5 Thoughts from the 70th Anniversary GP
Celebrating 70 years of F1, Verstappen & Red Bull give us a race to remember
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Silverstone, UK - With the second race at Silverstone, F1 was celebrating 70 years of the sport at the original birthplace of the championship. Throughout the weekend, we were looking back on many fond memories from decades past and celebrating the rich history of Formula 1. Luckily for us, we also got a great race to commemorate the anniversary and give us plenty to talk about in the coming days. So let's not waste any time, here are my five thoughts on the 2020 70th Anniversary Grand Prix.
1. Thank God for Max Verstappen
Where would we be without this young fellow from Holland named Max Verstappen? With the way this season has started, it was clear that Verstappen and Red Bull would be the only legitimate challenge to the mighty Mercedes team. And we had to wait a few races until we actually saw Red Bull push Mercedes into uncomfortable waters. Before the 70th Anniversary GP, Mercedes had led every single lap expect for one in Hungary. As the lights went out in Silverstone, Mercedes got through the first lap holding 1-2 as expected, but as the laps progressed they were not able to pull away like they did in previous races. With a genius strategy call on Saturday from Red Bull, Verstappen was hunting down Lewis Hamilton on the harder tyre and making Mercedes' lives quite uncomfortable. Then Max's race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase tried to tame the Dutch lion by telling him to ease of the pace and watch the temperatures. But this is the part where we thank God for Max Verstappen. He refused to sit behind the Mercedes and drive like a grandma (I guess Dutch grandmas drive quite quick these days) so he pushed on and the strategy worked brilliantly. The way he was able to manage the harder tyres and stay out that much longer in comparison to the Mercedes was key in Red Bull's victory. Even when Max came in for a short stint on the mediums, his decisive overtake on Bottas on the outside of Turn 7 was vintage Verstappen and I'm sure got the Dutch fans on their feet watching at home. It was a complete team victory that was well managed by both driver and strategists. It seems like I say this every week but we need to see Max Verstappen in a more competitive car so he can have a chance to challenge for wins every weekend. Despite the rough start to the season, Verstappen is now second in the championship and might have forced Mercedes to start looking over their shoulders. Red Bull still have a lot of work to do in order to shorten the gap, but it's races like this that show us the true greatness of a driver like Max Verstappen.
2. Leclerc putting the Ferrari where it doesn't belong
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Continuing the theme of talented young drivers of present and future, a lot of credit and admiration has to go to Charles Leclerc in that Ferrari. In a car that has looked at times to be the sixth best car on the grid, Leclerc has put the Scuderia on his back and have put them in a position in which they really shouldn't be at this point. Through six races in 2020, Leclerc has two podiums and currently sits fourth in the drivers championship. Not only that, he's single handidly placed Ferrari third in the constructors table which many did not expect. We still don't know what is truly going on with his teammate Sebastian Vettel. I think it's quite clear that Vettel has not forgotten how to drive but it's obvious that the relationship between team and driver is getting worse by the race weekend. Even with all the Ferrari drama, Leclerc has been able to keep a calm head and bring home results for Ferrari in 2020. In a race that saw many teams opt for a two stop, Leclerc gambled on a one stop strategy and it worked out well in the end. It was really unexpected to see Ferrari of all teams go for a one stop and to actually make it work but somehow they did. The young Monegasque's performances have flown a little under the radar in the last few weeks but he deserves a lot of praise for his results in what's a very difficult work environment. One can imagine what a F1 season would look like with Mercedes, Red Bull, and Ferrari drivers all in a close fight for the world championship.
