops, followed by Mark Webber. Meanwhile Fernando Alonso laps very fast and gets close to Sebastian Vettel, so much so that on lap 28 he returns to the pits in the German driver's slipstream. Technical problems with the RBR tire change allow the Spanish rider to move into first position. However, Fernando Alonso has to defend himself against an aggressive Lewis Hamilton. 

 

But the Spaniard follows up with a series of fast laps and builds a good margin over the Englishman, who is now closely followed by Sebastian Vettel. Mark Webber is fourth, followed by Jenson Button and Felipe Massa. During lap 36 Sebastian Vettel comes to the pits, as he is unable to pass Lewis Hamilton on track. When, one lap later, the English driver came back to the pits to change tyres, Sebastian Vettel moved into second position. During lap 38, the German also passes Felipe Massa, who has not yet made his third tire change. During lap 39 both Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button returned to the pits. The Englishman's front right tire was not fixed properly and he had to retire. Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber pass Felipe Massa who, with ten laps to go, finally returns to the pits to make a final tire change. Now behind Alonso is Vettel, followed by Hamilton, Webber and Massa. On lap 46 Webber overtook Hamilton, who was told to conserve petrol. In the final laps Webber tries to pass Vettel, but in vain, also because the pits invite him to keep his distance; Massa also tries to pass Hamilton, the two touch on the last lap and the Englishman prevails over the Brazilian at the finish line by 0.024 seconds. Rosberg and Perez fight to the end for sixth place, having made only two stops; for the Mexican it is the best result of a still young career. Fernando Alonso wins the Grand Prix of Gran. Brittany, followed by Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Felipe Massa, Nico Rosberg, Sergio Peres, Nick Heidfeld, Michael Schumacher and Jaime Alguersuari. Fernando Alonso's victory drives away bad thoughts: Ferrari still knows how to win. The postcard from Silverstone, with Prince Harry rewarding the Spanish driver and the Italian team, will hang for a long time on some notice board in Maranello. Together with that of Fernando who gets out of the car, lifts the steering wheel and points his index finger at the Prancing Horse logo. Moments of history and glory. Sixty years have passed since Froilan Gonzalez's success on this same circuit: the first of the team founded by Enzo Ferrari. Perfection was needed to beat Red Bull Racing. Here it is: strategy, pit stops, a package of technical innovations and an extraordinary Fernando Alonso in full competitive maturity. World Championship reopened? Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali breathes a sigh of relief:

 

"Let's see how the next two races go. We certainly don't give up".

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Behind the return of Ferrari there are months of work that gradually give results. In winter the wind tunnel had gone crazy. Now it works: in England, new rear suspension, wings and exhausts were used, a package that made it possible to recover a few tenths of a second per lap. Of course, there is also the matter of the new rules, on blown speakers, permitted, prohibited, readmitted, prohibited again. Here in England they were not used, from the next German Grand Prix they will be restored, as long as the engine settings are not changed between qualifying and the race.

 

"Exactly as happened in Valencia, where we finished second".

 

Stefano Domenicali points out, in response to those who argue that Red Bull has been slowed down by the ban.

 

"Then that's enough, let's close this topic that no one understands. We didn't agree, we adapted for the good of our sport. Nobody tries to belittle this victory".

 

Fernando Alonso builds the masterpiece by exploiting every favorable circumstance, as it is in the DNA of the champion. He takes advantage of Sebastian Vettel's slow pit stop to overtake him in the pit lane, pushes like a madman when the leader of the World Championship gets stuck in traffic, overtakes Lewis Hamilton, sets the fastest lap. Sebastian Vettel bows:

 

"A clear victory, nothing to complain about".

 

For once, Red Bull Racing was behind, nervous, imprecise: they got the timing wrong for their stops and arrived unprepared for a predictable event, the close contact between their two men on the track: Sebastian Vettel was slower but was in front, Mark Webber would like to pass him but receives the order not to do it five times.

 

"Obviously I didn't listen to what they were saying".