3. Softer tyres the way of the future?
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Mercedes must be praying for a cold Sunday afternoon in Barcelona come next Sunday. It's widely known that the only visible weakness that Mercedes has is in hotter conditions like in Silverstone. The combo of higher track temperatures and softer tyres really threw a wrench in the plans of another Mercedes 1-2 finish. So that begs the question now, are softer tyres the way to go for the future? Their is certainly a case to be made after the 70th Anniversary Grand Prix. Not only did it destabilize the front of the grid, it also mixed up the whole field with only one car holding its qualifying position (Lance Stroll, P6) It made it a much more dynamic race as most drivers had to do a two stop strategy with some even opting for three stops in the end. What this gave us was unpredictability and the chance for some surprises. And we definitely got that with Red Bull controlling the pace of the race and Mercedes struggling with blisters. Next week in Spain, Pirelli have opted to switch back to the harder tyres in the C1, C2, and C3 compounds. The Circuit de Barcelona-Catalyuna is another high load circuit like Silverstone so the choice does make sense. But with two races at Silverstone to examine, the softer tyres gave us a much more exiting weekend all together. Had we gotten a safety car or two, I think it would have been even more thrilling in the end. The current forecast for Barcelona next week is a lot of sun and temperatures around thirty degrees celsius. One can assume that the track temps will be hovering north of forty degrees so that should be a cause for concern for a team like Mercedes. I think many fans will agree that a one stop, high tyre management race is not what we really want to see. Opting for softer compounds for future races could shake up the field and let the drivers do what they're meant to do, and that's push the car to it's limits to maximize results.
4. The Hulk deserves a seat in 2021
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Nico... hold on a minute I have to check with Daniel Ricciardo to see how to pronounce his last name.
Thanks Daniel. Max Verstappen might've gotten driver of the day, but Nico Hulkenberg deserves driver of the weekend. After being thrown into the fire last weekend, you could tell Hulkenberg was much more prepared for this weekend's race. He had good pace in practice and then unleashed the true performance of the car in qualifying. In only his second qualifying session of 2020, Hulkenberg finished P3 and almost four tenths faster than his teammate Stroll. Nico has always had his loyal fan base, but the support that he received all weekend long was nothing short of amazing. Every F1 fan was cheering for Hulkenberg all weekend long and the positive support he received makes you realize just what we're missing from the German. A true professional with a great attitude and a ton of talent, Hulkenberg showed us in a short amount of time what he could do in a competitive car. It says a lot when you jump into the car last minute and outclass your teammate that has thousands of kilometres more experience in the current car. Hulkenberg not only satisfied Racing Point's need for points, but also used the opportunity as a showcase for other teams looking to change driver lineups. I think it's clear that Nico Hulkenberg deserves a spot on the F1 grid for 2021 and it's clear that his fellow drivers hold him in high regard. Now where could he land in 2021? It's difficult to say as options are running short, but their could be some openings at Alfa Romeo or Haas and in a dream scenario, maybe Red Bull would want to have two Dutch speaking drivers for 2021 and beyond?
5. FIA to blame in Racing Point controversy?
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It seems like F1 is really getting into this protest business aren't they? Well in the case of Racing Point, the protests actually are related to the car and action on the track. Before Friday practice, a decision was reached in the case of Racing Point's brake ducts and they were found to have breached the sporting regulations in relation to their rear brake ducts. They were fined 400,000 Euros and deducted 15 constructor points for this season. I won't go into detail about the decisions findings as I don't have a law degree so I'll leave that to people who are smarter than I am. If you want to find a really good and simple explanation of the Racing Point controversy, check out The Race on YouTube as their video breaks down everything in terms you can understand. It was in watching this video that I started to think that maybe the blame doesn't lie on Racing Point or its rivals. The attitude of Racing Point this past weekend certainly wasn't one of a guilty party. Racing Point Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer welcomed further investigation into their processes and even hinted at intention of appealing the decision. Then on race day, we saw a prepared statement from team owner Lawrence Stroll in which he firmly stood his ground and called other teams claims of Racing Point cheating, 'appalling'. We don't often hear from Lawrence Stroll so the severity of this situation is evident in the fact that he is speaking publicly and going on the attack. In my opinion, it seems like Racing Point were not clearly given direction or explanation by the FIA in how to address their listed parts for 2020. After all, it was the FIA that changed the rules back in July of 2018 to make brake ducts a listed part for 2020. As many have pointed out, Racing Point can't just 'unlearn' what they already know in relation to Mercedes' parts. The FIA decision to allow Racing Point to continue to race using an illegal part is maybe more lenient because they know they made mistakes as well. I do believe that Racing Point honestly went ahead with the design of their car firmly believing that everything they are doing was within FIA regulations. This entire situation is confusing to say the least but the FIA needs to take more responsibility. Why even make changes to regulations when you cannot clearly address these issues that teams face when designing new cars for future seasons? Considering the FIA's closed door agreement in the Ferrari engine saga of 2019, I don't think they are completely innocent in this controversy either.