 

The manoeuvrer fails. Sebastian Vettel takes second place, as in China and Canada, the worst results of the season. His advantage over his teammate rises to 80 points, the one over the Spanish rider drops to 92 points. Nobody dares to talk about comebacks. Alonso knows the situation and knows that his opponent could become World Champion even if he doesn't win again in the next ten races. He prefers to think of another number, the 259 days that have passed since the last success. It was the 2010 Korean Grand Prix, the one that revived the hopes of Ferrari fans. Today the objectives are more limited: the goal of winning at least one race has been achieved, the next is to overtake McLaren in the Constructors' World Championship, which forgot two things at Silverstone: screwing Jenson Button's front wheel after the third pit stop and putting enough fuel in Lewis Hamilton's tank. In the finale, the Englishman was forced to drive slowly, to consume less. That was enough to keep Felipe Massa further and further away from his teammate behind him. Fernando Alonso, since when did he start believing in victory?

 

"From the start: the car had the speed and pace to win. So when the intermediate tires started to fail, I said to myself: calm down, no mistakes, no going off the track, stay away from the grass. It worked".

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The two duels with Hamilton?

 

"Lewis passed me quite easily. I had just fitted dry tyres, he was very fast. Again, I forced myself to stay calm. I knew that I would have the possibility to recover the position using the Kers and the mobile wing. Then I attacked the Red Bulls, and from now on it will always be like this. I will try in every race, they will all be like world finals".

 

Thinking about a comeback?

 

"It's very difficult, because Vettel keeps finishing first or second. I will try to win ten more times, to be very aggressive. Every race, every start, every strategy will be extreme. We no longer have time to calculate".

 

Ferrari had said that the British Grand Prix is one of the most complicated.

 

"It's true, we marked it in red on the calendar. It resembles the Barcelona circuit, with those big corners which have not been our strong point for some years. The result is the demonstration that we have made a huge step forward in terms of performance".

 

Sunday 27 July 2011 you race in Germany, on the Nurburgring circuit: another red sign?

 

"We continue to work hard to take advantage of the moment. Success gives us motivation and confidence, the next races are more favourable. However, the approach remains the same: as in Valencia, as in Canada and as here at Silverstone. We enjoy the weekends without thinking about the title, because we know the gap to Vettel is huge".

 

What has changed?

 

"In the beginning the wind tunnel told lies. We put on new parts and didn't get better. Now the problem has been solved. Four Grands Prix ago we were one second, one and a half seconds behind Red Bull in qualifying. Here we were very fast in the second sector, the one with the fast corners".

 

How much did Red Bull's mistake during Vettel's pit stop weigh? Would he still win?

 

"No one can know. Of course, overtaking is always a difficult manoeuvre. But it's the same in every race: Button, for example, won in Canada when I retired. Happens".

 

Has the new speaker rule affected performance?

 

"Not in the case of Ferrari. Even for the others, I don't think it made a big difference. I saw McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull jockeying for podium places, like two weeks ago in Valencia when I finished second. And I haven't noticed any Force India or Sauber in a position to win".

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Are you pleased that the controversy over team orders now concerns Red Bull?

 

"I don't think there are any controversies. Ask them, they'll give you a good answer".

 

Did he get excited thinking about 60 years ago, the first Ferrari victory with Gonzalez?

 

"Yes and I am proud to be in such a team. Already winning at Silverstone has a special meaning, because England has a great automotive culture and the public is passionate about it. Plus there was this anniversary. I drove Gonzalez's single-seater for two laps: 500 horsepower with two wheels that narrow. Today is different, but the joy of driving does not change. I would have enjoyed it even then".

 

Squad orders are no longer prohibited. After the controversy, the criticisms and the heavy fines that almost overwhelmed Ferrari last year at Hockenheim, when Felipe Massa let Fernando Alonso overtake him, the Federation has changed the rules. Unable to control the team's directives to the riders, the president Jean Todt himself preferred to leave the teams free to adopt all the race strategies useful for obtaining the best possible result for their classification. But this does not mean at all that the protagonists, i.e. the drivers, are happy to be told by radio that they cannot overtake or that they must open the door to their teammate. So Mark Webber, who is a guy who loves to be shut up, tried to ignore the messages that came repeatedly from the box, via radio:

 

"Hold position".

 

That is, do not pass. The Australian had caught up with Sebastian Vettel in the closing laps and was trying to take second place away from him. The beauty of this story comes from the fact that Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, had been the Maranello team's most heated censor. He cried out to the scandal, he claimed that in Formula 1 you can't play certain games, what happens to the show, that the fans can feel betrayed, that it is not permissible to decide the result in favor of one or the other. Now, however, Christian Horner himself, at Silverstone, declares himself surprised by the attitude of Mark Webber, who ignored the instructions received from his engineer:

 

"He risked losing us precious points, he could have caused an accident like the one that happened to us in Turkey two years ago when Webber collided with Sebastian's car and put him out of the race. F1 is not an individual sport, but a team sport".

 

Surely poor Webber, who knows little about sports politics, received a good private reprimand. And Horner, with chutzpah, let it be known to the media that Red Bull Racing will continue to give both drivers an equal chance of winning. But how, if he had just blocked the Australian? Perhaps it is for this reason that Mark Webber's contract will soon be extended by at least a year. He may say that he is free to overtake even Sebastian Vettel, but the reality is different: when he tries to do so, as happened at Silverstone, Red Bull will inexorably clip his wings.

 

If nothing else, the Australian rider didn't take that team order willingly. And he's not the type to keep things inside.

 

"You should never tell a Formula 1 driver to slow down. I wasn't happy, so I kept pushing. If Alonso had retired on the last lap, my duel with Sebastian would have been decisive for the win".

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Comeback is a taboo word in Fernando Alonso's vocabulary. Too many points behind, Red Bull Racing too strong to think about a 2010-style recovery. But his eye shone on the Silverstone podium. It was the joy of victory, the relief after 259 days of waiting, the burning of the champagne. They were also his neurons that never stop making calculations and now they have glimpsed a glimmer of comeback. Narrow, cramped, almost invisible, but real. His first goal is to race with the light spirit and carefree aggression of someone who is no longer under pressure to try to win each of the remaining ten races. Mission Impossible? Never say never. Yet an en plein of successes might not be enough: Sebastian Vettel would still be World Champion if he finished in second place three times and third place seven times. Don't be offended by Mark Webber if we don't take him into consideration: it is true that he has twelve points more than the Spanish rider, but his chances of success are lower. The evidence? Red Bull Racing is betting on his team-mate and communicated it to him on Sunday afternoon, in the closing laps of the British Grand Prix, ordering him to hold his position. The precedents: in 2007 Kimi Raikkonen recovered the equivalent of 50 points today, and won the World Championship. Fernando Alonso did roughly the same a year ago, starting to recover right after the British Grand Prix: he led the last race in Abu Dhabi and was beaten there. Today the gap is almost double: 92 points. The only advantage is that there are no other opponents in the way. Mark Webber has been said, while the McLarens have slipped back. One requirement is that Ferrari continue to grow as it has in the last four races. Blown diffusers, which favor Red Bull Racing, were banned at Silverstone. In Germany they will be allowed again even if considered illegal by the Federation (paradoxes of F1: to get out of a grotesque situation the eleven teams have unanimously undertaken not to present appeals against each other). In Maranello they will have to demonstrate that the delay from Red Bull Racing has been almost completely wiped out, regardless of the rules that are applied.

 

"We went faster than we expected. We don't make predictions".

 

Other innovations will arrive for the German Grand Prix, in addition to the wings and exhausts that made the difference at Silverstone. Fernando Alonso gives charge:

 

"When we found ourselves in difficulty at the beginning of the season, we didn't give up, but we reacted: now we can see the results".

 

Even the men inside the garage have grown: strategies and pit stops have been perfect, unlike those of Red Bull Racing and McLaren. A podium Felipe Massa would also be needed (the conditional is a must) to attempt the impossible feat. It would take someone to take points away from Sebastian Vettel, to stop his record series (six victories and three second places). The last Felipe Massa with these characteristics was spotted in Germany in 2010, on the Hockenheim circuit. Ferrari expects to find him again at the Nürburgring.


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